AUTHOR: SANDER DE BREE

With the introduction of the MSG-3 maintenance philosophy, reliability monitoring became mandated for airlines in order to monitor the effectiveness of their approved maintenance programs. Today it has become common practice to have a role within the airline engineering department that is tasked to satisfy this regulatory requirement. So like clockwork, on a monthly basis every airline engineering department creates their monthly reliability report, holds a team meeting to go over the report and then afterwards go their separate ways in order to support troubleshooting or check if any new AD’s have come out.

In this blog we look at aircraft reliability management from both a process as well as a technical perspective.

In the last couple of years, we have seen multiple different airline engineering teams, across different continents and ranging from flag carriers, low-costs airlines, regional airlines, ACMI operators, cargo airlines and holiday charters. From this experience we have encountered two distinct scenarios on how airline engineering teams approach reliability management:

1. The reliability engineer as the engineering department’s own BI specialist

2. The maintenance program engineer does reliability monitoring as a side-job

The reliability engineer as the engineering department’s own BI specialist

Typically, the reliability engineer is one of the younger engineers on the team and knows its way around excel. This comes in well because he/she is tasked with retrieving all required information from various systems and departments in order to create a monthly reliability report that is intended to drive further improvements to the fleet and its organization. Most of them have the skills to establish well visualized dashboards. Adding to this mix the fact that on a day-to-day bases the reliability engineer is the person the engineering manager goes to in order to get answers to any KPI driven insight he might have as a manager.

The main effect of this approach is that a lot of reporting and dashboarding is made available in the engineering team and are used to drive actions to ensure issues remain under their indicated threshold KPI’s. For example:

As long as technical dispatch reliability remains somewhat within the boundaries of set targets, all is fine

If deferred defects are not exceeding target limits, all is fine

As a result, you see reliability engineering becoming more of an internal management KPI driven function rather than a function to continuously improve the actual reliability of the fleet.

The maintenance program engineer does reliability as a side-job

This scenario is typically encountered when the size of the fleet remains below 30 aircraft. An engineer within the engineering department is responsible for the managing the maintenance program of the fleet and as such is also tasked with creating monthly reliability statistics on items such as Technical Dispatch Reliability, Task card findings, Pilot complaints, Cabin defects, maintenance reports and unscheduled removals.

Typically, we see that this philosophy is paired with fairly new fleets of aircraft, hence real major reliability problems (other than the usual teething problems) have not really emerged. However, effectively reliability engineering in such a scenario has become a theoretical exercise to satisfy regulatory requirements and auditor questions once asked.

Automation of reliability reporting enables focus on decreasing maintenance turnaround time

In both scenarios mentioned above, still much time is spend on the actual creation of the reliability report. However, in the last couple of years a general need has emerged to focus more on technical investigations for system or component improvements. In order to get to this, we want to highlight three steps that can be taken by engineering managers:

Step number 1

Firstly, is to eliminate the need of anyone in the engineering department being needed to collect data and create the actual reliability report. This is a process that can be automated by utilizing a reliability analytics software that is designed for aviation and follows the ATA Spec2000 Chapter 11 standard. This already greatly improves things as no valuable time is lost on data collection and report creation.

Step number 2

Secondly, is to make sure that the reliability engineer is equipped to perform technical investigations into items that are being flagged by reliability analysis. Think of:

1. Recurring defects

2. Component MTBUR’s

3. Maintenance task escalations / de-escalations

4. Defect root-cause analysis

Step number 3

Then ultimately, and as a third step, the reliability engineer can work with applicable system engineers or maintenance managers to establish engineering orders or maintenance policy changes that will improve aspects such as maintenance turnaround time and unscheduled aircraft defects and thereby ultimately improving fleet availability thru improved Technical Dispatch Reliability and shorter scheduled maintenance ground times.

Are you also faced with some of the above challenges and would like to receive more detailed advise how you can decrease your maintenance turnaround time? 

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