With more than 250 aircraft in its fleet, including large models such as the Airbus A380 and Boeing 777, and around 30 different emergency items on each aircraft, keeping track of emergency equipment represents a large task for Emirates. In order to streamline its tracking operations, the airline has implemented RFID technology.
RFID (radio frequency identification) is a system whereby digital data encoded in RFID tags is captured by reader handsets via radio waves. Other airlines use similar technology, but Emirates says it completes the largest number of RFID scans for inflight emergency equipment on a daily basis. The airline has to keep track of around 133,000 life vests, as well as baby survival cots, defibrillators, first aid kits, fire extinguishers, medical kits, oxygen bottles and generators and protective breathing equipment across the fleet – amounting to around 180,000 emergency equipment items in total. The technology also helps the engineering team maintain emergency equipment across the board with 100% data integrity and compliance, providing accurate inventory forecasts.
Taking the Airbus A380 as an example – Emirates has 112 A380-800s in its fleet – each has 820 pieces of emergency equipment on board that used to take 350 minutes to manually inspect. Each of Emirates’ 144 Boeing 777 aircraft has 540 pieces of emergency equipment that used to take 270 minutes to manually inspect. According to the airline, thanks to the RFID application, Emirates Engineering can scan an A380 in just 11 minutes (a 97% time saving), while a Boeing 777 can be scanned in six minutes (a 98% time saving).
The airline has more than 1,800 mechanics trained to complete aircraft scans. Pre-RFID, to confirm the serviceability of the life vest, these mechanics were required to individually access stowage under each of the passenger seats, which could range from 489 to 615 seats on an A380, and from 354 to 428 seats in a Boeing 777, and physically read the identification labels. Now with all life vests and emergency equipment RFID tagged, a mechanic simply walks through the cabin with a handset that receives all the data, which is uploaded to the Cloud and is then available to the team on any device for future scans.
The system generates a full and updated list of serviceable life vests and their exact location. It highlights seats without life vests, or those that are reaching expiry dates, enabling quick replacements.
Ahmed Safa, Emirates’ divisional SVP for engineering said, “We are always on the look-out for technology and its applications that boost compliance, efficiencies, employee wellness and, ultimately, the bottom line. Rolling out RFIDs for emergency equipment tracking has made our teams extremely proud on three counts: it ties in with our stringent safety standards; it minimises the challenges presented by our massive operations and fleet; and it showcases our people’s passion and skillsets. Multiple teams have worked on making this project a stellar success.”