Shifting Up a Gear: Modern Maintenance Management at Cape Air

April 18, 2019
Isaiah Herrick, IFS Maintenix Program Coordinator, Cape Air, shares the experience, best practices and lessons learned during the move to a state-of-the-art maintenance support solution

In fall 2013, Cape Air, a Part 121 and Part 135 regional airline headquartered in Hyannis, MA, with its own Part 145 MRO facility, began its search for a modern maintenance management system to roll out across its Technical Operations Department spanning maintenance, MOC, materials and records. 

With the business outgrowing some of the systems that were in place, Cape Air had some scalability challenges. We started looking at a number of solutions and asked ourselves how we could ensure that the system we choose fits our operation. We didn’t want to have to change our culture, didn’t want to change the organization too much and needed something that would be customizable to respond to our unique challenges.

After speaking with a number of providers, we reached the conclusion that IFS Maintenix was the solution that best matched the needs of our airline. We were impressed with some of the standardized processes in the system that would help our airline move toward the future in a uniform way. A critical factor in our consideration was the fleet management capabilities with its ability to handle complexity and diversity, data migration and multiple aircraft types. We are used to customizing our aircraft so the solution needed to be flexible enough to tailor to what Cape Air was trying to do.

Digging Deep Into the Data

It was clearly a huge undertaking to bring about change with a system of this scale, but it was worth it for what we gained – in particular the ability to manage our fleet configuration in a way that had not been possible before. The new system is fully customizable for fleet sub-types and we now have modern, user-friendly planning tools in our hands so that we can begin to forecast our usages and maintenance events and make sure that we’re operating in an efficient way. We can generate data-driven strategic objectives and have data-supported decision making, something that was just not possible with our legacy system.

Making the Transition Work

It is, of course, very important to keep the current operations running while transitioning to a new system. A key part during the transition is therefore, the ability to cooperate with the legacy system management on issues such as what types of data could be accessed and how much cooperation they’d provide — which can be critical to success.

Cape Air put in place an implementation team of four to five people during this transition period — not a large team, but one that was dedicated to what we were doing and trying to achieve. The team included subject matter experts from every area. We looked at all the different departments whose work would be impacted by the change to IFS Maintenix, took a subject matter expert from each department and moved them all to the internal implementation team.

The Lessons Learned

We learned that you have to manage business challenges as well as system challenges, and make sure that everything fits in order to get buy-in to the proposed plan. Baseline accuracy is very important, in other words how you configure your aircraft in whatever system you use is essential to make sure that everything flows uniformly and is accurate.

Similarly, with data availability. Cape Air had a great deal of data in the legacy system, which we didn’t want to abandon but we needed to make sure it was clean and usable. This meant cleansing the data and making sure that we didn’t load dirty data into our new system.

Change management becomes an important part of the process to ensure that everybody was on the same page. We learned a number of valuable lessons in the process.

Lesson One: Listen to the Fleet

This is especially important when operating the fleet types that we have at Cape Air. Continuous review is very important from a maintenance standpoint, so make sure that you’re listening to what your fleet is telling you. See if you can find trouble spots with your configuration and how it’s set up in the system. When you do find a trouble spot, take immediate action to rectify it. Make sure that configurations are set up exactly as you want them to avoid any future trouble spots, whether at the front end of the system with frontline employees or with the records department to ensure that everything’s maintained accurately.

Lesson Two: Listen to Your Employees

We try to engage our frontline employees as often as possible — so user feedback is vital. We want to make sure that our employee base is heard, so we made sure there was a venue where they have a voice and that we take immediate action to rectify any concerns. It’s also important to lay out for your employees exactly what you’re trying to achieve and the direction in which the business wants to proceed. Employee buy-in is critical and ensures everybody is in line and heading toward the same mission goal.

Lesson Three: Support Your Users

Being an employee-owned company, supporting our staff means supporting ourselves. We needed a resource that when a technician working on a ramp in Montana has an issue concerning a specific process, there is a system in place where they can reach out and ask for help.

So, we developed our own internal helpdesk process to rectify any issues they might have. It’s also a great training opportunity. We logged certain trends and started to look into some of the analytics. That’s very valuable data for the back-end of the system to look at where our employees are having trouble and take actions to address those spots where these problems occur consistently. This feedback loop has allowed for a 93 percent decrease in monthly helpdesk submissions since we went live.

Lesson Four: Strive for Continuous Improvement

We like to say that we’ll never be finished integrating IFS Maintenix, we aim to continually drive it forward to the greatest extent possible. This means we are constantly turning on different functionalities and diving deeper into the system.

Some of the things that we got into right away included improving live system use. Technicians are using the system in real time, so having high availability of the product is crucial. We had to ensure that wherever our technicians or storeroom staff are located, they have access to the system. We achieved this with iPads and made sure that all our maintenance locations were equipped with those resources and that they were able to be taken on the road as well for some of our smaller destinations.

Future-Ready and Poised for Growth

At the end of the day, as an airline that continues to grow and is poised to take some major steps into the future, Cape Air now has a strong foundation to build upon as new aircraft types are introduced and the industry undergoes further change. In short, we have gained a strong, scalable platform to expand our operation and take on future business developments with ease.

Isaiah Herrick began his career in aviation with Cape Air in 2014, and is responsible for managing and coordinating the Cape Air IFS Maintenix integration project as well as overseeing the daily operation of Maintenix across the Cape Air organization. Passionate about providing IT solutions to help solve operational difficulties, Herrick strives to streamline processes and drive efficiency wherever possible, including engaging Cape Air’s frontline employees to grow their Maintenix skill set. Cape Air operates a fleet of 88 Cessna 402s and 4 Britten-Norman Islanders, with up to 400 flights per day during high season. Last year Cape Air carried over 626,000 passengers, making it one of the largest regional airlines in the United States (

About the Author

Isaiah Herrick | IFS Maintenix Program Coordinator