Airbus expects that today's health monitoring technology will be developed over the next decade to create a fully integrated aircraft health management system that automatically schedules maintenance shop visits to rectify faults, with no human interface.

"We are talking about health management in both aircraft systems and structures," says Axel Krein, Airbus senior vice-president research and technology. "We have begun individual tests, but the technology will probably not be available on an aircraft before the end of the next decade."

The difference between today's health monitoring systems and health management of tomorrow is that the latter "will automatically process the results from the different probes imbedded in the aircraft and translate them through an information system to automatically schedule maintenance", Krein says.

He adds that the technology would provide significant improvements as it reduces manpower and spares provisioning: "The automatic maintenance scheduling would include provisioning the required hangar space and all the spares when they are needed, with no human interface."

And by having all the systems talking directly to each other, the optimum scheduling can be used in line with the individual aircraft's flying programme, says Krein: "For example if there is an indication that there is still a health of 50h left, then the aircraft can still take the next leg, and if there is a check due in two to three days then [the rectification] would automatically wait until then."

Source: Flight International