Aircraft at terminal gates GCAS
IATA is targeting 2020 for paperless aircraft documentation.

Industry Works To Cut Paper From Lease Transfers

GECAS poised to lead the way with internal records migration.

Printed headline: Paperless Lease Transfers Coming


A years-long effort to simplify aircraft ownership transfers by cutting down on paper and connecting disparate back-end systems is poised to yield its first real-world results, say some of the key people involved in hashing out new electronic aircraft records-transfer standards.

The Aircraft Transfer Records Working Group (ATRWG), a growing collection of industry representatives, has been developing the new standard, ATA Spec 2500, for several years. If all goes well, the first records transfers will take place this year, with lessor GECAS leading the way.

“We’ve spent the last five years getting ready for this,” says Aileen Carroll, GECAS technical records leader. “We’re ready now.”

GECAS is among the dozens of lessors, airlines, manufacturers and software providers that helped develop Spec 2500—an XML standard for exchanging aircraft records and key maintenance data. The standard is being integrated into many widely used maintenance and engineering systems, such as AMOS. Digital records specialists, including Boeing’s AerData Stream and GE’s AirVault, are also on board. 

The working group’s initial gathering had about 16 participants, says Rebecca Molder, a senior specialist for engineering processes at American Airlines and the working group’s co-chair. Now more than 80 companies participate, including both large and small airlines from around the world. The group’s long-term vision: have assets such as aircraft and engines delivered with Spec 2500-compliant records that an operator or lessor can ingest into its system and update as needed. Ownership changes between parties using the standard could then take place without having to exchange boxes of paper records that often must be reentered into the new owner’s system.

The shift holds the most promise for the leasing community. With nearly half of the world’s air transport fleet owned by lessors, the number of annual transactions—currently about 4,000—is on the rise. Transferring records costs $100,000 or more per transaction, due to everything from required reviews to the cost of physically moving documents between involved parties. ATRWG members believe Spec 2500 will make ownership transfers both easier and cheaper for both operators and lessors.

“The standards will simplify records reviews and drive out costs,” Carroll says. “Moving to electronic records opens up the possibility of remote access as well. If you get to review records earlier, it fosters needed discussions in advance of the transaction.”

Spec 2500 focuses on records linked to an asset’s as-maintained, as-flown status, including airworthiness and service bulletin status, repair and damage records, maintenance status and basic records such as certificate of airworthiness. It is part of a wider effort to digitize aircraft records—something the International Air Transportation Association is pushing for over the next several years. Another standard, ATA Spec 2400, focuses on configuration data. At its core is a standardized file that defines the “allowable configuration” of an aircraft and its components. “This specification defines part-configuration attributes and concepts which integrate engineering product structure with allowable part usage by function position installation through the life of an aircraft,” the spec’s definition explains.

“Electronic records can offer advantages in that presentation of data can be done in various ways which may suit both the lessee during operation and the lessor at transition,” the International Air Transport Association says in its “Guidance Material and Best Practices for Aircraft Leases” document. One of the document’s appendices includes a “typical” list of re-delivery records, which the working group has tailored Spec 2500 to support.

Working-group members have been testing Spec 2500 in isolated trials as part of the development process. But GECAS is poised to put the spec through its first real-world test. The lessor will use the standards to transfer records from its current electronic aircraft record repository provider to its new one, AirVault. 

GECAS will not stop there, Carroll says. The company is talking to customers with upcoming transactions in search of early adopters. The expectation is that at least one will step forward this year, and others will soon follow.

“We have made an investment in the future, and we are excited to lead Spec 2500 adoption,” says Gib Bosworth, GE Aviation Digital’s global lessor executive director. “This is a watershed moment; no more talk. We’re going to do it.” 

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.