Field testing of a joint Airbus/Boeing radio frequency identification (RFID) system for aircraft components could be under way this June.

Airbus said at the recent Aerospace Interiors Expo 2004 in Hamburg that it is in talks with unnamed airlines to trial RFID tags to improve component history data recording and parts tracking for maintenance.

Ralf Stuecker, Airbus manager tools planning and supply, says the technology is being transferred to aircraft components and consumable parts because "we had used RFID for checking tool inventory discrepancy. We have been able to reduce tool turn-around time by 25% and decrease our tool stock and tool stock [inventory] growth."

An RFID tag is a silicon chip with a copper antenna housed in plastic, with a layer of metal for electromagnetic shielding, that can be embedded in a component's surface. A hand-held computing device interrogates the tag for the data using a radio signal. Tests so far have checked tag immunity to vibration, temperatures, liquids and humidity. Boeing and Airbus want a standard system as they share so many suppliers.

Source: Flight International