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I used to work for a company making maintenance software for the shipping industry. Each component, from a cylinder in an engine to the furnace has to be inspected after (e.g.) 10,000 running hours, or every 2 years, etc.

My question is:

  • Are task cards like the one below still used in aviation, or is there a more up-to-date way of working nowadays? (The PDF I got this from is 10,000 pages long)

  • What must airlines do to ensure their planes are maintained according to schedule?

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    $\begingroup$ I voted to close as there are simply too many airlines out there (each with their own maintenance systems), which makes the question too broad. Also, some of the questions asked are rather opinion-based (such as "are paper records still used/usually sufficient" -- each airline comes to their own decision about whether paper records are sufficient). $\endgroup$ – Qantas 94 Heavy Dec 18 '13 at 12:58
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    $\begingroup$ @Qantas94Heavy RE: each airline comes to their own decision about whether paper records are sufficient, this is the kind of information I'm looking for. Do airlines have a choice over what they use? I thought maybe it was subject to specific regulations? $\endgroup$ – Danny Beckett Dec 18 '13 at 13:57
  • $\begingroup$ @DannyBeckett: well so long it was demonstrable to the relevant authorities that using paper records would be manageable, then I suppose it would be fine. The thing is the examples. $\endgroup$ – Qantas 94 Heavy Dec 18 '13 at 13:59
  • $\begingroup$ @Qantas94Heavy My question, in brief, is: are task cards still used, or is there a more up-to-date system now? I've just been trying to find a PDF online with some Boeing task cards, but I can't find them now. I don't know whether I'm allowed to redistribute the PDF I have, but here's the first page: i.imgur.com/Asf99T2.png $\endgroup$ – Danny Beckett Dec 18 '13 at 14:07
  • $\begingroup$ @DannyBeckett I feel like this question would be better for now if it just focused on the task card aspect. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Dec 18 '13 at 14:22
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I just watched Engineering Giants - Jumbo Jet Strip-Down, following a British Airways 747 on its D-Check in 2012.

At least for BA, it would seem that paper task/job cards are still heavily used. Apparently there are over 12,000 individual jobs.

I've taken a short (7 secs) clip from the episode, showing walls full of task cards:

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    $\begingroup$ That is an impressive array of paper! $\endgroup$ – voretaq7 Dec 28 '13 at 4:38
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I'm not sure about for "general maintenance", but the AMT Handbook chapter on inspections has some language that piqued my interest while I was trying to sniff out an answer.
It says that:

The appropriate checklist or checklists must be utilized to ensure that no items will be forgotten or overlooked during the inspection.

The FAA feels so strongly about this they even go on to say:

Always use a checklist when performing an inspection. The checklist may be of your own design, one provided by the manufacturer of the equipment being inspected, or one obtained from some other source.

Task cards are basically a checklist (or I guess more accurately a "check book" - you go through and reference/fill out each card as you perform the task indicated, and the FAA wants mechanics to use checklists (at least on inspections, and with the standard implied OR ELSE hanging out there), so I'd imagine they're still in use in some form (though the paper / PDF product may have been replaced by something fancy and electronic).

I imagine there are some pretty slick electronic checklist/task card systems out there by now (AvPro Software seems to offer one that I stumbled on with a quick Google search, no comments on quality), but I'm just the dumb slob what flies these things and I don't know much about the maintenance end - just enough to know I know enough to be dangerous if left alone with a screwdriver :-)

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I know this is an old question but wanted to share my experience with you. The short answer to your first question is: yes, airlines still use task cards in maintenance.

True, information technology has come along in leaps and bounds. Many airlines have leveraged technology in how they produce their task cards, but ultimately, most still rely on paper. The primary reason for this is that each task needs to be signed off by an appropriately licensed engineer, and the task card then becomes a legal document. Since airlines are increasingly outsourcing their maintenance all over the world, until digital sign-offs are widely accepted in the industry, it doesn't make sense for the airline alone to go fully digital.

It is changing, but due to the highly regulated nature of the industry, innovation can take time to trickle down.

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  • $\begingroup$ and in many remote places those digital means may not even work reliably... $\endgroup$ – jwenting Nov 30 '16 at 7:37

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