AkzoNobel Launches Aircraft Maintenance Initiative
AkzoNobel Aerospace Coatings recently announced plans to launch a new digital, data-driven service for airlines and other large operators to tailor and optimize the coatings maintenance schedules for aircraft.
According to an emailed press release, Aerofleet Coatings Management captures data from both manual inspections and drone-operated inspections to create a database of every aircraft in a fleet. The history reportedly includes details of the coatings used and flight data, which can affect the integrity and longevity of the coating applied.
AkzoNobel says that the app is suited for fleets with more than 100 aircraft. It can collect information, such as dry-film thickness, color variation, gloss and general appearance, to store in an audit report on an iPad or tablet. The data is then fed back to a database to track the fleet's performance over time.
AkzoNobel explains that external coatings have evolved in the last decade from single stage to basecoat/clearcoat systems, extending the need to repaint some aircraft for up to 10 years or even more. However, aircraft still need to be taken out of service for maintenance every six or seven years without really knowing if a repaint is needed, according to the company.
Michael Green, Segment Business Services Manager at AkzoNobel Aerospace Coatings, says that by analyzing this information, as well as mapping it over time, a more accurate maintenance and repaint schedule can be calculated.
“Put simply, it becomes easier and more accurate to determine when an aircraft needs to be repainted, rather than simply using time or flight hours,” he explained.
“Schedules can be created that balance the practical performance of a coating and where the aircraft in a fleet are being operated (i.e. the different flight paths, distances, heights, environment, etc.) against the aesthetic/marketing (i.e., branding) and business needs of the airline.”
The company reports that manual inspections can be enhanced by automated inspections conducted by drones, flying in a set grid over the plane's surface and taking up to 1,000 HD photos. The machine algorithm then analyzes the photos and identifies issues on the paint surface.
This process reportedly standardized the inspection and is less subjective. Additionally, a drone can scan an entire narrowbody aircraft in less than an hour, providing a faster and more in-depth inspection compared to manual methods.
“For the first time, the repaint schedules for whole fleets of aircraft can be mapped years in advance,” Green continued, “and aircraft are only repainted when needed, not according to a fixed time schedule alone.
“Often, planes are repainted whilst the coating still has life left in it. Using our service will reduce costs while increasing aircraft availability by anything up to a year. Over time, the frequency with which aircraft need to be repainted will fall, which is significantly better for an airline’s bottom line, and better for the planet.”
Aerofleet Coatings Management is being launched as part of a range of support and training services through AkzoNobel Aerospace Business Solutions. The service will be introduced at the MRO Americas event in Atlanta next month.
Recent AkzoNobel Aerospace News
Last month, AkzoNobel Aerospace Coatings announced that it has teamed up with American Airlines to use virtual reality technology to deliver what the company calls a new way of training apprentice painters, as well as further educating existing teams.
Last year, AkzoNobel launched the new virtual reality training for painting aircraft at a National Business Aviation Association event. According to the announcement a the time, the technology can mimic a customer’s production environment and multiple coating systems to train teams virtually and in a more sustainable and efficient way.
The VR-based system was developed by technology specialists Virtual Paint Products. It has also been successfully trialed at the company’s training center in Troy, Michigan. Since then, several portable units have reportedly been designed for use at a customer’s own premises.
AkzoNobel explains that the VR headset immerses the trainee in a virtual paint booth, with access to aircraft parts or larger-scale assemblies to the production floor itself. The system can then be programed with various paint specifications, such as the thickness of the coating required.
As the operator uses the virtual spray gun, they can reportedly see whether too much or too little paint is used and look for inconsistencies in the way the coating is being applied, the company says.
Through the training, the operator’s core skills, such as setting up the spraying session to the distance, angle, and speed at which the gun is used, are being measured. The feedback is reportedly immediate, allowing trainings to react quickly and change their technique.
The program will show where runs and sags occur, or where the wet film thickness is not sufficient or the coverage inadequate to deliver a smooth finish. Common paint problems such as paint overlap can also be seen, according to the company.
According to the recent emailed release, a nose landing gear cylinder of an aircraft was programmed into the system for American Airlines. Then, a group of 13 painters of varying abilities were encouraged to spray the part—but, AkzoNobel notes, without a single drop of real paint being used.
AkzoNobel further explains that there are other benefits to the technology. For example, a painter may have been using a polyurethane paint and need to switch to a Teflon paint or use a paint with a different mix that may be heavier or lighter. This can be programmed into the system to replicate the experience in a spray booth.