(Note: This article was originally published on January 8, 2021).

I was recently replacing the tile on my bathroom floor and I had just finished removing the old tile. If you’ve ever removed tile, you’ll know that the mortar left behind is very difficult to remove. But it has to be done before the new flooring can be put down.

I bought a floor scraper, but that wasn’t strong enough. I tried my belt sander and that just smoothed the left over mortar to a nice finish. I even tried some attachments for my reciprocating saw that did little more than try to rattle my fillings out. None of these got me any closer to the plywood subfloor. The only thing I could think of that worked was a hammer and chisel. But that was incredibly time consuming and would add hours, if not days, to my project.

I was pretty sure I wasn’t the first person to encounter this problem so I did some research and discovered something called a “Diamond Cup Wheel”. If you’re not familiar with them (and I wasn’t before this), it’s a special wheel that attaches to an angle grinder and it turned that 2-3 day job into a one hour job. Literally.

In aviation, I think of flight data somewhat similar to that diamond cup wheel. I’m sure these wheels have been around for quite some time and that their original intended purpose wasn’t to make thin-set mortar removal easier for do-it-yourselfers like me. But it dramatically made this job easier, quicker and with results that were better than I could have expected.

Similarly, flight data has been around for many decades. Its original purpose was to improve aviation safety through supporting accident investigation and then Flight Data Monitoring and Flight Operations Quality Assurance (FOQA) programs. 

But today’s flight data can dramatically support aircraft maintenance activities similar to how that diamond cup wheel dramatically helped me with my flooring project.

And the methods of using that data do not have to be exotic, complicated or expensive. While there is a lot of talk right now about advanced data uses such as predictive maintenance and machine learning, you can still benefit from using flight data through much simpler methods.

One example that I frequently use is of a customer we have that had issues with engine over-temps on their aircraft. They would get the details of the event from the flight crew but, while the crew would do their best to recall all the details, they would never have all of the information. Even the basics could be difficult to recall depending on the situation in the flight deck. 

Many times, we would hear something to the effect of, “…it looked close to 1000 degrees but I’m not sure if it went over.” This is not a criticism of the crew – it’s just the way things are.

In the past, the operator would inspect the aircraft to make a determination of whether or not the engine needed to be replaced. This was time-consuming and potentially very costly if an engine was replaced out of an abundance of caution because all information wasn’t available to the maintenance crew.

Now, with the help of the flight data, the operator can take the information from the flight recorder and review it in easy-to-use software immediately after the flight. The maintenance team could review the precise recorded parameter values and, combined with the crew’s report, make a determination within a few minutes of what maintenance actions were required; if any.

This operator went from having aircraft sitting on the ground for a week or more to having them released for service, in some cases, within an hour of reviewing the flight data.

Software such as Sky AnalystTM makes it easy and affordable to review your flight data quickly and easily so you can make important maintenance decisions and get your aircraft back in the air sooner. Our Sky Analyst suite of software was made specifically for aviation professionals – not software engineers – so it’s made to be easy to use. You do not need to be a software expert to get your aircraft airworthy again.

So if you are an aircraft maintainer and you are looking for ways to reduce your aircraft ground time, consider adding your flight data to your toolbox. You might be surprised how dramatically it can reduce the time you have to spend on a job – just like I was with the diamond cup wheel.

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