““I can’t imagine a day at the office without Gannet – it has never let us down.” User Atlantic Airways’ verdict on Lundin’s Gannet 3 maintenance software.
In many ways the story of Atlantic Airways’ partnership with Lundin Software is the story of Gannet itself.
As William Smith, the Faroese national airline’s Technical Director, recalls, the carrier’s maintenance team found itself in 2000 with a maintenance management IT system whose developers were failing to keep pace with updates to the underlying software.
“Our software just died, so we went out looking for other software,” says Smith, who described how the airline’s mixed fixed wing and rotary fleet posed an additional challenge.“We located a product that looked like it would support both aircraft types but it turned out that, while it was very supportive for helicopters, it didn’t work so well for fixed wing.”
So Atlantic sought help from Jørleif Bech, a young programming specialist, to work on the system with a view to fixing the issues. “We tried to get the software to function but one day my colleagues and Jørleif looked at each other and asked ourselves ‘Should we just develop our own programme?’.”
Bech, who had been poised to take time out and travel the world, rose to the challenge, packing his belongings in his car and heading east to where he believed he would be able to take on developers at more competitive rates than would have been possible in the Faroe Islands or Denmark.
“He ended up in Bucharest and said ‘This looks good!’ He took on two programmers who were highly educated and highly skilled and they started working on Gannet in 2004/5,” continues Smith. Remarkably, those programmers remain part of Lundin’s very stable in-house team today, more than a decade and half later – illustrating the underlying stability of the company and its products.
Initially, the new product, called Piratos, aimed to take on board the best features of other maintenance software packages on the market at the time. But what other programmes did not do was bring the engineering managers, Part-M, and “the hanger”, Part-145 together – this objective began to break completely new ground as a new breed of IT-savvy engineers emerged in the hanger environment. “We were moving towards ‘quiet communication’ – 100 per cent via the system, thus removing the human element. This way we were also able to remove all the misunderstandings that can crop occur when complex tasks are handed over verbally.
“On June 16, 2008, we started working with Gannet live. It was the same day as we started our summer production and it has run consistently ever since,” says Smith. “We have never shut it down and it has never let us down: that’s quite unusual in the software world.”
Smith praises Lundin’s dedication to always keeping no more than half a step behind the latest software developments in the industry. “They keep developing at the leading edge so we combined LESW (leading edge software) with LEAP (leading edge in aviation propulsion, Neo engines. They are an approved Microsoft developer so they can be start using all the new Microsoft products that come on the market.”
This ability to stay out in front is exemplified, says Smith, by the launch this year of Gannet 3. “This is a huge change and it’s not driven by us as customers, but they are always looking to the future.” Continues Smith: “A useful by-product of Gannet is that the very high standards required in helicopter maintenance migrate into the fixed-wing regime, ensuring the highest possible safety standards across both fleets.”
“The system is linked with other software systems, such as the real-time operational software and the electronic flight bag (EFB). Reliability data is sent direct to the design holder (DH) – Airbus and Leonardo Helicopters (formerly Agusta Westland) – and, from the sideline, they monitor all movements of the Atlantic Airways fleet – flight hours, cycles (CYs, or take-offs and landings combined). “We have a real-life scenario unfolding on the timeline as the clock is ticking – a system that’s updated around the clock and then followed up when we get the log pages in”.
“I can’t imagine a day at the office without Gannet – I would just walk out of the door! It fulfils all the special needs associated with running an airline with both fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters – covering A to Z not just in operations but also in compliance with the strict regulations that govern operations in a complex and demanding environment. Everything is done in Gannet – no more Excel spreadsheets and no more yellow tags!”
Smith also praises Bech and his team for the way they carefully manage the expectations of all customers, enabling constant incremental improvement thorough consultation and cooperation.
He sometimes has to pinch himself when he reflects on how resource and cost-efficient Gannet is, especially when compared with other products on the market.
“The system supports us in our work – with some other products you’d have to say that airline is supporting the software system by employing quite large teams just to run the software!”
A key moment in Atlantic’s development was the switch from its BAe Avro RJ fleet to Airbus.
“It was a step up because the aircraft were bigger, more expensive and you had to learn lots of new things, but we thought we had arrived in heaven! On the RJ for example we did 16 engine changes in one year – we haven’t had to do a single engine change on the Airbus since we took the first one in March 2012 – that’s 11 years and counting. Lundin adapted very quickly with anything that was aircraft-specific, moving from mechanically operated to electronically operated.”