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MRO training

Training in a maintenance environment requires both hands-on practical training and ensuring it is conducted in a safe environment with a safe aircraft system, as Mario Pierobon finds

“It may not be at immediate reach to strike a balance between these two dimensions, we have always been looking for solutions in order to conduct training that is safe for the operatives without putting the aircraft or the component or anything in the surroundings in any type of difficult situation,” says Stephan Wiegelmann, Vice President Training Services at SR Technics.


Indeed, a key development in maintenance training in recent years has been the uptake of distance learning. One of the main advantages of this form of learning, according to Wiegelmann, is that: “People do not have to go somewhere far away to be trained, but they are trained in their own work environment. This also makes sure that whatever they are trained on will have the right relevance on the work. Continuous improvement comes with the development of technology. There are a lot of training possibilities as of today, but we have not yet reached the point whereby we can use everything off-the-shelf. Most certainly we will get there. This is demonstrated by the speed of the development of IT. Availability of technology at the right price is something that is coming along on its own. We are getting there as the whole industry is driving in that direction.”


According to Olaf Hoftijzer, Director of Training at Air France Industries KLM Engineering & Maintenance (AFI KLM E&M), the critical mass developed by distance learning is quite low. “Since the payback is based on shorter lead time training, as well as reduction in travel cost to facilitate training, especially for line maintenance international staff. The payback is calculated at one year of training by our staff (about eight classes of max 16 persons),” he says. “The benefits, however, include that there is no dependency of aircraft in correct engine configuration, no disturbance of operation during Practical Training (PT) on aircraft or avoidance of PT during overnight slots at the airport, and a mix of theory and practical training is enabled that allows a reduction in the lead time of training.”


Training customisation is a particularly noteworthy matter when it comes to maintenance training. The extent to which it is possible to customise maintenance training is really dependent on the circumstances. “In every case we need to be compliant. If the legislation asks us to be prescriptive, then we have to be. However, when we get into a training where we can drive the training – such as data and task driven training – there is more room for customisation,” says Wiegelmann. “Component repair is a good example. If we want to make sure of how to make a component repair safe and traceable, then of course we have multiple possibilities on how we can drive maintenance for that piece of technology while being compliant. When we go instead into a classical type training, then of course it is not that we first drive the subjects and then we check compliance, but rather we need to see if the idea that we have is compliant and then if we can drive the idea forward defining the subjects.”

Matching together customisation and compliance in training can be a complex exercise. The European Aviation Maintenance Training Committee (EAMTC) is a platform that has been developed to allow maintenance training organisations to address common issues together. “We work very closely with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the authorities to make sure that when we have to drive a legal question forward or establish new legislation there is a very productive and instructive exchange in the industry,” says Wiegelmann.


Apart from distance learning, new training methodologies are being introduced that involve virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR). “The Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) started about 10-15 years ago with virtual reality, and this is indeed the direction that is being taken. We need to make sure that we train people in a safe environment and technology, as it is available today, offers enormous possibilities,” says Wiegelmann. “We are working in a very specific project on VR and AR. The VR approach has two sub approaches to it, either we do that with a 360-degree video or we do it with a complete virtual reality that is what we do to prepare for the work place training. When we recreate the environment where the person needs to work, we will make sure that the gestures, the process and the procedures are learnt the way they need to be learnt. Then we go one step further with AR. There the person actually works, performs his/her work with additional information given with HoloLenses to make sure that, for example, the right tools are used and the person is ready for the next step, thereby supporting the whole workflow.”


VR and AR are two of the new technologies that AFI KLM E&M’s MRO Lab is also looking into. “Whether you are talking about virtual or augmented reality, other types of use are being experimented with throughout the group, or else are already being used in practical applications, for training technicians on 787 systems in particular, and they are all contributing, like the HoloLens solution, to enlivening, improving and enriching the training experience,” notes KLM E&M. “They open up new opportunities, especially in the sphere of staff training, where they can act as additional drivers to accelerate and simplify instruction. Especially when it comes to expanding the knowledge and understanding of engineers around complex equipment and functions. “This is precisely the test case that was experimented with, based on the training programme developed in partnership with the Dutch aerospace research centre, NLR, and implemented with the help of Microsoft's mixed-reality HoloLens headsets. These can project a hologram of a part or a component in a classroom and trainees can move around it at the same time as they can interact with their peers and the instructor. After a PoC found that the system was workable, a first operational session was organised in Amsterdam with 16 AFI KLM E&M engineers in October 2018, looking at cooling/ventilation systems. In a next future, other scenarios could be developed and implemented like run-up, over-heating, and more”, notes AFI KLM E&M.


Divided into four groups of four, the participants were assigned specific tasks using traditional methods such as pen and paper, as well as computers and the HoloLens. This delivered several benefits, as explained by Hoftijzer: “The trainees are active during the lesson, and share, rather than simply listening to someone explaining how this or that system works. The possibility of moving around freely in this way helps to speed up the learning process. The research we carried out before implementation shows that the knowledge transfer achieved via the HoloLens is greater and more effective than a traditional teaching method. The role of the instructor is also enhanced. Thanks to this new technology, they can now be more attentive to and supporting of their trainees’ individual needs. This solution offers the benefit of freeing us up from limitations in connection with the availability of aircraft and parts. By bringing the aircraft into the classroom, we save time and can align the theory and practice components of the training module.”


 “The HoloLens is a training tool that is used during the theoretical part in the regular classroom at the training location (in SPL or other location, such as third party customers). In our training need analyses the usage of this tool is linked to more efficient training as well as increase in quality by mixing theory and practice and making training more active. This has been evaluated and confirmed in cooperation with the University of Tilburg,” says Hoftijzer. “The HoloLens is driven by the innovation of Microsoft to mix a hologram (VR) with actual surroundings in order to still being able to discuss what you see in class and check, for example manuals. This is different from VR which takes a person in another reality outside surroundings. We also use VR but in more procedural trainings where the student needs to learn following procedures correctly. The HoloLens aims more on the understanding of what you learn (such as troubleshooting) by enabling to show an aircraft part, add simulation (like change in temperature) and then being able to discuss this with other students and/or the instructor.”

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