In an exclusive interview with Aerospace & Defense Review, Allan Bachan, Vice President of ICF talks about the evolution of aerospace technology in the past decades and how it is a boon for the industry veterans. With more than 20 years of experience in the industry, Allan has previously worked in Oliver Wyans, and HCL as VP and iMRO product manager.
1. In your opinion, how has the Aerospace Technology landscape evolved over the years? What are some of the advantages of the current technological evolution? The Aerospace Technology landscape has evolved steadily and significantly over three interrelated dimensions:
The design of aircraft, engines and components has incorporated more use of software over the years. For example, there are over 250 loadable software aircraft parts (LSAPs) with over 1400 software versions on a typical Boeing 787. According to a Boeing statement made in 1999 “Modifying system functionality with new software instead of with modified or new hardware can help operators reduce the total number of hardware line replaceable units (LRU) in inventory, increase hardware commonality, and reduce airplane modification time”.
At that time, there were no more than 40 LSAPs on a single Boeing fleet type.
The use of composites and carbon fiber for structures have also replaced the traditional metals and honeycomb designs. These changes have naturally introduced the corresponding need for maintenance practices change and evolution.
Consider the fully paperless design of the Boeing 777 aircraft from concept in 1990 to the first production unit in 1995. Now consider how much paper that first aircraft serial number has generated until today during its maintenance life cycle. While paperless philosophy has been tried and true in the OEM and manufacturing arena, no airline or MRO can currently claim 100% digitalization in managing and maintaining aviation assets. The quest to sustain a digital thread throughout is still elusive.
That said, many management and control processes involving functions that are not directly touching the aircraft, components or engines have matured.
The concept of hard time limits have evolved into health monitoring; prognostics; predictive and prescriptive approaches. Simple reporting has evolved into business analytics and business intelligence. Supporting IT systems have become more encompassing, complex and integrated to include the full gamut of processes including engineering, planning, production and supply chain. At last count, there are at least 45-50 dedicated systems for supporting MRO functions either enterprise wide or vertical solutions.