Airbus-led Digital Alliance Lands SAS As Launch Customer

SAS
SAS A321neo in flight.
Credit: Airbus

DALLAS—SAS Scandinavian Airlines will be the launch customer of a product developed by the Airbus-led Digital Alliance venture that targets predictive maintenance and other data-driven operational efficiency drivers, signing up for the partnership’s Skywise Predictive Maintenance Alliance (SPMA) offering. 

The deal, announced at Aviation Week’s MRO Americas, will see SAS use the product to track parameters from various components on its Airbus A320-family fleet.  

“Thanks to SPM Alliance, we will be able to pre-empt operational disruptions and accelerate maintenance decisions by predicting potential in-service issues across our large A320-family fleet,” said SAS Head of Technical Operations Marko Rudic. “This is the proactive approach to fleet technical management that SAS wants to take.” 

The airline’s primary goals include providing its operations center team more visibility into each aircraft’s maintenance status. Aircraft that may need certain parts or services can be kept close to stations that can support them, for example, or off “high value” routes that the airline wants to protect from even slight disruptions, Rudic said. More broadly, knowing when components are approaching failure will help cut down on schedule disruptions. 

The SAS deal gives the partnership its first customer for its debut product less than a year after the current, three-member alliance was rounded out.  

Airbus and Delta Tech Ops launched it in 2019, with the manufacturer providing its Skywise data analytics platform and visibility into thousands of customer aircraft—including many non-Airbus models. 

“Forty percent of the data coming into Skywise comes from non-Airbus aircraft,” said Airbus SVP Digital Solutions Lionel Rouby, adding that access to the data of its 125 customers is strictly controlled. “All of the data from our partners and customers is fully protected,” he said. 

As an operator and a maintenance provider, Delta validates reliability and repair algorithms that are key to ensuring predictive maintenance works as advertised, said Mahendra Nair, Delta SVP fleet and tech ops supply chain. 

In 2021, GE Digital joined the alliance, bringing with it data from about 50% of the commercial fleet via its array of products, including flight data monitoring and fuel management, said Andrew Coleman, president of GE Digital’s Aviation Software business. 

Each company was diligently working on its own data-driven maintenance projects before the alliance. Delta in 2015 launched Airbus’ Prognostics and Risks Management service, while both GE Digital and Airbus have customer-facing products. Improvements in technology, including how to create effective algorithms for major data-analysis projects, and demand for a broad, product-agnostic suite of products, drove the group to team up. 

“As airlines are on the path to recovery, it is more important than ever to support them in saving costs and optimizing their fleets’ availability,” Rouby said. “This is precisely what SPM Alliance does: covering a wide scope of equipment, our new solution brings another dimension to predictive maintenance that will considerably reduce unplanned maintenance.” 

The joint effort will likely expand, as companies from both within aviation and the tech world are taking notice of the alliance’s work, Coleman said. 

“It’s not a closed ecosystem just between the three of us,” he added. 

Sean Broderick

Senior Air Transport & Safety Editor Sean Broderick covers aviation safety, MRO, and the airline business from Aviation Week Network's Washington, D.C. office.