WHY ELECTRICAL LOAD ANALYSIS MATTERS
Electrical Load Analysis (ELA) is a record of the current state of an aircraft’s electrical loads – that is the individual and cumulative load an aircraft’s systems place on the aircraft’s power sources (including engines, Ram Air Turbine (RAT), Auxillary Power Unit (APU), generators, and batteries) under various phases of flight and operational conditions.
HOW DOES ELECTRICAL LOAD ANALYSIS IMPACT AN AIRCRAFT OPERATOR?
A ‘baseline ELA’, unique to each aircraft ‘fleet or sub fleet type’ is delivered by the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) with each aircraft. Any modifications made to an aircraft during its operational life which result in changes to electrical loads require the operator to perform analysis as prescribed by the OEM, update and produce a current ELA. Operators must be capable of producing, upon demand, a copy of the current ELA.
When aircraft are sold, transferred, leased, or returned to lessor’s the current ELA must be provided as part of the aircraft’s Bill of Sale / records package.
The FAA or an FAA DER (Designated Engineering Representative) can, without notice, demand operators provide the current aircraft ELA and demonstrate its currency and accuracy of the ELA maintenance process.
1. Variation in ELA format, structure, and calculations produced and required by OEMs between fleet types and between OEMs
Airbus, Boeing, Bombardier, Embraer, et al, each produce ELAs with different analyses and calculations for the thousands of electrical loads on each aircraft. Variation occurs between the OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) , between fleet types and within subfleets. To illustrate: Using power factor (pf) as an example, Boeing uses pf for each component to detail the actual electrical efficiency of the loads being applied from each component / bus / transformer up to the generators. Alternatively, Airbus assumes the pf is always 1.0 and uses modes of operation to report unique electrical loads. With these and other variations, ELA maintenance demands specialist ELA knowledge.
2. Increasing aircraft and electrical system complexity
Mechanical systems, as the primary basis for aircraft operation are continuing to be replaced by Electrical Wiring Interconnect Systems (EWIS); the introduction of fly by wire flight controls on the Boeing 777, 787 and A320 etc.. in place of mechanical controls being one example. The rate of change in the EWIS is accelerating with more advanced flight control systems, passenger comfort and passenger entertainment systems. Increased generator output is often a result of the increased demand e.g. A350 generators produce 230 VAC not the 115-120 VAC typical on many aircraft.
We chose the number of spreadsheet sheets/tabs required to represent an ELA at the bus, sub bus and component level as a proxy for the increasing aircraft electrical system complexity. When we compare eleven different aircraft delivered into service since 1988 we can see that aircraft electrical loads have become substantially more complicated. The effort required to maintain and support these systems is increasing, placing greater demands on the engineering teams to support a fleet of aircraft.
As electrical systems become more complex, more resources are required to support and maintain systems and ensure the ELA is at all times current.
3. Hard copy documentation still prevails
Purchased aircraft are often accompanied by hard copy ELAs. For example, Boeing provides only PDF versions of the ELA for its aircraft and used aircraft are almost always accompanied by PDF or hard copy ELA documentation. Vendors / MROs doing mods typically revise the operators ELA and provide it back in PDF format, or provide hard copy documents back to the operator which are then used to update the ELA. Transformation from a hardcopy or PDF document into data is expensive, time consuming, and requires a robust quality assurance process.
THREE SOLUTIONS FOR ELA MAINTENANCE
1. Outsource – simple but not necessarily cost effective
Outsourcing all modifications delegates the effort to MROs and services firms with proven capabilities. For the airlines that use multiple mod vendors, especially STC mods, coordination between vendors can become an issue. The cost and effort for an MRO to revise a customers ELA can be material. Regardless, responsibility remains with the operator to verify the ELA .
2. Adopt the spreadsheet approach – ideal for some but complex, error prone and labor intensive
Using spreadsheets is a practical solution for operators with a single fleet type who do not modify the aircraft, or those with a large fleet with a dedicated Avionics team of Electrical Engineers. When an operator’s fleet includes hundreds of aircraft, control and accuracy of the data can be challenging. When an operators fleet includes multiple fleet types complexity multiplies the challenge. Spreadsheets, however well designed cannot validate and control for all types of errors that are made during ELA maintenance.
3. Use an industry solution – ideal for operators of any size
The ELA Manager, a software application developed by SeaTec in consultation with major airline operators consolidates, standardizes and simplifies the maintenance of ELAs for multiple OEMs, fleets, and configurations. It is the only software specifically designed for Electrical Load Analysis.
A REVOLUTION IN AIRCRAFT ELECTRICAL LOAD ANALYSIS
Airlines have an OEM/FAA compliance obligation to maintain a current electrical load analysis (ELA) for every aircraft in their respective fleets. A major airline client accomplished this by tracking every change to the electrical load using highly complex manual spreadsheets. A typical spreadsheet for a single aircraft held 100+ tabs each with hundreds of rows of data, project notes and OEM prescribed calculations. Multiply this by hundreds of aircraft and you can get a sense of the complexity at work.
Updates to an aircraft’s electrical load for changes made to an aircraft or a fleet – whether driven by Service Bulletins, Airworthiness Directives, Supplemental Type Certificates, and custom modifications (e.g. the addition of wifi, galley reconfigurations) took weeks or months to be reflected in the spreadsheets. When vendors were contracted to complete a modification, hard copy pdf documents had to be manually transposed into spreadsheets and resulted in engineering design rework. Change history was tracked but was problematic. Regular reviews were required by senior electrical engineers, specially trained in each OEM’s Electrical Load Analysis methodology.
The effort associated with managing spreadsheets represented a material cost to the business and the complexity of electrical load analysis required specialist skills and training. Other firms had been engaged to provide or develop a software application that managed ELA maintenance but failed, unable to deliver a solution that met the challenge of making ELA maintenance simple, intuitive, controlled, and transparent.
THE CLIENT BENEFIT
Realtime visibility of every aircraft in the fleet and a complete aircraft change history and confidence the airline is in compliance with regulators and the OEM.
Reduction in the time and effort to setup the ELA for an aircraft entering into service
Reduction in the cycle time for an ELA update. Documentation and meetings were made redundant by the application workflow. Accountability was delegated to Avionics and Interiors engineers and even potential vendors to author projects, test the impact of different designs and receive design approval.
Reduction in Engineering time spent updating ELAs, releasing Electrical Engineers who previously updated project ELAs for days and weeks to do more value-added work.
THE SEATEC SOLUTION
SeaTec was given the challenge of developing an application that could:
- Ingest large volumes of data (millions of individual electrical load values) from multiple OEM aircraft baselines and unique customer modified formats for newly inducted to decades old aircraft
- Codify the 1000’s of calculations unique to each OEM, fleet type and sub-fleet type
- Support individual configurations required to re produce OEM analysis
- Provide intelligent validation and error checking to enable continuous real time analysis of modifications being affected
- Ensure usability so that technicians and engineers not trained in OEM ELA could understand and use the application without reliance on wiring diagrams, spreadsheets and senior electrical engineer guidance
- Incorporate design guidance that simplified the design process and reduced the time taken to design review and approve a modification
A rigorous analysis of OEM and customer data, user experience, and customer processes was conducted. A plan encompassing development, testing, DER review, data migration, validation, and change management resulted in the successful adoption of the ELA Manager or ELAM by the airline customer.
BUILDING A MISSION CRITICAL APPLICATION IN THE CLOUD
THE CUSTOMER PROBLEM
Our customer, one of the world’s largest airlines, knew its legacy mainframe system was constraining its ability to drive operational improvements. Data resided in and was replicated across a fragmented ecosystem of applications and databases. Format, timeliness, and completeness of data varied according to application. Expert users of the legacy system were becoming harder to find, workarounds were common and creating analytical insights was expensive.
THE CUSTOMER BENEFIT
Single Source of Truth – Data from more than 10 legacy applications was consolidated and updated in real time enabling new and advanced analytics. A new architecture provided better performance and the ability to provide an API for accessing data.
Data availability – Data was made available in real time after being ingested and formatted. Data availability improved from minutes to milliseconds.
Easier Access to Data – The single source of truth was made available to new and existing applications. The use of API’s coupled with a non-relational database simplified the process of accommodating high volume data requests from applications and analysts.
Flexible Architecture – The architecture now facilitates the creation of individual applications that leverage components and backend services to better manage complex customer requirements and maximize UI performance.
Improve Efficiency of the Operation– Incorporation of exception-based alerting and the ability to model decisions prior to execution delivered quantifiable benefit to the customer.
THE SEATEC SOLUTION
We helped our customer visualize an outcome, develop a roadmap, and craft a business case to invest in the infrastructure and applications required to migrate off the legacy system and unlock the potential of its data. SeaTec architected a solution, specified and supported procurement and the standup of new technologies and infrastructure.
We established and led an agile development program with teams staffed by SeaTec, customer and third-party vendor SMEs.
Front and back end applications were developed using a code base designed to maximize re-use but flexible enough to enable customization to address complex business rules and requirements which emerged during development.
Our solution was delivered and production ready on-time and selected to prove the customer’s new and untested cloud-based platform-as-a-service and deployment processes.
MERGER SUPPORT & SYSTEM INTEGRATION
THE CUSTOMER PROBLEM
A customer undertook a merger with another airline to become the largest airline in the world. Both companies had extremely large portfolios of IT applications. Rationalization was necessary to maintain focus on the operations and to achieve the benefits associated with the merger.
One central rationalization effort required the integration of the two company’s Maintenance & Engineering (“M&E”) systems and processes.
Significant revenue and cost savings gains, systems and process integration, business continuity, and legal & regulatory issues. They needed expert help to address this multi-year program
THE CUSTOMER BENEFIT
- Optimized solution – our consultants worked closely with our customer’s stakeholders and our own digital team to ensure processes and systems were optimized. The approach of standardizing onto a common platform with carefully managed deployment and change processes de-risked change management.
- Improved productivity and efficiency – streamlining and then integrating systems made the solution significantly easier to use and support.
- Reduced time to market – leveraging our deep domain experience with similar systems and operations reduced trial & error and related rework.
- Ensured reliable, clean data – use of automation, manual techniques proven on similar projects, and a robust quality assurance methodology improved data quality.
- On time – the ability to augment customer resources with experienced software architects and engineers enabled the project to maintain velocity and surge as required.
THE SEATEC SOLUTION
- Analyze opportunities to standardize, streamline, and consolidate the portfolio
- SeaTec provided program leadership, and domain-specific engineering, technology and systems integration expertise for a multi-year program to integrate two M&E systems and the ecosystem of applications which interfaces with and depended on them.
- Merger experience suggested an approach encompassing analyze, standardize, streamline, and consolidate was optimal. It was defined and agreed.
- Documentation including business requirements, architecture, process and system designs test cases and plans, and implementation plans were developed.
- Facilitated change management process and coordinated the harmonization of business processes
- Analysis of the IT architecture & platform identified a need for investment in order for it to scale. SeaTec architected the requirements, specified, and supported setup of new technologies and infrastructure.
- Designed and developed legacy system interfaces & bridges to support integration and then automated the data migration activities for materials, aircraft, and technical publications.
- Functional system gaps and desired improvements including enhancing the user experience were identified and addressed by the development of new GUI applications.
IMPROVING THE OPERATION WITH DATA DRIVEN INSIGHTS
THE CUSTOMER PROBLEM
One of the world’s largest airlines knew its current-state data architecture fell short of meeting the demands for high-value, near real-time decision support. Data was available but required heavy, manual and time consuming manipulation in order produce the analysis that would better inform the planning and forecasting decisions which would make operational improvements.
THE CUSTOMER BENEFIT
- Operational improvements – Improvement opportunities became known and actionable. analysts and business users through the use of an operations simulator capable of representing aircraft, crew, station, and schedule interactions/data.
- Better and faster decision-making – Automated data capture and analysis processes reduced the time taken (and errors associated with manual entry) for analysts and business users who could now use an operations simulator capable of representing dynamic, real time operational data.
- Enhanced planning and forecasting – Better data enabled the business focus to shift to the development of new and improvement of existing simulation-based models
- Repeatable and sustainable solution – Adoption of a reusable framework and components and a database designed for scalability and reliability shortened delivery time, de-risked delivery and made the solution more easily supported.
THE SEATEC SOLUTION
We provided technical leadership for the design of a scalable, sustainable architecture that combined simulation data structures, routines, and processes to support effective data science models.
The SeaTec team developed data, performance and operability requirements and rules and then architected and developed a Database. Interfaces to data sources and APIs to support customer applications and external data consumers were developed.
Best practices for sustainability and repeat ability were designed into the applications with reusable components.
Automation was deployed to streamline the orchestration of application processes.