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Lufthansa Technik Uses RFID to Expedite Aircraft Repair

At its German facilities, the aircraft-maintenance service provider is attaching EPC UHF tags to documents that accompany airplane parts, reducing the need for manual data entry.
By Rhea Wessel
Dec 18, 2007Lufthansa Technik, a global provider of maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services for commercial aircraft, and its Lufthansa Technik Logistik subsidiary have begun using an RFID application to track aircraft components. Lufthansa Technik is attaching passive EPC UHF tags to the paper documents that accompany airplane parts, and expects to begin tagging components directly once an industry-approved tag that meets its specifications becomes available.

The tags that will be placed on aircraft parts must fulfill a variety of safety requirements and meet high technical standards, such as withstanding harsh weather, drastic temperatures and various chemicals and fluids used in the aviation sector. They must pass flammability tests and display electromagnetic tolerance. All RFID equipment must be certified for use in explosive environments, and tags must be relatively small so they can fit on a wide range of equipment.

Lufthansa Technik is using handheld interrogators to read the tagged documents that accompany aircraft parts.
Lufthansa Technik, a subsidiary of the German airline Lufthansa, has asked suppliers to provide a passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) tag that meets these requirements and complies with the ISO 180006C standard. The company is working with the Air Transport Association (ATA) to develop standards. Parallel with the chip industry's development of RFID-based ICs with the desired memory size, the group is working on a flexible data standard for the tags.

The ATA group includes a variety of companies in the aviation industry, such as airframe manufacturers (Airbus, Boeing and Embraer), OEMs (Rockwell Collins and Thales), airlines and MRO service providers (American Airlines, Continental Airlines and Lufthansa Technik), and RFID systems integrators and development companies (SITA, Fujitsu, Intelleflex and Tego).

Michael Scheferhoff, chairman of the ATA's RFID/AutoID on Parts workgroup, coordinates all of Lufthansa Technik's RFID activities, including those of Lufthansa Technik Logistik. He says various tag suppliers are presently working to meet Lufthansa Technik's technical specifications but have not yet succeeded.

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