Too big of a question to answer.
Maintenance is about 7-8% of an airlines' budget, and unscheduled is about 50% of the total maintenance costs.
That article is atrocious. It’s a thinly veiled sales campaign indicating that airlines aren’t prepared to analyze what happens related to maintenance. Maintenance accounts for about 7% of the operating budget at an airline. It depends on airline, but usually about 50% is scheduled (preventative) maintenance and the other 50% is unscheduled maintenance. Parts will always fail, so airlines try to get the most covered under scheduled maintenance since that is more manageable and cheaper to resolve.
First off, I think the premise is moving unscheduled maintenance into a scheduled maintenance program. Airlines have a scheduled maintenance program developed based on the OEMs guidance and requirements. The maintenance program is based on maintaining the safety and integrity of the airplanes and to prevent unscheduled maintenance. Maintenance programs have evolved dramatically. In the 1960s, United, FAA, NASA and Boeing developed MSG (Maintenance Steering Group) logic for how to conduct reliability centered maintenance. The premise is developing a maintenance program based on what fails and trying to predict it. Today there has been quite a bit of evolution. The industry is now doing MSG-3 analysis. Boeing, Airbus, Bombardier and Embraer routinely work together on creating requirements with the regulatory authorities are FAA, EASA and Transport Canada.
To put it simply, every failure mode is evaluated to the highest manageable level and then all failure causes are reviewed. It is determined based on impact of a failure (safety, operational or economic and hidden or evident) if a maintenance task should be created. The intervals are chosen based on predicatable reliability data and it is looked at the risk of failure and the opportunity of each task.
To get back to data, airlines have very robust logs of maintenance. The latest industry standard is SPEC 2000. The world’s leading airlines are all using that data format. This data is reviewed as a part of the reliability centered maintenance program which is required by the FAA, EASA and Transport Canada. Systematic problems are required to be identified and addressed. Airlines have some flexibility, for example some times fixes are optional such as incorporating Service Bulletins, but the airline must be aware.
And finally for the larger data picture, both Boeing and Airbus routinely review the maintenance of their entire fleets. The leading airlines all participate in data sharing. Airbus and Boeing do it differently. Airbus has various circles of support, while Boeing analyzes the data internally. The OEMs then optimize their maintenance program based on findings data from all around the world. This is used to adjust the intervals to catch the ideal number of events in scheduled maintenance without creating a maintenance program that is too much of a burden on operations. Airlines can then customize their own program. Both Boeing and Airbus will customize a maintenance program and there are third party companies that will do the same for smaller tier airlines.
Here are some quotes from that article that are completely are not correct in my opinion:
For example, a maintenance planner could download a defect notification from a plane as it occurs and have the maintenance crew and replacement parts ready by the time the plane pulls up to the gate. Even better, airlines could eventually use the data to predict and take action before the problem occurs.
This is already done! The airplanes have airplane health monitoring. The maintenance controller already gets this data and can work on getting the parts necessary to fix the airplane before it lands or have a mechanic ready to meet that airplane to issue a deferral. Airlines also already develop scheduled maintenance programs to predict the problems before they occur. The FAA requires each airline to have a reliability centered maintenance program.
Even more importantly, inefficient maintenance operations create safety hazards. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel recently chastised the Federal Aviation Administration for years of inattention to “lax airline maintenance.” Then there’s the wasted fuel and pollution caused by poor maintenance information.
Inefficient maintenance causes safety hazards!?! Who is that author to make such a claim. The safety record alone indicates that safety related events are extremely rare. Airlines are required to report significant safety problems as a part of the SDR (Service Difficulty Report must be filed to FAA within 48 hours) and the COSP (Continued Operational Safety Program) must be reported to the OEM within 1 week. All of this is tracked and evaluated.
Trouble is, that’s just the beginning of the data. Besides the plane itself, the other sources include the airline, aircraft manufacturers, external maintenance providers, regulators, and spare parts suppliers. Some of the data are structured (e.g., held within a database) but a significant subset—a pilot’s handwritten logbook entries, a technician’s notes—is unstructured
That is a problem of the past and is why SPEC 2000 was created.
If you have never designed an airplane part before, let the real designers do the work!