Aircraft are some of the most complex vehicles in existence today. On any given plane there can be thousands of parts along with integrated electrical, fuel, and software systems. Yet they are also remarkably reliable, especially when effective industry maintenance practices are followed. Regardless of the size of the plane or the number of aircraft to be maintained, there are some fundamental best practices that any maintenance operation should keep in mind as they manage their fleet.
As systems continue to modernize, there is a real need for technicians and aircraft maintenance professionals to familiarize themselves not only with the latest technology but also the mechanics of older aircraft. Many of the fundamental maintenance and inspection principles apply to aircraft of all types, with unique requirements for any given plane. Similarly, it is critical for any aviation maintenance program to have a clear and fundamental structure and practices that can be tailored to the individual needs of any hardware, system, or aircraft. In this post, we will discuss three aircraft maintenance fundamentals to keep in mind.
Use Tangible Metrics to Measure Effectiveness
An important measure of effectiveness in any aircraft maintenance operation is the number of injuries. Studying long term injuries, such as back injuries and other injuries that require hospitalization, can often give insights into potential underlying issues that may be contributing to risk.
Injuries can mean lost time and delays for the aircraft operation. The capability of your safety management system (SMS) and its ability to organize and present data is also an important consideration. Having access to sufficient data regarding maintenance activities can allow you to review factors such as time of injury, job task, type of vehicle or aircraft, checklist or procedure used, and other important contextual details. Using this information, it is possible to select useful metrics to track for your aircraft maintenance activities and focus on those most likely to help identify and resolve underlying issues as they occur.
Conduct Timely and Proper Inspections
Inspection requirements are outlined in the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) and are applicable to all general aviation aircraft. There are unique requirements for any particular plane based on its use, and it is important for any maintenance team to optimize the inspection schedule for each aircraft. Most aircraft require an annual inspection, and additional 100-hour inspections are required for aircraft that carry passengers for hire or are provided by a flight instructor. These 100-hour inspections must take place within every 100 hours of flight time.
One example of optimizing the inspection schedule for an aircraft is through a Progressive Inspection (FAR 91.409) program. Progressive Inspection allows the aircraft owner to schedule more frequent but shorter inspections covering particular items as long as the overall annual or 100-hour inspection requirements are met. These progressive inspection schedules are particularly useful for operations that have very high aircraft usage, such as flight schools.
Another important consideration is the age of the aircraft. In situations where an older aircraft is still in service, it is possible that the federal maintenance and inspection requirements are not enough to maintain the airworthiness of the plane. In these cases, it would be a benefit to schedule special attention inspections and keep maintenance checklists that address unique items for review on that aircraft.
Utilize Proper Labeling Materials
An efficient aircraft maintenance operation is organized – with checklists, labeling, and procedures being a core part of day-to-day work. Aviation equipment can experience some harsh environmental conditions, especially for those components exposed to outdoor elements. With a number of different labeling components such as barcodes, data plates, faceplates, and ID labels in use at any given time within a maintenance workflow, it is paramount that they are properly displayed and readable at all times.
One of the best ways to protect your labeling is to utilize materials that are well suited to the particular environments. One example of a material that has seen wide recognition and adoption within the aviation industry is Metalphoto® photosensitive anodized aluminum. It is used to fabricate durable and lightweight identification items that can withstand a variety of conditions with a long shelf life. It has also been recognized by a number of aerospace industry organizations, another important factor in evaluating a suitable material.
The airline industry requires continuous performance while maintaining a high degree of safety. It is no easy task, and those responsible for aircraft maintenance have a significant role in achieving these goals. With a focus on proactive measures and proper controls, it is possible to reduce or eliminate serious errors while maintaining a safe working environment. Utilizing the best practices in this post along with knowledge of the unique factors for each aircraft can help you construct an effective aircraft maintenance program for any operation.