James Elliott, director for MRO for aviation and defense at IFS, argues that both airlines and shops need much more granular insight into every part of every aircraft as new models become pervasive in commercial aircraft maintenance.
The shift from the old, rigid A, B, C, D checks, with batches of maintenance tasks done at specific intervals, to the more flexible MSG-3, which packages tasks at airline discretion, is the big driver. “New generation aircraft, such as the Boeing 787 or Airbus A350, have been designed with MSG-3 in mind,” Elliott says. “These aircraft are maintained with phased maintenance to achieve the shortest possible maintenance turnarounds.”
For example, the A350, is maintained based on flight hours, flight cost and other parameters rather than traditional checks. And the base-check interval has been extended to 36 months, halving the base checks over 12 years compared with previous generations. Airlines with different models must now look at maintenance windows on an aircraft-by-aircraft basis. That gets complicated for any fleet over 100 aircraft. Add constraints such as hangars and available technicians and seasonal fluctuations in fleet utilization, and optimization of maintenance programs becomes extremely complex.
Elliott says a new approach is required, optimizing maintenance part by part, task by task. “The end goal is to reduce aircraft maintenance windows. What used to be called out-of-phase maintenance in the days of ABCD is now standard, maintenance programs are planned with individual tasks in mind.”
Elliott believes this requires MRO software which packages individual tasks where they fit best into scheduling parameters, flight hours, flight cycles and so forth. “Software with a component-based view offers significant advantages by getting part numbers and granular detail into each maintenance program. That information should be put into maintenance format, task by task, component by component.” So even when maintenance models and standards shift, software easily adapts to track components.