Finding Intermittent Faults in Aging Aircraft Systems

Most aviation maintenance technicians would probably agree that intermittent faults are our nemesis and that finding and clearing those faults in aging aircraft is extremely problematic. The resources involved in endless troubleshooting and line...

Accurately detecting and identifying intermittent faults is an industry level problem now and may become more problematic in the years ahead. Integration of systems is the trend in today’s new and emerging aircraft. This is achieved by using powerful centralized computer processors to manage avionics systems and shed LRUs. Additional innovations in aircraft sensing, cockpit displays, inter/intra aircraft wireless communications, and passenger management and entertainment systems are adding layers of sophistication to new aircraft. This trend will not abate. Aviation is closely following the advances in medical technology, graphene-based materials, and nanotechnology.

I argue that we need to make structural changes in our maintenance culture in order to maintain these integrated microtechnologies. One change must be in the curriculum that we use to educate and develop our AMTs. They will need a solid foundation in subjects like physics, Boolean logic, computer science, data analysis, wireless and satellite communications systems, systems theory, systems architecture, root cause analysis, and paths of influence in order to diagnose problems.

A good portion of the AMT’s work will be data management and analysis enabled by a deep knowledge of system architecture and operations. Another change must be to overcome the limitations that our current troubleshooting procedures and test equipment impose. We need to quickly adopt testing technology that companies like Universal Synaptics are developing.

Today’s emerging aircraft will be tomorrow’s aging aircraft and if history is a guide, they will present us with troubleshooting problems that are much more complicated. I don’t think a hardcopy wiring schematic and my old multimeter will be up for that job.


Charles Chandler is an A&P based in Michigan. He received his training from the Spartan College of Aeronautics.

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