From fleets that take customers on tours of major cities to transporting emergency patients or even inspecting power lines, helicopter operators and their missions vary tremendously. One thing that stays the same is their need for maintenance tracking.
With crews that are always on the move, mobile applications and dedicated apps that work seamlessly from the most remote locations make this process easier.
Additionally, paperwork and documentation of repairs should never take longer than it takes to do the fleet maintenance. No one wants to spend six to seven hours fixing an aircraft and then sit at a desk and grind out paperwork for a few more hours before going home.
Imagine a world where you have a system that makes it as easy as possible, is intuitive, and can be done on your iPad as you’re walking out to your car.
That world exists!
Let’s take a look at the top reasons why having a program like this will ensure more uptime and provide a better working environment for your team.
TOP BENEFITS OF HAVING A HELICOPTER MAINTENANCE PROGRAM
- Easy Viewing: Most helicopter operators have large fleets and being able to see the entire fleet in one view and on one screen saves precious time. Utilizing a system that can easily show every aircraft in the fleet with one or two clicks is a game changer.
If you are a Director of Maintenance and you sit down at your desk at the beginning of the week with a cup of coffee ready to manage your fleet, you want a program that allows you to easily log on to see what’s going on with the fleet the entire week, on the home screen immediately.
Couple in the flight schedule and the software can show which aircraft are where. If you’re a tour operator, a great benefit is being able to see how many tours are scheduled on a certain day. Some helicopter operators manage EMS, air ambulance, or fire rescue crews. For those types of organizations, it’s critical to know what and how many aircraft are available in real time. In these cases, having software that can be integrated into dispatch systems is key – especially when someone calls 911. The ability to dispatch a helicopter for that incident quickly and within precious seconds will not only save time, but could also save lives.
- Easy tracking: Having a helicopter maintenance program makes tracking retirement index numbers (RIN) a breeze. This technology allows maintenance crews to know when to swap out equipment immediately. Looking for a program that not only tracks by hours and landings, but also allows operators to see, track, and calculate RINs easily is a huge benefit.
- Easy Write Ups and Deferrals: Another great benefit of having a helicopter maintenance tracking solution is the ability to document unscheduled write-ups. These can be squawks, MEL’s, or an info-only note from the crew. In these situations, it can be easily documented and instantly notifies maintenance. If a pilot lands the helicopter on the side of the road, they can pull out their iPad, document the maintenance that needs to be done, and submit it.
The notification then goes to the technician automatically. The technician is then able to get people and parts ready before the aircraft is even home. For tour operators, if a helicopter is doing a tour the pilot can write up the squawk in flight and when it lands, the technician can handle it right away.
In the helicopter world, aircraft aren't always traveling from airport to airport. They may be going to the airport to the interstate or inspecting power lines. Helicopter missions can be incredible and having a software system that is versatile and can adapt to any type of mission is tremendously beneficial. Any tracking requirements can be customized, and any unique items you want to track can be added. This type of flexibility can be very advantageous.
Having a vendor that can translate these benefits into real cost savings is mission critical for helicopter operators. Your system should allow for viewing all data easily and efficiently.
WHAT SHOULD PEOPLE LOOK FOR IN A SOLUTION?
Besides searching for a solution that is flexible and versatile, something to look for is a vendor that is willing to partner with you.
- Find a software company that is not just a vendor -- and not just a product. Look for a company that views themselves as an extension of your flight department and that is available 24/7/365. When your vendor partners with you, takes the time to understand your operation and understands the idea of customization, you know you’ve found the right one. Great solutions are with you every step of the way, beginning with the enrollment process and continue to look at what’s working and what’s not working on a regular basis. Your system should be adaptable.
- In the helicopter world where the crew is always on the move, mobile applications are important to look for. Watch for a program that has a dedicated app and not just an icon that takes you to a browser on your tablet. Having a true dedicated app that works is a system that will make your life easier and more efficient.
- Look for a helicopter maintenance program that tracks it all – the crew, the fleet, and the maintenance, as well as provides you with an easy-to-view browser that allows for quick maintenance tracking. No one wants to be doing paperwork that takes longer than the maintenance. That’s miserable! After repairing an aircraft for hours, technicians are tired and that’s when mistakes can happen. Choose a system that makes reporting as easy as possible, with as few clicks as possible and is intuitive. Finding a software program that can easily integrate fleet manuals is another top time saving feature that is an integral component to a good helicopter maintenance tracking program.
- And finally, look for a provider that is agile and built to handle all kinds of fleets. A software solution that can track anything — from helicopters to fighter jets — will generally also offer a more customized platform. A lot of companies use templates and that's not always the best option because those templates don’t fully apply to every company and aren’t customizable for your specific requirements and your unique operation.
WHAT ARE MANY PEOPLE DOING TODAY?
The programs currently being used in the helicopter industry for maintenance tracking are all over the place with 99% of companies having some form of electronic tracking. But a surprising number are still using spreadsheets and homegrown Excel files from some guy who retired 20 years ago.
There certainly are flight departments that have fully embraced paperless options and want to adopt every new software program and every new piece of technology. While legacy systems may be working fine, imagine how much smoother your operation could be working with cutting edge software.
The biggest technology advancements coming soon that will really revolutionize tracking software is the ability to track aircraft that are not in your fleet.
Currently, if you maintain or repair aircraft not in your software program, there is no way to track those things.
Part 145 aircraft will soon be integrated into tracking software. In the helicopter world, if you have to pull an engine or gearbox from the tour operator side and take it to the repair station side and overhaul it, there isn’t a way to easily track that. To have all maintenance notes in one spot and to have other functionality, including better integration with inventory, time and flight tracking, weather, billing for technicians, plus a better user interface, will be a huge improvement to what is currently available and hugely beneficial for helicopter operators.
If you have 10 helicopters and they’re all going to inspect different power lines or different wind turbines or rescue missions, you’ll soon be able to see all of their locations on one screen.
Helicopter tracking and maintenance can be a daunting task. Making that task easier and more streamlined is the goal of any good software solution. There are many benefits to finding the right solution for your helicopter maintenance program, but above all, the top benefit is getting more uptime. There are many options out there, and if you’d like to take the next step in increasing your ROI and getting more uptime for your fleet, book a demo today.