A woman conducts an inspection of an aircraft avionics bay

Designing faster and smarter with IAMA’s updated Rulebook

Details and Design banner with text on graph paper backgroundYou might not think that a new set of rules and guidelines for creating consistency and improving quality in supplemental type certification would change the world of aircraft cabin design, or extend the life of crucial modifications like ADS-B tracking.

But with the updated Rulebook from IAMA, the Independent Aircraft Modifier Alliance consisting of large players who actually turn those designs into reality, the design process will be easier and faster, and the results a higher quality, than ever seen before. The shared understandings and best practices will make the industry more resilient too.

Indeed, the arrival of the Rulebook couldn’t be more timely, with the industry — both established players and new entrants — racing to implement a variety of measures to fight the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that causes COVID-19. These will almost all need to be certified, and here the supplemental type certification (STC) process IAMA is working on comes in.

Runway Girl Network sat down with Nicole Noack, IAMA’s managing director, and Dimitrios Tsirangelos, its technical affairs manager, to learn more about how IAMA is working to simplify design implementation.

At the most basic level, “whatever you bring in the aircraft,” Tsirangelos explains, “needs to be approved and needs to fulfill authorities requirements.”

The Rulebook enables every person and organisation involved in designing a product to understand precisely what needs to happen to fulfill those requirements. And it means that the companies and technicians doing the work will do it all in the same way, where best practice becomes standard practice.

“The design needs to be certified and so the documentation needs to be there,” Noack notes. “There is a lot of uncertainty, a lot of challenges, if those interfaces are not defined.”

Designers will know what will be required of their products: every single element in a cabin must be certified, either by a type certificate from the original equipment manufacturer or a supplemental type certificate from a supplier.

Inside a "green" aircraft, with no aircraft interiors installed. Two men are seen studying a diagram inside the tube

The new Rulebook is one way to ensure the blueprints match up to the designed product. Image: IAMA

The goal is that airline and lessor customers know exactly what’s happening, when and where — across the many MRO operators who might be doing the screws-and-rivets work — and can specify that modifications be carried out to the applicable standards.

And everyone has sight of interdependencies, avoiding situations like one Noack outlines, where a new product required a safety-critical component with an especially long manufacturer lead-time, which was not spotted in the Critical Design Review phase. The product had to be redesigned, at great financial and programme time outlay, to use an alternative component.

The Rulebook can also ensure that any modification can be used by future operators of the aircraft — something that, indeed, is not automatically a given right now on account of commercial agreements.

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One example Noack gives is an ADS-B safety-mandated installation, “which would make sense to remain in the aircraft, that it is transferable to the next customer commercially. It was not a given that when operator 1 installs an ADS-B modification that, at lease transfer, the next operator is entitled to use that.”

At its core, the rulebook helps to create common language and expectations — between the airline, the aircraft owner if that is different, the designer, the manufacturer, and the modifier organisation or organisations installing it on the aircraft.

Indeed, one of the goals of the Rulebook is to ensure common processes among the installing organisations so that everyone knows what to expect, from conception to design to the first article inspection to installation and production.

This sort of process documentation can be very dry, but it means that design modifications are faster, better planned and higher quality the first time round, that they can be passed on to the next operator of the aircraft, and that they can be “demodified” if a future operator doesn’t want to use them without having to be removed from the aircraft entirely in a costly and complex exercise.

An antenna system being installed atop an aircraft fuselage. Three male technicians are seen in the photo

Ensuring that modifications — and demodifications — are managed effectively is crucial for the IFC world in particular. Image: IAMA

It also helps to deal with the kind of external shocks to which the aviation industry is so prone, and to the designs that help airlines adapt. “New technologies and requirements are driven by innovation,” Tsirangelos notes, “but also by events: the 9/11 event, the COVID event — that bring new modifications, new requirements into the cabin.”

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