ETL Penetration Slow, But Steady

Credit: TrustFlight

Electronic tech logs (ETL) provide clear advantages over paper records and the systems they replace, including immediate logging of defects, easier logging of data and more ability to analyze and improve flight operations.

While these ETL advantages are attractive, deployment of ETLs can require significant effort and process changes. Therefore, installations have not been rapid, especially during the COVID-19 cash crunch. ETLs tend to be on every airline’s roadmap for digitalization, but they are often not an urgent destination on this map.

Nevertheless, progress is being made.

ETL specialist Ultramain Systems has seen new customer implementations, as well as roll-outs of ETLs across additional fleets and adoption of new ETL functions by existing customers. It has also seen increased interest in ETLs by airlines in Asia, Europe, India, the Americas and the Middle East, according to John Stone, vice president, product management, Ultramain Systems.

Ultramain says its ETLs have been deployed for over a decade and have supported more than one million flight sectors. Current users British Airways, Cathay Pacific Airways and Japan Airlines are now deploying these ETLs over more fleets.

Stone attributes ETL adoption to airline desires to improve productivity and reduce costs—especially the overhead associated with paper. He emphasizes that ETLs’ ability to transmit new defects in-flight can result in fewer gate delays, fewer maintenance cancellations, fewer deferrals and fewer no faults found. In addition, he says “uniform and accurate data, which is enforced by [Ultramain’s ETL], also results in enhanced reliability analysis for trending, resulting system changes and overall increased aircraft health and utilization.”

Stone says several new ETL capabilities are in development now.

According to Ultramain, implementation of its ETLs is easiest for users of its Ultramain MRO IT system and for airlines that use AMOS or SAP systems, as interfaces have been developed for these applications. However, the tool can also be adapted for airlines using other MRO IT applications.

Boeing acquired Crossmos ETL Software in 2019 and renamed it Boeing Mobile Logbook. In November 2021, Norse Atlantic Airways became the launch customer for the new Boeing ETL.

"Innovation and digitalization are key to Norse’s business model,” says Norse COO Thom-Arne Norheim. “By going paperless we also contribute to reducing our carbon footprint.” The Norwegian long-haul low-cost carrier will use the ETL on the 15 787s it starts flying in 2022.

Boeing says the solution provides bi-directional synchronization of maintenance and planning systems, ensures data integrity and enforces best practice workflows. It can be installed on either iPads or Windows devices.

According to Boeing, the ETL will acquire even greater value when it is integrated upstream with other Boeing EFB applications and downstream with maintenance applications and records management. The OEM is working toward that integration and has identified integration opportunities with Jeppesen’s Aviator flight deck application, Boeing’s Toolbox Mobile Library, Airplane Health Management and records management.

TrustFlight’s ETL has been used mostly by business aviation, but the company recently signed up Flair Airlines, a Canadian ultra-low-cost carrier, as its first scheduled airline customer.

“Another big milestone for us was receiving an EASA Letter of No Technical Objection, the result of an extensive evaluation process conducted by EASA,” notes TrustFlight managing director Karl Steeves. This, he says, should make regulatory acceptance of the ETL by national civil aviation authorities easier.

TrustFlight has also been expanding its ETL’s integration with AMOS and CAMP MRO IT systems, as well as adding more flexibility for electronic maintenance sign-offs. “This now allows operators and third-party MROs to update the status of aircraft remotely, a commonly used feature during COVID,” Steeves notes.

The company now plans to integrate safety reporting into its ETL. Centrik, a widely used safety management system, joined TrustFlight in 2021. Safety reporting will now go into the ETL workflow to reduce duplication of data and ease raising safety reports. “This will provide a lot of benefit to operators as they implement and improve their safety management systems, as well as helping to develop a positive safety culture,” Steeves argues.
IFS has built an ETL capability into its widely used Maintenix MRO IT system. A spokesman says the company is now building a roadmap for the new ETL software.