BLOCKCHAIN DEFINED

Blockchain is a decentralized, distributed, digital record that is used to record transactions across multiple computers so that any individual record cannot be altered retroactively, without the alteration of all subsequent blocks. In simpler words, Blockchain is an electronic record-keeping system that allows multiple parties to see and trade virtual information and assets in a secure, trusted environment.

By design, a blockchain is resistant to modification of the data. It is an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way. Blockchain is typically managed collectively by a peer network.

PRACTICAL USES IN BUSINESS AVIATION

Two ways blockchain could be used in business aviation are with replacement parts or loaner components installed on the aircraft to keep the aircraft airworthy and working properly and in the aircraft’s maintenance planning and management process.

INSTALLING PARTS AND LOANER EQUIPMENT

In addition to the 8130 Airworthiness Certificate required to accompany a part, imagine an A&P technician being able to see the complete on/off cycle and maintenance/repair history of a part before installing this part on the aircraft? The operator of the aircraft receiving the part would become both knowledgeable of the history of the part and have a much better understanding of why the part had been replaced by other operators of previous aircraft, even to the point of having access to information of the repair accomplished by the vendor issuing the 8130.

CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING SCENARIO:

An Engine Start Valve is removed from N345 because it won’t open to start the aircraft’s engine when it’s sitting at high-altitude airports. The Engine Start Valve is sent back to the manufacturer’s repair facility who “Bench Tests” the Valve but can’t find anything wrong with it. The repair facility then returns the valve to service as NO FAULT FOUND.

Another operator orders a Start Valve to put on their plane – N678, so the repair facility sends them this valve … now Returned to Service and sitting on the shelf ready for its next mission.

The aircraft operates without issue until one day it attempts a start in Mexico City. And guess what?

THE ENGINE START VALVE DOESN’T OPEN.

I know many A&P technicians that will tell you that this type of thing happens often in business aviation. But if the valve had been a part of a blockchain of history hosted by the OEM or Repair facility, the maintenance people for N678 would have been able to see that the part had been removed from N345 due to a “will not start Engine at high altitude airport” issue. This would have alerted them to a potential problem that could become a serious issue, and to be prepared. At the very least, the operator might not have been caught completely unaware if the “no start” issue happened to them. Maybe they might have even decided to carry an extra valve “just-in-case” and wouldn’t be in such as awkward position when the Start Valve Doesn’t Open issue surfaced during an otherwise routine trip.

The term fore-warned is fore-armed applies here. And being forewarned could save time, money, and potentially a busted flight. Because we would have more knowledge and information available to us through blockchain that isn’t available to us today.

MANAGING MAINTENANCE TRACKING DATA

In another scenario, an operator inputs an aircraft into a local MRO for a maintenance event. Blockchain could be used to sync each task completed on the aircraft with the MRO work order and the associated maintenance tracking company’s data. No longer would maintenance tracking data be distinct and sometimes different from the logbook data completed by the maintenance provider or by flight department personnel.

USING WITH AN ELECTRONIC LOGBOOK

Using an electronic logbook could even further aid in the discovery and troubleshooting of the parts installed on an aircraft. A logbook would become not only a record of the history of maintenance performed on the aircraft but would also act as a data collection point for this information. For example, a parts blockchain combined with an electronic logbook would allow a person to “click” on the part recorded as installed on the aircraft to access its’ blockchain. The information they now have access to via the blockchain could potentially give them great insight into a problem they have just encountered on the aircraft, making the troubleshooting of the problem faster, and the resolution potentially much easier than starting from scratch without this information.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Digital documents and Electronic Record Keeping are fantastic technologies that business aviation can employ to improve the way we fly and manage aircraft. Blockchain should be implemented on all aircraft parts and loaner equipment, at MROs and Maintenance Tracking companies, and combined with electronic logbooks will give us the current and accurate information we need to operate the sophisticated aircraft we fly.

We need to start taking advantage of the numerous benefits that the digital world offers to us. Blockchain and Electronic Recordkeeping are steps in the right direction.

 

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