Predictive maintenance is hot now, but it is easier to talk about than to actually do it. Even the biggest, most sophisticated carriers are still on the journey to smarter fixes.
For example, UPS’s overall aim is to move from reactive to proactive maintenance, according to Maintenance Analytics Manager Tom Wagner. That requires a variety of tools that are combined into an integrated system for both understanding data and acting upon the understanding.
To get a graphical picture of large amounts of data, the carrier uses AirFASE, flight data analysis software provided by Teledyne, and Tableau, a general-purpose software for visualization.
Next, “Boeing’s Airplane Health Management provides the macro picture of the fleet to monitor overall health,” Wagner says.
Then, UPS’s in-house system, the Aircraft Telemetry System, works with the Aircraft Condition Monitoring System to provide detailed data on specific systems and components. Finally, Casebank Technology’s ChronicX application provides a graphical picture of pilot reports and maintenance reports that correlate with this detailed ACMS data.
Generally, data flows from aircraft, via both ACARS and non-ACARS channels, and from pilot logbooks into aircraft history and performance monitoring systems. Fault data is combined with aircraft history to support analytics and alerting. The alerts are vetted by UPS’s Aircraft Telemetry System and Boeing’s AHM to provide actionable alerts to maintenance control, which then sends instructions onward to line mechanics.
This complex system monitors a variety of components. Some of UPS’s biggest successes have been with ATA Chapter 36 pneumatic components, both valves and controllers, Chapter 80 start valves, Chapter 24 internal drive generator over-servicing and Chapter 32 brakes and tires. “There are too many to mention, but this is a sampling,” Wagner says.
The gains have been substantial. For example, UPS monitors its Boeing 767 and 747-400 pneumatic systems for possible overpressure. “If this is not caught early, it will result in a rejected takeoff, a sizeable delay and usually service failures,” Wagner explains. “We caught this type of failure on the 767 and 747-400 prior to an event at least 12 times in 2017.” That improves dispatch reliability and ultimately on-time service to UPS customers.
Wagner calls using data to correct anomalies “the future of aviation.” And UPS’s ultimate goal is always “a first-time fix that results in on-time service.”