Depending on the size and type of project, data migration projects in airline maintenance & engineering are often perceived as daunting, risky and in general difficult to find a proper strategy. This can lead to overestimating the project, but, more commonly, underestimating the requirements. Given we are talking about airworthiness data of aircraft risks are often perceived high and on the bases of that tend to linger on far longer than might be needed.  However, first things first, which business needs within Airline Maintenance & Engineering could actually drive such a data migration project?

When is data migration relevant?

Replace old legacy systems

The software goes by many different names; MRO software, M&E software, MMS system, MIS system, Computerized Maintenance Management System or CAMO system are just some examples. Albeit many different names their purpose is always universal: Manage the Airworthiness Data of the airline’s fleet and ensure maintenance is performed in time and on the most efficient way possible. Thru ought the life stages of an airline new M&E software are implemented. Possible causes are:

  • Current systems in use are hardly interfaced causing inefficiencies in daily processes
  • Current system is running on outdated technology
  • Supplier of current systems ceases to exist
  • Current system is not able anymore to effectively manage the growing fleet and/or meet business needs

Either of those cases will mostly trigger the procurement of a new MRO Software. Subsequently the airworthiness and maintenance data of the airline needs to be migrated into the new system. Not doing this properly can have significant impact on airworthiness of aircraft, maintenance costs and even airline reputation.

System mergers

Different CAMO organizations might operate different systems per fleet, per AOC or, in the example of an MRO, use separate M&E/MRO systems for each station. This is quite cost intensive and to merge the entire operation into a single M&E /MRO system to improve efficiency and aligns processes will result in cost savings. Such a system merger also triggers the merger of airworthiness and maintenance data and it consists of four phases:

  1. Fit-gap assessment to define which sets of data are common and which sets of data are mismatching by the involved parties.
  2. Data standardization workshop with involved parties  
  3. The Creation of data migration script’s and files 
  4. Finally, full load iterations leading to cut-over

Induction of a new aircraft in the fleet/ Fleet renewal

Whenever a new aircraft is inducted in the fleet of an airline a significant amount of data comes with the aircraft to prove its airworthiness status.  This data needs to be made available into the airline Maintenance & Engineering software used in order to manage the Continued Airworthiness of the aircraft. Depending on this aircraft being new from the OEM or coming from a previous operator, the data provided can have different levels of complexity.

In either case, the new fleet’s airworthiness will need to be managed in the Maintenance & Engineering software of the airline. Hence all required data pertaining to fleet and aircraft need to be made available by means of migrating this data.

Aircraft phase-out / End of Lease re-delivery

One key exercise in the phasing in and phasing out of aircrafts is to assess the technical records, each time with the goal to check the airworthiness and in the end the value of it all. A similar process takes place when an airline on a migration process endeavours to transfer all the data to a new MRO software system. As most of us know phasing-out/or lease-return of an aircraft back to the lessor is a cumbersome task by any proportion as those parties who had negotiated the lease in the first place would have moved on is a given. An increase in likelihood of information being lost in translation makes it imperative to get the fundamentals right: consolidating the records and ensuring that the required re-delivery conditions are met. The records are the ultimate proof that the aircraft is in an airworthy condition and that it has satisfied the technical redelivery conditions negotiated. The source records (both paper and electronic) lie across very many sources and consolidation is a time-consuming phase.

The tech records data is the complete package of maintenance and operational data (work orders, work packages, maintenance slips, pilot reports, repair orders, shop reports, modifications, directives) created since the construction and during the operational life of the aircraft. In simple wording, if an action or event is not recorded or traceable the work is not performed, and the aircraft is not airworthy

However, when redelivering an aircraft, it is not just about the completeness of the aircraft technical records. It is also around compliance with the contractual lease return conditions. A few sample technical re-delivery conditions include: SB / AD Compliance & MOD Statuses. It is not for no reason that they say that you start planning for re-delivery the day you take the aircraft on lease.

All of the above-mentioned situations bring the challenge to an airline of migrating data into one or multiple systems within its organization. Performing this activity by manual labour is often time and resource consuming and highly prone to human error. Hence data migration techniques and processes become relevant to each airline at different stages of their existence.

Where to start?

Before getting started with your data migration project, outline the complete project and processes in a detailed plan. This project plan should also include the names of people that are responsible for certain aspects of the project. These people should have the decision-making power to avoid unnecessary long discussions and to drive decision making when required. Even more important, stick to the developed plan if you want to stay on time and budget.

Continuous project management is quite an important part of the data migration project. Depending on the size of the project this could comprise of one or multiple people, however, there should be one main project manager, who controls the actual project planning. He/she can then be supported by someone who will manage the different Engineering/CAMO side key-users and a lead contact for the project from the IT department.

The first and foremost goal of the project management is always to give the project and the team a direction. This is achieved by having a, continuously updated, project plan, with clear goals, objectives, and achievements. Any data migration project should at least have a:

  • Project Plan
  • Data Mapping document (1)
  • ETL tool (Extract-Transform-Load) (2)
  • Data Migration issue tracking log (3)
  • Data verification plan and sign-off document (4)

(1)  Data Mapping document:

Containing the data mapping and agreed business rules applied to data transformation.

(2) ETL tool (Extract-Transform-Load):

Having the right tool to execute the actual data migration itself is of paramount importance. Having a structure and tool in place that allows to connect to your data sources, extract required data, consolidate, apply transformation rules and provide the required extract formats in a repetitive way allows to cut down the overall data migration turn-around time significantly. Its save to say that excel is not the right tool to use here.

(3) Data Migration issue list:

A list containing any finding during data verifications, their extend (e.g. how many aircraft/components/records affected) and the tested solution (or a due date for the solution)

(4) Data Verification plan and sign-off document:

A document detailing the different methodologies of data verification applied, the results and if these were satisfactory, once the latter applies also whom is to sign-off on the results and of course the actual sign-off. This will act as prove to the CAA that the processes applied for the data migration are guaranteeing the continuous airworthiness of the aircraft.

If the project encompasses a larger team and thus numerous tasks for each team member, it is recommended to divide the project management thereof in different “workstreams” or major disciplines, such as: data migration, data verification and data cleansing.

What integrations and data will be needed?

For smooth implementation, it is key to anticipate what data feeds and integrations will be needed. You will save precious time! Generally, you will need to be able to:

  • Connect to the database of your current MRO/M&E system used
  • Identify any satellite excel spreadsheets used in the daily business
  • Have the ability to update your own data with industry standard data definitions such as IPC part numbers or MPD task definitions.
  • Ability to embed paper-based data such as PDF’s, word documents etc.

Initially, the project looks seemingly simple, moving data from A to B, but what data do we need to move? Defining the “dataset” you need in this case is actually a large chunk of the project and one of the more resource intensive activities, where CAMO key-users and the data migration team have to closely work together. First is to define the scope, which starts with the question; what data do I need for our destination “B”?  A good start to answer this question should be found in the documentation or experience of the actual vendor of the new, or, ideally, experienced users of the new system that are part of your team.

The scope is required to perform an accurate data mapping, to find out what data you need to move from where and possibly must be cleaned or enriched. This requires deep knowledge of your data and the possible source(s). Really knowing your data is difficult, often everybody has a “feeling” of the problems that might be there, or even comes across data inconsistencies daily.  However, without a deep and factual analysis, nobody actually knows what you will be up against. Furthermore, nobody knows everything and thus this will be very much a team effort. Experts from all the different disciplines need to work together. People from maintenance programs, modifications, components, planning, logistics and whatever other discipline is relevant, need to work closely together with the data migration team to perform the data mapping. The important questions to get answered during the data mapping sessions are:

  • Is there a single source of truth, or is data to be combined?
  • What type of sources do you accept as trusted, and thus what should be treated as untrustworthy and requires additional verification?

Finally, migration of data will also mean that historic data will get scrutinized. Particularly when migrating Aircraft Airworthiness data this can lead to some previously unknown surprises to be unveiled. Including maintenance task overruns or wrongly installed aircraft components. Another example includes spare parts inventory, all too often a data migration project will point out the fact that old systems indicated certain spare parts to be stock despite these not being in stock. This could result in significant inventory write-offs. It’s important to be transparent about this to all stakeholders, even local CAA’s. After all, there is a reason you have started this project.

What is the typical process?

The process to follow will depend on the business need that has driven requirement for migration of data. On a high level, two distinct separate process can be identified:

  1. Replace old legacy systems | System mergers
  2. Induction of new fleet, aircraft | Phase-out – End of lease redelivery

data migration process

Example of high level process for replacing old legacy systems or system mergers

More details on the various migration process aspects are reflecting in our downloadable guide on data migration

Who should you involve in the implementation process?

As mentioned earlier, we strongly recommend having a project manager who will be the vocal point during the overall project. Next to this department specialists are paramount to the success of a data migration undertaking. Commonly referred to as key-users.

It is the key-users of the airline /MRO that know the fine details and peculiarities of the past as well as the internal politics and informal organization. They play a pivotal role and we definitely need them. They work with the data on a daily basis and understand the meaning and value of the data. Among the key-users should be decision-makers in order to drive decision making when required.

Also, an IT expert knowing his way thru the current landscape and system(s) will help greatly in accelerating the overall data migration process

In general, we would like to emphasize that people are equally important as the data itself. Typically, you would need people involved that can handle pressure, are able to distinct important issues from minor ones and know how to get things done. Obviously getting people/ external parties involved that have done migration projects previously is a huge advantage.

3 tips from airlines that have done a data migration project

  • Clear process and project structure, the data migration itself is already complex enough. Making sure a clear process and governance structure can be followed removes the burden of continuously managing this and allows to fully focus on the data itself.
  • Anticipate availability of the business team: project manager, key-users, and IT experts are often required to manage their time between daily business and project work. Have the team being able to focus on the data migration project when needed greatly drives the outcome of data quality.
  • Work with the right tools;  an infrastructure that is able to manage the large volumes of data, allow ease of repeating an ETL cycle, embeds data transformations based on business rules and provides full traceability and audit reports builds confidence in the migration approach itself and assures compliance, traceability as well as be able to achieve your goals within the timeframes set.

How EXSYN Can Help

Having dealt with most MRO systems out there in the market today, coupled with expertise combining several thousand man hours of work with over 30 Airlines and MROs spanning across a fleet size of over 1450 aircraft, EXSYN's team of aircraft data and aviation experts utilize a proven data migration framework and methodology:

  • EXSYN’s data migration tool TITAN to reduce project costs and duration
  • EXSYN’s data warehouse to accelerate your migration
  • Data mapping and load workshops to develop the best strategy for your situation
  • EXSYN’s data migration dashboard to monitor the progress and quality of your data migration
  • Migration of both structured and unstructured data
  • ISO 27001 data security certified migration approach

Do you have any questions? Feel free to contact us: