Flying 100 million passengers across 50 countries and 500 routes via a fleet of 300+ aircraft is a staggering logistical accomplishment—and doing so while balancing the maintenance of those aircraft without impacting travel is complex and challenging for the world’s largest airlines.
As airline passenger numbers rise and more flights return to the skies, the complexity of maintenance required to keep these fleets airworthy comes under the spotlight. The choice of MRO software is critical, especially for larger airline operators.
These large airlines will have to address five key MRO system challenges.
1. The aviation industry represents a desirable cybersecurity target
The aviation industry benefits greatly from technology and digitization. Still, this complex environment also includes challenges in managing cyber vulnerabilities; the bigger you are, the more of a target you become.
Frequent vulnerability scanning is required to mitigate the threats, adapting business systems and environments where needed. As with any strong security program, these activities never exist in a vacuum—extensive penetration testing of IT systems and networks is required.
But testing alone isn’t enough. The MRO software provider must constantly adopt a clear security posture to address the most critical issues upon discovery. While not forgetting to address less severe vulnerabilities with frequent updates—or design out vulnerabilities to begin with.
2. Depth of functionality required
Small or even medium aircraft fleets can overcome system limitations with manual processes. Unfortunately, this does not scale when dealing with hundreds of aircraft and thousands of maintenance personnel.
Airlines with larger fleets require deeper functionality to model engineering data and a much higher degree of automation in their maintenance systems to allow engineering, planning, and maintenance to work together in the most efficient way possible.
The efficiencies conveyed by the system are even more important when you consider the difference in scale. A process improvement saving technicians time represents a specific value when applied to a few dozen or even a hundred technicians. However, when you expand that small incremental value to thousands of technicians, the sheer scale of the potential value grows commensurately and suddenly becomes critical to operations.
Siloed operations can be managed in a smaller airline where data can be shared externally to the system with relative ease through informal communication. But, as an organization scales, not having fully integrated processes becomes more challenging. To remain competitive, the largest airlines need all their teams working with the same data across all their processes in lockstep.
3. Manage the need to accommodate multiple operating certificates
Not all, but many of the largest airlines are either the result of a merger or are part of airline groups that maintain multiple operating certificates that the MRO IT system must accommodate.
Many rigid MRO IT systems are developed to support maintenance operations on a single air operator certificate (AOC). This means setting up a new instance for each operating certificate and/or different maintenance program against the same fleet.
Setting up a separate instance for each AOC is time-consuming and costly from a hardware and licensing perspective and terribly inefficient for the maintenance organization. While each AOC is different, there can be multiple commonalities shared between AOCs, particularly with maintenance processes, including planning, operations, and material fulfillment.
The best MRO solutions handle multiple maintenance programs and operating certificates in a single instance of the system, thereby surfacing all relevant data to support operations. The aircraft can be switched back and forth between the operators, and when they do, the maintenance program they are maintained under is changed accordingly.
4. Scalability is vital – for performance and fleet size
When an airline moves to real-time paperless maintenance, MRO IT system availability becomes mission-critical.
Aviation maintenance IT systems designed to deal with smaller fleet sizes can face severe degradation when applied to larger or more complex fleets, especially with fleets of over 300 aircraft. In extreme cases, MRO operations can stagnate, resulting in aircraft on ground (AOG) events, gate congestion, and delayed or canceled flights.
With scalability in mind, industry-leading large fleets MRO solutions are built with little to no performance degradation. It’s critical that any MRO solution be tested at scale to verify it achieves its stated performance benchmarks. In particular, if an MRO system’s tests show the solution exceeds performance benchmarks for the largest airline scope. For example, with 1,100 tails, 4,000 concurrent users, and five years of real-time historical data access – you can be sure it will handle your workload.
5. Large Airline = complex system landscape
When a small or medium airline is looking for their MRO solution, they typically look for a single tool to do everything across the maintenance organization, integrating only a bare minimum of other systems. The largest airlines have a much more complex landscape. Perhaps they have just implemented a best-of-breed warehouse management system, or their central organization has dictated that all procurement must occur in the ERP system. What if they built a custom front end for specific processes they want to maintain to ease user adoption?
This level of complexity drives a need for a maintenance system able to play nicely in the sandbox. Well-defined business APIs and open architecture are key to allowing airlines to create new applications or easily connect existing ones.
Additionally, with a platform based on modularity, airline organizations can combine exactly the configuration of capabilities needed and connect all the pieces seamlessly. This means that a change or essential information that enters the system propagates everywhere it’s needed.
IFS aviation maintenance software has taken center stage for large carriers
ARC Advisory Group confirms IFS as the industry’s leader in MRO IT software for large airline fleet operators, with a 25% market share within the top 20 carriers. IFS aviation maintenance solutions offer industry-leading features from simplified planning and collaboration to real-time alerts and time-saving tools. IFS’s prestigious customer base spans Southwest Airlines, Air France, KLM, China Airlines, LATAM Airlines, Qantas, and more. No one has more experience in MRO software, and the issues larger airlines face.
Future investment in modern aviation maintenance software is vital for a large carrier to grow and thrive in the current environment. It will save time, reduce costs, and maximize aircraft uptime, leading to improved passenger satisfaction.
Read more about IFS aviation maintenance software and why it has become the MRO solution of choice for the world’s largest carriers here.