Recently, I was speaking with someone about new technologies in aircraft maintenance. It reminded me of this article Automating the Airline System from  Aviation Week in 1973, which spoke to airlines beginning to use technology. 42 years later, you would think we would have it all figured out… right?

If you look around in aviation today, we ARE embracing technology, we just seem to be doing it much slower than the rest of the world. Airlines today are trying to use technology in their maintenance operations: from the Mechanic in the field, to the Records Clerk in the office, to the Senior Exec wondering about the health of the airline today.

Several things in this article struck me, but the big WOW was the fact that here we are in 2015 with discussions about how airlines are “beginning” to embrace technology, but back in 1973 we were saying the exact same thing! Has our industry really lagged behind that much or is aircraft maintenance just that complicated? My vote is that it’s a little of both.

There are definite similarities in that article with what we see in airlines today. When you read the article carefully, you see that the computer systems they were implementing then certainly helped improve individual processes, but they didn’t contribute much to the airline as a whole. One of the leaders at the time had a stunningly prophetic statement:

What we want to avoid is a gaggle of glamorous, independent systems.

So lets fast forward to where we are today — have we followed that advice? Does our industry’s software help airline departments interact better? Does it help us prevent the human factors issues that lead to non-compliance, along with those visit from the regulators who offer platitudes about being “here to help” you?

We apparently did NOT take that advice from 1973, did we?

We see a few airlines out there that have taken the plunge and use one software platform for most or all their maintenance and engineering needs, but overall, most industry-leading airlines are a HUGE mess of homemade, off the shelf, and legacy systems that just don’t play well together!

As an industry, we have worked hard to remove the threat of an airplane crash, and we have done incredibly well at this task.

We really have achieved an incredibly low accident rate over the past years in commercial aviation. However, we’re still struggling with non-compliance events that lead to negative media coverage and fines from the regulators. Unfortunately for my Southwest friends, one such event occurred just a few weeks ago. The challenge for us as an industry is to focus on this problem and make it like our accident rate — low… or non-existent, preferably!

While it can be an expensive or laborious proposition, it’s time to consolidate that “gaggle” of computer systems. We have the tools today to eliminate the information silos and lack of visibility that drags down maintenance operation. It’s time for airlines to allocate some money for the maintenance guys. If airlines put some effort into consolidating those legacy systems, we would no doubt see a drastic decrease in the non-compliance rates.

We need to use the tools of today to reduce the risk of non-compliance events in airline maintenance. Not only will this save airlines money, but it’s protection against damage to the brand’s reputation that occurs with bad press.

When you justify the need for software to improve your maintenance operations, get and use the data from your quality department. Specifically, look at how many “quality escapes” come from human factors issues related to those information gaps and silos that exists in your operation.

In 42 years, we have definitely progressed, but we still struggle with gaining that “efficiency” that was mentioned in the Aviation Week article. The time to fix is it now.

And if you need intuitive, frustration-free aircraft maintenance software to help you react quicker, with better information, we’d be glad to help.