Airlines can perform predictive maintenance much more effectively because new aircraft yield more data, and the tools for exploiting it have improved dramatically. Yet ways of thinking and business processes also must change, which often is more difficult than tapping sensors.
Consolidation of MRO providers continues, with some buyers adding software to their hard hangar assets.
Moelis Capital Partners (MCP) recently acquired its third aviation services platform in the past two years with the purchase of Mxi Technologies. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but industry analysts say it was valued at less than $100 million.
Like many major carriers, United Airlines had developed its own in-house tools for doing diagnostics on its fleet. But around 2005 and 2006 the airline was starting to fly more routes to very distant destinations where the costs of having a grounded aircraft, and ferrying parts and repair crews, could be very high. So it took a look at Boeing's Aircraft Health Monitoring, speaking both to the airframe manufacturer and early adopters of the system.
The Boeing 787 and Airbus A350 will offer maintenance managers more data for understanding aircraft and keeping them flying. But exploiting this data will require expensive investments, in engineers and information technology (IT) staff and in communication linkages. Justifying this financial commitment requires that non-maintenance departments also exploit the digital aircraft.
Maintenance systems and all the data and documents associated with them must be revised constantly. This process is basically a boon. It means that the latest fleet-wide data from manufacturers, airline-specific experience and regulatory wisdom are reflected in shop procedures, making maintenance both safer and smarter.
Start preparing for NextGen retrofit—even if NextGen may be a money-loser. That is a pessimistic way to read the FAA’s final rule mandating equipage for Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) Out for all aircraft flying in U.S. Class A, B and C airspace, around busy airports and above 10,000 ft. by Jan. 1, 2020. The agency issued the final rule on May 28. FAA acknowledges that the present-value net benefits of the ADS-B Out rule could be negative if costs are higher than expected or if benefits are low or slow to come.
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