Last week we had a chance to speak with Didier Lux, EVP Customer Services.  In wide ranging conversation we got to talking about AiRTHM, Airbus’ Real-Time Health Monitoring which falls into Mr Lux’s group.  AiRTHM provides real-time troubleshooting, which  monitors system health to anticipate failures and enables customer spares provisioning.

This system was available at the A380’s EIS and it is part of the A380 Flight-Hour-Services for customers. The solution is also on the A350XWB.  The following chart lays out how this system works.

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The digital airplane is here. Industry watchers will be intrigued to note all the communications uses ACARS.  This is not a broadband solution, yet is is capable of handling messages covering over 250,000 parameters.

The A350XWB is a generation newer in technology terms. Its engines are Rolls-Royce’s next generation from the Trent on the A380.  The A350 also has more communications capabilities.  This is necessary because the A3350XWB has over 400,000 parameters measured for aircraft in service.  That is a 60% increase between generations over about five years.

It is remarkable  to see how much more complex the next generation aircraft are in terms of measuring performance parameters – it would seem that every twitch and twist is recorded and then able to be communicated.  The cockpit voice recorder came into being in the 1950s.  As recently as 2005 the FAA required these devices to record 30 minutes of data.  There is a fascinating history on flight recorders here.

If the Space Shuttle had telemetry how long before the same thing comes to commercial aviation?  Soon it seems, as broadband becomes standard.  This will make air travel safer, but also allow for far better real-time aircraft health monitoring.

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