Aircraft maintenance costs major U.S. airlines billions every year. Every time there’s a maintenance delay (and a lot of grumpy passengers), the airline feels the impact immediately on its bottom line. Currently, airlines use legacy technology to track and manage maintenance without real-time updates or syncing of historical data with today’s issues.
During his time at AirTran Airways, Shane Ballman helped build a suite of solutions to help run maintenance more efficiently. Following AirTran’s merger with Southwest Airlines, he started seeing how this new technology that tracked, planned, and controlled aircraft maintenance could help more than one airline.
In light of this, Ballman founded aircraft maintenance software SynapseMX in 2015 to market the product to more airlines.
However, despite garnering interest from airlines, no one wanted to be the first to trust “a tiny startup out of Atlanta” with their maintenance compliance data, he said.
Instead, he decided to go back to each one of those prospective customers for targeted feedback and to reassess the startup’s direction.
That was 18 months ago. Today, SynapseMX addresses major maintenance issues with its customers.
Like cars, aircraft have routine maintenance after a certain amount of miles flown and need those routine checkups to protect the value of the plane and maintain compliance.
However, most of this data is currently managed through Excel spreadsheets or clipboards that can be difficult to gather together when needed.
While SynapseMX helps organize scheduled maintenance data, its product also focuses on optimizing unscheduled maintenance, or gate activity. We’re all familiar with this one — you’re about to take off, but there’s an issue with the plane. A short delay turns into an hour or two with no update.
“It’s very hard to handle those,” Ballman tells Hypepotamus. “Those issues outside of routine maintenance are challenging because you’re playing chess without understanding where all of your pieces are when the game starts.”
“We don’t know where all of the people are doing in this particular moment when the issue happened. You’re tracking down the technician, whether the parts are available, deciding whether the plane is able to fly — these different questions need to be answered quickly.”
SynapseMX’s platform helps airport staff manage ticket workflow, stay in touch with technicians on the field, and streamline communications to create better turnaround times during those unscheduled maintenance events. It also tracks real-time status updates.
The machine learning component processes new and historical data to determine how long a repair should take to fix to give more updates to staff and customers plus customizable notifications. It’s also available on most devices. According to SynapseMX, they’re able to boost performance 30 percent or more.
If the airline doesn’t have historical data available, the proprietary algorithms are able to learn details quickly, says Ballman. “We can start to get very granular about this type of problem on this type of plane for this type of error requires X amount of minutes. Those are the sort of things that require institutional knowledge,” he says.
The Atlanta startup previously attended cohorts at 500 Startups and Chattanooga’s Dynamo accelerator. Most recently, SynapseMX joined the International Airlines Group Hangar 51 accelerator program in Spain.
The startup currently operates on a SaaS model and currently isn’t seeking funding. “Since we pivoted, we’ve been really focused on the customers. We want to make sure we build a product that airline customers are crazy about,” he says.