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Environmental Factors Impacting Aircraft Avionics Maintenance

How aircraft avionic maintenance technicians keep electronic equipment and flight instruments in tip-top shape.

Avionics technicians are a critical asset to any aircraft maintenance team. Like major mechanical components of transport category aircraft, certain avionics equipment installed on them are subject to routine inspections and tests just the same. Many maintenance programs use a method of continued compliance to ensure the required tests and inspections are completed pursuant to part 43 regulations. Avionics technicians perform many functions with regard to avionics maintenance under the authority of a Director Of Maintenance or with manufacturer specific training and certification. In this article, we will explore how avionics technicians work to keep modern aircraft equipment in operating condition considering the unique environmental challenges within each operation.

The Flight Deck Environment

A quick glance up into the flight deck of any transport category jet built within the past 30 years is enough to know that it is the operational nerve center of the machine. Transport category jets have only become more reliant on technologically advanced instruments and displays which are subject to the rigors of human interaction. Not only do avionics technicians have to tackle the routine avionics upkeep tasks like replacing burnt out lights and completing navigation database updates, but they must also fix problems created by the environment. The environment of the flight deck is centered around the humans who work in it. The humans are of course pilots and pilots enjoy coffee in their office; you can see where this is headed. Pilots, like any human, are susceptible to error and sometimes those errors lead to spilled liquids over very sensitive radio equipment in the flight deck. Crumbs from food consumed in the flight deck also make their way into small crevices and gaps between pieces of avionics equipment. All this leads to the high potential for technologically advanced equipment to deteriorate and corrode faster than it otherwise would. Understanding the human-centric environment of the flight deck and what challenges are likely to arise because of it will give avionics technicians a big leg up regarding preventive maintenance on avionics.

Avionics Aftermarket and the Operational Environment

Aftermarket supply for pieces of flight deck equipment like ADS-B in receivers and inflight weather watch products creates a challenging environment all by itself. Making the right choice about aftermarket avionics comes down to understanding the inherent safety implications. With more aircraft flying today, and in tighter proximity to each other, an important question worth asking is whether a portable piece of cheap ADS-B equipment, for example, is something one would want as part of their avionics package. The same goes for aftermarket internet weather products that usually have significant refresh delays. Avionics technicians that keep up with the latest advancements in portable flight deck tech will know what kind of supplemental equipment is best. The operational environment today is more challenging and requires careful thought as to which avionics products are worth investing into and which are best to be avoided.

An Environment of Communication

Avionics technicians shouldn’t complete their routine or ad hoc maintenance tasks in a vacuum. Good communication between departments is a critical piece of a well-functioning avionics maintenance environment. It is not uncommon for flight crews to encounter operational issues with pieces of equipment in the flight deck, especially if the equipment is a little older. A good rapport between departments and a clear means of communication goes a long way to expedite the troubleshooting process. At the request of an avionics technician, flight crews might need to conduct operational tests of equipment that they rarely use or only use in certain ways as a means of troubleshooting. Avionics technicians should understand how clear and concise communication helps to resolve the potential conflict which can arise from a disparate understanding in how pieces of equipment function. Avionics technicians have a deep understanding of equipment on the flight deck whereas flight crew personnel possess an operational level of knowledge that doesn’t extend as far. Understanding this fundamental difference will help maintenance staff mitigate the communication challenges that arise when flight crews must work deeper into a piece of equipment than they are used to.