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University of Ulster academics are collaborating with Irish technology company Skypaq to develop an electronic technical log to help airlines improve efficiency and make major savings by reducing repair times.

The two year FUSION research project is led by Dr Kevin Curran of the Intelligent Systems Research Centre at the university’s Magee campus and funded by InterTradeIreland.

Skypaq, a privately owned software development company based in Mullingar, Co Westmeath, specialises in the integration of flight operations and technical services using an electronic technical log for aviation engineers and technicians.

Dr Curran explains: “The aviation industry is heavily regulated and has to conform to extremely high standards of record keeping, both to ensure the safety of passengers and to comply with government regulations.

He continues: “Maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) involve carrying out all necessary maintenance and repairs to keep aircraft in working order or to prevent future problems arising.

“The aircraft technical log is the primary source for recording technical and operational data for each flight an aircraft makes. Data recorded includes defects, malfunctions, block times and fuel consumption, as well as any routine maintenance work carried out on an aircraft.”

Until recently the technical log was recorded manually and all the relevant MRO information - essential to the continuous smooth operation of the business from accounts to aircraft maintenance - was dispersed throughout the aviation organisation.
Dr Curran says the FUSION project with Ulster will enable Skypaq to deliver software tools for aerospace companies like Finnair to help engineers and technicians increase the availability of systems and reduce costs and repair times and do away with the need for repetitive manual input of data and associated administration.

The Magee based academic continues: “Airlines today are faced with the challenge of achieving compliance and delivering value for money in an increasingly demanding operational and regulatory aviation environment.  The software we’re developing will help provide a more streamlined MRO record.

“Skypaq has already acquired extensive expertise in software development and integration of IT mobility solutions for aircraft operators but this joint project will add to their impressive portfolio and place the company in a very strong position for future tenders.

“By providing a much improved electronic and paperless work flow process throughout the organisation, Skypaq can help airlines reduce costs, improve efficiency and get a business insight into the fleet’s running costs as well improving safety and regulatory compliance.”

Richard McKenna, Chief Executive Officer of Skypaq states: "The aim of the FUSION project is to develop cutting edge large MRO software for airlines to diagnose and identify failures in systems and thus provide a superior service to existing dated processes.

“This will minimise aircraft time in maintenance, thereby maximising time in the air while also improving overall systems quality, reliability and efficiency. The net effect will be a more cost effective operation for the airline.”

He adds: “Through FUSION, Skypaq can access the expertise and facilities in the School of Computing and Intelligent Systems at Magee, allowing the company to deploy a successful regulators compliant MRO system which will reduce administration overheads, speed up diagnostics and maintenance operations and lead to increased client satisfaction.”

The value of the worldwide commercial jet transport MRO market is expected to grow at a pace approaching 5 per cent annually over the next three years as the recent decline in labour rates bottoms out and engine overhaul costs continue their upward trajectory.

Dr Kevin Curran, Intelligent Systems Research Centre, University of Ulster's Magee Campus