Bigger than Big Data

Image result for flightglobal aerospace big dataOn Sept. 11-12, ARSA Vice President of Operations Brett Levanto participated in FlightGlobal’s Aerospace Big Data Americas in Miami. During the event’s second day, Levanto spoke and then participated in a panel discussion on “bridging data science and maintenance.”

Levanto reviewed the maintenance community’s personnel needs and how they align (or conflict) with the expansive interests of advanced analytics in aviation. His presentation set the stage for a continued discussion about the human factors at play in technical advancement and how the industry must address its workforce challenges.

Asking for a show of hands, Levanto counted attendants who had ever worked as a mechanic, maintenance engineer or aircraft technician and then for those who currently engage directly with technical personnel. Observing the very few with personal experience and the minority connecting with technicians, he underscored the human impact on both data generation and analytical application in maintenance.

ARSA VP of Operations Brett Levanto queries the Big Data Americas audience regarding personal experience with aircraft maintenance.

Using that baseline, Levanto explained the broader need for technical skills in the industry, recruitment challenges facing aviation employers and the demands on all involved to change how aviation careers are considered.

“The maintenance community is trapped,” he said. “It still relies on old paradigms for recruitment and talent development, overvaluing certifications, failing to consider changing competency requirements and struggling under outdated training rules – and depending far too much on them – all while failing to consider the changing needs of the talent market.”

As evidence for change, he cited the industry-wide effort to overhaul the FAA’s “Overview of the Aviation Maintenance Profession” and its successful coalition building in support of new talent development programs. Levanto explained that proponents of advanced analytics must learn to see their own needs, as aviation stakeholders, in the context of that broader profession.

During the following panel discussion, Levanto joined colleagues from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, Cirium and Qatar Airways to discuss workforce development. He used this additional time to challenge cultural perspectives on technical careers, question the need for FAA oversight of aircraft maintenance technician schools and compare different sorts of data and technical “literacy” required by various tiers in the maintenance chain.

The event’s most interesting other development related to data ownership. Despite repeated assertions that aerospace businesses are devoted to collaboration, Shawn Gregg, general manager of predictive technology engineering for Delta Air Lines, asserted that business-minded operators will share data only in consideration of business needs and outcomes. This realistic perspective – that commercial entities will be strategic in use/control of any resource that has either direct or indirect value – surprised some in the audience but provided a sensible grounding for further exploration of information-sharing issues.

The second day wrapped with multiple sessions on cybersecurity awareness anchored by presenters from industry consultancy Oliver Wyman, which produces ARSA’s annual market assessment.

ARSA VP of Operations Brett Levanto participates in a panel discussion at the Big Data Americas event.

The presenters explained data integrity risks and offered strategies for mitigating them at every link in chain of maintenance and operations; noting that customers, air carriers and suppliers will avoid unsecure organizations. The security challenge was then illustrated by Daniel Stein, branch chief in the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, who said: “There are two types of organizations out there, those who have been breached and those who don’t know it.”

Overall, Levanto found the event to be an expansive exploration of factors surrounding technical advancement in aviation.

“Since this is my second year [participating in Big Data Americas], it was great to see a true willingness to realistically consider challenges, like skills gaps, data ownership or cybersecurity threats, alongside exciting and much-hyped advancements in technology,” Levanto said, also highlighting the value of U.S. government participation via presentations from both the FAA (on recordkeeping and aircraft health system monitoring) and Homeland Security (on cybersecurity workforce risks and solutions). “I see my role here as connecting the ‘big data big thinkers’ in this room with the people working on actual shop floors and flight lines. This group came to make those and many other kinds of connections, taking insights from across the aviation community and beyond.”

To learn more about the Big Data Series, visit:

Previously Aerospace Big Data event updates...

8/21/19 - Going Back for More 'Big Data'

August 21, 2019

On Sept. 11-12, ARSA Vice President of Operations Brett Levanto will return to Miami for FlightGlobal’s Aerospace Big Data Conference.

Levanto will join an industry panel on “bridging data science and maintenance.” The moderated discussion will cover advanced skills development, workforce demands and personnel training related to developing technologies. 

To learn more about the event and plan your own participation, visit In addition to ARSA, the following organizations are currently represented on the planned agenda:

Austrian Airlines
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Ford Motor Company
Frost & Sullivan
Gol Linhas Aéreas Inteligentes
JetBlue Technology Ventures
Ohio University
Oliver Wyman
Qatar Airways
Southwest Airlines
TAP Air Portugal
WestJet Encore

9/14/18 - Beyond Big Data Buzzwords

September 14, 2018

On Sept. 12, ARSA Vice President of Communications Brett Levanto spoke during FlightGlobal’s Big Data Americas event in Miami about aviation technology advancements and their impact on business and regulatory matters.

The two-day event had begun on Sept. 11 and featured presenters, panelists and participants from across the aviation world. It was the second installment of FlightGlobal’s series focusing on “Big Data”: operational information and analytical tools used to predict maintenance needs, improve system efficiency and reduce costs.

“I came here as much to learn as to share,” Levanto said, reflecting on the apparent disparity between the “buzzword” laden topics championed by aviation media and the actual interests of the small business-dominated repair station community. “We read all the time in the trade press about well-hyped developments like ‘big data,’ but for most of the industry these enhancements feel more myth than reality. I came here to try and decode that difference.”

Levanto participated in the panel discussion “How are data and technology developing a new ecosystem for maintenance?” He joined moderator Jon Hemmerdinger from FlightGlobal and Jazz Aviation’s Aircraft Contracts Manager Tiymor Kalimat. The three built off key topics that had emerged during the event’s first day; they explored data ownership, contracting requirements and likely regulator responses to emerging technologies.

“The people performing this [analytical] work are pretty excited about it, so I allowed myself to become excited, too.” Levanto said. “Aircraft are already gathering and storing reems of data during each flight. Getting access to it in a timely manner, building mechanisms to analyze it, making predictions based on that analysis and providing transparent access to the entire process could be a transformational challenge for the industry.”

To learn more FlightGlobal’s continuing series of “Big Data” events, visit:

Talk Big Data with Brett

ARSA members and industry colleagues with experiences to share or questions about the use of analytical data and predictive maintenance should contact Levanto at

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