7 September 2017
Blogs: How analysis of reliability data guards against high-risk maintenance events
By Scott Carmichael, Interim System Reliability & Resilience Project Manager
The System Reliability and Resilience workstream is one of the pillars on which the HeliOffshore Safety Strategy is built. The workstream is tasked with better understanding and improving safety from the perspective of the human and machine interaction, as well as the resilience of the procedural, human and aircraft performance systems that support offshore helicopter transportation.
We took a leap forward in this work at our recent meeting in Houston, where we were able to study the first set of reliability data from the fleets of multiple operators. This collaborative process has allowed us to identify priorities for safety improvement efforts for those maintenance events that are judged to have a high potential for adversely contributing to a safety incident. The goal is to build a consensus among the operators as to the most serious areas of concern for each aircraft type, and then share with these with each OEM and jointly establish initiatives to reduce the frequency of occurrence.
The initial challenge was to get the operators to share their own operational reliability data, and this was made far easier by doing it under the collaborative umbrella of HeliOffshore. So far, we’ve been able to gather reliability data from seven operators, covering a total of four aircraft types. Workstream leaders Stuart Stavley (Era Helicopters) and Dave Balevic (CHC) have been instrumental in advancing this project. We’ve been very glad to have the support of the following heads of engineering: Rob Pendle (Bristow), David Price (Babcock International), Russ Allen (Weststar Aviation), Grant Ireland (Omni) and Tony Gonzales (PHI).
What we quickly realized at the meeting in Houston was that the reliability data really speaks for itself, and that what it’s saying supports the intuition that our operators’ engineering teams already had about maintenance issues for each type. It was a breakthrough for the collaborative approach to be able to demonstrate that, regardless of differences between operator’s business strategies, the frequency of the high-risk maintenance events was very similar in most cases.
An additional unexpected outcome from the data sharing process was for operators to be able to compare variations in maintenance event frequencies, and assist each other in understanding and comparing techniques or organisational differences that are at the root of these differences.
Overall, the workstream group felt encouraged by what careful analysis of the data revealed and how this can be filtered to come up with the priority items that we want resolved. These main action items will be presented to each OEM in what we call Joint Reports. Our next step is to set up meetings with the OEMs so that they can collaborate directly with the operators to resolve the issues highlighted by the data.
This is the first time that helicopter operators have shared reliability data in this concerted way. As we went through the process, we found that there were a lot of variations in how we record, store and measure this data. So now we’re working to develop a standardised reliability management process with key performance indicators for the aircraft. It’s going to take a while for this new process to be rolled out for operators to use. We want to end up with a permanent digital forum for sharing data, maybe something along the lines of Boeing’s My Fleet Team system for the airlines.
Another future project for our workstream will be to look at specific aspects of aircraft design and consider what changes might be implemented to improve the human/machine interface, especially when it comes to maintenance. We’ll also be looking at changes in design standards to determine what they mean for operator’s maintenance teams.
HeliOffshore provides a great environment for operators and OEMs to put competitive issues to one side in order to work on enhancing safety. Having access to real-world data like this allows us to focus on resolving the issues that will result in the most significant improvements in safety.