01 March 2015

Maintenance data-sharing remains a challenge for A350 operators.

Many data types move through the aviation ecosystem for many reasons. There are strategic aims to sharing some data, for example on performance and reliability, to improve safety, performance and maintenance efficiency.

This kind of data sharing is often limited by intellectual property (IP) rights held by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). But there is also tactical data sharing, aimed to improve the execution of maintenance.

There are no regulatory hurdles to transmitting tactical MRO data, just technical requirements and investments to be made.

But which kinds of investments, and by whom? Some MRO veterans think the key is standardizing data, whether in the Spec 2000 format for the U.S., or Europe’s ASD format.

Others contend the industry can and will have to work with somewhat different data standards, at least for a while.  “This issue has been discussed for a long time, but the transmission and sharing of maintenance data is not easy,” said Fernando Ferreira Matos, head of IT at TAP Maintenance & Engineering.

Matos said one issue is that in order to share data 2 companies must use the same standards, which does not always occur.

For example, TAP M&E and much of the industry use iSpec 2000 for technical data and manuals.

But not all airlines use that standard. “We have been trying to get certifying agencies like FAA and EASA to enforce this standard, but it takes a long time.”

Meanwhile, newer standards are developing. The Airbus A350, for instance, will use ASD S1000, an XML standard.

TAP M&E will remain on iSpec 2000, however, to support legacy aircraft.

The MRO now transmits data on non-routine work during heavy checks to airline customers in PDFs. Matos would prefer transmitting the complete check-work dossier electronically as structured data, but that is not possible. “There will always be gaps in data sharing,” Matos noted.

Matos said modern maintenance systems like Trax or Mxi have built-in connectors to wider airline software, but older ones do not.

Data-sharing challenges will only expand as the A350 enters service, as it generates huge amounts of operational data, perhaps 500 GB per leg. Airlines and MROs can productively use only a portion of this immense quantity of data, Matos said.

“Some operational data is a business asset, but most we don’t know what to do with. We will just load it into databases.”

Another new challenge is maximizing benefits of the new radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags on parts. A Spec 2000 team is creating standards for RFID data now.

Matos said conformity with standards on RFID will be essential for different companies to share RFID-tagged rotables.

Based on the article “Automating data exchange” published in Aviation Week.

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