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RFID Tracks Safety Equipment for Fiji Airways

The airline finds that safety equipment inspections, which previously took hours per plane, can now be accomplished within a few minutes using a UHF RFID solution from EAM Worldwide.
By Claire Swedberg

The deployment consists of single- and dual-record tags, all compliant with the ATA Spec2000 Ch9-5 standard. Whether on life vests or other equipment, all tags have a unique ID number encoded to them that links to data regarding each item in the EAM Worldwide TagControl software. TagControl consists of a Web portal known as WebApp, as well as DesktopApp and MobileApp to share and manage data from computers and mobile devices. To read the tags, Fiji Airways is employing Alien Technology's UHF RFID handheld readers, using Microsoft's Windows Mobile platform.

As inspectors conduct work aboard an aircraft, they simply open the TagControl App on their reader, then begin their inspection from one end of the cabin to the other. The reader captures tag IDs via RFID and forwards the collected data to the TagControl software via a cellular connection. If the system detects that any item is missing, has expired or requires maintenance, it displays that information for the inspector, while also making it available for management so that the problem can be addressed.

Thus far, the company says it has applied more than 4,000 tags to life rafts, oxygen bottles, generators, extension seat belts, earmuffs, flashlights, fire extinguishers and survival kits. The devices are being tracked on the company's A330, 737, ATR and Twin Otter aircraft.

The next step in Fiji Airways' RFID deployment is to track its seat covers automatically. The airline removes and launders each cover on a regular basis, and RFID technology will enable the firm to gain visibility into when each cover is washed and replaced. "The objective is to track the wash count cycles," Andreacchio says, "and to determine if the correct seat cover is installed in the correct location."

Fiji Airways is also looking into tagging other items in the spare parts environment. In the long term, however, the airline hopes that its suppliers will provide RFID tags on the equipment they sell. "Hopefully, retrofit tagging will be a thing of the past, and aircraft items will increasingly come delivered with an RFID tag on them,"Andreacchio states. EAM Worldwide already delivers life vests that are RFID-enabled, and has been doing so since 2009, for a range of stakeholders including EAM Worldwide, the repair stations and the airlines.

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