AIRCRAFT DATA LOGGING
By Steve Allison
There have been many advancements over the years that have benefitted the airline industry. Engines are more fuel-efficient and can be operated many more hours between overhauls. One of the more significant improvements though has been digital communication and data logging. This has significantly reduced aircraft down time and reduced costs.
Data logging is not a new concept of course; airlines have been recording flight data since time immemorial. In the early days however, when technology was less advanced, only a few pieces of information were recorded. The data was recorded on a piece of foil, which had to be replaced after every 25 flying hours. As technology moved on the foil was replaced with magnetic tape.
Older Aircraft logged only very limited data
Due to the limitations of the media, only certain phases of flight could be recorded and the recording media had to be removed from the aircraft before it could be analysed. The data was of historical value only.
Since the world entered the digital age however data logging has changed the way airlines are able to operate. Data has streamlined aircraft maintenance reducing down time and delays as well as enhancing passenger safety. Modern airliners now employ some of the most advanced data logging equipment.
Using modern digital recording techniques, the parameters that can be recorded are virtually limitless. The are literally dozens of sensors, in the engine alone, recording a wealth of information such as temperatures, speed of the fan blades, oil level, oil quantity, fuel flow and many more.
Digital recording and analysis allows not only the data to be recorded but also for the data to be compared with the operating parameters laid down by the manufacturer as well as historical data. This means that wear on components can be monitored and components are only replaced when necessary.
Satellite communication is another important technology that was unavailable in the early days of airline operations. A modern aircraft can report the data recorded to the operator while it is in the air, effectively monitoring its health while it flies.
This has been a significant factor in reducing delays and aircraft down time. Before airborne communication was available, a flight may have had a minor problem on route. The crew would only be able to report the fault upon landing and only then would a technician be called. The technician would have to diagnose the fault and source any parts before the repair could begin. The result was that the aircraft was often delayed on the return leg, particularly on shorter routes where turnaround times are critical.
Quick turnaround times are critical to airline operations
Satellite communication and data logging allows the aircraft to report the fault and probable cause whilst the aircraft is still in the air. By time the aircraft arrives at its destination, there is a technician standing on the ramp with any parts required ready to carry out the repair.
Before the aircraft touches down the maintenance is already waiting
Minor problems left unattended often lead to major and expensive repairs, as your dentist will have told you. Data logging systems report even the most minor fault allowing technicians to rectify the problems before they develop into something more serious. The aircraft effectively tells the technicians what is wrong with it, where the problem has occurred and how to repair the fault.
Latest generation aircraft have the most advanced data logging systems
In the days before advanced data logging, a minor fault, such as a faulty sensor, could have resulted in an aircraft turning back after take off. Passengers would have been inconvenienced and a lot of fuel wasted. Modern systems allow the technicians to analyse a problem, check several other parameters to confirm their diagnosis and allow the aircraft to continue.
Data logging has reduced maintenance costs and improved safety, which benefits passengers and operators.
Data logging reduces maintenance costs and down time
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