Advancing Flight Line Maintenance with E-Tools

In FY2009 the cost of DoD maintenance amounted to a whopping $83 billion—a substantial portion of which was devoted to the maintenance of 14,000 aircraft. A recent Air Force Times article cited the U.S. Air Force’s plan to purchase up to 40,000 laptops and convert 65,000 of its technical orders (TOs) into “e-tools” digital format by fiscal 2012, in an effort to make maintenance operations more effective.

So why e-tools over paper TOs, and why now? Understandably, O&M personnel see the advantages of not having to lug four or five heavy books of paper TOs in and out of aircraft. In fact, e-tools will eventually replace more than 13 million pages of technical orders, in turn eliminating countless hours of taxing manual labor and making better use of maintainers’ time on the flight line. It appears that the Air Force has already begun to experience the benefits of integrating this technology, which include ease of use on the flight line, increased efficiency in processing data, a unified network of information and heightened connectivity.

It is clear that the Air Force is committed to providing maintainers on the flight line with the best equipment. A recent article discussed the replacement of paper TOs at Robins Air Force Base and several other bases in Air Force Materiel Command, noting that they’re testing how laptops work in a variety of environments, while also weighing in on potential issues related to battery power and screen brightness.

In order to ensure reliable and efficient management of digital TOs, it is vital that the devices selected be properly tested and deemed fit for the e-tools job. As the largest provider of e-tools to the Air Force, Panasonic Solutions Company works closely with them (and other military branches) to ensure Toughbook laptops and handheld computers are optimized to not just survive the rigors of maintenance environments, but deliver new levels of efficiency as well.