Aircraft technicians these days are as likely to use a laptop as a printed manual and logbook, and to turn to the Internet for the latest job-status reports and technical information.
Engineers from the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) are assisting them, using current computer and database technology to help military aircraft maintainers get their work done more efficiently. A team from GTRIs Electro-Optical Systems Laboratory (EOSL) has been developing and improving maintenance software for the U.S. Navy since 2000.
Called the Maintainers Electronic Performance Support System (MEPSSTM), this software was initially developed for the Navys P-3C Orion patrol aircraft. A more recent version is now helping maintain the RQ-2 Pioneer Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, and portions of the GTRI software are being used in other aircraft maintenance programs.
Hall recalls that the aircraft maintainers used to carry individual "wheel books," which they used to make paper notes about important points and problems. The problem was, sharing information between the individual wheel books wasnt automatic. Now, she notes, being able to enter such information into a linked computer system makes it much easier to share.
Trouble-shooting tips are among the most important capabilities the system offers, Hall believes. When GTRI researchers interviewed maintainers, they learned that knotty maintenance problems can sometimes take a week or more to solve. Now maintainers can share these hard-won solutions with their coworkers via MEPSS.
"When we were designing the system we asked, How can we help them save money and time by documenting these kinds of issues? " Hall said. "Now the system lets them keep track of things that are not easy to figure out."
John Toon | EurekAlert!
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