The air travel industry is one of the largest economic contributors and aircraft maintenance is the backbone of air travel.
The air travel industry has become one of the largest economic contributors at a global scale and its growth doesn’t show any signs of stopping. It is estimated that the sector employs 65.5 million workers worldwide and approximately 10 million of the jobs it provides are represented by indirect suppliers to the industry. For the year 2018, figures show that more than 4 billion passengers were transported by all commercial airlines, leading to a total revenue of over 500 billion dollars.
Saying that sky’s the limit is quite suitable for the context, as the data provided by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) suggest that by 2037 the number of passengers could double, reaching 8.2 billion travelers. With these figures in mind, it’s clear that the aviation industry will face many challenges in the future, safety and aircraft maintenance being at the top of the list.
The powerhouse of aviation
Aircraft maintenance is one of the most important aspects in the aviation industry. It encompasses all the measures and activities performed to ensure that aircrafts are safe and fit to fly, making it a vital component of air travel. In fact, some consider aircraft maintenance an industry in its own right. If we take a look at the numbers Boeing provides, we can see that air carriers spend 40 billion dollars each year for maintenance purposes – Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO).
It’s obvious that nowadays airlines are investing more than ever in aircraft maintenance and they are also focusing on advanced technologies to help them improve the efficiency of the maintenance process. As a consequence, there’s a growing demand for skilled aviation mechanics to support these trends and fill in the gap left by retiring mechanics experts.
The importance of aircraft maintenance
In every country, aircraft maintenance is thoroughly regulated by the responsible authorities. As the complexity of modern aircraft systems increases, new challenges arise for A&P mechanics all the time. That’s why it’s paramount for airline companies to work with qualified maintenance teams and specialized service providers in the aviation industry such as Aviation InterTec, to make sure they are fully compliant with all the standards and regulations in their area. Following a strict maintenance schedule is important for various reasons:
- Avoiding cancelled flights – on time inspections will reduce the possibility of cancelling flights because of unexpected failures. An aircraft that is checked regularly will remain in perfect functioning conditions and the chances of facing unforeseen technical issues will be greatly reduced.
- Ensuring optimum performance level – standard inspections before take off will guarantee that the airliner will perform as expected during flight.
- Prioritizing travelers’ safety – a well-maintained aircraft is a safe aircraft that can guarantee a smooth and risk-free travel experience for all passengers.
- Ensuring a larger lifespan for each aircraft – regular maintenance inspections will increase an aircraft’s lifespan by making sure it operates properly while it’s still in service
Different types of maintenance procedures
Maintenance procedures can be separated into two distinct categories: scheduled aircraft maintenance and unscheduled aircraft maintenance. Both types are essential for ensuring aircraft airworthiness.
Scheduled aircraft maintenance
Scheduled maintenance is also referred to as preventive maintenance, involving regular inspections at predetermined intervals. It usually includes the following inspections:
- Preflight checks – before each flight pilots are required to perform a series of preflight checks to make sure that the aircraft is in proper flying condition and it doesn’t show any signs of malfunction. To do that, they have a checklist with all the steps they must follow. During the preflight checks, pilots inspect the aircraft’s fuselage and all flight control surfaces for possible damage, as well as the cockpit, the cabin and the battery.
- 50- and 100-hour inspections – although 50-hour inspections aren’t required by the FAA, they’re still recommended by mechanics. The 100-hour inspection is mandatory, being required by the FAA and involving the inspection of the aircraft’s major components and testing of all the equipment.
- Annual inspections – as the name suggests, these inspections happen once a year and they are mandatory for all types of aircrafts, regardless of their purpose. Annual inspections cover all the checks performed during the 100-hour inspection, but they are usually more thorough.
- Progressive inspections – they are usually short maintenance sessions performed when there’s not enough time for the aircraft to undergo a more detailed inspection and they involve checking certain elements of the aircraft to make sure they run properly.
Unscheduled aircraft maintenance
Just as you can assume, unscheduled aircraft maintenance is performed every time an unexpected malfunction happens or when there are signs indicating a potential issue. It can happen as a result of a malfunction discovered during the preflight checks, during flight or while performing other scheduled inspections.
What the future holds for aircraft maintenance
Since things are evolving fast in the aviation field, the aircraft maintenance industry has to keep up with the times and find new ways to improve performance. The already impressive investments made currently in aircraft maintenance are expected to increase by more than 30 billion dollars in the next ten years. In the future, airlines will focus on embracing innovations such as:
- Drone maintenance – technology is everywhere around us, so it makes sense for the MRO industry to take advantage of technological advancements and step into the future. Using drones for maintenance inspections can help mechanics perform their tasks more efficiently and reduce the usual long maintenance time significantly. As a result, costs will also be reduced.
- Wearable devices – smart mobile devices can be extremely helpful for aircraft maintenance purposes. For example, Google Glass glasses can be used by engineers to share images with maintenance experts so they can collaborate and find solutions for the maintenance issues they’re dealing with.
- Predictive maintenance – predictive maintenance makes use of digital twins to supervise the performance of aircraft systems. These digital twins are in fact virtual copies of the aircraft’s equipment that allow engineers to monitor their condition in real time and foresee possible flaws.