Ground Based Vehicle Health Monitoring for Lifecycle Cost Reduction 2003-01-2981
Unprecedented rates of change in the economic equations of air transport infrastructure are impacting military, NASA and civilian fleets. Military aero-asset operational lifespans are being continually assessed for extension, and younger assets are tasked to higher levels of mission dispatch reliability. NASA, post Columbia will now undergo a new round of safety and reliability assessments of structures and wiring on the space shuttle fleet to ensure a safe return to flight. New FAA regulations to improve aging airplane structural and wiring safety motivate comprehensive change in the approach to aviation maintenance. There are concerns that these challenges of improved reliability and life extension will further strain the resources of DOD/NASA and economic health of the civilian aviation industry. However it can be shown that the knowledge developed through implementation of these recommendations through a comprehensive vehicle health monitoring system can be used to actually reduce operating costs.
This paper will review and discuss traditional maintenance and deterministic inspection practices that must now be updated and improved to meet these regulatory and cost challenges. A solution is proposed to optimize vehicle health monitoring based on developments by Honeywell International Inc. on an integrated, ground based vehicle health monitoring system. This comprehensive vehicle health monitoring system consists of two major elements. The NOVA Wire Integrity Program™ provides cradle to grave monitoring and management of the wiring system. The SAM™ Structural Anomaly Mapping system monitors and manages the lifecycle structural condition of the airframe. This collection of fully automated scalable sensor modules and robotic systems allows complete inspections of wiring and airframes using non-invasive sensing techniques, whether in a fully crewed hangar maintenance bay, in the aircraft interior, or on-wing on the carrier deck. The total vehicle health monitoring and management system can provide a quick comparison of results across a fleet of aircraft to detect early indications of fleet-wide problems. This can reduce the manpower dedicated to these activities while improving early detection of wiring and airframe defects. The system can be customized for any aircraft/space vehicle, and offers inspection and analysis in hours without requiring removal of the aircraft from flight status. By providing repeatability and consistency of measurement, NOVA/SAM™ provides optimal reliability for the detection of critical vehicle wiring and structural anomalies. This knowledge will enable a transformation of traditional maintenance practices, extending maintenance intervals, and therefore reducing cost, while improving safety and aircraft availability.