How important is tool control and accountability in the aviation industry?

Prevention is Better than Cure

Modern aviation is one of the safest and most secure forms of transport. In part, this is down to the rigorous safety and security checks that are carried out pre-flight. But what most people miss is the extraordinary lengths which airlines go to behind the scenes to ensure that the planes are as safe as possible.

This starts with something as simple as making sure that no foreign objects and debris (FOD), including tools, are left in any part of the machinery following routine servicing.

What are the CAA and Faa tool control regulations?

Most UK airlines have a Tool Control and Accountability policy in place, as outlined by The Civil Aviation Authority, under policy 145-2 Equipment, Tools and Materials – OTAR Part 145.109 and in the U.S under The Federal Aviation Administrator. AC No: 150/5380-5B The policies are very similar, but in the U.K the CAA specifies the following:

    “(a) All tools and equipment that are required to be controlled in terms of servicing or calibration by virtue of being necessary to measure specified dimensions and torque figures etc, should be clearly identified and listed in a control register including any personal tools and equipment that the organisation agrees can be used.

   (b) The control of such tools and equipment requires that the organisation has a procedure to inspect/service and, where appropriate, calibrate such items on a regular basis and indicate to users that the item is within any inspection or service or calibration time-limit.

  (c) A clear system of labelling all tooling, equipment and test equipment is therefore necessary giving information on when the next inspection or service or calibration is due and if the item is unserviceable for any other reason where it may not be obvious. A register should be maintained for all precision tooling and equipment together with a record of calibrations and standards used.

 (d) Inspection, service or calibration on a regular basis should be in accordance with the equipment manufacturers’ instructions except where the organisation can show by historical calibration and/or servicing results that a different time period is appropriate in a particular case.”

Key to this is the fact that organisations such as airlines, need to be able to inspect and monitor the tools and equipment that are being used to service their planes. If a toolbox contains a random jumble of spanners, screwdrivers and other tools, how can an airline possibly tell if one is missing?

Ensuring that all aviation mechanics adhere to these regulations can be a time-consuming process, both for the mechanic and the airline.

It is however, a critical process, as the primary objective of most tool control policies is to ensure the elimination of aircraft accidents and incidents that are caused by improper accountability of tools.


The Importance of Tool Control in the Aviation Industry

Leaving a tool in or near an aircraft or its engine is not just an inconvenience, but a safety risk. In 2015, an Airbus Helicopter crashed in Australia after a tool had been left behind during maintenance.

Tool control is essential to ensure that all aviation tools can be accounted for at the end of the day. This can only be achieved if each tool as a place where it can be stored – therefore allowing for quick identification if a tool is lost or misplaced.

Issues with tool quality control cost the aviation industry over £500 million every year, and foam inlays such as Shadow Foam are the preferred choice of most aviation maintenance companies.

The CAA regulation states that tools should be clearly identified and listed and labelled and available for inspection on a regular basis. Shadow Foam provides a simple solution to make this a simple process.

What is Shadow Foam?

Shadow Foam™ is a high-quality foam that can easily be cut and shaped.  The material comes in a variety of grades, meaning it can be customised according to your requirements for a cost-effective solution.

The beauty of this is that it cuts cleanly with no snags or pulls, leaving behind a clean-cut area, ideal for creating inserts no matter what the shape or size of the tools.

To find out more about Shadow Foam click here.

How is Shadow Foam used in the aviation industry?

Within the aviation industry, many engineers are using Shadow Foam™ to secure their tools and equipment inside their toolkits. Shadow Foam™ boards are turned into inserts for toolkits for safe and organised storage.  The shapes of the tools are cut into the foam to create secure pockets for the items to sit in. Take a look at our the gallery and you will see how simply Shadow Foam™ brings order to your aviation toolkit.

When applied to the Rollcab or Chest toolboxes it instantly organises every tool and allows for easy tool accountability. Customers who use Shadow Foam™ also report that they find it much easier to find specific tools and as it is totally customisable, you can, if you wish, organise your tools so the most frequently used are in easy reach.

Shadow Foam™ also makes it easy for engineers to check, at a glance, that all tools have been returned to the toolkit which helps to meet airline regulations and policies and prevent accidents.

What are the benefits of securing tools using Shadow Foam?

As well as making it quick and easy for engineers to check their tool inventory, using Shadow Foam to store tools has several other benefits:

Reduces risk of foreign objects and debris – FOD, or foreign object debris, is one of the biggest hazards faced by the aviation industry. Tool FOD, caused by tools being mistakenly left behind by engineers during construction and maintenance tasks can pose a very serious threat to aircraft and safety. Keeping tools organised and secure using Shadow Foam reduces the risk of tools accidently being left behind and causing serious damage and risk to safety.

Improves engineers’ efficiency – When each tool has its own space in the toolkit it quickly highlights when one is missing, making engineers less likely to lose tools or turn up at a job without a tool they require.  When the toolkit is neat and organised it also helps engineers to complete tasks faster and more efficiently.

Secures tools – Storing tools in a foam board rather than having them loose in a toolkit protects and secures individual tools to avoid them becoming damaged during transportation.

Reduces tool expenses – Specialist tools and equipment can be extremely expensive, and aircraft maintenance requires the highest quality of tools.  Packing tools into Shadow Foam reduces the risk of overlooking a missing tool when packing up after a job, saving on expenses for replacing missing tools.

Improves accountability – The need to put safety and efficiency at the heart of aircraft maintenance means accountability and audit trails are essential in the aviation industry. Engineers in both military and commercial situations are addressing this issue by bringing in enhanced performance and control inventory which gives greater visibility when it comes to tool control. Shadow Foam™ means that everyday accountability is a simple process.

If you work in the aviation industry and tool control is an issue you need to solve, then call us today on 0808 168 2878 or email [email protected]