Many aspects of the successful functioning of the aviation industry are largely dependent on keeping literally millions of pages in the form of aircraft documentation up-to-date and readily available. Naturally, an organization required to store such records for a considerable amount of time needs to place significant efforts into doing so. Needless to say, these efforts come at a great expense with regard to both time and manpower. Of course, in this day and age the practical solution would be to eliminate all the paper and switch to electronic document management and this step is in fact becoming more and more recognized as being significant and necessary. The problem remains, though, because despite being more practical and convenient, the electronic format hasn’t been properly approved by the relevant aviation authorities and thus cannot yet be applied universally.
“Creating and managing documentation is crucial to ensure smooth operation of any airline. Failure to manage this kind and amount of data effectively often results in multi-million losses due to inability to comply with the necessary industry regulations or simple but much feared downtime. Thus records maintenance can become even more challenging than running an airline itself,” shared Deputy Head of FL Technics Engineering and Planning Dep. Andrius Norkevicius. “In today‘s competitive market, you are required to satisfy diverse client requirements and instructions. That is why it‘s so important to be able to retrieve information related to on-going aircraft maintenance, have real-time access to high volumes of data and at the same time maximize the safety of paper records. Therefore, although a seemingly daunting task, digitalization of paper records has become one of the most popular solutions to these problems.”
There are numerous advantages of switching to the digitalized form of aviation records and moving to browser-based cloud services, the first being the protection of hard copies. In addition, the data can be more effectively used and stored, since, with electronic records, the same manual or any other document can be used by any person anywhere in the world. As a result, some of the airlines claim to have from 10% to 40% of staff reassigned after switching to digital documentation. Old records are just as easy to locate as the new ones, so any kind of relevant information can be found a lot faster (some of the IT-solution providers claim that search time can be reduced from 20 minutes to 1 minute). What is even more important, updating records may become much easier allowing for the lesser need of time-planning, maintenance scheduling, delay and error reduction and thus speeding up the entire cycle.
At the same time, the problem lies in the fact that there is still the lack of the particular regulation with regard to how this kind of digital records should be stored. The only regulations provided by EASA state that any digital record must have a copy stored in a different location and that a backup must be made within 24 hours of the performance of the underlying maintenance. Still, a large portion of the documents must exist on paper. This creates some issues that make the progress that seems inevitable slower than it may have been. First, those who have already chosen to switch to electronic documentation are still forced to keep some of the hard copies, thus creating unnecessary duplication. Moreover, there is no consensus on the universal format of digital storage. Today, there are standards for only a few historical maintenance records, such as the FAA Form 8130 and the EASA Form 1. Not having a unified standard for digital data results in some of the companies keeping their documents in such formats as PDF, which do not support sharing data with other systems (unlike XML and ASD).
“Digitalizing the necessary records will definitely lead to a more organized and potentially smoother operation of the industry just because of the fact that there will be no more lost records. And don‘t forget the savings due to the elimination of storage costs. So it is very important that EASA finally takes the new trends into account and releases the regulations on how the maintenance of aircraft documentation can be fully digitalized. With more and more companies choosing IT-solutions for record management, the need for standardizing is as relevant topic as ever,” commented Andrius Norkevicius