Improved Data Systems Enhancing Aviation Maintenance Safety

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Graduate Student and 3 major Corporations add to Aviation Safety information Infrastructure

Georgia Tech entrepreneur designs GA maintenance analytical tool

Curtis-Wright, Honeywell work on Cloud-Based Black Box infrastructure

Fast 5: How A Student-Created Startup Is Revolutionizing Logbook Research

Honeywell works with Inmarsat to make black box in the cloud a reality

“Paperwork” is an anathema to most anyone who works in a GA maintenance hangar and is an epithet heard frequently among airline AMTs, AIs, QA/QCs, DARs and the inventory folks. Though hated, mistakes may cost the line professionals who have to fill out the forms.

At the same time accurate, timely data, lifted from those forms  form the backbone of the state-of-art safety tool— SMS/ASIAS/CAST/ VDRP/ASRS/FOQA—that has moved from reactive to proactive & preventative regime. The metadata base provides reliable, predictable data IF AND ONLY IF the information collected is correct.

The requirement- to spend significant time away from the twisting wrenches function to the pen and paper drudgery- detracts from focusing on the skilled work that enhances safety. The attention required to complete the lengthy forms can be diminished by the boring repetition.

A graduate student in Georgia Tech’s Master of Science Aerospace, Aeronautical and Astronautical/Space Engineering program has developed a system which would reduce the burden on GA mechanics by automating many of the records.

Vaibhav Kumar, based on a couple of inflight mechanical failures and hundreds of hours as the GT maintenance crew-chief for the Yellow Jacket Flying Club, decided “to build an advanced engine data monitor that will measure a spark’s health over time and kind of predict when the spark would fail so that this specific problem wouldn’t happen.” As with most inventors, Kumar’s target evolved:

“We moved from building an engine data monitor to maintenance analysis, to predictive maintenance, to analyzing aircraft maintenance records.

What AirLogs does is basically digitize, analyze and research aircraft maintenance records. Airplanes are legally required to have aircraft maintenance records. We scan them, and once they’re digitized, we use machine learning to analyze the typewritten information and back out [an aircraft’s relevant] airworthiness directives, service bulletins and project documents, what [maintenance tasks] were done, and the bill of materials for the aircraft, so we know what needs to be done in the future. We essentially determine everything that has been done on the aircraft and that needs to be done on the aircraft, and this has two major value propositions.”

AirLogs financing has had some hiccups, so Kumar has taken a job at Delta. There he is a program manager in Process and Technology Engineering, working  on MTAC, the Maintenance Tracking and Compliance software solution for Delta TechOps. That experience may allow him and his fellow entrepreneurs to move their software to the Part 121 environment where there is more purchasing power.



At the other end of the development continuum, Honeywell Aerospace, Curtiss-Wright Corp and Inmarsat are teaming together to create a  ‘black box in the cloud’ solution, that is moving the data transmission from their present passive state to a real-time connected solution.

The joint goal is to provide this connectivity to the commercial airline, cargo transport and business jet markets. Owners, operators and manufacturers will have the option to access the data at all times, resulting in the potential for better maintenance predictability and operational insight through data analytics. In addition, in the event of an emergency, the data on board will be quickly accessible to investigators.

The project’s goal is to reinvent the aircraft cockpit voice recorder (CVR) and flight data recorder (FDR) using inflight connectivity. Inmarsat’s satellite system will assure that the coverage will be global.

Having provided the aviation industry with traditional black boxes for more than 60 years, Honeywell’s new Connected Recorder-25, which uses Curtiss-Wright’s recently certified Fortress hardware – a 25-hour CVR/FDR recorder – will be the collection and transmission base for the black box in the cloud.

The press release neglects to mention the benefits to ASIAS or Flight Safety Foundation’s GSIP. That omission is perplexing in that the joint venture’s utility is even greater in the safety context. Hopefully as the Curtiss-Wright, Honeywell and Inmarsat concept evolves, ASIAS and/or GSIP should be included directly.

It should be noted that both of these automation projects do not involve the problematic pilot-computer output. This system will facilitate the transfer of data from the source to the information processing function. It does not remove the human from the thinking and operational tasks. The size and timeliness of the data is improved by these proposals.







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