Support: The Diagnostic Computer Saves the Day


August 17, 2007: The U.S. Air Force headed towards saving hundreds of millions of dollars a year in maintenance costs, with the introduction of automated flight control system test set equipment for older aircraft. Plugging into existing aircraft test systems (which just tell you if a component is working, or not), the automated system uses software, and a large database of information on how the aircraft works, or doesn't, to quickly resolve complex maintenance problems. Often, maintainers can spend hundreds of hours trying to figure out exactly what is wrong with an aircraft. The problem is that many OK, but slightly off, components can combine to create a failure. Such problems are very difficult to diagnose. The new test system not only finds the problems much more quickly, but usually can provide step-by-step instructions on how to repair it. In the past, maintainers often replaced perfectly good, but suspect, parts in vain attempts to get $50 million aircraft flight ready. The automated flight control system test set being evaluated now is for the F-15. Most recent aircraft, like recent automobiles, come with similar test systems. The automobile industry has been using similar systems for over a decade, but has not created such systems for older automobiles, because the older cars don't have the sensors and microprocessors built in for this sort of thing. But in the aviation industry, it pays to build computerized diagnostic systems for older aircraft if the current maintenance costs are high enough.


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