Blockchain Alliance Proves Two Elements of Approach

The COVID pandemic and its aftermath have accelerated a general trend toward multi-party systems, which can be blockchains.
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The MRO Blockchain Alliance has completed two proofs of concept for important elements of the part-tracking approach. Andre Fischer, CEO, of FLYdocs, outlined these proofs for participants of Aircraft Commerce’s recent Virtual Conference.

The first proof was of a partial digital thread. This thread includes a back-to-birth view of an aircraft part or asset, enabling real-time visibility of the asset and end-to-end smart contracting. The proof also demonstrated a smart app for business automation, data compliance, confidentiality and integrity and conformity to Spec 2000 standards.

Fischer explained that the digital thread would be available to all relevant parties, including the part manufacturer, logistics companies and the several layers of MROs or airline maintenance departments interested in the part.

“What is this good for?” Fischer asked. The answer was supplied in the second proof of concept, a digital passport for selling the part.

The digital passport, Fischer explained, can collate historical data on a part and share relevant data with a potential part buyer, while not disclosing confidential data that the seller does not want to share.

Once the sale is completed, the digital passport moves along with the part, containing data such as flight hours and cycles, where the part has been stored, which company has previously owned it, the latest repair to the part and other necessary data, all to maintain the value of the asset.

Sean Melia is a product specialist at SITA, which is the main technology provider for the Blockchain Alliance. Melia outlined the general characteristics of the Alliance’s approach. It would be a distributed ledger, with each block immutably linked to its predecessor. And it would be a private ledger, that is, requiring permission to use. Digital signatures would validate identities, and the ledger would support automatic monitoring, as well as execution, of contracts.

The toughest part of building an aftermarket blockchain, according to the consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers, is agreeing on standards. Melia said the Alliance’s proposal would use Spec 2000 standards, as “a departure from Spec 2000 would be too costly.”

The legacy part-tracking approach tries to track $50 billion in parts, now more than ever with significant redundancies, with 100 million paper records kept in boxes and warehouses.

Melia cited a Boston Consulting Group report that labeled this tracking challenge highly suited for blockchain because the aviation aftermarket is a complex system with many intermediaries, subject to regulatory oversight and requiring a high level of data security.

To move forward to an actual system, Melia urged other aviation companies to join the MRO Blockchain Alliance, which now includes major players such as HAECO Inventory Technical Management, Willis Lease Finance, FLYDocs, Bolloré Logistics, Cathay Pacific Airways and Ramco Systems.