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Airlines Spending Money on IT

Airlines are willing to spend money to increase productivity and cut costs if the payback period is quick. Real quick. Software suppliers understand this and are creating solutions that can be as broad or as narrow as operators choose. So while airlines are renegotiating labor agreements and aircraft leases to quell costs, they are planning to invest in information technology to help myriad operational quandaries.

Between April 2003 and June of this year, Delta made a major investment in web-based delivery of technical manuals via the company's intranet site. The new system, known as Flightline, supplied by InfoTrust of Lafayette, Colo., hosts 70 maintenance manuals and illustrated parts catalogs covering all aircraft and engines in Delta's fleet. Preliminary planning to make the manuals available on hand-held devices via wireless transmission now is going forward, and will be presented to Delta's management in 2005 for approval.

As Lane said, hand-held devices will allow the technicians to access manuals at their work sites, including base facilities, back shops or on the line. "A (line service) technician may have to leave the airplane and walk three to four gates away to access the maintenance data," he said. "Using a hand-held device, he won't have to leave the side of the airplane."

..."This will be particularly beneficial for line maintenance at the hangar and at airports where the mechanics mostly work out on the ramp and gate areas," said Clark. "The technology we buy for this will then interface with our existing data system.

...Hopkins emphasized that this is but one of numerous major IT initiatives American currently is pursuing. "Mechanics will be able to access all data pertaining to the aircraft, troubleshoot any problems, determine the solution, look up the parts needed, and sign off on the paperwork without having to leave the side of the airplane," he said.

Pemco Aviation Group of Birmingham, Ala., has seen a substantial reduction in overhead with the implementation of a wireless IT system, interfaced by hand-held devices. "It has been especially valuable for non-routine maintenance problems that we find during the inspection process about 50% of the time," said Steve Miller, the company's vice president and corporate controller.

John Snow, Enigma vice president, marketing and business development, agreed with Miller that IT investments must enable significant productivity improvements. Snow said mechanics can spend as much as 40% of their time away from an aircraft undergoing repair to access information at multiple locations. "Our job is to reduce that amount of time by providing a single source of information about the aircraft which can be accessed by keying in a tail number without having to leave the job site," he said.
Thanks to R.


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