Using computer technology for aircraft maintenance planning, schedualing, and recording
by Victor C. Johnson
Poper management of an aircraft begins with and relies upon a good maintenance control system. Correctly executed and retained records provide owners, operators, and maintenance personnel the information necessary to maintain an aircraft to an airworthy condition.
Aircraft maintenance planning, scheduling, and recording is a specialized activity usually underestimated by those administrators, accountants, and managers who are unfamiliar with aviation. Even aviation professionals unfamiliar with maintenance operations do not appreciate the effort required. Though seasoned aircraft maintenance professionals understand this material thoroughly, it's often another matter for them to explain the necessity and difficulty of collecting, cataloguing, indexing, and revising the myriad of materials from manufacturers and the FAA when financial or human resources dedicated for those activities are questioned. For example, a common misconception about aircraft maintenance to the uninitiated is You take a part off and you put one on.
Okay, consider what needs to be tracked with the replacement of an engine fire bottle.
1. The change of the fire bottle itself, part number, and serial number
2. The hydrostatic check date
3. The weight check date
4. The insulation test
5. Inspect the powder condition of the three cartridges
6. Record the life limit of the green cartridge
7. Record the installed limit of the green cartridge
8. Record the life limit of the red cartridge
9. Record the installed limit of the red cartridge
10. Record the life limit of the yellow cartridge
11. Record the installed limit of the yellow cartridge
One fire bottle changed results in 11 items to track and record. Two aircraft with two engines needing this procedure creates 44 items to be accounted for. So, what are you doing in your spare time? The necessity of having an efficient method in place for maintenance control becomes increasingly apparent in this scenario.
Dispelling the myths
The following are some other misconceptions that maintenance professionals have to dispel when communicating with other personnel not well versed in the multitude of tasks to track and perform.
Misconception #1: The maintenance schedule for an aircraft comes from a single document source
Maintenance schedules and inspection requirements come from multiple document sources: Airframe, Engine, APU, and Propeller Manufacturer Manuals as well as Appliances, Service Bulletins, Service Letters, Engineering Orders, Airworthiness Directives and Federal Aviation Regulations. In some cases, publications will contradict one another; therefore, additional research, i.e. man-hours, is often required to properly complete the assignment.
Aircraft manufacturers provide procedures for the maintenance of the aircraft and a timetable for inspections to be performed, but do not provide a means for planning, scheduling, and recording these events and activities. In addition, when a mixed fleet of aircraft is being operated, the maintenance planning, scheduling, and recording efforts become dramatically more difficult.
Misconception #2: Once the maintenance schedule is established, it is fixed and a one-time effort
The work does not stop with the creation of the basic program. Scores of Airframe, Engine, APU, and Propeller manufacturers' revisions, are incorporated on a continual basis. Service Bulletins and Airworthiness Directives have to be monitored and cross-referenced. All of us have experienced the dreaded Re-Issue of a publication where the convenience of revision bars is eliminated. The new breed of corporate aircraft severely challenges conventional maintenance tracking methods of chalkboards, manual checklists, and internal forms.
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