The United States has several aircraft that are aging and are still in continuous use. The average age for a commercial aircraft in the United States is about 14 years. However, it is not surprising to see such aircraft operating for up to twenty-five to thirty years. With this continued airworthiness beyond the number of years that the plane is supposed to work, growing concerns have been raised for the workforce that maintains the aircraft because the components and structures of an airplane that is aging tend to require added maintenance as compared to the less aged aircraft. More maintenance beyond what is needed in the planned maintenance that is regular will be necessary to ensure that they can operate effectively. Extra hours are required by the maintenance personnel to do the additional maintenance of the aircraft that are older, which amounts to an extension in the downtime for the maintenance checks completion
Maintenance of aircraft that are older aircraft is time-consuming as it will require the personnel for maintenance to do extra work outside their routine, which further amounts to the extension in downtime, interfering with their schedule. Getting those aircraft back to work incurs a lot of costs and reduces the availability of services. It also laces immense stress on the operations for maintenance, which is a big problem for the personnel involved in these processes. The purpose of this paper is to look into the impact of the aircraft that is aging on the workloads and planning for maintenance and provide recommendations for the issues to be addressed in efficient and effective ways.
The circumstances in different situations are what contribute to the continued use of aircraft even after the years within which they are supposed to have expired. One of the factors is due to the costs of purchasing new aircraft to be used for commercial services. The government also tends to use military aircraft that are aging based on the fact that the defense budgets reduced and the costs of the military aircraft have escalated since the end of the cold war. For this reason, most aircraft have to be used for longer periods way beyond their stipulated years. The various impacts of the aging aircraft on maintenance planning and workload areas outlined below.
The rise in requirements for maintenance
Aircraft go through several maintenance types that get performed in the flight line, in the depot, or at the base. It is expected, as shown by research, that the requirements for maintenance get higher as the aircraft ages. The life of the aircraft determines the length of time or the number of hours needed for the maintenance personnel to carry out a particular maintenance process. The older the aircraft, the longer it will take to carry out a maintenance operation (Fioriti et al., 2018). As long as the aircraft that are older keep getting used for commercial and military purposes, the requirements for their maintenance will keep escalating.
Stress on maintenance personnel
The personnel that takes art in the maintenance of the aging aircraft are bound to take extra hours beyond the ones stipulated to maintain the plane (Sheikhalishahi et al., 2016). This significantly causes stress to them as the old machinery will require intricate operations for maintenance to ensure that they stay safe for use. The personnel will spend too much time on the processes for maintaining the older aircraft instead of using it for other duties that get included in the maintenance planning program. Keeping the aircraft that are aging has a significant impact on the operations for maintenance as it is time consuming when more hours have to be spent maintaining them when the other aircraft have a shorter maintenance time. The increase in workload due to the extra hours that get spent on maintaining the aircraft that are aging can be exhausting and stressful to the maintenance personnel.
The rise in maintenance costs
The costs of maintaining aging aircraft are much higher compared to the costs of maintaining the airplanes that are within their age of operation. This is because the operation that is involved in obtaining the equipment for the older aircraft are costly. The older aircraft tend to experience complex problems that would require complex procedures to make them operational again. The complex operations tend to be expensive, significantly raising the operational costs of maintaining costly airplanes. The service amount needed to maintain an aircraft keeps rising as the aircraft gets older. The fact that the aging aircraft will need more service amount means the costs for the rising services also keep rising. The costs that are associated with the processes of refurbishing the aging aircraft are also significantly high. They are also necessary to restore the aircraft to an operational position, to secure the safety of the passengers that get to use it for transportation, or in the case of the military, their safety during the military operations.
Several steps can be taken by the aircraft companies to ensure that the issues that are associated with the aging aircraft concerning their impacts of planning of maintenance and the workloads get addressed. Some of the steps that would get recommended in this case would be as discussed below.
Reducing maintenance downtime that has been scheduled
A flexible structure is required to reduce the time spent by the maintenance personnel in performing the operations for maintenance. The method that would be a more efficient and convenient single task-oriented maintenance concept that has been developed to facilitate the allocation of resources for labor. In this method, resources get managed by ensuring that maintenance on the aircraft gets done at any time an opportunity arises when the aircraft is on the ground. This will play a significant role in ensuring that all operations for maintenance get done on time, and losses get consequently eliminated (Senturk et al., 2010). This helps in reducing the stress entailing the extra-long hours that the maintenance personnel had to spend carrying out the operations to maintain the operations.
Preparation for significant changes
The wiring deterioration and corrosion that happens with aircraft that are aging demands for improvements in the operations for maintenance. These improvements will help significantly in reducing the costs and time spent on operations for the maintenance of the aircraft. The demand for maintenance and inspection of aircraft that are older has risen because of the complexities in the operations that are required to ensure that they get efficiently restored to proper operational positions (Stadnicka & Ratnayake, 2017). There is a possibility that concerns of another nature that need maintenance in older aircraft may arise in the future. The government and other organizations that operate commercial aircraft should establish a way through which they can get prepared for any changes that may arise in the future. This will help in securing the organizations against any increase in workloads for maintenance that could potentially happen.
Investing in new aircrafts
With the high costs in the maintenance of aircraft that are aging, in terms of equipment costs, personnel for maintenance and the procedures, the government and other organizations need to establish ways of funding the purchase of aircraft that are new instead of spending large amounts of money maintain the older aircraft. Detecting, preventing, and repairing the aging aircraft is a costly process, which is why it is recommended that the government should invest in purchasing new aircraft (Lincoln, 2003). This is a strategy that can possibly help in maintaining the workloads in terms of the hours that the personnel for operations for maintenance work on performing the maintenance tasks. The workforce performing maintenance will have to spend the same time period in performing their tasks when the aircraft that are older get replaced with new aircraft. This will also enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the maintenance operations that will get carried out as no costly and complex requirements will be necessary for performing the maintenance practices. Purchasing aircraft that are new will turn out to be cheaper and save money for the organization compared to spending extra amounts and time in ensuring the constant maintenance practices get carried out on the aircraft that are aging.
The strategies that involve the use of technologies that are innovative, like simulations and analytics of big data, can be used by organizations to create breakthroughs in the maintenance of aircraft (Daily & Peterson, 2017). Techniques for data analytics have become effective in reviewing trends and insights that are meaningful in order to predict events that are not scheduled and the requirements for maintenance. Simulations present a situation in which maintenance may be required and present the prediction as to how the best way to respond to the data could be. In this process, maintenance, engineering, and fleet operations are reproduced in software, making it possible to predict how different strategies for maintenance, schedules, and policies can impact the processes of performing the maintenance operations. This further helps in predicting the possibilities and enabling the organization to make use of the course of action that seems to be the most effective in advance of it happening. Predictive maintenance is essential in helping the organizations establish possible scenarios and use them to establish and implement the most appropriate maintenance operations. This is to ensure that the aircraft’s function in the most efficient way, as well as save time and money that could be spent by the maintenance personnel in conducting the operations for the maintenance of the older aircraft. They would have used the predictive maintenance concept to carry out possible maintenance before the predicted vents occur.
The above discussion presents the various factors surrounding the maintenance of aircraft that are aging in terms of the impacts it has on the operations for maintenance and the effects it has on the personnel that carries out the operations. The commercial and military airlines should put in place measures that will make it possible for the workloads to get reduced for the personnel that works on maintaining the airplanes. The costs of maintaining aging aircraft are higher compared to investing in new aircraft. The extra maintenance of the aging aircraft leads to an extension in the downtime for maintenance checks completion.
Daily, J., & Peterson, J. (2017). Predictive maintenance: How big data analysis can improve maintenance. In Supply Chain Integration Challenges in Commercial Aerospace (pp. 267-278). Springer, Cham. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-46155-7_18
Fioriti, M., Vercella, V., & Viola, N. (2018). Cost-estimating model for aircraft maintenance. Journal of Aircraft, 55(4), 1564-1575. Retrieved from https://arc.aiaa.org/doi/abs/10.2514/1.C034664
Lincoln, J. W. (2003). Managing the aging aircraft problem. AERONAUTICAL SYSTEMS CENTER WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB OH.
Senturk, C., Kavsaoglu, M. S., & Nikbay, M. (2010). Optimization of aircraft utilization by reducing scheduled maintenance downtime. In 10th AIAA Aviation Technology, Integration, and Operations (ATIO) Conference (p. 9143).
Sheikhalishahi, M., Pintelon, L., & Azadeh, A. (2016). Human factors in maintenance: a review. Journal of Quality in Maintenance Engineering. Retrieved from https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/JQME-12-2015-0064/full/html
Stadnicka, D., & Ratnayake, R. C. (2017). Enhancing aircraft maintenance services: a VSM based case study. Procedia Engineering, 182, 665-672. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877705817313139
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