AkzoNobel Aerospace Coatings is to launch a digital, data-driven service that more accurately tells an operator when an aircraft needs to be repainted.
The service, ‘Aerofleet Coatings Management’, has been designed to help airlines and other large operators to tailor and optimise coatings’ replacement and maintenance schedule for individual aircraft within an airline fleet.
“External coatings have evolved rapidly in the last decade from single stage to basecoat/clearcoat systems, extending the need to repaint some aircraft for up to ten years or even more,” explained AkzoNobel Aerospace Coatings. “Despite this, aircraft still tend to be taken out of service for maintenance every six or seven years without really knowing if a repaint is needed.”
Aerofleet Coatings Management addresses this issue by capturing the data from both manual inspections and drone-operated inspections, creating a database of every aircraft in a fleet. The history includes details of the coatings used (e.g. single or basecoat/clearcoat coatings) along with flight path data (e.g. weather conditions etc.) which affect the integrity/longevity of the coating applied.
By analysing this information, and 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,” said AkzoNobel Aerospace Coatings’ segment business services manager Michael Green.
“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 inspection service is provided by experts within AkzoNobel Aerospace Coatings using a digital application, and is ideally suited for fleets in excess of 100 aircraft, according to the company. The app stores the information collected, such as dry film thickness, colour variation, gloss and general appearance, as an audit report on an iPad or tablet. The data is then fed back to a database which tracks the fleet’s performance over time.
Manual inspections can be further enhanced by automated inspections conducted by drones, AkzoNobel Aerospace Coatings said. The drones fly in a set grid over the plane’s surface, taking up to 1,000 HD photos. This standardises the inspection and is less subjective. The drones’ machine learning algorithm analyses the photos and identifies issues on the paint surface in exactly the same way every time. It is also faster and more in-depth than a manual inspection; an automated drone can scan an entire narrowbody aircraft in less than an hour.
Whether digitally recording data manually or via a drone, the objective is to only have an aircraft on the ground when it is actually needed: “For the first time, the repaint schedules for whole fleets of aircraft can be mapped years in advance,” said Green, “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 enhanced training services through AkzoNobel Aerospace Business Solutions, a new entity bringing further structure and rigour to many of the services already provided by AkzoNobel’s Technical Support teams.