From new and pre-owned aircraft sales to on-demand charter to MRO services, every segment of the private aircraft industry is experiencing unprecedented growth. And it’s no different with all the “support” services springing up throughout aviation.
Take the aircraft records digitization segment, for example. Everyone with a spreadsheet program and a scanner is offering to “digitize” your aircraft’s valuable records and logbooks. And while they all sound alike, they’re not. It’s important to understand all the features (like search, share and analytics) and benefits that digitization provides for you and these invaluable records.
The problem for most aircraft owners is deciphering all the techno talk that goes on anytime you discuss a records digitization company’s service offerings. And you don’t want to discover that they’re not what they seem after you’ve spent the money.
So, to help you separate the wheat from the chaff when looking for an aircraft records digitization vendor, here are 10 questions you should ask to help determine if the solution you’re considering will deliver the benefits you need.
#1: Is their software FAA-compliant?
It’s not going to save you time and money if the digitization software solution does not meet FAA compliance. If the provider you are talking to hasn’t heard of FAA Advisory Circular 120-78A or FAR 43.12, move on. The AC gives complete guidance on what the FAA requires for compliance with their electronic records-keeping requirements including falsification, reproduction, or alteration. Consumer storage apps like Dropbox, Sharepoint and Google Drive do not follow the circular due to the ability to delete and overwrite files by users.
#2: What is their ongoing commitment to innovation?
It’s important to be sure the vendor has knowledge and commitment to keeping up with the ever-changing software industry as it changes daily. Do they have a history of releasing product updates. Do they listen to their customers and make improvements to their product offering based on this feedback? Do they offer an option for API integration? Do they have a record of innovating to keep up with software and aviation trends?
#3: Where are the digitized records stored?
Is their solution cloud-based, on-premise, or a hybrid? This matters. That may not seem like a major point, it is. Having records stored securely in the cloud has many advantages. One of the significant benefits is that most cloud hosting solutions have regular back-ups and redundant/disaster recovery already built in. You also gain the ability to access that information from wherever the airplane is by just opening up your browser on your phone or laptop. Also, with cloud-based solutions, there’s no additional hardware to buy or maintain at your facility. One less thing to deal with.
#4: What are their security measures and service uptime?
Your aircraft’s logs and records are extremely valuable, so the security surrounding them is extremely important. For example, does the provider do routine SOC 2 cybersecurity audits? How often do they backup the data? Is the data encrypted? Does the vendor track uptime, because 4-9s should be the goal.
#5: Can you provide references from current happy customers?
Like any other comparative situation, ask for references from their current business aviation customers. Why do flight departments (charter operators or owners) choose their product? What specific features are most beneficial? Ask them what’s the company like to work with. How easy is the solution to set up and use? Ask them for examples of how the product has benefited their operation.
#6: How much of the scanned data is searchable and accessible?
Digital doesn’t automatically mean easily searchable. If the answer you receive isn’t all of it down to complete character recognition including handwritten words and numbers, you won’t be getting full access to all of your data – especially searching across your entire fleet. Talk to the provider about their use of A.I. and auto OCR/indexing. The best tools use innovative technologies like the auto-indexing of every word in the uploaded document. It should be easy, fast and simple to search for a keyword to find the information you need.
#7: What scanning processes do they offer in support of onboarding?
Many smaller records digitization services require you to ship your valuable records to them. It may seem harmless, and in most cases, it is. But, consider the cost and risk if those records go missing or are damaged. Ask if the scanning facilities are SOC 2 and/or HIPAA compliant to give you that added protection. Many owners don’t want their aircraft logbooks to ever leave their location, or at least close by to their hangar. Do they offer local scanning locations? Do they offer to come to you? Well, if they don’t offer several options, you’re talking to the wrong people.
#8: Is their digital platform built for flexibility and accessibility?
As discussed in question #2, the ability to provide innovation is important but also to offer more enhancements than just digitized records. Do they offer unlimited users and storage? Is there a secure sharing option to provide access for maintenance crews if an aircraft is AOG? Do they offer the ability to view the data based on your preferences and historical timeline? Do they integrate with other aviation software tools to allow for cross-platform searching?
#9: What is the expected onboarding timeline, and what do you have to do?
If the provider is truly a player in this segment, they should have no issues laying out every step of the process, including records scanning, uploading, and training. Be sure they offer ongoing support services. Customer service is golden, especially these days, so ask if you have access to a real person, or is their service department a box of robots?
#10: How do they price their services?
Last but certainly not least, you must determine how the provider’s pricing structure works. Be sure the pricing is clear and straightforward with no hidden fees. Do they charge by the individual aircraft, storage size of the scanned documents, or what? Do they charge extra for remote backup? Do they offer “discounts” for onboarding other aircraft to the service?
Yes, you can contact multiple aircraft records digitization services and get answers to all of these questions – if you have the time.
Or you can make it easy and visit www.bluetail.aero or ask for a demo, you’ll find we’re the one company with the service that has built all these important security and scalability features into their solution.
JSSI Traxxall now integrates with Bluetail