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Boeing to Launch RFID Program for Airlines in February

The system will allow the company's customers to track the maintenance records of their aircraft parts using high-memory RFID tags, and may enable it to track those parts' locations as well in the future.
By Claire Swedberg
Jan 11, 2012Boeing Commercial Aviation Services is presently awaiting Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification for a radio frequency identification tracking system that it has been developing during the past year and intends to release next month. The solution, known as RFID Integrated Solutions, is currently being trialed by Alaska Airlines to determine how well tags on engine parts and other airplane components—including aircraft-rotating equipment and landing-gear parts—sustain the rigors of flight and still store and transmit data regarding each part's maintenance record. Boeing began working on the solution a year ago, in partnership with Fujitsu (see Boeing, Fujitsu to Offer Airlines a Holistic RFID Solution).

In the future, Boeing intends to install the system as a standard component on all of the new 737, 777 and 787 commercial passenger aircraft that it builds, as well as on all P-8, C-17 and KC-46 military planes.


Boeing's Lois Hill
A year ago, Boeing first partnered with Fujitsu to develop the solution—initially known as the Automated Identification Technology Retrofit package—using Fujitsu's EPC Gen 2 RFID tags. The technology would enable airlines to attach the tags to aircraft parts. Information regarding a particular part could be written to a tag's memory, and the data could then be viewed and amended by staff members as that part was maintained, repaired or inspected. In this way, those records could be created more easily, with fewer mistakes made (which could occur with handwritten or manually keyed-in records). The solution, which has since been renamed RFID Integrated Solutions, includes tags, software and readers to help users track their new and existing aircraft parts. FAA certification for airworthiness on commercial planes is expected to be granted in February or March of this year, according to Lois Hill, Boeing's technical operations manager for RFID Integrated Solutions.

The Alaska Airlines trial commenced in March 2011 and is slated to last until March of this year, consisting of 28 tags attached to various parts on a passenger aircraft being used for regular scheduled flights. The airline's workers at various airports periodically utilize handheld readers to determine whether the tags are storing data, and whether extreme conditions—such as heat, cold, dirt and water—affect tag performance. To date, says Phil Coop, Boeing Commercial Aviation Services' program manager for RFID Integrated Solutions, the tags have proven their ability to withstand such conditions.

RFID Integrated Solutions was developed to manage and monitor five different types of parts or components: emergency equipment, rotables (rotating parts), reparable equipment, structural and cabin area. The software is written to provide data required by users specific to each of those areas—such as checking the status of reparable equipment, or of safety equipment within an aircraft's cabin.

With the RFID solution, airlines are provided with two types of tags: Fujitsu's high-memory RFID tag (containing up to 64 kilobytes of memory), and a non-RFID contact-memory button that has four gigabytes of memory and is small enough to be attached to items too small or irregular for an RFID tag. Boeing also provides the handheld interrogators and software to manage read data, and to enable the reading and writing of data onto the tags via the handhelds. The software can be installed on a user's server, and can interface with an airline's existing software systems.

USER COMMENTS

Muhammad Ejaz Tayab 2012-02-13 02:23:07 AM
Pakistan Airlines Pakistan International Airlines is also evaluating RFID for its aircraft parts inventory and maintenance and has invited Autobar for RFID demo.
Reader 2012-07-28 01:05:26 PM
RFID and Contact Memory Buttons on Aircraft This is one of the most significant advances in the past two decades for aircraft safety and maintenance! I am a little biased since I have the USA patents for both applications. Safe Air Solutions.com

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