MX Automation Vision
Beyond the Hangar
Communications between pilots and Aviation Maintenance Technicians are critical to safety and are frequently subject to different interpretations as witnessed by these entries in logbooks:
P: Left inside main tire almost needs replacement.
S: Almost replaced left inside main tire.
P: Test flight OK, except auto-land very rough.
S: Auto-land not installed on this aircraft.
P: Something loose in cockpit
S: Something tightened in cockpit
P: Dead bugs on windshield.
S: Live bugs on back-order.
P: Autopilot in altitude-hold mode produces a 200 feet per minute descent
S: Cannot reproduce problem on ground.
P: Evidence of leak on right main landing gear.
S: Evidence removed.
P: DME volume unbelievably loud.
S: DME volume set to more believable level.
P: Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick.
S: That’s what friction locks are for.
P: IFF inoperative in OFF mode.
S: IFF always inoperative in OFF mode.
P: Suspected crack in windshield.
S: Suspect you’re right.
P: Number 3 engine missing.
S: Engine found on right wing after brief search.
P: Aircraft handles funny.
S: Aircraft warned to: straighten up, fly right, and be serious.
P: Target radar hums.
S: Reprogrammed target radar with lyrics.
P: Mouse in cockpit.
S: Cat installed.
P: Noise coming from under instrument panel. Sounds like a midget pounding on something with a hammer.
S: Took hammer away from midget
While these humorous repartees are likely facetious, the written notations make the point that words can have more than one meaning, even in the technical world of aviation. To make the terminology of CASS and ICA more precise, there are reams of paper full of definitions and clarifications for the entry of the descriptions. If you want to disrupt a joint picnic between ALPA and the IAM, just hand out a sheet of descriptions from MX logs and let the debate begin.
Boeing and Base 2 solutions have partnered to create a “diagnostic software application that will allow mechanics to access performance diagnostics via the cockpit or a mobile device.” The article explains the enormity of this task—1,700 requirements to read “codes from sensors will speed up the maintenance process saving time and money. Whether it is checking components in the manufacturing process or when the aircraft is at the gate, maintainers will have the data they need to get the aircraft flying.” The Onboard Maintenance Function “evaluates more than 6,000 fault conditions using sensor data from across the aircraft.”
The data can also be forwarded to the MX Operations Center for scheduling, planning, staffing and purchasing purposes.
This omission is most curious; since the Boeing Company prides itself on understanding the needs of its airline customers. It is also fair to say that SMS’ preventative posture should result in fewer accidents and lower costs. Automation which increases reliability and lowers costs should convince buyers to escalate purchases as much as the greater fuel efficiency tends to add to the benefits analysis for a new aircraft over extending the life of an old one.
By extending the transmission lines beyond the Maintenance Organization to Airline Safety offices, SMS and the FAA, the Onboard Maintenance Function would bring greater rewards for this investment.