Alaska Airlines share their story of digitizing aircraft inspections and adopting aviation maintenance software to their operations.
Alaska Airlines, the 5th largest U.S. airline, is recognized as a leader in the aviation industry. The Wall Street Journal’s Airline Scorecard measuring key operational areas ranked the airline #1 four years in a row, and J.D. Power rated them as the #1 traditional carrier for ten years straight. Achieving those accolades is no easy feat in such a competitive market.
In 2021, Alaska Airlines became the 14th full member of the Oneworld alliance, and their dedication to sustainable growth shows no signs of slowing down. In this case study, we’ll detail one way that Alaska Airlines achieved operational excellence.
“The operation I manage could not function at the level it does without Fluix.”
Aircraft inspections on paper
Bob Hoelzen is the Operations Manager for the Functional Check Flight Department, a group tasked with evaluating aircraft performance and collecting aircraft inspection and maintenance records. Initially, these checks were performed using paper copies of a checklist with blank spaces for data to be filled in.
At the end of the flight, this data would be transcribed into a separate aircraft maintenance PDF form that could be distributed via email. To allow for meaningful analysis, the data would then be transcribed into a spreadsheet. This process was very cumbersome and awkward to manage in the cockpit during flight, and the follow-up process for the data was extremely time-consuming and prone to error.
Bringing automation to aircraft maintenance
With the introduction of the iPad, Bob’s team first used Readdle’s PDF Expert app to transfer this process over to a digital format. While going paperless was a big step forward, data collection was still difficult as there was no way to get the output from the document into a database. This led Bob to try Fluix workflow automation software for teams.
After a trial period, Bob set up a Fluix account and began to train pilots on the use of Fluix. It was a very easy transition, as the app was so intuitive and easy-to-use. The ability to combine previously separate document workflows into a single button tap made the adoption of Fluix a success from the start.
Automating manual processes
The dynamic capabilities of workflows in Fluix replaced a lot of manual tasks with just a simple tap of the ‘Submit’ button. By exporting data from workflows, the team at Alaska Airlines could easily process it outside of the app. While initially only used in the cockpit for aircraft maintenance checklists and mobile data collection, the use of Fluix has increased to include sending forms and information to the airline’s Scheduling, Finance & Maintenance departments.
Tracking the progress of aircraft maintenance
Alaska Airlines also facilitates outside vendors in preparing their aircraft to return to service at the end of scheduled maintenance. As work progresses on the aircraft and various sections of a checklist are performed, all parties can log in at any time and see the progress being made towards completion.
Analysing collected data
When teams look at the data collected in aircraft maintenance checklists, they can monitor and analyze trends, such as parts degrading. This is especially important, as old airplanes have old technology that does not provide this information otherwise.
“Fluix has made the Functional Check Flight Department a viable, productive organization. Our ability to collect and distribute data through the company has been instrumental in changing procedures and allowing us to change our work focus based on analysis of the data. What used to take hours now can be accomplished in minutes.”
A flight crew can send a completed aircraft maintenance form – with over 150 discrete data points and all of the discrepancies noted during a test flight – to the Maintenance and Engineering team before they even leave the cockpit at the end of the flight.
Data from checklists now flows easily from the team’s iPads into the aircraft maintenance database, where it can be analyzed and acted on.
Predicted results & preventive maintenance
Although the company collects a lot of data, it’s pretty much a snapshot of what the state of the aircraft is at a precise moment in time. This data collection happens about every 15-18 months and is used to assess what needs to be addressed when the aircraft gets into an overhaul, and then again when it comes out of overhaul, to ensure that everything is working correctly. When Alaska Airlines first started collecting data, they were able to show issues that consistently presented and then tailor maintenance tasks around that data, to make sure nothing went unchecked.
Now things have become so routine for both the pilot side and from a maintenance perspective that they rarely have any surprises. “It took about 10 years to get to this point and it would not have been possible without using Fluix to collect the data and organize it,” says Bob.
“Customer support for Fluix has been phenomenal. For our operation, Fluix is the answer!”