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.
Misconception #3: All aircraft of a specific model are created equal
Within an aircraft model's publications are countless variations of maintenance tasks to be performed as well as the requirement of when those tasks are performed. Part numbers play a significant role in determining requirement intervals.
Look how the maintenance tracking workload multiplies through the example of changing a starter/generator. The change of one starter/generator can alter the requirement intervals of the three maintenance tasks that have to be performed on a regular basis. If you're flying a three-engine aircraft, that's nine intervals that can change on you. If you have two of these aircraft, now it's 18 requirements to monitor.
Applicability and Effectivity complicates the grouping of multiple maintenance tasks into letter checks and phase checks. You can't just call up a maintenance provider and request an estimate for a ÔB' check. And, let's not forget the statement found in many Airworthiness Directives, "but not limited to." While they try to limit the applicability of a directive, this statement requires increased research.
The next task is to match the aircraft to the manufacturer's recommended maintenance schedule. An aircraft technician familiar with the aircraft model has to thoroughly research the aircraft maintenance records. Once again, applicability and effectivity have to be considered.
The compliance date, hours, and landings for each inspection, service, and component replacement task has to be verified and recorded. Component information containing part number, serial number, time since new, time since overhaul, are also researched, verified, and recorded. Repeat this effort 2,000 times and you will have a well-catalogued, well-indexed aircraft.
While you are keeping one eye on the maintenance publication for revisions and updates, you also have to ensure the maintenance activities are performed on the aircraft at the proper time.
The operation of any maintenance program centers on the timely exchange of aircraft maintenance information between the technician and the maintenance planner, who just might be the same person. To facilitate this exchange of information, report forms are necessary. There should be a report to the present profile or status of the aircraft. A report that cumulatively and chronologically lists all maintenance performed to date is essential when trying to put together historical data.
A concerted effort
A list that informs the operator of upcoming maintenance tasks coming due as a result of the aircraft attaining a specified number of hours, landings, or calendar time is necessary for planning hangar space, technicians, and downtime for the aircraft. For each maintenance task appearing on the list, a signoff form is necessary to record the data pertinent to the task. This form is then returned to the maintenance planner where it serves to update the maintenance records and to generate new reports for the next month.
All of this activity is necessary to enable the aircraft owner/operator to establish and maintain parity with the manufacturer's recommendations and the requirements of the airworthiness authority for each aircraft.
Help is on the way
The Airline Transport Association of America (ATA), founded in 1936, serves as a focal point for industry efforts to standardize practices and enhance the efficiency of the air transport system. The development of recommended specifications allow industry participants to achieve major cost savings through the use of common systems and procedures.
ATA's Specification 100 is the industry's recommended format and content standard for technical manuals written by aviation manufacturers and used by airlines and other segments of the industry in the maintenance of the respective products. These standards define the data prepared as conventional printed documentation.
Most of us are familiar with the basic ATA Chapters used in aircraft maintenance manuals and publications.
ATA's AMTOSS (Aircraft Maintenance Task Oriented Support System) has been designed to improve the organization of the aircraft maintenance manuals and to facilitate automated data retrieval. AMTOSS is based on the concept of using a standard and unique numbering system that is an expansion of the ATA Chapter-Section-Subject numbering system. A three-character function code is established as a fourth element to the existing Chapter-Section-Subject numbering system. Ninety-nine specific function codes are assigned to corresponding maintenance activities.
The Internet and web-based applications
Earlier, we discussed the effort required to keep maintenance publications current. Stacks of revision pages have to be removed and inserted. You have to make sure you actually received the revision.
CD-ROMs are becoming very common, but once again, you have to make sure you have received the revised material. Some CD-ROMs require a reader that has to be installed on a workstation or are limited to one workstation.
Internet and web-based applications offer many advantages that streamline these efforts. The pitfalls and limitations from distributed applications are reduced or eliminated. The need for a software application residing on a workstation is unnecessary, and a change in hardware does not require reloading the application. Also, adding new programs that can change workstation configuration and render other programs useless is minimized. The common navigation used by all web-based applications reduces the learning curve associated with any new software product. With your permission, a potential buyer or maintenance provider can access your records without the need for having the software application.
We live in the information age, yet to some, we live in an informational wilderness. Information overload can hinder rather than help the situation. Internet applications facilitate user-defined data filtration so that each user gets only the information he or she requires. This is a perfect feature for aircraft publications embedded with applicability and effectivity data within the text as Internet-based documentation assures all users are accessing the same and most current version.
Right tools for the job
Whether you dedicate an in-house maintenance planner or choose to outsource this activity to a third-party vendor, maintenance planning is usually a more complicated and labor-intensive job than initially meets the eye. The variety of maintenance planning and tracking programs are designed to help us organize material we are familiar with in a format that streamlines the time-consuming but necessary recordkeeping tasks associated with maintaining aircraft to an airworthy condition.
Maintenance personnel know that using the right tools for the job goes a long way to ensure that the project will be accomplished the correct way, the first time. By integrating the technological tools available into the maintenance control program, technicians and management will be able to work smarter, not harder, to provide customers with service that is current, compliant, and professional.
AMT Computer Software & Hardware Product and Services Listing
The following is a listing of companies that provide computer hardware and software products for aircraft maintenance operations. Please contact them directly for more information about their products and services.
Advanced Aviation Services Int'l Inc., 8241 Sharkhead Cr., Pensacola, FL 32514, (850) 476-5805; Provider of a comprehensive computer-operated aircraft maintenance planning service for customers that prefer monthly batch processing. This easy-to-use program allows the operator to select all program functions from a single screen.
Aero-West Specialties LLC, 3203 Lightning St., Ste. 124, Santa Maria, CA 93455, (800) 540-9645; EBis - Electric Billing Information System provides work orders, inventory control, time billing, parts tracking, and more. Windows 95, 98, NT 4.0, and Windows 2000 or MAC multi-user compatible. Visit our web site at www.aero-west.com.
Aircraft Technical Publishers, 101 South Hill Dr., Brisbane, CA 94005, (800) 227-4610; ATP provides reliable software, CD-ROM, and microfiche information-management systems. Products include maintenance tracking and forecasting software, and regulatory and maintenance libraries for propeller, jet, and helicopter aircraft.
Avantext Inc., 2675 Morgantown Rd., Ste. 3300, Reading, PA 19607, (800) 998-8857; Publisher of TechPubs for The Bell Helicopter, The New Piper Aircraft Inc., and Textron Lycoming companies with more to follow. Avantext converts manufacturer manuals, illustrated parts catalogs, wiring diagrams, service bulletins, and other technical documents to CD-ROM.
Aviation Computer Media, 6158 S. 2250 E., Ogden, UT 84403, (801) 476-8239; Provides its FAA Regulatory Maintenance Library on CD-ROM. Features: ADs (with preambles), AD-related service bulletins (small aircraft), FARs, TCDs, STCs, selected advisory circulars, general aviation alerts, and various FAA forms.
Aviation DataSource Inc. 2020 Youngfield St., #173, Denver, CO 80215, (888) 952-8844; Offers Complete Aviation Regulatory Library including all Airworthness Directives, Type Certificate Data Sheets, Federal Aviation Regulations, and advisory circulars. Meets all FAA requirements for IAs and Repair Stations. Internet access for subscribers with daily updates of data.
Aviation InterTec Services, 405-200 S. Syndicate Ave., Thunder Bay, ON, Canada P7E 1C9, (807) 625-9260; Provides the Remote Access Aviation System (RAAS)™, a comprehensive maintenance system that includes technical records with electronic technical logs, maintenance planning, and more. Web site: www.aviationintertec.com.
Aviation Maintenance Tracking System Inc., PO Box 0373, Sun Prairie, WI 53590, (608) 825-6642; Offers a maintenance tracking program for aircraft and their engines, airframe, APUs, and component maintenance history. The system also tracks ADs, SBs, loaner component information, and parts inventory. Web site: www.AMTSINC.Bigstep.com.
AVTRAK Inc., 3090 S. Jamaica Ct., Aurora, CO 80014, (303) 745-5588; Offers E-Log™, an active database that archives images of valuable historical aircraft inspection and maintenance records. E-Log catalogs digital images taken directly from existing aircraft, engine, propeller, and APU maintenance logbooks. Web site: www.avtrak.com.
CAMP Systems Int'l, Long Island MacArthur Airport, 999 Marconi Ave., Ronkonkoma, NY 11779, (877) 411-2267; CAMP SP is a computerized aircraft maintenance program that provides aircraft analyst support along with timely, detailed, and accurate information on the status, history, and work coming due for your aircraft. AviSource is the industry's premier Internet-based, integrated suite of maintenance, inventory, and flight scheduling.
CIMLINC, 1222 Hamilton Pkwy, Itasca, IL 60143, (630) 250-0090; Provides e-shopfloor maintenance information systems that bring the power of the Internet to the shop floor. With CIMLINC's Shop Excellerator™ software and Shopman™ computers, technicians can be enabled with a full electronic information flow. Web site: www.cimlinc.com.
ComponentControl.com, 1731 Kettner Blvd., San Diego, CA 92101, (619) 702-3112; Supply chain and B2B e-commerce software for the aviation industry. Automates selling, invoicing of spare parts including B2B e-commerce via the Internet.
Conklin & de Decker, PO Box 1142, 62 Cranberry Hwy, Ste. B, Orleans, MA 02653, (817) 277-6403; Publishes MxManager®, an integrated maintenance management program that features maintenance tracking, work orders, weight and balance, and inventory with purchasing. Thirty-day, fully functional demo available for downloading.
Continuum Applied Technology Inc., 9801 Anderson Mill Rd., Ste. 206, Austin, TX 78750, (512) 918-8900; Provides Corridor, a Windows-based software solution for FBOs and repair stations that fully integrates all processes and information associated with maintenance, refurbishment, installation, repair/overhaul, and part sales.
Cornerstone Logic, PO Box 32170, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32170, (904) 427-4222; The Windows-based program, FBO Manager, manages aircraft, pilots, inventory, and accounting and links to SQL Server, Quickbooks, Peach Tree, and other accounting software. Free trial versions at our web site www.cornerstonelogic.com.
Daniel Systems Inc. (DSI), 4391 N.W. 150 St., Opa Locka Airport, Opa Locka, FL 33054, (305) 685-6286; Delivers proprietary computerized aviation maintenance planning technology, software, and services via Comps Internet, an Internet-based aviation maintenance planning system. DSI provides aircraft inspection programs for private operators of transport category aircraft and business jet operators worldwide.
Horizon Business Concepts Inc., 21910 E. 71st, #C, Broken Arrow, OK 74014; TotalFBO™ Accounting & Business Management Software, a Windows-based business management software for the general aviation industry is now in its 13th year of production. Fully integrated, modular, Windows 95/98/NT compatible.
iBASEt, 20162 Windrow Dr., Lake Forest, CA 92630, (949) 598-5330; Solumina is a paperless manufacturing execution system that provides a paperless shop floor environment with electronic work instructions, process planning, and quality assurance functionality.
IHS Aviation Information, 15 Inverness Way East, Englewood, CO 80112, (800) 320-5660; Av-data is a global information solution used to access airworthiness, safety, and maintenance information for complying with the regulations and advisory information.
Info Access, 455 E. Industrial Dr., Hartland, WI 53209, (800) 346-0648 or (414) 367-1367; Complete source for microfiche readers, reader-printers, microfiche storage items, and hard to find replacement lamps. Visit our web site at www.infocatalog.com.
Inventory Locator Service (ILS), 3965 Mendenhall Rd., Memphis, TN 38115, (901) 794-5000; ILSmart.com offers all of the selling and buying power of ILS directly on the Internet. It's the smart mart for aviation parts, equipment, and services. Our new continuous auction is the way to bid your excess inventory goodbye.
JETNET LLC, 185 Genesee St., Utica, NY 13501, (800) 553-8638; The Aerodex program, a PC-based service, details over 22,000 corporate aircraft worldwide with comprehensive information on their owners, operators, transaction histories, and more. Users receive updates daily, weekly, or monthly via modem, Internet, or diskette.
Jouve Data Management, 17671 Cowan Ave., Irvine, CA 92614, (949) 474-4200; Jouve designs, develops, and implements digital document solutions for airlines and aerospace manufacturers.
PRG Aviation Systems, 6351 Owensmouth Ave., Ste. 105, Woodland Hills, CA 91367, (800) 877-1425 or (818) 710-1425; Provides comprehensive tracking systems for fleet operators. Integrates with inventory system, which includes purchase and repair orders; cores tracking, min/max, extensive traceability, usage analysis, accounting, and more.
PSDI, 100 Crosby Dr., Bedford, MA 01730, (800) 244-3346; Maximo is used to plan and manage ongoing maintenance and repair operations and to track related labor, parts, and costs. Please visit www.maximo.com.
PartsBase.com, 7171 N. Federal Hwy, Boca Raton, FL 33487, (561) 463-3302; Online marketplace for the aviation, aerospace, and defense industries where buyer and sellers of parts and services can transact their business in a low-cost medium that reduces inventory carrying costs, search, and procurement costs. Auction, aircraft sales, and employment services are also available.
Pentagon 2000 Software Inc., The Empire State Bldg, 63rd Floor, 350 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10118, (800) 643-1806; The unique features of the Pentagon 2000SQL system allows a "One Source, One Solution, One Time" approach that seamlessly integrates modules such as: employee training, exchanges, e-commerce, aircraft maintenance and components tracking, and more. Visit our web site at www.pentagon2000.com.
Professional Software Association, PO Box 679, Gig Harbor, WA 98335, (253) 851-4697; Windows-based, Y2K-compliant asset management program. Tracks aircraft maintenance activities including AD/SBs and work cards, inventory control, purchasing and repair orders, and more. Accounting interface and reliability available.
QAD Aviation Systems, 16458 Bolsa Chica, #176, Huntington Beach, CA 92649, (818) 706-8715; Releases Quick AD 3.0, a powerful software tool to simplify AD information-gathering tasks. Offers profile worksheets to track information for specific aircraft, engines, and appliances.
Russell Adams Inc., Beechwood House, Tanners Ln., Warwickshire CV7 7DA, UK, (+44) 2476-856-400; Russell Adams Inc. is a supplier of aviation and aerospace software - an integrated set of modules controlling aircraft technical records, workshop control, stores and warehousing control, labor control, and financial control systems.
Silicon Wings Inc., Ste 705, 7015 McLeod Trail SW, Calgary, AB, Canada T2H 2K6, (403) 286-8804; Software for aircraft maintenance records, quality control, and inventory control. Civilian and military applications. 200 sites worldwide. www.silicon-wings.com.
Spear Technologies, One Market, Steuart Tower, Ste. 700, San Francisco, CA 94105, (415) 836-0090; Our suite of software products, Spear 2000™, is designed for the needs of airlines that maintain complex fleets of aircraft, ground support vehicles, and facilities.
tdata Corp., 60 Grace Dr., Powell, OH 43065, (800) 783-2827 or (614) 885-1169; Offers Complete Regulatory Library on CD ROM that includes ADs for small and medium aircraft, electronic FAA Forms, Advisory Circulars, Service Bulletins, Alerts, STCs, and more. Please visit our web site at www.tdatacorp.com.
Transportation Systems (TSC), 35111 US 19 N, Ste. 101, Palm Harbor, FL 34684, (727) 785-7803; AMIS-2000 is a fully integrated computer system for managing the technical operations' activities of an airline or A/C fleet operator. Visit our web site at www.tsc-corp.com. Xybernaut Corp., 12701 Fair Lakes Cr., Fairfax, VA 22033, (703) 631-6925;
Xybernaut's patented wearable computer is a full-function, WINTEL, Pentium PC that allows users hands-free access to information. Visit our web site at www.xybernaut.com.