Airbus is confident that increasing use of data diagnostics should make the goal of “zero AOG” (ie grounding an aircraft due to a technical fault) achievable during the next decade.
However any move to a fully-dynamic maintenance environment will be a lengthy transition will require extensive accumulation of supporting big data and operational experience.
Speaking at FlightGlobal’s Aerospace Big Data conference in London earlier this month, Mathew Evans, vice-president of digital transformation programmes at Airbus, said he expected the aviation industry’s expanding use of big data for operations and maintenance to be made in three distinct steps.
“The first has already happened – we’re already using predictive maintenance as well as diagnostics and health monitoring to drive out the unscheduled events,” says Evans.
“In a sense we are modifying the maintenance schedule, but modifying it by making it more frequent so we are avoiding AOGs and operational interruptions.”
Evans expects that this capability will continue to improve over the coming decade and ultimately eliminate the need for unscheduled grounding of aircraft for fault repairs. “So around 2025 we will achieve that ‘zero-AOG’ goal where you can expect your aircraft to not ever be down because of a mechanical fault,” he says.
The second phase of the transition is also fairly imminent, says Evans, where big data will help remove the need for checks to be governed by set schedules.
“You’ll start to see certain components that have scheduled checks that don’t have to be done if there’s a base of data or base of monitoring that says the part is actually okay.”
But a full transition will take much longer, predicts Evans, as it will need much greater experience insight to achieve it.
“That third wave will be tough to get to, where you actually say that the aircraft maintenance manual is a dynamic document based entirely on that specific tail number, and every check and interval will be based on the operational history of that aircraft,” he says.
“That last step will only come when we’ve accumulated a lot of history, a lot of examples and a lot of confidence from a regulatory standpoint that we really understand the full scope of this.”