Generating more transparency in aviation with blockchain technology

Blockchain technology is still in its infancy. However, as a neutral information documentation system, it has huge application potential. For example, it could increase transparency in flight maintenance. For this reason, Lufthansa Industry Solutions has initiated the initiative Blockchain for Aviation (BC4A).

A consortium of 40 banks is currently testing a range of blockchain solutions in Switzerland. In future, Honduras wants to transfer all land register entries to a blockchain in order to counter unlawful confiscations and corruption. And Estonians are already able to store their marriage certificates in a blockchain. These examples show: Blockchain use cases are diverse and go beyond their application in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.

It makes sense to use blockchain technology anywhere that transparency and comprehensibility are required, as information in a blockchain can be tracked at any time. A blockchain can be described as a computer without hardware. It is a gigantic database whose network protocols are not bound to a specific piece of hardware, but rather decentralized and distributed throughout a number of different computers. This means that a blockchain cannot be manipulated or hacked, and it serves as a neutral information documentation system.

One example of the application of blockchain technology:

With blockchain, information is stored in blocks, each of which contains its own history. Because every block is verified and sealed, the information contained in it cannot be changed and is saved in such a way that it is visible for everybody. This transparency makes it extremely difficult to corrupt and manipulate the information and is of particular benefit if different companies are working together and therefore using the same data – for example in aircraft maintenance.

In future, components could be registered in a blockchain after they are manufactured together with all relevant data – for example serial codes. If a component is installed in an airplane, this information can be saved again in another blockchain. If the part then malfunctions, maintenance technicians can use the information stored to review the exact number of flight hours and to decide whether to replace or repair the part. If it is repaired, this information can then be saved in a separate blockchain for the component in question.

This makes it possible to seamlessly store documentation across different companies – from manufacturers to airlines to MRO service providers (maintenance, repair and overhaul). This is an incredible advance, as it means that the entire maintenance cycle of a single component can be reviewed in its entirety. It reduces risk for MRO service providers in particular, as they can now use blockchain technology to provide verifiable documentation about the parts they have installed at any time. Other blockchain application scenarios in aviation include the secure management of certification from aviation authorities and technicians’ job cards.

Promoting blockchain technology in aviation

In order to compile potential applications of blockchain in the field of aviation and to create joint standards for its use, Lufthansa Industry Solutions has launched the initiative Blockchain for Aviation (BC4A). The goal is to bring together all fields of expertise and to collectively sound out the potentials of blockchain technology. Potential participants include, for instance, software developers, aircraft manufacturers, MRO service providers, logistics providers, lessors and regulators.