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Communication within maintenance procedures

09 March 2011

Lufthansa Technik AG - based in Hamburg, is a provider of maintenance, repair and overhaul services, as well as modifications for the commercial aviation industry. Fulfilling the stringent safety requirements associated with aircraft maintenance requires innovative solutions that enable more efficient working practices. When conducting tank inspections, for example, there is a risk of explosion. The question is - how can work be made easier and safer at the same time?

Problem
Problems facing the specialists at Lufthansa Technik AG when maintaining and overhauling aircraft include narrow and winding spaces. There is often insufficient space for carrying the necessary equipment, especially when working in the wings. The struts in particular hinder illumination, as they make cable routing difficult.
The tanks are subject to regular inspections. This involves a mechanic entering the narrow confines of the wing, from where he has to communicate his observations to a colleague outside. The question here is: how can a secure connection be established to the outside when working in explosive areas, especially in a narrow tank?
Solution
Wendelin Zahn, aircraft technician at Lufthansa Technik AG in Frankfurt, enthuses: "We are finally able to take a light into the tank without needing any cables. The Lite-Ex PL 30 intrinsically safe flashlight and its modern LED technology can also be used in Ex-zone 0. This helps our engineers enormously when conducting tank inspections." Cumbersome cables are avoided. The flashlight also boasts a long, 40-hour operating period, which is achieved through the use of standard batteries.
Communication while conducting maintenance procedures has only been possible to date through the use of a cabled headset. An experiment conducted with the help of intrinsically safe mobile phones and the associated headsets paved the way for the latest improvement in terms of facilitating working practices.
Mobile communication from the tank interior to the outside: The worker performing the maintenance procedure enters the tank and places his Ex-mobile phone at the tank's entrance. The headset provides him with a Bluetooth connection with a range of up to 10 m. He is thereby able to move freely and safe contact is ensured. The advantage: communication between the two colleagues is enhanced and facilitated during the tank inspection process. The method of working with compressed air from outside the tank and checking the interior with leak detection spray requires good co-ordination between the maintenance engineers.
The Ex-TRA BT headset also comes in useful for other procedures, such as riveting. Hearing protection, safeguarded communication and explosion protection, are integrated in one system. The Ex-TRA BT Bluetooth headset from ecom instruments is particularly suitable for use with the Ex-Handy 05 and Ex-Handy 06 explosion-protected mobile phones, as well as with the entire X.com series from ecom.
Benefit
Efficient operation through optimum communication: Communication is improved significantly through the Bluetooth headset, thereby saving a considerable amount of time.
Another factor is the financial saving presented by the handy flashlight - which is operated via a high-power LED. This represents a significant advantage: power consumption is reduced, the flashlight does not get hot and the light produced is usually brighter than flashlights equipped with conventional halogen or xenon bulbs. The most important factor, however, is that isolating transformers are no longer required. These were previously required to enable low voltage lamps with very long cables to be operated in an explosive area.
Safety is of the highest priority
When maintaining and overhauling aircraft with huge fuel tanks, workers are exposed to dangerous conditions. Operation has been simplified with these intrinsically safe devices.
Wendelin Zahn from Lufthansa Technik AG confirms:
"We have been using the intrinsically safe devices from ecom instruments GmbH successfully since 2006 and they have enabled us to significantly facilitate our maintenance procedures."


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