Aircraft IT OPS Issue 50: Winter 2021

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Aircraft IT OPS Issue 50: Winter 2021 Cover

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Titan replaces the paper log book with an electronic solution

Author: Sara Bellis, Systems Data Integrity Engineer at Titan Airways, and Vera Bankina, Senior Project Manager at Conduce,

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Sara Bellis, Systems Data Integrity Engineer at Titan Airways, and Vera Bankina, Senior Project Manager at
Conduce, share Titan’s experience of going paperless with an Electronic Tech Log.

Titan Airways is a privately owned airline with a fleet of 14 aircraft. In addition to Boeing 737 freighters, Titan have the only two EFWA321P2F freighters in the Northern Hemisphere. Titan Airways also operate ACMI leases, passenger charter and employees to cargo charter flights worldwide; they can be found flying everyone from oil and gas football teams. A particular point of pride for Titan is the ability to get a plane airborne in just one hour.

AN OVERVIEW OF eTechLog8

With regards to implementing an Electronic Logbook (ELB) with an airline, the primary objective is to replace the paper technical log system with one that is paperless or, for start-ups, to be paperless from day one. Put simply, a dedicated ELB device is fitted to each aircraft to record all the data required for aircraft Line Operations. The ELB software is a native application that has access to a mobile internet connection via an integrated 4G capable SIM. Whenever data is recorded on the device (by a pilot or an engineer), the information is transmitted back to the airline HQ where Engineering, Operations and Financial Management are provided with near-real time visibility of the fleet status. That visibility is important for Titan, and once the data is in the server, it can be processed further and integrated with other systems (OASES in Titan’s case). engineer and pilot feedback is that eTechLog8 is an intuitive, simple to use solution which not only increases data accuracy, but also enhances productivity.

With software, as opposed to paper, there is the possibility to build in workflow and mandatory sections, as well as colour coding which can help to eliminate mistakes. Conduce understand the old paper systems and set out to vastly improve things with eTechLog8.

THE REASONS FOR IMPLEMENTING AN ELB AT TITAN AIRWAYS

Titan needed to implement an ELB as an upgrade to a paper system that was antiquated and difficult for world-wide third parties/partners to easily understand, and began the search for an ELB provider in late 2019. Their chosen provider would need to fulfil some key criteria: the ability to integrate into Commsoft OASES, as well as other Flight Ops and Finance software; be robust, intuitive, easy to use and proven within the airline community. It was a presentation of Conduce’s eTechlog8 ELB that ultimately convinced stakeholders from across the Titan Finance, Flight Ops and Maintenance teams that an efficient cost-effective solution was achievable.

eTechLog8 was the natural choice for Titan – incorporating a simple to use traffic light system, controlled workflows with mandatory fields, and a provision of near real-time, accurate fleet data. The Conduce proven track record also set it apart; eTechLog8 is used by more than a dozen airlines and approved by their associated National Airworthiness Authorities (NAA’s) around the globe. With Conduce selected, the ELB project was ready to commence in January 2020.

THE PROJECT TO INTRODUCE AN ELB

Figure 1

Led by Sara Bellis from Titan and Vera Bankina from Conduce, the first stage of the project was to set up the eTechLog8 infrastructure and agree Titan’s particular configuration, for which Conduce provided testing devices along with the necessary infrastructure. While initially keen to use EFB iPads for the ELB, Titan were convinced to select aircraft-dedicated Panasonic ToughPads as the ELB device. This was Conduce best practice advice for a hardware solution that is secure and robust enough for all conditions above and below the wing, as well as capable of meeting the regulatory challenges of implementing an ELB. Once the final configuration was agreed, a desktop shadow trial of two aircraft began. This provided the solid data to enable a Proof-of-Concept Aircraft trial, for which CAA approval was sought and subsequently granted.

In March 2021 COVID-19 struck the UK and the project was halted except for the desktop shadow trial. This provided Titan sufficient data to gain UK CAA approval for a four-week onboard aircraft trial in April 2021. The onboard trial was a success in no small part due to the desktop trials that had already rigorously tested Titan’s eTechLog8 configuration. In the form of a Letter of No Objection to use eTechLog8 as the primary, legal record, full approval was finally achieved in September 2021; Titan’s paper technical logs were a thing of the past.

CHALLENGES

Whilst Sara and Vera progressed the ELB project, Titan was also busy setting up a new AOC in Malta. In August 2021 two aircraft were registered from the UK to the Maltese AOC and, despite being outside the original scope of the ELB project, Titan were keen for the ELB solution to be in use onboard the Maltese fleet from day one. With the support of Conduce, eTechLog8 was presented to the Maltese Airworthiness Authority, Transport Malta (TM), alongside Titan’s change management documentation. TM were already familiar with the Conduce solution, as eTechLog8 is already in operation with several other airlines with Maltese AOC’s. The result was a significant achievement – Titan’s Maltese AOC registered aircraft started with eTechLog8 onboard from their first day of operation.

At the same time there was a new model introduced to the Titan fleet in 2021: the A321P2F freighter – Titan owns the second and third examples of these aircraft in the world and is the first Airline Operator for the type in the Northern Hemisphere. Whilst eTechLog8 is an ‘off the shelf’ solution, each Operator and each aircraft Model is unique. The flexibility of the eTechLog8 system configuration allowed Titan to decide exactly what data to capture, from fuel tanks to Autoland quality, line Ops certification requirements and beyond.

No discussion of challenges could avoid the disruption of COVID-19. Although Sara was able to continue Titan’s desktop shadow trial, during the height of the pandemic, all other ELB project work was put on hold. Even when the project recommenced, COVID-19 continued to impede training, forcing Sara to work around employee shift patterns and limit training session staff numbers for engineers and pilots. Ultimately, all staff received the required computer-based training (CBT) and hands-on training, often in a 1-to-1 or 2-to-1 basis, with some pilots also trained to train other pilots to work around the COVID-19 restrictions.

COVID-19 also impacted communications with the UK CAA, forcing key staff into furlough or to work from home. This complicated the issue for Titan and the UK CAA with respect to managing the required demonstrations to commence the onboard trials.

THE REACTION OF PILOTS, ENGINEERS AND eCentral8 USERS TO eTechLog8

Feedback from Titan’s pilots, engineers and eCentral8 users (collected by Sara as part of the training process) has been overwhelmingly positive, with the system considered efficient and intuitive, along with greatly reducing and indeed eliminating the paper system errors. pilots are particularly impressed by the eForm8 module that allows custom forms to be incorporated into the eTechLog8 workflow. This reduces the previous number of systems in use to a single point of entry. For engineers, the ELB rigid workflow streamlines processes, enabling fast, transparent, and legally compliant aircraft turn arounds.

Furthermore, back-office users working with the data collected via the ELB have noticed a significant increase in data accuracy and speed of availability. In part this is due to eTechLog8’s mandated fields; it is no longer possible for flight crews to forget anything as they cannot sign off a section until all required fields are completed.

But perhaps the most beneficial aspect of the new system is that wherever in the world the aircraft is operating, the instant a TLP section is signed for, the data is transmitted back to eCentral8 and hence made available online to UK based Engineering, Operations and Finance management. In the old paper system defect actions, servicing and flight journey details would be collated remotely by the flight crew who sometime later from a hotel room would fax or scan/email the TLP and associated documents back to Titan’s UK base. Here the data would again be collated and checked before being manually typed into the company Maintenance and Operations systems. This time-consuming labour-intensive process often took days and contained significant errors and omissions that would need to be back checked with the remotely located flight crew. With eTechLog8, a mobile signal is generally available in 97% of situations, and the data is clearly and immediately transmitted as part of the workflow process in accordance with the eTechLog8 standard operating procedures. Now Titan can work proactively, not reactively.

THE APPROVAL PROCESS

Airline ELB’s are generally approved in one of two ways, either in accordance with EFB (Electronic Flight Bag) regulations or as a discreet aircraft avionics system. Despite Titan’s desire to avoid going down the full EFB approval route, this was the course eventually prescribed by the UK CAA. Fortunately, Titan already had UK CAA approved EFB’s and were familiar with the regulator’s conditions and processes. With supporting procedures provided by Conduce, Titan implemented and documented the required changes. There are always hurdles for a large-scale project with multiple stakeholders, especially during an unprecedented pandemic, but when an experienced supplier and a diligent, energetic customer work closely together then UK CAA approval becomes reasonably straightforward. Conduce are of course well known to the UK CAA with Titan being the 4th eTechLog8 implementation now approved by the authority.

Conduce themselves have a strong track record for obtaining NAA approvals for eTechLog8. They have never failed to achieve certification, and now have more than a dozen different NAA approvals across the world. This combination of knowledge and experience is especially valuable when trying to achieve approval within a limited time scale and in difficult circumstances – as was the case with Titan and COVID-19.

LESSONS LEARNED

The advice, for any airline considering an ELB solution would be to go for it. But of course, follow the recommendations and timescales from your supplier. Conduce’s experience was a huge asset in implementing the ELB at Titan.

Titan also suggest prospective ELB users look carefully at all departments in the organisation and how they currently operate. While it is easy to see an ELB solution as a purely Engineering project, the ELB has an impact on every aspect of the business. Sara suggested thinking of the ELB not as a replacement for the old paper system, but as an advance for the whole organisation.

When asked what they might have done differently, Sara highlighted the benefits of scheduling the engineer and pilot training as close as possible to the Go-Live. Through contending with COVID-19, flying schedules and shift patterns, Titan left a longer period between the training and the use of the device than was initially planned, leaving some users initially less confident with the system than they could have been. Having pilots who could train other pilots was of great benefit and an approach recommended by both Titan and Conduce.

For Conduce, the number one recommendation was KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid. This approach is especially valuable when implementing an ELB system within an airline which inevitably has entrenched cross-department subjective requirements. Conduce strongly recommend ‘Big Picture’ focus on what you are trying to achieve: which is initially the replacement of the paper system with a smart modern ELB. Be very careful not to get diverted or distracted by individual hobby horses or subjective bunker mentality departmental preferences. Once the system is implemented a solid bedrock of experience and knowledge is established which can then be built on to further develop the ELB’s utility within the business. This focus also ensures that project milestones can be achieved in a speedy manner and easily communicated to all stakeholders.

THE BENEFITS OF A PAPERLESS TECHNICAL LOG

Whilst it is still early days, Titan has already seen major benefits from eTechLog8 (figures 2, 3 and 4). No longer do users and management have ambiguous handwriting to contend with. eTechLog8 by design engenders improved data accuracy in the recording of defects, part numbers and serial numbers and all the other mandatory data elements. Flight information (including any delays and fuel uplifts) is as close to real time as you can get. This is particularly beneficial to the Finance department, who for example can now quickly process fuel information and accurately calculate charges to Titan’s customers.

Figure 2
Figure 3
Figure 4

Additional benefits from this near-real-time flight and defect data means swifter troubleshooting. Titan’s Technical Control Centre has access to accurate and up to date defect and line inspection information, complete with photos, component change data, AOG information and current deferred defect life and expiry data.

NEXT STEPS

The now active integration phase will see the defect and flight information transmitted directly into Titan’s maintenance software without any human intervention. This is not only a cost saving measure but will also allow for manpower to be re-directed to assessing the actual quality and correctness of the data. Conduce estimate up to 50% of the system benefits are from seamlessly integrating the ELB data with the other required airline Management Information Systems.

Titan will roll the ELB out to every aircraft in the fleet and continue to focus on reducing the workload in the cockpit. Users will continue to be encouraged to use the eCentral8 dashboards to observe the fleet status and spot patterns in the data; this is another benefit of an ELB and something that is not practical using paper. For example, if an aircraft is AOG, eCentral8 quickly and easily shows how many times the same problem has occurred and what actions have already been taken. In Sara’s words: ultimately, Titan doesn’t want to fix aircraft; it wants to prevent them from being broken in the first place.

The eTechLog8 suite of applications offers further digitisation and process improvement across the business – everything from hangar checks and mobile devices for engineers, to a fully integrated cabin defect log. As the system becomes more established, Conduce looks to support the Titan team going forward with new ventures. Conduce has been proud to work with Titan airways whose commitment and professionalism held throughout this ELB implementation despite the challenging times.

Contributor’s Details

Sara Bellis

Sara gained an apprenticeship at Marshall Aerospace and found herself drawn to the world of maintenance planning, gaining a strong interest in computer-based systems of maintenance management, becoming Planning Team leader and then Planning Manager. Joining Titan Airways as project lead for the introduction of the computer-based system to be employed within the new full in-house Part M department, Sara’s role evolved into the Systems Data Integrity Engineer and the successful introduction of the ELB.

Vera Bankina

Vera’s Aviation career began with the Technical Records team of an airline based in Latvia in 2010. She then took on a Technical Library and Training Coordinator position with an ACMI and charter operator. Whilst working within the CAMO team, in 2014 she joined their latest digitalisation project, investigating ELB solutions. In 2015 Vera moved to Conduce as a project manager, helping airlines all around the globe to implement and integrate the ELB solution.

Titan Airways

Titan Airways is an independent UK charter airline, operating a 14 strong fleet of Airbus and Boeing types. The business holds a worldwide Air Operator’s Certificate and additional licences to operate aircraft in the US, Canada and Australia. Clients – including some of the world’s leading companies, airlines, Oil & Gas sector employees, tour operators and sports teams – know that the service they receive from Titan is unparalleled. The company operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, supporting customers around the clock.

Conduce

Conduce pioneer mobile aviation solutions. eTechLog8 is their world leading Electronic Log Book (ELB), fully approved by multiple Airworthiness Authorities and trusted by customers worldwide. eTechLog8 eliminates the paper technical, cabin, and deferred defect logbooks, and replaces these with an easy to use, workflow controlled mobile solution. Available on both Windows and iOS, eTechLog8 is fully integrated with all the leading MRO and M&E systems.

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