Airbus has begun testing a new maintenance tool which should help airlines release flights more promptly when small malfunctions develop.
The manufacturer says it has developed a new connection that links Airman, its maintenance software tool used by most of its major operators, and the Airbus Technical Aircraft on Ground Centre (Airtac). Airbus senior director for maintenance, repair and overhaul support management Wolfgang Kortas says the new Airman-Airtac connection will allow Airbus technical experts, who staff Airtac every hour of the year, to more quickly authorise flights in the event of a malfunction.
Under certain scenarios, airlines must receive a "no technical objection" from Airbus before proceeding with flights. With the Airman-Airtac connection, Airbus technical specialists will be able to instantaneously access data from the aircraft before even receiving a phone call from the airline. By receiving quicker authorisation from the manufacturer when certain non-critical equipment malfunctions, airlines will be able to improve their dispatch reliability and on-time performance, thereby saving on crew costs.
If more serious malfunctions develop, Airbus technicians will also be able to more quickly begin seeking a fix. This in turn will minimise a costly delay to the flight.
"We can work on a problem, locate spares and plan logistics before the customer even calls us," Kortas told Airline Business deputy editor Brendan Sobie.
Currently Airman can only be connected to airline maintenance centres, providing information and maintenance messages that allow mechanics to start preparing for maintenance while an aircraft is out of station or airborne. When required this data is relayed by the airline to Airbus.
The new Airman-Airtac connection is being offered as standard equipment on the new A380. Airbus last month began testing the connection using an A380 test aircraft. To further test the new maintenance tool ahead of the A380's entry into service, Kortas says Singapore Airlines has agreed to participate in a trial programme using its Airbus A340-500s.
"We'll make sure it works before the A380 enters service," he says.
He says the trial, which will for the first time test the connection on commercial flights, will begin in October and include all five of SIA's A340-500s. SIA operates its A340-500s on ultra long-haul non-stop services linking Singapore with Los Angeles and New York.
Kortas says Airbus aims to make the connection standard on other new models, including the A350 and is also designing a retrofit for other aircraft types. But he says designing the retrofit involves a lot of work and time because of the high volume of data involved.