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Technologies and Techniques for New Maintenance Concepts


The TATEM project investigates ‘Technologies and Techniques for New Maintenance Concepts’. The project was born from a need to reduce the cost of maintenance in the face of increasing sophistication in aircraft and aircraft systems. It brings together a consortium of 58 contractors from 12 countries across Europe, Israel and Australia. The project is led by Smiths Aerospace Electronic Systems, Cheltenham.

Project objectives

Maintenance activities can account for as much as 20% of an operator’s direct operating costs and have remained at this level for many years. However, there is scope for increasing the efficiency of the maintenance process. For example, it is estimated that line mechanics spend 30% of their time trying to access information to diagnose and rectify failures, and errors in the maintenance process can impact on aircraft safety. In a recent survey, the incidence of human error during maintenance tasks has been estimated to contribute to 15% of aircraft accidents. The occurrence of the need for unscheduled maintenance can introduce costly delays and cancellations if the problem cannot be rectified in a timely manner.

The objective of the TATEM project is to develop and validate philosophies, technologies and techniques, which can be used to transfer unscheduled maintenance to scheduled maintenance. By taking this approach, the projects aims to show the means to achieve a 20% reduction in airline operating costs within ten years and a 50% reduction over 20 years.

Description of the work

Maintenance engineers often work under severe time pressure on complex problems and in difficult physical conditions, which requires access to detailed information to diagnose and repair problems. Such factors mean that effective research into aircraft maintenance must take a multidisciplinary approach to address the technical and human related challenges.

TATEM takes a holistic view towards maintenance across the aircraft and investigates all aspects of ‘on-aircraft’ and ‘off-aircraft’ maintenance issues. The technical focus of the project is to assess the following maintenance philosophies, technologies and techniques:

  • Maintenance-free avionics that require no scheduled maintenance work.
  • Signal processing techniques (e.g. fuzzy logic, neural networks, model-based reasoning), which can be used to convert data into information about the health of the systems.
  • Novel on-board sensor technology to gather data from the aircraft (avionics, utilities, actuation, engines and structures), to feed prognostic or diagnostic systems.
  • Diagnostic methods to identify and locate failures and malfunctions and so reduce the incidence of ‘no fault found’ alarms.
  • Prognostic methods to provide support for preventative maintenance actions.
  • Decision support techniques to generate process-orientated information and guidance (instructions) for the maintenance engineer.
  • Human interface technologies to provide the ground crew with information, data and advice at the point of work.

The aim in the first year of the project has been to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the current maintenance ‘approach’. The aim in years 2 and 3 of the project is to develop the maintenance philosophies, technologies and techniques that can achieve the desired cost reductions. The most promising of these will be integrated into a large physical demonstration(s) in the fourth year of the project. This will provide the means for validating whether the project has been successful in its aims of reducing maintenance costs.

Expected results

For the industrial contractors, a successful outcome of the project’s objective will potentially yield new ways of doing business, and provide radical changes to aircraft operation and maintenance philosophy, new product opportunities and the formation of new partnerships and collaboration. The academic contractors will support these outcomes by significantly contributing to the scientific and intellectual challenges of the project.