Blowing sand in the Middle East and high levels of airborne particulate matter from industrial pollution in Asia are parts of the impetus behind a new generation of thermal barrier coatings (TBC) designed to better protect engine components and withstand corrosive elements.
TBC corrosion is becoming a growing issue, specifically attributable to the build-up of calcium magnesium aluminosilicates (CMAS).
As more nacelles are made of composites, their repair market is becoming quite diverse.
“Fleet transitions are adding complexity, failure modes vary as aircraft age, and operators are customizing work scopes to fit their needs,” says Meredith Siegfried, CEO of Nordam, a major nacelle OEM and repair specialist.
Siegfried says most of today's nacelle work stems from mature aircraft, which generally employ comparable technologies and materials, so today's primary focus is on doing the work faster and cheaper.
Software upgrades, for the most part, are now an on-wing proposition. But, as Mitch Klink of the Avionics Maintenance Conference explains, all software modifications—and the media/hardware to transfer them—should conform to the baseline version of the Arinc 615 protocol to allow the use of portable data-loaders for on-wing applications. He cautions that, often when these upgrades are performed on-wing, the LRUs containing the new software versions become non-interchangeable with the LRUs containing the previous software versions.
If present trends continue, no airline pilot will fly without a tablet computer; nor will any aircraft mechanic attempt a repair without one. For the pilot, the devices represent the latest evolution in electronic flight bags (EFBs), which first made inroads, nearly two decades ago via the laptop computer. For mechanics, the far less bulky tablets will provide a new measure of mobility, as digital maintenance manuals can be downloaded and taken where the work is being done.
When it comes to technical purchasing, airlines across the spectrum are increasingly insisting upon greater flexibility in the fine print of maintenance support contracts.
“Today, the customer has gotten more sophisticated when negotiating maintenance contracts,” says Brian Ovington, principal marketing manager of aviation services for GE Aviation. “There is a lot more creativity in terms of the payment structures and the length of the agreements with respect to aircraft entry and exit of the program, and other terms.”
Two years after it announced an intention to acquire AirTran Airways, Southwest Airlines remains on track to integrate the smaller carrier into its system by 2015. Dallas-headquartered Southwest closed on the AirTran purchase in May 2011 and was granted a single operating certificate for the two airlines in March.