Fast 5: FlyDocs CEO On The Industry's Paperless Push

Credit: FLYdocs

André Fischer, CEO of FLYdocs, an independently operated and rapidly expanding software business, talks to James Pozzi about realizing the true potential in digital solutions and the adoption of blockchain in the industry.

Will COVID-19 accelerate the industry’s push to paperless operations?

Absolutely, but it will still take a few months for most airlines to realize the true potential and accelerate this push towards digital solutions. It’s safe to say that many operators are still in the first phase of protecting their business and they are prioritizing returning to the skies so they may not have the time or financial resources to focus on any new future options that might exist. On the other hand, we are seeing a few operators already considering this crisis as a huge opportunity to drive their digital transformation forward, which not only creates a competitive advantage, but actually plays a role in minimizing risks of another global game changer like COVID-19. 

What do you identify as some of the main adoption barriers?

In my time in the aviation industry, I would say a lack of understanding, cultural hurdles internally and risk adversity regarding things we do not know are the recurring themes when we talk about adoption barriers. This is the same in this current climate where our industry is facing what we can identify as a ‘demographic timebomb.’ Essentially, we are facing a huge cultural clash between aviation engineers who have been in the industry for years or even decades, aspiring to achieve 100% operational safety and young software developers working in development sprints and MVPs (minimum viable product), claiming that failure is part of the process. If we are to break down some of these barriers and bridge the gap, then this transformation process has to be moderated very carefully and with a level of empathy, otherwise the doors will remain shut on the engineering side.

Where do you feel the regulators are at in terms of building the right framework to assist paperless adoption? Does more need to be done on their part?

There are so many use cases which prove that many of the regulators’ requests regarding document safety and integrity can be solved digitally in a far better and more secure way than in a paper environment. Standardized frameworks and a commitment from regulators would really be a massive step in driving paperless adoption. I have to say, however, that in many instances, authorities are often the scapegoat for many engineering organizations who claim they aren’t able to change under the restrictions of airworthiness regulations. 

FLYdocs was among the founding members of the Blockchain Alliance in February 2020. How has this developed in the past six months and what are some of its long-term aims?

What we are trying to achieve with the MRO Blockchain Alliance is to bring various stakeholders from a cross-section of the aviation ecosystem to set a global standard on the use of blockchain to track, trace and record aircraft parts. This has never been done before, so we are taking a holistic approach to understanding the fundamental challenges, then developing solutions in a tech-driven environment. 

The initial results of the proof of concept stages are very promising and we will be sharing some of those outcomes very soon. There are already so many lessons as we realize that perhaps our time frames were quite ambitious given the size of the alliance. However, this process has given more insight into the challenges around working with so many different players and managing expectations. 

I know that there are a few single players out there trying to revolutionize our industry through blockchain which is always great to see. It has to be said, though, and this has been a real eye opener of the last few months…no single party will be able to champion or drive blockchain usage in our industry on their own. It will take only a collaborative approach to design and implement an industry standard as problems can be solved more sustainably. 

Roughly, where do you feel the industry is at in terms of blockchain adoption?

I will go back to the point I made earlier about the ‘demographic timebomb,’ because it also applies here. I believe that less than 1% of our industry fully understands the potential it may bring; maybe 39% are waiting curiously on the side-lines for things to happen. The 60% that remains are not in a position where they understand or have an interest in this cutting-edge technology. We still have a long way to go. Our alliance will play a major role in that push but, ultimately, we need the 1% to really spearhead the adoption. As we really start to see tangible applications, the 39% will naturally be in alignment and convincing the change-resistant 60% will be a much easier job.

James Pozzi

As Aviation Week's MRO Editor EMEA, James Pozzi covers the latest industry news from the European region and beyond. He also writes in-depth features on the commercial aftermarket for Inside MRO.