Always fit to fly
New maintenance service will monitor airplane health in flight
BY JILL LANGER
To help operators reduce the number and length of airplane dispatch delays, Boeing Commercial Aviation Services is introducing a new service called Airplane Health Management.
AHM monitors the health of an airplane in flight and relays that information in real time to airline personnel on the ground. When the airplane arrives at the gate, maintenance crews are ready to make any needed repairs quickly.
''With AHM, airlines will be able to identify problems long before an airplane lands,'' said Program Manager Bob Manelski in Maintenance Services, a part of Commercial Aviation Services. ''Airline personnel will have time to review maintenance procedures, assemble necessary parts and be waiting for the airplane when it arrives.''
How AHM works
AHM collects data from the airplane in real time. The primary source of the data is the airplane central maintenance computer or condition monitoring system. But AHM also can collect electronic logbook data from the new Electronic Flight Bag (which Boeing is introducing on the 777-300ER).
AHM continuously integrates incoming data from individual airplanes with engineering design information, in-service experiences that operators report, and industrywide performance data for the worldwide fleet of that model.
''The original equipment manufacturer is best positioned to offer such comprehensive analysis,'' Manelski said. ''We can look across a database wider than that of any specific airline.''
AHM notifies airline personnel of a problem with a particular airplane in flight via the Internet or by pager. The notification directs them to the Boeing business-to-business Web portal, MyBoeingFleet.com, for flight-specific information that they can use to make informed maintenance decisions.
In addition to diagnosing an airplane problem in flight, airlines also can use AHM to predict when parts might fail, so that they can replace or repair them during a regularly scheduled maintenance check as a preventive measure, rather than at an inconvenient time or place when a part fails unexpectedly.
''Basically, we're providing a single source of information from which airlines can make maintenance decisions and identify trends to support long-term fleet reliability programs,'' Manelski said. ''AHM is both a diagnostic and a prognostic tool.''
Another feature of AHM is that it's not limited to just Boeing airplanes. ''We can provide portions of this service for other commercial airplanes, not just our own,'' Manelski said.
During the next year, Boeing will be piloting the AHM service to ensure availability to airlines in first quarter 2004. It will offer the service in three releases.
The first release, Release 1.0, will involve the reporting of fault data from the airplane central maintenance computer. Release 2.0 will use ''snapshots'' of systems in operation from the airplane condition monitoring system. Release 3.0, due out in late 2005, will use a continuous stream of data taken during an entire flight. This last release will require a very high bandwidth delivery method, such as the one Connexion by Boeing offers.
''We're very excited about being able to offer AHM to our customers,'' said Maintenance Services Vice President Lou Mancini. ''AHM is a unique opportunity to leverage Boeing's vast technological resources and airplane knowledge to provide substantial value to our airline customers. It will increase their operational efficiency and reduce their costs.''
Editor's note: Airplane Health Management is part of a wide-ranging Boeing strategy to ''e-enable'' the entire air transport system. ''E-enablement'' involves collecting, evaluating and sharing information across the entire enterprise to enhance overall safety, security and efficiency.
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