With the arrival of software developed on modern cloud-based platforms, the business aircraft industry has finally reached the point of being able to integrate maintenance tracking with FAA mandated aircraft maintenance recordkeeping requirements. In the past, paper-based aircraft maintenance records have kept the industry from moving forward with this integration. This is no longer the case. At least one Electronic Aircraft Recordkeeping System has now been formally Accepted by the FAA for use as a Certificate holder’s paperless record keeping system. And, being computer-based, electronic recordkeeping systems will integrate seamlessly with most maintenance tracking programs. This is critical for the business aircraft industry’s move into 21st century operations, and is a huge improvement for maintenance tracking, aircraft recordkeeping, and for aircraft owners and operators.

Maintenance Tracking as an Aircraft Management Tool

Maintenance Tracking has come a long way since the early days of being just a forecasting tool using paper to display information. With the advent of on-line data entry and cloud computing, maintenance tracking has been continuously advancing to meet the needs of the business aircraft industry’s maintenance management requirements. Maintenance tracking companies now provide a number of services along with traditional maintenance planning and tracking, they also provide budgeting and forecasting capabilities, along with options like maintenance document archiving, and task cards used as Part 43 compliant maintenance entries and Return to Service records.

Maintenance Tracking as a Document Retention Archive

All Maintenance tracking companies store information on an aircraft’s routine and non-routine maintenance events and components according to the particular maintenance task delineated. Ancillary documents such as Airworthiness tags, work orders, shipping documents, etc. are often incorporated in the documentation used to complete the task, then archived and stored with the task card and task report.

Limitations of e-log and document storage

Although documentation gathered for a given maintenance event can be stored along with the task card and task event report in the maintenance tracking company’s archive, this method of storage compartmentalizes the documentation according to each event or task; much like pages of a book placed individually into separate drawers within one large desk. This makes identifying the chronologic order of events in an aircraft’s maintenance history (the big picture) difficult to understand.

Limitations based upon the FAA’s position regarding maintenance records and recordkeeping

The FAA has long regarded maintenance tracking as an effective tool at forecasting maintenance events. However, the FAA has gone on record many times stating that information in a maintenance tracking program does not replace the 14CFR Part 91.417 requirements of maintenance records to support the Airworthiness justification of an aircraft.

Additionally, maintenance tracking programs will have difficulty complying with the FAA’s requirements regarding the development and use of an Advisory Circular AC120-78A compliant electronic recordkeeping system due to the conflict between the way maintenance tracking data is accumulated and stored, and traditional recordkeeping archiving and retrieval methods mandated by the FAA.

FAA Mandated Maintenance Recordkeeping Requirements

Requirements to operate an aircraft and retain its Airworthiness status have been established by the FAA in 14CFR Part 91 Subpart E and in Part 43 Content, Form, and Disposition of Maintenance Records. Recommendations by the FAA for creating an Electronic Recordkeeping System have been established in FAA Advisory Circular AC120-78A.

Integrating Maintenance Tracking data with an Electronic Recordkeeping System

Integrating maintenance tracking data with an Electronic Recordkeeping System is critically important for the growth of business aviation maintenance in the 21st century. This integration is simple if MT data can be sent to the electronic record whenever a task is updated via task card or a task specific item is recorded.

Information in the Electronic Record would then link back to the maintenance tracking program for maintenance task verification, and to the maintenance tracking company’s archives containing the ancillary documentation of the maintenance event (if desired).

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