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Slow Digitalization Adoption Expected in MRO

Blockchain is one solution touted for aircraft transfers but adoption will depend on specific regions and regulatory bodies.

With around half of the world’s aircraft fleet operated on a leased basis, greater adoption of digitalization to better document aircraft recordsi is becoming ever-more important but could yet be some way off, according to an ICF vice-president.

Due to the number of leased transactions, with aircraft routinely changing hands between operators and owners, maintaining records is vital, says Allan Bachan, a U.S.-based vice president at the consultancy. He estimates that roughly 40% of an aircraft’s value lies in its comprehensive records.

Citing logbooks and task cards as examples of an aircraft’s paper trail, Bachan explains these will typically be reviewed by the outgoing operator together with whoever is taking over operation of the aircraft, while also factoring in the relevant regulatory authorities.

“It’s a quasi-digital environment because the reviews still occur in a purely pedestrian fashion--meaning all parties have to walk through these records,” he says. Bachan says emerging platforms such as blockchain technology could enter the equation, having been discussed at greater length in the industry over the past few years, yet he feels it could still be some time before adoption speeds up because not every country will be ready to implement it.

“Blockchain promotes transparency, security and traceability but not every country has the same infrastructure or standards, so there is no one global standard adopted by everyone,” Bachan says. “There are little quirks and differences between each regulator, if you compare Asia and Latin American authorities to those in Europe and North America, you will see these little differences.”

Bachan believes MROs were slower than airlines to adopt new digital technologies and he believes to an extent, the industry’s demand-driven dynamic has played a part in this. “There was an attitude that whatever costs or efficiencies a company had would be passed onto the consumer--having a low productivity and a weak supply chain would be passed onto the airline paying for the services, meaning there wasn’t a necessity to adopt modern technology as quickly as they should have,” he says.

Ultimately, he believes for a technology like blockchain, MROs would be most interested in how they receive task cards pre-work at their facilities because the faster these come in, the quicker they can start working on the aircraft. “Unfortunately, blockchain is not going to facilitate the induction of those task cards, but instead, rather in the handover of them post-maintenance.”   

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