INDIANAPOLIS (March 17, 2014) — Delays in aircraft repairs mean delays getting back in the air – or even cancelled flights. Fact is, some maintenance delays are unavoidable, like time wasted walking across a hangar to access Ramco at a desk. However, new wireless computer carts in Republic’s hangars are changing all that.
In October, the Company began phasing in 10 of these mobile stations at the Indianapolis hangar, each configured with a computer, monitor, keyboard, mouse, battery backup and printer so crews could have instant computer access around the aircraft. And because the stations use wireless networking, they can be wheeled to virtually any spot in the hanger.
“It’s just so much more efficient to have (the access) right there at the aircraft,” said Tim Simpson, manager of maintenance at the IND hangar. “We can look up the manual references and order repair parts needed without walking too far away and getting distracted from the job in progress.
“Before, you had to leave the aircraft, find a hardwired station, log on, look up the part, fill out the forms, walk to the parts room, get the part, then go back to the airplane to fix the problem. That equals a lot of lost opportunity and manpower.”
Then there’s the accountability aspect, said Simpson, who oversees 70 mechanics at the IND hangar.
“We used to print out a stack of blank non-routine work cards then fill them out and turn them in later. But this created the opportunity for open discrepancies to get lost or misplaced which could be catastrophic,” said Simpson, who suggested the wireless idea.
“Now, a task is entered into the system real time and has to be complied with before the aircraft can leave. It’s all right there in the computer so the new work stations eliminate the chance for errors. We do our entries and print them out right there at the aircraft. It’s really an improvement compared to the old way.”
In January, Columbus got five of the stations and is ready to ramp up more. Pittsburgh is getting five stations for evaluation, too, and crews will begin integrating them into workflows in coming weeks.
Louisville is next on the list of bases, said Chris Stebbins, Republic’s IT Service Desk Manager.
“All of the equipment (for SDF) should be ordered by the end of this month, with installation and testing targeted for later this spring,” followed by Kansas City, he said.
“The rollout was so successful in Indianapolis it just made sense to add that capability in our other hangars,” said VP of Technical Services Thomas Duffy. “We’ve got the best maintenance crews in the business, and now they can do their jobs faster and more efficient. And that’s what it’s all about.”
Chris said the setup is simple to use.
“Because it uses the same Desktop and Ramco displays as in the office, mechanics don’t need additional training to use it. There’s no worry about network cables being too short, or getting damaged either. You just plug in the power and roll.”
Peter Machon, night supervisor of maintenance for Shuttle America at the IND hangar, said adoption of the wireless setups has increased as mechanics become more comfortable with getting away from the permanent work stations.
“The setups seem to working really well. We’ve had positive feedback from everybody,” Machon said. “(Mechanics) seem to like the new stations because they’re close to the aircraft and they’re immediately accessible, plus it adds to the total number of workstations. We’re really happy with them here. I definitely wouldn’t want to go back to the old way.”
Bottom line, the wireless carts have been a win-win all around, said Simpson, a former mechanic who started his career in 1999 with Chautauqua Airlines in Fort Wayne.
“We have less downtime, and that’s good because we have limited ground time to begin with. It gives more accountability, and you don’t have guys ping-ponging around the hangar. It simply saves us time, and that’s what it’s all about,” he said.
“Plus, we’re eliminating the possibility of a critical mistake. You can’t put a dollar amount on that.”