As an industry, we can do better than just throwing our hands-up and accepting dysfunctional paper records as our destiny. So far, we haven’t done anything to solve this problem. But, indeed, as an industry we must. Paper records are already known to cost business aviation over $125M every year. This is quickly becoming not only unacceptable, but intolerable by almost everyone.
With the aircraft we operate now flying faster, traveling further, and operating more efficiently than ever before; why are we permitting the critically important records of these high-tech aircraft to continue to be treated so poorly? Adding to this conundrum are the coping methods we all employ to deal with paper records. These copying mechanisms are not only dysfunctional but add cost and complexity to almost all areas of an aircraft’s operation.
We didn’t wait for the FAA to make a ruling allowing us to build pressurized aircraft, nor did we wait for weather radar or electronic flight instruments to become a rule before incorporating these technologies. So why are we continuing to wait for congress to pass legislation giving us permission to use electronic recordkeeping and digital signatures in such a way that the FAA can furnish us with routine approval?
The following are a few suggestions I have of what we could, and should, as an industry, do to bring the 21st century system of electronic recordkeeping into our daily operations:
1. Scan your existing paper records into electronic images in order to have both a back-up of the paper record, and to begin the important process of converting the world of aircraft recordkeeping from paper to electronic.
2. Begin an electronic recordkeeping system containing the same information that you are currently keeping in your paper system. Since a paper system is still the accepted “norm”, run both systems in parallel (the time and manpower it takes to do this will be more than made-up by the efficiencies that the electronic recordkeeping system adds to our operation).
3. Start using a Digital Signature program to sign documents that do not require FAA approval to use. (Digital Signature programs are readily available from several different sources you can find on the internet).
4. Write your congressman to insist that congress investigate passing new laws that will allow regulators to add language to the FARs that include electronic recordkeeping and digital signatures.