Wednesday, April 29, 2009

United States Patent 7,300,499
WWW.USPTO.GOV
Fleisher November 27, 2007

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Airplane air purifier


Abstract
An airplane air purifier employs high voltage electrostatic ionic air charging grid and precipitator plates for the removal of particulates and contaminants, together with germicidal capabilities provided by an ultraviolet wavelength band UVC illuminator within the purifier. The purifier is adapted to operate from the aircraft passenger cabin electrical supply or alternately from replaceable or rechargeable batteries. The purifier provided with one or more nozzle adapters to removably and supportively install the air purifier to the typical varieties of aircraft passenger air vent nozzles. The air purifier is small in size and light in weight so as to be easily carried onboard the flight and installed without issue to the air vent nozzle, whereby the air purifier purifies the ducted cabin air in the plane before diffusing into the passenger's breathing air space.


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Inventors: Fleisher; Aaron L. (Las Vegas, NV)
Appl. No.: 11/437,557
Filed: May 19, 2006

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Current U.S. Class: 96/16 ; 422/186.04; 422/186.3; 96/224; 96/55
Current International Class: B03C 3/016 (20060101)
Field of Search: 96/16,55,80,96,224 422/24,121,186.04,186.3



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References Cited [Referenced By]

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U.S. Patent Documents

3403252 September 1968 Nagy
3798879 March 1974 Schmidt-Burbach et al.
3844741 October 1974 Dimitrik
4203948 May 1980 Brundbjerg
4990313 February 1991 Pacosz
5240478 August 1993 Messina
5433772 July 1995 Sikora
5993738 November 1999 Goswani
6063170 May 2000 Deibert
6149717 November 2000 Satyapal et al.
6322614 November 2001 Tillmans
6623544 September 2003 Kaura
2006/0078476 April 2006 Yuen


Foreign Patent Documents

2036951 Jul., 1980 GB

Primary Examiner: Chiesa; Richard L.
Attorney, Agent or Firm: Galasso; Raymond M. Galasso & Associates, LP
WWW.GAPATENTS.COM
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Claims

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What is claimed is:

1. An airplane air purifier for removal of contaminants from a passenger air vent air stream, the purifier comprising: a ducted air housing having an air inlet end, a germicidal treatment portion, an ionic purification portion, an ozone and chemical filtration portion and an outlet air diffuser taken in sequence; a means of removably and supportively coupling the inlet end of the housing to a ducted aircraft air vent nozzle; an electrical power source; a voltage inverter for converting low voltage DC to a high voltage to ionize the air stream; and an ionizing air cleaner comprising: an air ionizing member to electrically charge the air stream; a plurality of electric precipitator plates located downstream of the ionizing member, the plates for attracting and removing contaminants from the air stream; and a user replaceable activated carbon charcoal filter for removing remaining ozone and odors from the air stream, wherein the air purifier removes or neutralizes contaminants from the air passing through it, and wherein the purified air is diffused into the breathing space of the passenger.

2. The airplane air purifier of claim 1, wherein the means for removably and supportively coupling the inlet end comprises: a plurality of nozzle adapters, the adapters removably connect able to the air inlet end of the purifier, each nozzle adapter sized adapted to interface to and supportively attach the air purifier to at least one type of aircraft passenger vent nozzle, wherein the air purifier is attachable to common varieties of aircraft air vent nozzles in use today.

3. The airplane air purifier of claim 2, further comprising: an ultraviolet UVC germicidal light source for destroying germs, viruses, and bacteria in the air stream, the light source mounted near the inlet side of the housing; and an ultraviolet reflective layer disposed on interior walls of the germicidal portion of the housing, the reflective layer to increase the germicidal effect of the light source by reflecting UVC light source radiation from the interior walls back into the germicidal portion such as to further irradiate the ducted air flow.

4. The airplane air purifier 3, wherein at least one nozzle adapter comprises a pliant tubular coupling having a ratchet clamp thereon, the pliant coupling sized to fit over an aircraft passenger seat eyeball type air vent nozzle, the coupling having a tubular rubber compression doughnut seal secured therein, the seal interposed between the coupling and the air vent, the ratchet clamp circumferentially compressable and latch able so as to compress the pliant tubular coupling seal and sealably mount the tubular coupling onto an outer periphery surface of the air vent.

5. The airplane air purifier of claim 4, wherein the electrical power source comprises the aircraft electrical system.

6. The airplane air purifier of claim 5, wherein the germicidal light source is a low voltage small form ultraviolet UVC wavelength rated mercury arc lamp suitable for embodiments having a small housing size.

7. The airplane air purifier of claim 4, wherein the germicidal light source is one or more ultraviolet UVC wavelength rated light emitting diodes.

8. The airplane air purifier of claim 7, wherein the electrical power source comprises batteries within the purifier housing.
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Description

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FIELD OF THE DISCLOSURE

The disclosures made herein relate generally to the field of air filters and purifiers and, more specifically, to the portable ionic air purifiers adapted to electronically remove contaminants from an air stream emitting from a passenger air vent in a commercial aircraft.

BACKGROUND

Ionic air purifiers are available in various sizes, such as floor standing or desktop units designed to clean the air within a room, to larger units designed to install into the heating and ventilation system of a residential or commercial building.

Ionic air purifiers pass an inlet air stream over one or more ionizing wires or an ionizing wire grid. The ionizing wires impart an electrical charge to the air flow, creating charged molecules known as ions, some of which eventually cling to airborne particles. In the case of air ionizers, the charged air is released as treated air. More sophisticated types of air purifiers include an electronic precipitator. Electronic precipitators add a set of oppositely charged particle collection plates, the plates having an electric charge opposite to that of the ionizing wires, and hence opposite to the charge of the particles reaching the plates. The oppositely charged collection plates attract the charged particles from the ionizing wires and due to the static charge, deposit the particles removed from the air stream onto the precipitator plates. In the precipitator type of air purifier, the precipitator plates must be cleaned at regular intervals of use to remove the accumulated particulate debris from the plates. A drawback of electronic ionic air purifiers is that all ionic purifiers generate some amount of ozone. Ozone is produced as a byproduct by the high voltage present at the ionizing wires as the high voltage converts oxygen into ozone.

Ionic air purifiers clean the air by electro statically removing both visible and invisible particles as small as 1/1000th (0.001) of a micron. These include allergy-causing pollens, exhaust and tobacco smoke, dust and even airborne bacteria.

An airplane passenger or crew cabin provides a unique environment compared to the conditions that most people encounter in their daily lives. The density of occupation in the passenger cabin is much higher than in any but the most crowded bars and theatres, and the available air volume is limited, as well as only a limited volume of make up air to replace stale cabin air. The relative humidity level in the aircraft cabin is generally lower than is encountered in buildings in any but the coldest parts of the world in winter due to the low temperatures outside the aircraft and low atmospheric pressure compared to the aircraft interior. In the cabin environment, as in any environment, thermal conditions as well as air pollutants and humidity levels affect the perceived air quality, and then there are the real air quality concerns of bacterial, particulate and chemical contamination either carried on board with the passengers or remaining in the aircraft fuselage and air vent passages from previous flights. The closed cabin and high density of occupation, together with the recirculation of the cabin air provides an efficient means of dispersing germs and viruses from sick passengers to those who are not yet infected but are now at risk within the airplane.

Aircraft air quality is a real problem for millions of travelers and thousands of airline employees. In recent years, a report from the National Research Council found evidence suggesting that a number of problems with the air circulating in passenger cabins may cause health problems. The report listed concerns that ozone levels in the cabin air may exceed regulatory standards, that oxygen pressure may not be adequate to protect passengers with pre-existing heart or respiratory diseases and that the air may be contaminated with traces of engine oil, hydraulic fluid, de-icing solutions, and even pesticides sprayed on international flights. Not surprisingly, those most affected are flight attendants and other crew members, some of whom have been complaining for years about headaches, blurred vision, dizziness, nausea and other health problems which they attribute to poor quality cabin air. Recently Alaska Airlines flight attendants won a $725,000 out-of-court settlement based on their contention that design flaws in two types of planes the airline flies had allowed chemical fluids to mix with cabin air and make them sick. However, the flight attendants lost a subsequent suit against the planes' manufacturers.

Even more recently and very illustrative of the dangers of aircraft cabin air is an article in Reuters News Service published on Apr. 13, 2006, wherein U.S. public health officials expressed concerned about an unexpected outbreak in mumps in the Midwest United States, and most notably the U.S. public health officials "are concerned that some people may have been infected (with mumps) on airline flights." More than 600 people were reported sick in Iowa with mumps, a once common childhood disease that was believed to be eradicated with the use of measles, mumps and rubella vaccines in the 1950s and 60s. Quoted in the Reuters article, the United States Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports "This outbreak has spread across Iowa, and mumps activity, possibly linked to the Iowa outbreak, is under investigation in six neighboring states, including Illinois (four cases), Kansas (33 cases), Minnesota (one case), Missouri (four cases), Nebraska (43 cases), and Wisconsin (four cases)." Serious complications are associated with mumps, including meningitis, encephalitis, inflammation of the testicles or ovaries, inflammation of the pancreas and permanent deafness, among others. As with other viruses, mumps is transmitted by coughing and sneezing the virus contagions into the air where they are carried and later inhaled by other non-infected passengers. Of course, the high passenger density and closed confines of an aircraft passenger compartment together with the contaminant laden recirculation air system of the plane makes this all too easy. Mumps is "about as contagious as influenza", the CDC said. Especially alarming is that those infected can pass along the virus to others for three days before they exhibit symptoms of the illness themselves, wherein they are not identifiable as ill before boarding the plane. The Reuters article notes that the CDC "said it was tracking two people who took nine flights in April (2006) and asked anyone showing symptoms of mumps to report to state health officials if they had been on the flights." The CDC has begun use of a new system to track travelers who may pass viruses on air flights.

Other Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Center for Biosecurity are raising concerns with the CDC seeking information on the specifics of the CDC's plans, if any, for the pre-emptive monitoring of international air flight travelers in the case of a pandemic of H5N1 bird flu, which is expected to eventually mutate to transfer easily human to human and has been likened by some in the medical profession to be the potential `Black Death` of the 2000s.

A limitation of currently known ionic air purifiers is that they are relatively bulky in size and not capable of use onboard an aircraft, where from the above discussion, such a device is sorely needed. For an air purifier to be truly effective for the passenger, the purifier must directly connect to the passenger air vent so as to purify the air stream before it is directed into the passenger's personal breathing space. Conventional air purifiers are bulky, require substantial power to operate, and most importantly they are not directly connectable to an aircraft air vent to clean the ducted cabin air.

A primary means of air purification in ionic air purifiers is the chemical destruction of pollutants by ozone and the electrostatic precipitation of particles as the result of charging of the air stream in the ionizing grid.

A limitation of currently known ionic air purifiers is that they do not have a means to remove residual ozone generated by the ionic purifier from the purified air stream before it returns to the environment. Ozone is a known irritant and needs to be removed from the air stream to the greatest practical degree, especially within contained space of an aircraft.

Therefore, an airplane air purifier which is designed for direct installation over existing aircraft passenger air vent nozzles, a purifier which removes or destroys a wide variety of contaminants, particulate matter, viruses and bacteria, one which is safe to the user and the other passengers on the aircraft, one which provides a solution to the significant health problems associated with aircraft passenger cabin air as outlined in detail above, such an airplane air purifier would be useful and novel.

SUMMARY OF THE DISCLOSURE

Accordingly, embodiments of the inventive disclosures made herein comprise a portable ionic air purifier for installation on the passenger air vents of a commercial or private aircraft.

In a first embodiment of the inventive disclosures herein, the airplane air purifier comprises a ducted air housing having an air inlet end, a germicidal treatment portion, an ionic purification portion, an ozone and chemical filtration portion and an outlet air diffuser, taken in the order of air flow through the housing. Included on the inlet end is a means of removably and supportively coupling the inlet end of the housing to an aircraft air vent nozzle. The air purifier is light weight and small enough in size to be supported by the passenger air vent nozzle in the aircraft. Passenger air vent nozzles in commercial aircraft are typically, although not always, eyeball type swivel vents having a neck portion for positioning the eyeball vent to direct air flow to the passenger. The diameter of the neck on the eyeball vent typically, although not always, is in the range of 1 inch to 1.5 inches in diameter. Embodiments of the subject air purifier is adapted to attach the nozzle of such air vents and to be directly interposed between the aircraft ducted air and the passenger's breathing air space. Preferably the air purifier is provided with one or more vent nozzle adapters, the nozzle adapters removably connectable to the air inlet end of the air purifier, the nozzle adapters in various configurations adapted to interface and attach the air purifier to the variety of aircraft passenger vent nozzles in use on aircrafts flying today wherein embodiments of the subject air purifier are adapted to attach to conventional types of aircraft air vents and intercede between the cabin ducted air supply and the passenger's breathing air space. As air first enters the air purifier, it encounters the germicidal section having an ultraviolet (UV) lamp which emits short wavelength UV light in the germicidal spectrum (UVC). For highest germicidal efficiency the UVC light source should emit at around 260 to 270 nm wavelength. The air duct region surrounding the UVC light source is provided with a UVC reflective material to multiply by reflection the germicidal effect of the UV lamp emissions. Certain embodiments of the subject air purifier are battery operated, and in such battery operated embodiments the UVC lamp is necessarily of limited wattage so as to conserve battery life and limit the space requirements for the UVC lamp. In such battery powered embodiments the use of reflective materials in the germicidal portion of the air purifier are especially beneficial. It is seen as preferable that the aircraft air purifier be powered from the aircraft cabin power supply or the plane as this permits the use of higher wattage and therefore higher UVC intensity germicidal lamps within the air purifier.

After the ultraviolet lamp germicidal portion the air moves into the ionic purification portion of the housing. The air first passes through one or more ionizing wires. The wires are energized at a relatively high voltage of several thousand volts. The ionizing wires impart an electrical charge to the molecules air flow, creating charged molecules known as ions, some of which eventually to cling to airborne particles. A corona created on the ionizing wires generates ozone which is capable of chemically reacting with organic molecules so as to break down organic contaminants, this in addition to the germicidal action of the earlier UVC lamp. The air flow next encounters the electric precipitator or particle collection plates, which are energized in a polarity opposite to that of the ionizing wires. The oppositely charged collection plates attract the charged particles from the ionizing wires and due to the static charge thereon from the inverter of the air purifier, deposits the particles removed from the air stream onto the precipitator plates. The ionizing and precipitator plates are energized by an inverter contained in a portion of the ionic purification portion of the housing. In the case of the `Z` shaped embodiment, the inverter may be located in a base portion directly under the ionic purification portion. In other embodiments the inverter may be located in the air purifier in a location where space and electrical wire routing best permits. The inverter converts a relatively low voltage supply to the high voltage required to drive the ionizing wires and electrical precipitator plates. In the case of embodiments of the subject air purifier of the present inventive disclosure which are powered by the aircraft passenger cabin electrical supply circuits, this may be a 12 volt or 42 volt direct current supply, or may be a 115 volt alternating current supply, or other voltage supplies as available within the passenger cabin of various airframes in current use. Other embodiments of the subject air purifier can be powered by self contained batteries, either rechargeable or disposable varieties. The low power consumption of the ionic wires and precipitator is quite low, making the powering of the subject air purifier from batteries quite feasible. Depending on the type of germicidal lamp used, the largest consumer of electrical energy in the airplane air purifier can be the germicidal UVC lamp. For example for illustration, using a commonly available germicidal mercury arc UVC GTL3 series miniature lamp having an ANSI standard E17 base lamp powered at 10 volts, the lamp consumes 3 watts, or about 300 mA at 10 volts. In the case of battery powered embodiments, for lower power consumption and on longer flights the UVC lamp can be switched off if desired, although its use is highly desirable. The power consumption of the UVC germicidal lamp is a motivator for the use of externally powered embodiments powered directly from the aircraft cabin electrical supply.

Air flow leaving the precipitator plates in the ionic precipitator portion then enters the ozone and chemical filter portion of the housing. The airplane air purifier is equipped with an activated charcoal filter to help remove odors that may have made it past the ionic purifier, as well as to remove ozone to the extent practical. Ozone is produced by all ionic air purifiers as a byproduct to the air ionization process. Ozone in significant concentrations is an irritant to the human body and it is desirable to reduce its presence in the outlet air stream of the purifier. A limitation of conventional ionic purifiers is that they do not provide a means of removing ozone from the outlet air stream. In the air purifier according to the inventive disclosures herein the purifier is provided with a replaceable activated charcoal filter located after the ionic purifier portion of the housing. Activated charcoal has been tested and shown to be very effective in removing ozone from an air stream directed through the activated charcoal filter. An article as published in the American Industrial Hygiene Association Journal of September, October 1999, summarizes the results of a study at the University of Minnesota on the removal of ozone using activated carbon filters. The findings include the following quotation "Activated carbon filters can be very effective at ozone removal, although not indefinitely because chemical reactions of ozone and carbon change the carbon." Therefore the addition of a user replaceable activated carbon filter following the ionic purifier can be advantageous in two ways, first by absorbing additional odors and chemical from the air stream that may have made it past the ionic purifier and secondly by removing ozone created in the ionic purifier from the air stream and thereby preventing the addition of another chemical irritant to the aircraft cabin air. The combination of the above elements comprises the essential elements of the air purification embodiments of the present inventive disclosures.

The air purifier according to the present invention is designed to operate quietly as it has no moving parts and relies upon the forced air flow through the aircraft air vent to provide the motive force to drive the air through the air purifier.

Filtered and purified air flows then into the outlet portion of the housing where it flows through diffusers and out into the passenger compartment and to the passenger seated below the air purifier.

In a second embodiment of the airplane air purifier particularly suited to low power operation from self contained batteries, the mercury arc UVC lamp is replaced with one or more ultraviolet UVC spectrum rated light emitting diodes (LEDs). The LEDs consume nominally 20 mA each up to 50 mAs each for the `superflux` LED varieties and so greatly reduces the power drain compared to the GTL3 series or larger more effective UVC lamps as envisioned for use with the present inventive disclosure.

In a third series of embodiments of the airplane air purifier according to the inventive disclosures herein, the airplane air purifier is provided with means of connecting an external direct current power source, eliminating the need for batteries internal to the air purifier housing. Embodiments of the externally powered air purifiers are well supplied with the power to utilize higher wattage UVC lamps such as available UVC rated mercury arc lamps to provide potent germicidal irradiation of the ducted aircraft cabin air.

It is an objective of the present invention to provide an airplane air purifier which is adapted to remove or neutralize virus contagions present in the ducted air systems of aircraft and thereby reduce the risk to the traveling public of exposure to or infection from airborne chemical, bacterial and other contaminants, thereby contributing to the public health and well being.

It is an objective of the present invention to provide an airplane air purifier which is easy to carry onboard an aircraft and which can be easily installed to and removed from a variety of typical commercial plane air vent nozzles.

It is another objective of the present invention to provide an airplane air purifier which in preferred embodiments is operable from the aircraft cabin electrical system such as to allow for the use of higher wattage UVC germicidal lamps.

It is another objective of the present invention to provide an airplane air purifier in certain embodiments which can operate on battery power alone for a reasonable amount of time, the expected onboard duration of a typical air flight.

It is an objective of the present invention to provide an airplane air purifier which is adapted to be powered from conventional alkaline batteries for the duration of a typical flight.

It is an objective of the present invention to provide an airplane air purifier which is adapted to be powered by rechargeable batteries for the duration of a typical flight.

It is another objective of the present invention to provide an airplane air purifier which utilizes a simplified design to reduce cost, weight and size.

It is another objective of the present invention to provide an airplane air purifier which provides radio frequency shielding around the inverter, charging and precipitator plates so as to reduce any chance of generated radio frequency interference onboard the aircraft.

It is another objective of the present invention to provide an airplane air purifier which uses to advantage the forced air flow on the cabin passenger air vent system, and thereby eliminates the weight, power consumption, noise and additional cost of including a fan internal to the air purifier.

It is another objective of the present invention to provide an airplane air purifier having a corona discharge and precipitator collection system for killing pathogens, detoxifying chemical pollutants, and electrostatic capture of undesirable particulates in the air stream.

It is another objective of the present invention to provide an airplane air purifier which incorporates a user replaceable activated carbon after filter to remove or degrade any odors still present in the air stream after the ducted air stream passes through the ionic air purification section of the purifier.

It is another objective of the present invention to provide an airplane air purifier which provides a replaceable activated carbon filter to remove generated ozone from the air stream.

It is another objective of the present invention to provide an airplane air purifier that operates quietly and has no moving parts.

It is another objective of the present invention to provide an airplane air purifier that contributes to the health and safety of the air traveling public.

These and other objects of the invention made herein will become readily apparent upon further review of the following specification and associated drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The drawings show a form of the invention that is presently preferred; however, the invention is not limited to the precise arrangement shown in the drawings.

FIG. 1 depicts block diagram single line schematic of the airplane air purifier in accordance with the inventive disclosures presented herein.

FIG. 2 depicts a cutaway view of one particular embodiment of the airplane air purifier in accordance with the inventive disclosures herein.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

In preparation for explaining the details of the present inventive disclosure, it is to be understood by the reader that the invention is not limited to the presented details of the construction, materials and embodiments as illustrated in the accompanying drawings, as the invention concepts are clearly capable of other embodiments and of being practiced and realized in various ways by applying the disclosure presented herein.

FIG. 1 depicts block diagram single line schematic of the airplane air purifier in accordance with the inventive disclosures presented herein. the airplane air purifier comprises a ducted housing 1 comprising a contained passageway for air to flow from an air inlet end 2, through the purifier and then exiting the air outlet end or diffuser 6.

Upon entering the purifier, the air flow first encounters the germicidal treatment portion 3 of the purifier. The germicidal section having an ultraviolet (UV) lamp 18 which emits short wavelength UV light in the germicidal spectrum (UVC). For highest germicidal efficiency the UVC light source ideally has a peak emission at around 260 to 270 nm wavelength. The germicidal treatment portion surrounding the UVC light source is provided with a UVC reflective material liner so as to multiply by reflection the germicidal effect of the UV lamp emissions. The UVC lamp is electrically powered by the germicidal lamp power converter 32.

The air flow next enters the ionic air purification portion 4 of the purifier and passes through one or more ionizing wires 14. The ionizing wires 14 are energized at a relatively high voltage of several thousand volts. The ionizing wires impart an electrical charge to the molecules air flow, creating charged molecules known as ions, some of which eventually cling to airborne particles. A corona created on the ionizing wires generates ozone, which is capable of chemically reacting with organic molecules so as to break down organic contaminants, this in addition to the germicidal action of the earlier UVC lamp. The air flow next encounters the electric precipitator 15 or particle collection plates, which are energized in a polarity opposite to that of the ionizing wires 14. The oppositely charged collection plates 15 attract the airborne particles charged by the ionizing wires and due to the static charge thereon from the inverter of the air purifier, deposits the particles removed from the air stream onto the precipitator plates 15. The ionizing and precipitator plates are energized by a high voltage inverter 16 and a rectifier 17. The inverter 16 converts the power supply to the higher voltage required for the ionic air purification. The rectifier 17 converts the output of the inverter to a direct current high voltage supply to charge the ionic wires 14 and collection plates 15.

After leaving the ionic purification portion of the air purifier, the air flow then enters the ozone and chemical filtration portion 5 of the purifier containing an activated charcoal filter to help remove odors that may have made it past the ionic purifier, as well as to remove ozone to the greatest extent practical. The activated charcoal filter 19 has a limited life and is therefore replaceable by the user. The air leaving the air outlet 6 or diffuser is purified air ready to be dispersed into the breathing space of the airplane passenger. Power switch 20 is available to turn the purifier on or off.

FIG. 2 depicts a cutaway view of one particular embodiment of the airplane air purifier in accordance with the inventive disclosures herein. In this embodiment, but not in all embodiments, the airplane air purifier ducted housing 1 comprises a `Z` shaped housing. The `Z` shaped housing reduces the overall height of the purifier, while allowing space for required components and thereby reduces the intrusion into the passenger's head room space above the passenger seat. The ducted air housing 1 has an aircraft nozzle adapter 11 which is threadably and removably secured to the ducted housing of the purifier. The nozzle adapter is adapted to supportively and removably engage with the aircraft passenger air vent nozzle 8, in the illustrated case this is an eyeball type nozzle commonly used in passenger aircraft. The nozzle adapter 11 is provided with a pliable rubber donut seal interposed between the body of the nozzle adapter 11 and the aircraft passenger air vent nozzle 8. The donut seal provides a supportive closure between the nozzle 8 and the nozzle adapter 9 so as to supportively secure the purifier to the airplane air vent. Below the nozzle adapter 11 is the germicidal treatment portion 3 of the air purifier, comprising a UVC spectrum germicidal portion 3 is a UVC reflective coating or film. The ionic air purification portion 4 comprises a set of ionizing wires 14 placing a charge on the air stream which then encounters a set of oppositely charge precipitator plates 15. Airflow leaving the precipitator plates then enters the ozone and chemical filtration portion 5 having an activated charcoal filter 23 for removal of residual chemicals missed by the ionic purifier, odors as well as ozone. The air is dispersed into the plane passenger's breathing space through outlet air diffuser 6. The diffuser is threadably and removably secured to the air purifier ducted housing to permit the user to replace the activated charcoal filter 23 on a periodic basis. Electrical power cable 25 connects the airplane air purifier to the aircraft cabin electrical supply. The cable is equipped to be removably connect able at both the aircraft overhead electrical connector 26 and a power connector 27 located on the airplane air purifier. Battery pack 29 powers the air purifier when external electrical power is unavailable. Voltage step-up inverter circuit board 30 provides the high voltage required to drive the ionizing wires 14 and precipitator plates 15.

The illustrated exemplary embodiment is only a possible embodiment of the inventive concepts and disclosure presented herein. The invention is not limited to the physical shape and configuration depicted, to the contrary, the inventive disclosure presented herein may be realized in various physical housings. The invention breadth is covered by the claims presented herein.

The discussed construction, illustrations and sequence of operation is for one embodiment of the invention but is in no way limiting to other embodiments. The operating modes may be changed and enhanced without deviating from the intention of this inventive disclosure.

In the preceding detailed description, reference has been made to the accompanying drawings that form a part hereof and in which are shown by way of illustration specific embodiments in which the invention may be practiced. These embodiments and certain variants thereof have been described in sufficient detail to enable those skilled in the art to practice the invention. It is to be understood that other suitable embodiments may be utilized and that electrical, electronic, logical, material, and mechanical changes may be made without departing from the spirit or scope of the invention. To avoid unnecessary detail, the description omits certain information known to those skilled in the art. The preceding detailed description is, therefore, not intended to be limited to the specific forms set forth herein, but on the contrary, it is intended to cover such alternatives, modifications, and equivalents, as can be reasonably included within the spirit and scope of the appended claims. For more information please go to WWW.GAPATENTS.COM or WWW.GOOGLE.COM.

Monday, April 27, 2009

United States Patent 7,305,956
WWW.USPTO.GOV
Thomas , et al. December 11, 2007

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Device for use in starting a model airplane engine


Abstract
A device for starting a model airplane engine from a starter motor, electric drill or other drive means. The device for starting a model airplane engine comprises a cylindrical hub having an open end and a closed end, the hub having tubular sidewalls attached to periphery edges of the base and extending towards the open end of the hub. The tubular sidewall is provided with two slots. The slots are positioned diametrically opposed across the axis of revolution of the hub. A substantially flat bumper bracket extends outwards from the hub through the slots. The bumper bracket is equipped with elongated side bumpers attached at opposing ends of the bracket, the side bumpers extending forward from the hub and adapted to interface with and torsionally drive a model airplane propeller. The starting device transferring rotary torque from the drive means to the airplane propeller and engine to crank the engine and thereby facilitate starting of the engine.


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Inventors: Thomas; Edmund R (Red Bluff, CA), Thomas; Joan A. (Red Bluff, CA)
Appl. No.: 11/405,785
Filed: April 18, 2006

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Current U.S. Class: 123/179.27
Current International Class: F02N 11/12 (20060101)
Field of Search: 123/DIG.3,179.27,179.25



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References Cited [Referenced By]

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U.S. Patent Documents

1417508 May 1922 Foster
D139314 October 1944 Lyman
2385963 October 1945 Beard
D145407 August 1946 Miller
3190276 June 1965 Diggs
4363604 December 1982 Broberg, Jr.
5407151 April 1995 Singhal
5535713 July 1996 Braddock
6085711 July 2000 Gerst
6655336 December 2003 Arlton
6837202 January 2005 Lu
6968821 November 2005 Otsuki

Primary Examiner: Cronin; Stephen K.
Assistant Examiner: Castro; Arnold
Attorney, Agent or Firm: Galasso; Raymond M. Galasso & Associates LP
WWW.GAPATENTS.COM
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Claims

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What is claimed is:

1. A model airplane engine starting device comprising: a cylindrical hub having an open end and an opposing closed end hub base, the hub having an axis of revolution, the hub comprising: a tubular sidewall having two slots, the slots diametrically opposed across the axis of revolution, the sidewall secured to a periphery edge of the hub base; a starter unit adapter flange, the flange comprising: a top end secured to the bottom portion of the hub base; a driven end distally spaced from the flange top end; and a flange body attached to and spanning between the driven end and the top end, the flange body having two or more opposing driven faces, the driven faces sized and adapted to receive a rotary torque drive from a drive means; a substantially flat elongated bumper bracket having two opposing ends, a top face, a bottom face and a center portion about an axis of symmetry, the bracket received into the two slots in the tubular sidewall, the bracket bottom, face secured to the top portion of the hub base substantially such that the axis of symmetry of the bracket aligns with the axis of revolution of the hub; a pliable circular ring shaped center prop hub donut, the donut secured within the tubular sidewall to the top face of the bumper bracket, the donut aligned such that a center of the ring substantially aligns with the axis of revolution of the hub, the hub donut adapted to cushion contact between the hub and a propeller; and two elongated propeller side bumpers having two opposing ends, the bumpers secured near opposing ends of the top face of the bumper bracket, one at each opposing end of the bracket; the bumpers extending outwards from the bumper bracket away from the hub base, the bumpers to engage against the trailing edge of a model airplane propeller to transfer rotate torque to spin the propeller for engine starting.

2. The model airplane engine starting device of claim 1, wherein the hub, tubular sidewalls, hub base and flange comprise aluminum; the bumper bracket comprises steel flat stock; the center prop hub donut comprises nylon; and the propeller side bumpers comprise nylon.

3. The model airplane engine starting device of claim 2, wherein the drive means is an electric model airplane engine starter.

4. The model airplane engine starting device of claim 1, wherein: the hub, tubular sidewalls, hub base and flange comprise steel; the bumper bracket comprises steel flat stock; the center prop hub donut comprises rubber; the propeller side bumpers comprise nylon; and the flange body comprises steel, the flange body having six driven connected peripheral faces forming a hexagonal shaft.

5. The model airplane engine starting device of claim 4, wherein the drive means is a cordless electric drill.

6. The model airplane engine starting device of claim 3, wherein: the bumper bracket comprises 1/8 inch steel flat stock; the bumper bracket has a length of between 2.5 to 3 inches from end to end; and the cylindrical hub has a diameter of between 1.5 to 2.5 inches.

7. The model airplane engine starting device of claim 5, wherein: the bumper bracket comprises 1/8 inch steel flat stock; the bumper bracket has a length of between 2.5 to 3 inches from end to end; the cylindrical hub has a diameter of between 1.5 to 2.5 inches; and the hub, tubular sidewalls, hub base and flange comprise type 4142 steel.
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Description

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FIELD OF THE DISCLOSURE

The disclosures made herein relate generally to the field of model airplanes designed for powered flight, and to gas engines for powering model airplanes, and more particularly to devices to be used in starting a model airplane engine. Even more particularly the disclosures herein relate to devices which are designed to interface between the propeller of a gas powered model airplane and a motorized device for cranking and starting a model aircraft gas engine, thereby eliminating hand starting.

BACKGROUND

Model airplanes built for flight including radio controlled model airplanes are typically equipped with small gas engines to propel the aircraft. These engines are typically started by hand, that is using the fingers to spin the propeller and the connected engine crankshaft until the model airplane engine catches and runs independently. A typical way of accomplishing this is by holding the model aircraft in one hand and then using the free hand to spin the propeller, thereby mechanically operating the engine until the engine catches. A serious limitation of this method of starting the model plane engine is that the person starting the plane may have fingers, hand, face, forearm and possibly hair and clothing near or in potential contact with the aircraft propeller. When the task succeeds and the engine eventually comes to life, the spinning propeller can inflict serious injury to the person starting the engine. Typical model airplane engines operate in the vicinity of 10,000 to 25,000 revolutions per minute, and so the risk of bodily injury to a person having parts of the body in or near the path of a spinning propeller is quite substantial. Larger gas model engines make the task of hand starting even more difficult due to the increased torque required to crank the engine, together with the higher torques achieved by the larger engines in operation and therefore increased risk of bodily injury from a spinning propeller when starting the engine.

In starting a model aircraft engine it is advantageous to spin the engine at higher revolutions per minute (RPMs) than can be readily achieved by hand cranking the engine. Spinning the engine at higher RPMs can provide a hotter spark to the spark plug or glow plug while at the same time more quickly clearing a possible flooded condition, which is quite difficult to clear by hand cranking alone.

Hand-held electrically powered starter motors designed for use in starting model airplane engines are commonly available from a number of manufacturers. Typically electric starters are powered from a convenient and portable 12V DC power source such as a car battery or the smaller lawn tractor or motor cycle battery. Such starters are often equipped with a rubber boot on the end of the starter drive shaft. The rubber boot is designed to press against the cone cap of the propeller and thereby transmitting the rotary torque of the starter to the plane propeller and gas engine. This rubber boot method of coupling the starter to the model engine is workable, however, it may require an undesirable amount of force to be applied to the airplane propeller cone cap and model to achieve sufficient frictional coupling to transmit enough torque to spin the model airplane engine for starting. Not all model airplanes are equipped with propeller cone caps, some have a bolted on propeller and in such cases the rubber drive boot on the electric starter may not be sufficient to crank and start the model engine.

Therefore, a device which is designed to interface a variety of model airplane starters to a model airplane, which improves the mechanical torque transfer coupling between the starter and the airplane propeller and engine allowing sufficient starting torque to be delivered to the gas engine from the starter, a device that overcomes the slippage and limited torque transmission capabilities of the prior art starter coupling methods, that further reduces the need for hand starting and improves operator safety by removing hands, fingers, clothing from the vicinity of the model aircraft engine during starting, such a device for use in starting a model airplane engine would be useful and novel.

SUMMARY OF THE DISCLOSURE

Accordingly, embodiments of the inventive disclosures made herein comprise devices for use in starting various sizes and types of model airplane engines, that when applied in conjunction with appropriate motorized drive means simplifies the task of starting a model aircraft engine.

In a first and at least one embodiment of the inventive disclosures made herein, the model airplane engine starting device comprises a cylindrical hub having an open end, and a closed end having a hub base, the hub further having tubular sidewalls joined to periphery edges of the base and extending towards the open end of the hub. The tubular sidewall of the hub is provided with two slots diametrically opposed across the axis of revolution of the hub. An adapter flange for interfacing with a drive means is secured to the backside of the hub base. The adapter flange comprises a top end secured to the bottom portion of the hub base, a driven end distally spaced from the flange top end, and a flange body attached to and spanning between the driven end and the top end. The flange body is additionally provided with two or more opposing driven faces, the driven faces sized and adapted to receive a rotary torque drive from a drive means.

Mounted to the base in the hub at the closed end of the hub, and extending through the two slots is a substantially flat elongated bumper bracket having two opposing ends, a top face, a bottom face and a center portion about an axis of symmetry, the bracket received into the two slots in the tubular sidewall, the bracket bottom face secured to the top portion of the hub base substantially such that the axis of symmetry of the bracket aligns with the axis of revolution of the hub. Two elongated propeller side bumpers are secured to the bumper bracket, one at each opposing end of the bracket. Rotary torque from the drive device is transmitted through the hub adapter flange to the hub, then through the bumper bracket to the propeller side bumpers. The side bumpers contact and press against the trailing edges of the propeller applying a twisting torque about the shaft of the propeller and engine and thereby completes the transfer of rotary motion and torque from the power drive device to the model airplane propeller and gas engine.

A pliable circular ring shaped center prop hub donut spacer is provided within the tubular center of the hub and secured to the base of the hub or, in some embodiments, to the bumper bracket. The pliable ring provides a resting pad for the propeller cone cap or propeller bolts while the model airplane starting device of this inventive disclosure has its propeller side bumpers engaged with the propeller in preparation for and while starting the model airplane motor. The hub donut spacer permits the model engine starting device of this inventive disclosure to be used with single nut prop mounts as well as with multi-nut prop mounts. Once the engine has started then the model airplane starting device and the drive means are retracted away from the face of the spinning propeller by the operator, thereby disengaging the model airplane starting device from the propeller and engine.

In another embodiment, the model airplane engine starting device of the first embodiment is modified to have a drive means adapter flange having two drive faces. The flange is sized and adapted to torsionally engage with the drive coupling of commonly used electrically-powered model airplane starter motors, the hub and bumpers transferring the rotary motion torque to the propeller of the model aircraft for starting the model gas engine. One preferred example of an electric drive starter motor for use with the model airplane starting device of the this disclosure is the Sullivan model engine starter, model number S603, as marketed by Sullivan Products of Baltimore, Md., USA. Other available model airplane starter motors are compatible with this embodiment.

In another embodiment, the model airplane engine starting device of the first embodiment is modified to have a drive means adapter flange having six driven connected peripheral faces, the faces forming a hexagonal shaft. The shaft is sized and configured to fit the drive chuck of a standard cordless electric drill, whereby the electric drill can be used to provide rotary torque to the airplane propeller and motor through the model aircraft starting device of the present inventive disclosure. Advantages of this embodiment include the elimination of the need to purchase a separate specialty model airplane starter motor by permitting use of a common cordless drill the model airplane operator may already own.

In one or more embodiments of the inventive disclosures made herein, the model airplane starting device utilizes aluminum for the hub including tubular sidewalls, hub base and flange. The center propeller donut spacer comprises nylon or rubber. The propeller side bumpers preferably comprise nylon, and the bumper bracket comprises nominally 1/8 inch thick flat steel stock. The invention is not limited to the use of the materials outlined herein. This disclosure provided as for additional enablement and as a form of the invention that is presently preferred.

In one or more embodiments of the inventive disclosures herein, the propeller side bumpers are provided with threaded tapped holes in the base of the bumper, and each bumper is attached to the bumper bracket by use of a single #10-32 machine screw. The screws allow the propeller side bumpers to be removed for easy replacement if necessary.

It is an objective of the inventive disclosure made herein to provide a model airplane engine starting device which is designed to eliminate the need for hand cranking of the model plane engine.

It is another objective of the inventive disclosure made herein to provide a model airplane engine starting device which is designed to reduce the chance of serious injury to a person starting the model plane engine by removing hands and fingers from the vicinity of the spinning propeller.

It is yet another objective of the inventive disclosure made herein to provide a model airplane engine starting device which is designed to interface with a variety of commonly available model airplane electric starter motors.

It is another objective of the inventive disclosure made herein to provide a model airplane engine starting device which can be used with a conventional cordless electric drill as the motive power device, thereby eliminating the need for the model plane operator to purchase a separate electric starter and battery.

It is yet another objective of the inventive disclosure made herein to provide a model airplane engine starting device which by design reduces the required front loading pressure between the propeller and a starter motor. The model airplane engine starting device of the present inventive disclosures provided a more positive transmission means of rotational torque to the plane propeller by eliminating common friction type starter to airplane engine drive interfaces.

These and other objects of the invention made herein will become readily apparent upon further review of the following specification and associated drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The drawings show a form of the invention that is presently preferred; however, the invention is not limited to the precise arrangement shown in the drawings.

FIG. 1 presents a perspective view of the model plane propeller interface side of one embodiment of a model airplane starting device in accordance with the inventive disclosures herein.

FIG. 2 presents a perspective view of the starting device drive side of one embodiment of a model airplane starting device in accordance with the inventive disclosures herein.

FIG. 3 presents a side view of one embodiment of a model airplane starting device in accordance with the inventive disclosures herein.

FIG. 4 presents an assembly view of one embodiment of a model airplane starting device in accordance with the inventive disclosures herein, said starting device shown engaged with the propeller of a model plane, and the adapter flange of said starting device torsionally engaged to the drive coupling of the preferred model airplane electric starter as discussed earlier.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

In preparation for explaining the details of the present inventive disclosure, it is to be understood by the reader that the invention is not limited to the presented details of the construction, materials and embodiments as illustrated in the accompanying drawings, as the invention concepts are clearly capable of other embodiments and of being practiced and realized in various ways by applying the disclosure presented herein.

Turning now to FIG. 1 and FIG. 3:

FIG. 1 depicts a perspective view of the model plane propeller interface front side of one embodiment of a model airplane starting device in accordance with the inventive disclosures herein. FIG. 3 depicts a perspective view of the driven side of one embodiment of a model airplane starting device in accordance with the inventive disclosures herein.

The model airplane engine starting device 1 comprises a cylindrical hub 2 having an open end 3 and an opposing closed end forming a hub base 4. The hub having a tubular sidewall extending forward from the base, the sidewall secured to peripheral edges of the base. A pair of diametrically opposed slots 6 are formed through the tubular sidewall. A starter unit adapter flange 7 is secured to the back side of the hub base. The adapter flange side secured to the hub being the top end of the flange. The adapter flange having an opposite driven end 9. The adapter flange body is attached to and spanning between the driven end and the top end of the flange. In the depicted embodiment the flange body has two distally spaced flat drive faces 10. The adapter and driven faces are sized and adapted to receive a rotary torque drive from a drive device, for the depicted embodiment the drive device is a conventional model airplane engine hand held electric starter motor. A substantially flat elongated bumper bracket 11 is secured to the hub base and extends through the slots 6 in the tubular sidewall. Two elongated propeller side bumpers 13 are provided, each one secured to an opposing end of the bumper bracket 11. The side bumpers extend outwards from the bumper bracket away from the hub base and, when positioned in front a model airplane for use, towards the model plane propeller. When used for starting the plane engine, the bumpers are engaged against the trailing edge of the model airplane propeller to transfer rotary torque to spin the propeller for engine starting. A pliable circular ring shaped center prop hub donut spacer 12 is placed and secured to the top face of the bumper bracket within the hub, the donut aligned such that the center of the ring substantially aligns with the axis of revolution 19 of the hub, the hub donut spacer adapted to cushion contact between the hub and the propeller or propeller cone cap.

Turning now to FIG. 2:

FIG. 2 depicts a side view of one embodiment of a model airplane starting device in accordance with the inventive disclosures herein. The cylindrical hub having an open end 3, and an opposing end closed by a hub base. The adapter flange 7 having a driven end 9 and a top end 8 secured to the hub base. A substantially flat elongated bumper bracket 111 is secured to the hub base and extends outwards from the tubular sidewall of the hub. Two elongated propeller side bumpers 13 are provided, each one secured at opposite ends of the bumper bracket, the side bumpers extending forward from the hub for interface with the model airplane propeller trailing side edges for delivery of rotary torque to start the airplane engine.

Turning now to FIG. 4:

FIG. 4 presents an assembly view of one embodiment of a model airplane starting device 1 in accordance with the inventive disclosures herein together with components required for its use. Said starting device of the present inventive disclosures shown engaged with the propeller 15 of a model plane 16, the adapter flange 7 of said starting device torsionally engaged to the drive coupling 17 of the model airplane electric starter 18. Not shown but to be understood is that in another embodiment the drive means adapter flange body may comprise six driven connected peripheral faces, the faces forming a hexagonal shaft having a maximum diameter between 1/4 inch and 3/8 inch, the shaft sized and adapted to be driven by a conventional cordless electric drill. In this case the electric drill replaces electric starter motor and thereby eliminating the need for the electric starter motor and separate starter motor battery.

The discussed construction, illustrations and sequence of operation is for one embodiment of the invention, but is in no way limiting to other embodiments. The operating modes may be changed and enhanced without deviating from the intention of this inventive disclosure.

In the preceding detailed description, reference has been made to the accompanying drawings that form a part hereof, and in which are shown by way of illustration specific embodiments in which the invention may be practiced. These embodiments and certain variants thereof have been described in sufficient detail to enable those skilled in the art to practice the invention. It is to be understood that other suitable embodiments may be utilized and that logical, material, and mechanical changes may be made without departing from the spirit or scope of the invention. To avoid unnecessary detail, the description omits certain information known to those skilled in the art. The preceding detailed description is, therefore, not intended to be limited to the specific forms set forth herein, but on the contrary, it is intended to cover such alternatives, modifications, and equivalents, as can be reasonably included within the spirit and scope of the appended claims. For more information go to WWW.GAPATENTS.COM OR WWW.GOOGLE.COM.

Friday, April 24, 2009

USPTO Issues Request for Information
WWW.USPTO.GOV

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is seeking information from interested parties to participate in policy studies, conferences, and other development programs in support of fair international protection of intellectual property rights. The USPTO intends to competitively issue/award joint projects and/or cooperative agreements to conduct these programs. Interested parties are advised that information is requested subject to the authority contained in the FY2009 Omnibus Appropriations language and no contractual awards subject to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) will be issued.

On March 11, 2009, the President signed the Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009 (H.R. 1105) into law (P.L. 111-8). The law, in part, provides that no less than $4 million of appropriated amounts shall be available only for the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) contribution in a cooperative or joint agreement or agreements with a non-profit organization or organizations to conduct policy studies, conferences, and other development programs, in support of fair international protection of intellectual property rights.

In accordance with the law, three requirements must be met in order for an organization to be eligible to enter into an agreement with the USPTO. First, the organization must be a non-profit organization. Second, the non-profit organization must have been successfully audited within the previous year. Third, the non-profit organization must have previous experience in such programs.

The text of the relevant provision of P.L. 111-8 reads as follows:

Provided further, That from the amounts provided herein, no less than $4,000,000 shall be available only for the USPTO contribution in a cooperative or joint agreement or agreements with a non-profit organization or organizations, successfully audited within the previous year, and with previous experience in such programs, to conduct policy studies, including studies relating to activities of United Nations Specialized agencies and other international organizations, as well as conferences and other development programs, in support of fair international protection of intellectual property rights.

Additional requirements apply depending on the underlying authority for the agreement. The USPTO is authorized to engage in the various agreements described below:

15 U.S.C. 1525, which provides that the Department of Commerce may enter into joint projects with nonprofit, research, or public organizations on matters of mutual interest with costs equitably apportioned;
35 U.S.C. 2(a)(2), which provides that the USPTO may disseminate to the public information with respect to patents and trademarks;
35 U.S.C. 2(b)(6), which provides that the USPTO may use an international organization to perform functions on its behalf; and
35 U.S.C. 2(b)(11), which provides that the USPTO may conduct programs or studies regarding domestic and international intellectual property law and the effectiveness of intellectual property protection domestically and throughout the world.
It is anticipated that any agreement(s) will be structured as either a Joint Project Agreement or a Cooperative Agreement. It will need to be clear in your submission which you intend to pursue.

Joint Project Agreements, which are under the authority of 15 U.S.C. 1525, require substantial participation on the USPTO’s part as well as an equitable distribution of costs, though your share of costs may be paid by a third party or parties. Funds provided by the USPTO are to pay for actual costs only; generally, there may be no element of profit in the USPTO’s payment to you.

Cooperative Agreements entered into under the USPTO authorities listed above do not require an equitable distribution of costs and do not involve significant efforts on the part of the USPTO.

The following information is requested in response to this RFI:

A statement describing how the organization meets the initial eligibility requirements (e.g. non-profit status, successful audit, previous experience). Such description is limited to one (1) page.
A statement of preference for which type of agreement the organization would like to pursue and a description of how the organization meets the requirements associated with entering into such an agreement. If proposing a joint project agreement pursuant to 15 U.S.C. 1525, you should address the amount and type of shared contribution your organization will provide. Such description is limited to one (1) page.
A summary of possible programs (i.e. policy study, conference, other development program) that the organization has an interest in conducting. Summaries should include as much of the following information as possible: The program type, topic, purpose, audience, objective, measurements for success, and approximate costs. Such summaries are limited to one (1) page each.
This notice will be open for 3 weeks from the date of publication. Information must be electronically transmitted by April 30, 2009.

Responses and inquiries regarding this Request for Information should be sent electronically to Angela Maldonado Office of Procurement, USPTO or call (571) 272-6550.

For more information go to WWW.GAPATENTS.COM or WWW.GOOGLE.COM.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Colorful Opening Ceremony Planned for Trademark Expo
United States Air Force Brass Quintet to Perform and 25 Costumed Characters to Appear
WWW.USPTO.GOV

The United States Air Force Band’s brass quintet will join 16 exhibitors and a cast of 25 costumed characters for the gala opening of the 2009 National Trademark Expo. The event will take place on Friday, May 8 at 10:00 a.m. on the USPTO’s campus at 600 Dulany Street in Alexandria, Virginia. Following the ceremony, the Expo will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. No admission is charged and free parking is available on Saturday.

The Air Force will display their federally registered Air Force symbol, the official emblem of the U.S. Air Force, as well as three other important trademarks -- the Air Force Coat of Arms, the Air Force Thunderbirds Emblem, and the "Hap Arnold", which is also known as the Army Air Corps Symbol." A complete list of exhibitors is available at http://www.uspto.gov/main/homepagenews/2009apr07a.htm. Since its formation in 1941, the United States Air Force Band has played superb music for music lovers around the globe, earning its reputation as “America's International Musical Ambassadors.”

This year’s collection of costumed trademark characters is the largest in the history of the Expo. Included are some costumes that rarely make appearances outside their home venues. The all star cast, in alphabetical order, includes: Beetle Bailey, Betty Boop, Crayola Crayons, Curious George, Dennis the Menace, Energizer Bunny, Faux Paw the Techno Cat, Hershey Kisses, Hershey Bar, Maisy Mouse, McGruff, Mr. Jelly Belly, Olive Oyl, Peter Rabbit, Pillsbury Doughboy, Popeye, Smokey Bear, Sprout, the Cat in the Hat and the Grinch. Their host for the two days will be the USPTO’s own character, T.Markey. All characters will be on stage for the opening and will appear periodically throughout the two day Expo.

The National Trademark Expo is designed to educate the public about the vital role trademarks play in our economy, No admission is charged. The Expo will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. Free parking will be available on Saturday.

For more information please go to WWW.GAPATENTS.COM OR WWW.GOOGLE.COM.

Monday, April 20, 2009

United States Patent 7,307,203
WWW.USPTO.GOV
Buffkin , et al. December 11, 2007

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String instrument chord player


Abstract
A string chord player for a string instrument such as a guitar designed to be surroundably mounted onto the neck of the guitar. The string chord player includes an upper housing configured to mate with a lower housing forming an opening for receipt therein of a neck of a guitar. Integrally mounted to the upper housing is a plurality of buttons with outwardly facing chord designations. Opposite the chord designations is a string engagement portion of the button that when the button is placed into a second position will temporarily engage the adjacent longitudinally mounted strings on the neck of the guitar.


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Inventors: Buffkin; Mickey (Jefferson, AR), Buffkin; Roger (Stuttgart, AR)
Appl. No.: 11/235,518
Filed: September 26, 2005

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Related U.S. Patent Documents

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Application Number Filing Date Patent Number Issue Date
60617259 Oct., 2004


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Current U.S. Class: 84/286
Current International Class: G10D 1/12 (20060101)
Field of Search: 84/286,287,285,288,289



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References Cited [Referenced By]

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U.S. Patent Documents

2669151 February 1954 Maccaferri
4228718 October 1980 Smith
4331059 May 1982 Marabotto
5223659 June 1993 Shiraki et al.
5540133 July 1996 Draper et al.
6034310 March 2000 Kolano

Primary Examiner: Lockett; Kimberly
Attorney, Agent or Firm: Galasso; Raymond M. Galasso & Associates, LP
WWW.GAPATENTS.COM
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Parent Case Text

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PRIORITY UNDER 35 U.S.C. .sctn.119(e) & 37 C.F.R. .sctn.1.78

This nonprovisional application claims priority based upon the following prior U.S. provisional patent application entitled: Key mate, Application No.: 60/617,259, filed Oct. 8, 2004, in the names of Mikey Buffkin and Roger Buffkin, which is hereby incorporated by reference for all purposes.
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Claims

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What is claimed is:

1. A string instrument chord player for a string instrument having a neck comprising: an upper housing, said upper housing being configured in a substantially planar manner and generally rectangular in shape; a lower housing, said lower housing being releasably secured to said upper housing for surroundably mounting said neck of a string instrument; and wherein said lower housing has an inner surface, said inner surface being generally arcuate in shape; and an opening, said opening being formed by said upper housing and said lower housing for receipt therein of said neck of said string instrument.

2. The string instrument chord player as recited in claim 1, and further including at least one aperture in said upper housing.

3. The string instrument chord player as recited in claim 2, and further including at least one button journaled through said aperture, said button having a first position and a second position.

4. The string instrument chord player as recited in claim 3, wherein said button further includes a musical chord designation.

5. The string instrument chord player as recited in claim 4, wherein said button further includes a string engagement portion, said string engagement portion for contacting strings longitudinally mounted along said neck of said string instrument.

6. The string instrument chord player as recited in claim 3, wherein said button is mounted in said aperture with coil springs.

7. The string instrument chord player as recited in claim 6, wherein said upper housing and said lower housing are manufactured from plastic.

8. A string instrument chord player for a string instrument having a neck with longitudinally mounted strings and a plurality of transversely mounted frets comprising: an upper housing, said upper housing being configured in a substantially planar manner and generally rectangular in shape, said upper housing having a peripheral edge; a lower housing, said lower housing being releasably secured to said upper housing for surroundably mounting said neck of a string instrument, said lower housing having an inner surface, said inner surface being generally arcuate in shape; an opening, said opening being formed by said upper housing and said lower housing for receipt therein of said neck of said string instrument; at least one aperture, said aperture being formed in said upper housing, said upper housing being adjacent to said strings; at least one button, said button journaled through said aperture; and wherein said button further includes a string engagement portion capable of engaging the specified adjacent string.

9. The string chord player as recited in claim 8, wherein said button further comprises a string engagement portion, said string engagement portion being adjacently superposed to said string on said neck of said string instrument.

10. The string chord player as recited in claim 9, wherein said button has a first position and a second position, said button in said first position is biased away from said string of said string instrument.

11. The string chord player as recited in claim 10, wherein said button is mounted in said aperture with coil springs.

12. The string chord player as recited in claim 11, wherein said string engagement portion of said button is temporarily engaged with said strings of said string instrument upon said button being biased into said second position.

13. The string chord player as recited in claim 12, wherein said button has designated thereon a musical chord.

14. The string chord player as recited in claim 13, wherein said peripheral edge of said upper housing is generally rounded in shape to provide comfort for a user's hand.

15. A string instrument chord player for a string instrument having a neck with longitudinally mounted strings and a plurality of transversely mounted frets comprising: an upper housing, said upper housing being configured in a substantially planar manner and generally rectangular in shape, said upper housing being positioned adjacent to said string of said string instrument, said upper housing having a peripheral edge that is generally rounded in shape; a lower housing, said lower housing being generally rectangular in shape said lower housing being releasably secured to said upper housing such that said lower housing and said upper housing for surroundably mounting said neck of a string instrument, said lower housing having an inner surface, said inner surface being generally arcuate in shape, said inner surface being adjacent to said neck opposite said strings when said string instrument chord player is surroundably mounted to said neck; an opening, said opening being formed by said upper housing and said lower housing for receipt therein of said neck of said string instrument; seven apertures, said apertures being formed in said upper housing; and seven buttons, said buttons being journaled through said apertures, said buttons having a first position and a second position; and wherein said buttons are biased into said first position with coil springs and wherein said buttons are manually manipulated into said second position.

16. The string chord player as recited in claim 15, wherein said buttons further include a string engagement portion for temporarily engaging with said adjacent strings while said button is in said second position.

17. The string chord player as recited in claim 16, wherein said buttons have chord designations thereon.

18. The string chord player as recited in claim 17, wherein said lower housing sand said upper housing measure approximately 3 inches H.times.3 inches W.times.6 inches L.
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Description

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FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to a device for playing a string instrument, and more specifically but not by way of limitation, a string chord player that is designed to surroundably mount the neck of a string instrument such as but not limited to a guitar. The string chord player is designed to facilitate the playing of a musical chord by pressing a single button. The button has displayed thereon a chord designation upon which engagement therewith by an individual will enable the user to play the string instrument and produce the desired sounds with limited or no musical training and without the need for significant hand dexterity.

BACKGROUND

Playing musical instruments can be enjoyed as a hobby or professionally. The playing of string instruments is one of the many types of instruments that are used by individuals. String instruments such as guitars, banjos and the like use a multiplicity of strings usually comprised of nylon or steel to produce a chord, or sound. The strings are typically mounted longitudinally superposed to a neck of a string instrument. The individual playing the string instrument will temporarily engage one or more strings by pressing the string against a fret transversely mounted on the neck at a desired point thus changing the vibrational length of the string resulting in a desired sound.

In order to produce desired sounds, the manual dexterity requirement for playing a string instrument is high. Positioning several figures at the required location to produce a chord takes a high degree of flexibility. Individuals who have difficulty manipulating their hands into the appropriate position whether due to age or medical condition can experience problems producing the chords desired.

Another problem arises during the learning phase with individuals who have little musical training and wish to engage in the activity of playing a string instrument. Many individuals lack the time or patience to practice at the level required to play a string instrument proficiently. The normal required amount of practice required to learn to play a string instrument can be very discouraging to a beginner. For those individuals, a device that would facilitate easier playing of the string instrument would enhance its enjoyment and provide encouragement during the learning phase.

Accordingly there is a need for a device that can be surroundably mounted to the neck of a string instrument that could facilitate easier playing of the instrument by reducing the degree of manual dexterity required as well as reducing the amount of musical training required to play the instrument.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

It is an object of the present invention to provide a string chord player that can be releasably secured to the neck of a string instrument providing easier use of the string instrument by reducing the dexterity required to play as well as reducing the level of musical training normally necessary for playing a string instrument.

It is another object of the present invention to provide a string chord player that will provide a plurality of button with chords displayed thereon for the user to choose from to produce desired sounds.

Yet another object of the present invention is to provide a string chord player, that when surroundably mounted to the neck of a string instrument will not bind the strings and produce excessive string wear.

It is a further object of the present invention to provide a string chord player that is easy to use, lightweight, and durable.

To the accomplishment of the above and related objects the present invention may be embodied in the form illustrated in the accompanying drawings. Attention is called to the fact that the drawings are illustrative only. Variations are contemplated as being part of the present invention, limited only by the scope of the claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

A more complete understanding of the present invention may be had by reference to the following Detailed Description and appended claims when taken in conjunction with the accompanying Drawings wherein:

FIG. 1 illustrates a perspective view of an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2 illustrates a perspective view of an embodiment of the present invention surroundably mounted to the neck of a guitar; and

FIG. 3 illustrates a top perspective view of an embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Referring now to the drawings, wherein various elements depicted are not necessarily drawn to scale, and in particular FIGS. 1 and 2 there is illustrated a string chord player 100 constructed according to the principles of the present invention.

The string chord player 100 comprises a housing 15 generally rectangular in shape. The housing 15 is surroundably mounted parallel to the neck 40 of the guitar 70. The housing 15 includes a lower housing 30 and an upper housing 20. The upper housing 20 is configured in a substantially planar manner and is generally rectangular in shape being of sufficient size to mate with the lower housing 30. The upper housing 20 and the lower housing 30 form an opening 95 for receipt therein of the neck 40 of the guitar 70. The upper housing 20 includes a peripheral edge 120 that is rounded to provide comfort for the users hand while engaged with the string chord player 100. The upper housing 20 is releasably secured to the lower housing 30 by conventional mechanical methods such as but not limited to snaps. Those skilled in the art will recognize that numerous mechanical methods could be utilized to secure the upper housing 20 to the lower housing 30. More specifically but not by way of limitation the upper housing 20 could be fastened to the lower housing 30 by a conventional mechanical hinge. The lower housing 30 includes an inner surface 90 that is generally arcuate in shape. The inner surface 90 of the lower housing 30 lies adjacent to the neck 40 opposite the strings 60. Although the inner surface 90 is shown in the illustrated embodiment as being arcuate in shape, it is contemplated within the scope of the present invention that the inner surface 90 could be shaped to conform to the shape of the neck 40 of a variety of string instruments. It is contemplated within the scope of the present invention that the size of the housing 15 could vary dependent upon the guitar 70, good results have been shown to be achieved with a housing 15 that is three inches in height by three inches in width and six inches in length.

The housing 15 is manufactured from conventional materials such as plastic. Those skilled in the art will recognize that many different materials could be used in place of and/or in conjunction with plastic to manufacture the housing. More specifically but not by way of limitation the housing 15 could be manufactured with metal or wood. It is also contemplated to be within the scope of the present invention that the upper housing 20 could be translucent to provide viewing of the strings 60 by the user. Further, it is contemplated within the scope of the present invention that the housing 15 could be manufactured in a variety of colors to coordinate with a particular guitar 70.

Referring now to FIG. 2, the housing 15 is shown mounted to the neck 40 of a guitar 70. Transversely mounted on the neck 40 are a plurality of frets 55. Longitudinally mounted to the neck 40 is a set of strings 60. The upper housing 20 when engaged with the lower housing 30 transverses the neck 40 superposed to the strings 60. The forward end 115 of the upper housing 20 is manufactured such that it provides the necessary lateral clearance to avoid touching the strings 60 when the string chord player 100 is surroundably mounted on the neck 40. Located in the upper housing 20 are a plurality of buttons 10. The buttons 10 are generally cylindrical in shape and of sufficient length to be journaled through the apertures 135 integrally manufactured into the upper housing 20. The buttons 10 each have a chord designation 110 displayed thereon. The buttons 10 are mounted to the upper housing 20 biased in a first position by coil springs 130. The springs 130 bias the button 10 in a first position to avoid contacting the adjacent strings 60 underneath when the string chord player 100 is surroundably mounted to the neck 40 of the guitar 70. Those skilled in the art will recognize that numerous different mounting methods of the buttons 10 could be used in place of and/or in conjunction with coil springs.

Referring in particular to FIG. 1, the buttons 10 downwardly extend through the apertures 135 in the upper housing 20. Opposite the chord designation 110 is a string engagement portion 80 of the button 10. The string engagement portion 80 is manufactured to engage with the specified adjacent strings 60 at the fret 55 to produce the chord designated by the chord designation 110. When the string chord player 100 is assembled and surroundably mounted to the neck 40, each button 10 is in position to provide a particular chord or sound that is displayed by the chord designation 110 of the button 10. The string engagement portion 80 of the button 10 engages with the appropriate adjacent strings 60 superposed along a fret 55 when the user downwardly extends the button 10 to its second position. Once engaged with the string 60, the string engagement portion 80 of the button 10 changes the vibrational length of the string 60 allowing the guitar 70 to produce the desired sound when the strings 60 are strummed.

As illustrated in FIG. 2, there are seven buttons 10 mounted to the upper housing 20 of the string chord player 100. These buttons 10 are designed to produce chords A-F. It is contemplated within the scope of the present invention that the string chord player 100 could be manufactured with a numerous different amount of buttons 10 to produce different chords. The buttons 10 are manufactured from conventional materials such as but not limited to plastic. Those skilled in the art will recognize that numerous material in place of and/or in conjunction with plastic to manufacture the buttons 10.

It is contemplated within the scope of the present invention that the string chord player 100 could be integrally manufactured into the neck 40 of the guitar. Further, it is contemplated that the string chord player 100 could be manufactured to integrate with a keyboard instrument such as but not limited to a piano.

Referring in particular to the drawings submitted herewith, a description of the operation of the string chord player 100 is as follows. The user will place the lower housing 30 adjacently underneath the neck 40 of the guitar 70 in the desired position. The user then releasably secures the upper housing 20 to the lower housing 30 locking the string chord player 100 in place parallel to the neck 40. The forward end 115 of the upper housing 20 lies adjacently above but not touching the strings. The user will then apply a downward force to one of the biased buttons 10 to release it from the first position and move the button 10 to the second position. The string engagement portion 80 of the button 10 temporarily engages with the adjacent strings mounted underneath during the second position. This causes the strings 60 adjacent to the frets 55 to engage with the fret 55 and change the vibrational length of the string 60. The user will then simultaneously strum the strings with the button 10 in the second position to produce the chord designated by the chord designation 110 on the button 10. The user will then release the button 10 to return it to its first position and then repeat the process to produce a different chord using one of the plurality of buttons 10. Upon completion of playing the guitar 70 the string chord player 100 can be removed from the neck 40.

In the preceding detailed description, reference has been made to the accompanying drawings that form a part hereof, and in which are shown by way of illustration specific embodiments in which the invention may be practiced. These embodiments, and certain variants thereof, have been described in sufficient detail to enable those skilled in the art to practice the invention. It is to be understood that other suitable embodiments may be utilized and that logical changes may be made without departing from the spirit or scope of the invention. The description may omit certain information known to those skilled in the art. The preceding detailed description is, therefore, not intended to be limited to the specific forms set forth herein, but on the contrary, it is intended to cover such alternatives, modifications, and equivalents, as can be reasonably included within the spirit and scope of the appended claims. For more information please go to WWW.GAPATENTS.COM OR WWW.GOOGLE.COM.

Friday, April 17, 2009

United States Patent 7,359,777
WWW.USPTO.GOV
Betters , et al. April 15, 2008

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System and method of analyzing aircraft removal data for preventative maintenance


Abstract
A system includes a computer server for receiving an aircraft dataset; a database operably coupled to the computer server for storing the aircraft dataset into data fields; a web portal operably coupled to the computer server and the database for providing real-time access to consumers; and a maintenance analysis engine coupled to the computer server, the database, and the web portal to process the aircraft dataset into informational reports for an automatic delivery to the consumers, and optionally issuing a notification for retrieval thereof. The system employs a method of analyzing aircraft data for preventative maintenance, comprising: utilizing an aircraft dataset from at least one operational source; parsing the aircraft dataset into at least one data field; determining an acceptable range of values for the aircraft dataset within the at least one data field to define a threshold for the aircraft dataset; automatically activating a dynamic trigger to indicate a maintenance alert when the threshold is crossed; deriving a performance indication for the at least one operational source by determining one or more performance trends of the aircraft dataset; associating with the maintenance alert a notification having a status level indicative of a maintenance condition for the at least one operational source; combining the performance indication and the notification into an electronic report that forecasts need for preventative aircraft maintenance; and automatically delivering the electronic report to a predetermined location for retrieval by a consumer.


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Inventors: Betters; W. Bradley (Moon Township, PA), Livingston, Jr.; Randell W. (Round Rock, TX), Whetsell; Bob W. (Georgetown, TX)
Appl. No.: 11/136,072
Filed: May 24, 2005

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Current U.S. Class: 701/35 ; 244/75.1; 340/438; 340/500; 340/945; 701/29
Current International Class: G01M 17/00 (20060101)
Field of Search: 701/29,30,34,35 340/945,963,500,438 244/75.1 434/29,30



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References Cited [Referenced By]

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U.S. Patent Documents

5359326 October 1994 Bivens et al.
5953707 September 1999 Huang et al.
5974349 October 1999 Levine
6567729 May 2003 Betters et al.
2002/0039072 April 2002 Gremmert et al.
2002/0138184 September 2002 Kipersztok et al.


Foreign Patent Documents

0 843 244 May., 1998 EP
WO 00/55770 Sep., 2000 WO
WO 01/15001 Mar., 2001 WO



Other References
Clinton J T: "The revolution of the aircraft engine ground maintenance station" 2001 IEEE Aerospace Conference Proceedings, vol. 6, (Mar. 20, 2001), pp. 2927-2935. cited by other.

Primary Examiner: Jeanglaude; Gertrude A.
Attorney, Agent or Firm: Galasso; Raymond M. Galasso & Associates, LP
WWW.GAPATENTS.COM
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Claims

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We claim:

1. A method, comprising: assessing aircraft operating data generated during operation of an aircraft, wherein said assessing is performed with respect to manufacturer-specified aircraft operating specifications; identifying a portion of said aircraft operating data corresponding to an aircraft system operating condition that deviates from at least one corresponding manufacturer-specified aircraft operating specification; and determining at least one of a severity level of the aircraft system operating condition with respect to a plurality of possible aircraft system operating condition severity levels and an analytical characterization of the aircraft system operating condition.

2. The method of claim 1 wherein: said determining the analytical characterization of the aircraft system operating condition includes determining a performance trend for the aircraft system operating condition; and the performance trend provides indication of a potential need for implementing a corrective action to address the aircraft system operating condition.

3. The method of claim 2, further comprising: providing at least one of the performance trend and the aircraft system operating condition for enabling assessment of a potential need for implementing the corrective action to address the aircraft system operating condition, wherein said providing includes at least one of highlighting, displaying, outputting and reporting.

4. The method of claim 2 wherein determining the severity level of the aircraft system operating condition includes determining a color-coded indicator of the severity level of the aircraft system operating condition with respect to a degree of deviation from said at least one corresponding manufacturer-specified aircraft operating specification.

5. The method of claim 4 wherein determining the severity level of the aircraft system operating condition includes one of: categorizing the aircraft system operating condition as having a first status level associated with a first color-coded indicator of the severity level of the aircraft system operating condition; categorizing the aircraft system operating condition as having a second status level associated with a second color-coded indicator of the severity level of the aircraft system operating condition; and categorizing the aircraft system operating condition as having a third status level associated with a third color-coded indicator of the severity level of the aircraft system operating condition.

6. An aircraft flight analysis and safety computer program, comprising computer readable program instructions configured for performing the steps of: assessing aircraft system operating conditions with respect to corresponding manufacturer-specified aircraft operating specifications; determining a performance trend for an aircraft system operating condition that deviates from at least one corresponding manufacturer-specified aircraft operating specification, wherein the performance trend provides indication of a potential need for implementing a corrective action to address the aircraft system operating condition; and providing at least one of the performance trend and the aircraft system operating condition for enabling assessment of the potential need for implementing the corrective action to address the aircraft system operating condition.

7. The aircraft flight analysis and safety computer program of claim 6 wherein said providing includes at least one of highlighting, displaying, outputting and reporting.

8. The aircraft flight analysis and safety computer program of claim 6, further comprising: determining a severity level of the aircraft system operating condition with respect to a plurality of possible aircraft system operating condition severity levels, wherein determining the severity level of the aircraft system operating condition includes determining a color-coded indicator of the severity level of the aircraft system operating condition with respect to a degree of deviation from said at least one corresponding manufacturer-specified aircraft operating specification.

9. The aircraft flight analysis and safety computer program of claim 8 wherein determining the severity level of the aircraft system operating condition includes one of: categorizing the aircraft system operating condition as having a first status level associated with a first color-coded indicator of the severity level of the aircraft system operating condition; categorizing the aircraft system operating condition as having a second status level associated with a second color-coded indicator of the severity level of the aircraft system operating condition; and categorizing the aircraft system operating condition as having a third status level associated with a third color-coded indicator of the severity level of the aircraft system operating condition.

10. An aircraft flight analysis and safety system, comprising: at least one computer including memory; and a computer program stored in said memory, wherein the computer program includes instructions readable by said at least one computer and wherein said instructions are configured for: assessing aircraft system operating conditions with respect to corresponding manufacturer-specified aircraft operating specifications; determining a performance trend for an aircraft system operating condition that deviates from at least one corresponding manufacturer-specified aircraft operating specification, wherein the performance trend provides indication of a potential need for implementing a corrective action to address the aircraft system operating condition; and providing at least one of the performance trend and the aircraft system operating condition for enabling assessment of the potential need for implementing the corrective action, wherein said providing includes at least one of highlighting, displaying, outputting and reporting.

11. The aircraft flight analysis and safety system of claim 10 wherein: instructions are configured for determining a severity level of the aircraft system operating condition with respect to a plurality of possible aircraft system operating condition severity levels; and determining the severity level of the aircraft system operating condition includes determining a color-coded indicator of the severity level of the aircraft system operating condition with respect to a degree of deviation from said at least one corresponding manufacturer-specified aircraft operating specification.

12. A method, comprising: retrieving aircraft operating data from an aircraft; assessing said aircraft operating data with respect to manufacturer-specified aircraft operating specifications; identifying a portion of said aircraft operating data corresponding to an aircraft system operating condition that deviates from at least one corresponding manufacturer-specified aircraft operating specification; and determining at least one of a severity level of the aircraft system operating condition with respect to a plurality of possible aircraft system operating condition severity levels and an analytical characterization of the aircraft system operating condition.

13. The method of claim 12 wherein: said determining the analytical characterization of the aircraft system operating condition includes determining a performance trend for the aircraft system operating condition; and the performance trend provides indication of a potential need for implementing a corrective action on the aircraft system component to address the aircraft system operating condition.

14. The method of claim 13, further comprising: providing at least one of the performance trend and the aircraft system operating condition for enabling assessment of a potential need for implementing the corrective action to address the aircraft system operating condition, wherein said providing includes at least one of highlighting, displaying, outputting and reporting.

15. The method of claim 13 wherein determining the severity level of the aircraft system operating condition includes determining a color-coded indicator of the severity level of the aircraft system operating condition with respect to a degree of deviation from said at least one corresponding manufacturer-specified aircraft operating specification.

16. A system, comprising: an aircraft including a flight data recording system; at least one computer having memory and configured for being interfaced with the flight data recording system to enable aircraft operating data to be acquired from the flight data recording system; and a computer program stored in said memory, wherein the computer program includes instructions readable by said at least one computer and wherein said instructions are configured for: assessing aircraft system operating conditions with respect to corresponding manufacturer-specified aircraft operating specifications, wherein said aircraft system operating conditions relate to respective portions of said aircraft operating data; determining a performance trend for an aircraft system operating condition that deviates from at least one corresponding manufacturer-specified aircraft operating specification, wherein the performance trend provides indication of a potential need for implementing a corrective action to address the aircraft system operating condition; and providing at least one of the performance trend and the aircraft system operating condition for enabling assessment of the potential need for implementing the corrective action, wherein said providing includes at least one of highlighting, displaying, outputting and reporting.

17. The system of claim 16 wherein: said instructions are configured for determining a severity level of the aircraft system operating condition with respect to a plurality of possible aircraft system operating condition severity levels; and determining the severity level of the aircraft system operating condition includes determining a color-coded indicator of the severity level of the aircraft system operating condition with respect to a degree of deviation from said at least one corresponding manufacturer-specified aircraft operating specification.
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Description

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TECHNICAL FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The invention relates generally to the field of data processing for supporting a maintenance decision. More particularly, the invention relates to management and analysis of maintenance-related information for trending and reporting performance data from multiple sub-systems or components that are being monitored. Even more particularly, the invention relates to management and analysis of aircraft data so that problems can be predicted and addressed earlier than is possible by using conventional methodology.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Oftentimes, a maintenance process encompasses retrieval, analysis and dissemination of appropriate information to enable decision making regarding preventative maintenance and thus, preempting avoidable repairs or delays. However, such processing typically involves a predominantly manual management and analysis of the maintenance-related information and subsequent distribution of the maintenance decision support information. Because of the inherent delay associated with the predominantly manual maintenance process, under these circumstances, a variety of problems such as, but not limited to, increased maintenance cost and reduced operational efficiency may result. Even worse, these maintenance-related problems could become exacerbated as the complexities increase.

More specifically, a maintenance process of highly complex machines such as air-borne vehicles is complicated, as the amount and type of the maintenance-related information collected from disparate sources is significantly large. In addition, appropriate processing of such maintenance-related information to derive a maintenance decision can be a daunting task. For instance, in an aircraft operation, multiple aircraft systems are constantly monitored by flight data acquisition systems to acquire maintenance-related information. The Air Transport Association (ATA) has categorized the monitored aircraft systems in different groups. Such monitored aircraft systems generally include Air Conditioning, Auto Flight, Communications, Fire Protection, Flight Controls, Fuel, Hydraulic Power, Indicating/Recording System, Landing Gear, Navigation, Oxygen, Pneumatic, Onboard Maintenance, Informational, Airborne Auxiliary Power, and Stabilizer. As these aircraft systems are monitored, aircraft data associated therewith, often referred to as "removal or component data" can be readily collected via a variety of data transfer techniques, including but not limited to, Flight Data Recorders (FDRs), Tape and Optical Disk Recovery, Digital Media Recovery (i.e. PCMCIA cards), Aircraft Communications and Reporting Systems (ACARs), VHF Digital Air to Ground Communications (VDLM2), Satellite Air to Ground Data Communications (SATCOM) High Frequency Air to Ground Wireless Data Communication Links (HFDL), and/or Wireless Ground Data Communication Links (GDL).

A typical aircraft maintenance process, for example, for a regularly scheduled service generally entails a manual analysis of maintenance-related information such as aircraft data, often referred to as "maintenance analysis," which may include manually examining the contents of the aircraft data associated with a particular component of an aircraft. By manually analyzing the aircraft data, a maintenance decision for that particular component of the aircraft may be derived. Contents of the maintenance decision, including maintenance decision support information, may be manually disseminated accordingly. As the maintenance must be completed under certain constraints, a suitable form of communication to disseminate this maintenance decision support information may be employed to issue warnings or recommend repair procedures in response to the maintenance-related information.

In this manner, to perform the maintenance analysis of the aircraft data, a subs system or a component of an aircraft may be first closely monitored for a predetermined period of time. For example, a data acquisition and analysis system may acquire the aircraft data from multiple onboard sources and analyze the aircraft data to identify symptoms to determine the sub-system or the component operational failures, faults, events for providing maintenance-related information. The maintenance-related information provided by this system can enable the aircraft operators to reduce unscheduled mechanical delays and flight cancellations, thereby reducing bottom line costs.

Unfortunately, management and analysis of maintenance-related information for real-time trending and reporting performance data from one or more sub-systems or components can be difficult. Providing proactive maintenance analysis to minimize reactive maintenance could be even more difficult, as most operators fail to properly utilize the aircraft data for this purpose. Thus, accurate or specific decision support information for maintenance may not be provided prior to the occurrence of maintenance-related problems. Therefore, the operators may not, under these circumstances, benefit from the informational analysis of the maintenance-related information. Accordingly, a suitable transformation of the maintenance-related information is desirable that provides meaningful maintenance decision support information for performing proactive maintenance. Thus, an improved system and method for supporting maintenance decision is desired in the art.

Heretofore, the requirements of providing more proactive maintenance analysis and real-time reporting of a maintenance decision support information, in a manner without compromising accuracy referred to above have not been fully met. What is needed is a solution that simultaneously addresses all of these requirements.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention generally provides a system and method of analyzing aircraft removal data for preventative maintenance. In one exemplary embodiment, a computer-implemented method of analyzing aircraft data for preventative maintenance, comprising: utilizing an aircraft dataset from at least one operational source; parsing the aircraft dataset into at least one data field; determining an acceptable range of values for the aircraft dataset within the at least one data field to define a threshold for the aircraft dataset; automatically activating a dynamic trigger to indicate a maintenance alert when the threshold is crossed; deriving a performance indication for the at least one operational source by determining one or more performance trends of the aircraft dataset; associating with the maintenance alert a notification having a status level indicative of a maintenance condition for the at least one operational source; combining the performance indication and the notification into an electronic report that forecasts need for preventative aircraft maintenance; and automatically delivering the electronic report to a predetermined location for retrieval by a consumer.

Another embodiment of the invention is based on an electronic media, comprising a program for performing this method. Another embodiment of the invention is based on a computer program, comprising computer or machine readable program elements translatable for implementing this method.

In one another embodiment of the present invention, a method of providing maintenance support, comprising: parsing a maintenance information dataset from at least one operational source into at least one data field to derive an active dataset; setting a trigger having a first limit and a second limit for the at least one data field; analyzing the active dataset for selectively activating the trigger in response to an excursion of the active dataset beyond one of the first limit or the second limit within the at least one data field; associating with the trigger a status indication; processing the active dataset to derive one or more trends for the at least one data field; and transforming the status indication and the one or more trends into a preventative maintenance report for the at least one operational source.

In yet another embodiment of the present invention, a computer-implemented method of analyzing aircraft data for preventative maintenance, comprising: parsing a dataset indicative of maintenance-related information associated with an operational source into a data field; setting a limit on the data field to assess the dataset; activating a trigger in response to an excursion of the dataset beyond the limit; associating with the trigger a status indication; processing the dataset from the data field to derive trend information indicative of performance of the operational source; and presenting the status indication and the trend information into an informational report.

In an alternate embodiment, the present invention provides maintenance support to a user, comprising: utilizing a maintenance information dataset associated with an aircraft operational source to derive an active dataset in response to a user provided an analysis criteria, the analysis criteria including a predetermined period of time over which the maintenance information dataset is collected by monitoring the aircraft operational source; parsing the active dataset into at least one data field; setting a trigger having a first limit and a second limit for the at least one data field, the trigger is determined responsive to an external profile having a first input, a second input, and a third input; analyzing the active dataset for selectively flagging the at least one data field by activating the trigger in response to a predetermined amount of excursion of the active dataset within the at least one data field beyond one of the first limit or the second limit; associating with the predetermined amount of excursion a status indication having a first level, a second level and a third level, either the first level, the second level or the third level is selected based on the predetermined amount of excursion beyond one of the first limit and the second limit, respectively; processing the predetermined amount of excursion of the active dataset to derive one or more specific trends for the at least one data field; transforming the status indication and the one or more specific trends into a preventative maintenance report; delivering the preventative maintenance report with the status indication to the user, and alerting the user by issuing a notification concerning the delivery of the preventative maintenance report.

In still another embodiment of the present invention, a system including, a computer server for receiving an aircraft dataset from a plurality of operational sources to parse the aircraft dataset into a plurality of data fields; a database operably coupled to the computer server for storing the aircraft dataset into the plurality of data fields; a web portal operably coupled to the computer server and the database, the web portal being accessible to a plurality of consumers employing one or more Internet connections for accessing a maintenance-related informational report through a user interface associated with each of plurality of consumers, the user interface providing real-time access, by way of a computer network, to the maintenance-related informational report; and a maintenance analysis engine coupled to the computer server, the database, and the web portal for processing the plurality of data fields by setting a dynamic limit on one or more data fields of the plurality of data fields, and disseminating one or more proactive recommendations through the web portal, the one or more recommendations being derived from a performance trending indication of the aircraft data stored in the database by dynamically flagging the one or more data fields when the dynamic limit is reached.

The foregoing has outlined rather broadly the features and technical advantages of the present invention in order that the detailed description of the invention that follows may be better understood. Additional features and advantages of the invention will be described hereinafter which form the subject of the claims of the invention. It should be appreciated by those skilled in the art that the conception and specific embodiment disclosed may be readily utilized as a basis for modifying or designing other structures for carrying out the same purposes of the present invention. It should also be realized by those skilled in the art that such equivalent constructions do not depart from the spirit and scope of the invention as set forth in the appended claims.

These, and other, aspects of the invention will be better appreciated and understood when considered in conjunction with the following description and the accompanying drawings. It should be understood, however, that the following description, while indicating preferred embodiments of the invention and numerous specific details thereof, is given by way of illustration and not of limitation. Many changes and modifications may be made within the scope of the invention without departing from the spirit thereof, and the invention includes all such modifications.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The drawings accompanying and forming part of this specification are included to depict certain aspects of the invention. A clear conception of the advantages and features constituting the invention, and of the components and operation of systems provided with the invention, will become more readily apparent by referring to the exemplary, and therefore non-limiting, embodiments illustrated in the drawings, wherein like reference numerals (if they occur in more than one view) designate the same elements. The invention may be better understood by reference to one or more of these drawings in combination with the description presented herein. It should be noted that the features illustrated in the drawings are not necessarily drawn to scale.

FIG. 1 illustrates but an overview of one embodiment of the present invention as a data processing system.

FIG. 2 shows an exemplary implementation of the one embodiment of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 depicts a flow chart of exemplary steps embodying a maintenance analysis routine in accordance with one aspect of the present invention.

FIG. 4 shows a flow chart with exemplary details, consistent with one aspect of the present invention, embodying a portion of a maintenance analysis process of FIG. 3.

FIG. 5 shows exemplary hardware/software components in a system for analyzing aircraft data for preventative maintenance using Internet according to one aspect of the present invention.

FIG. 6 shows an exemplary flow diagram of Aircraft Information Maintenance Management (AIMM) application software for use with the system of FIG. 5 according to one aspect of the present invention.

FIG. 7 shows an exemplary customer informational report web page obtained from executing the AIMM application software of FIG. 6 on the system of FIG. 5 in accordance with one aspect of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

The invention and the various features and advantageous details thereof are explained more fully with reference to the non-limiting embodiments that are illustrated in the accompanying drawings and detailed in the following description. Descriptions of well-known components and processing techniques are omitted so as not to unnecessarily obscure the invention in detail.

Overview

FIG. 1 illustrates but an overview of one embodiment of the present invention as a data processing system 50. In an exemplary embodiment, data processing system 50 may include a computer server 60. Computer server 60 may include a user-operated aircraft data repository 100, which may be accessed through a removal data acquiring application 105 by a trained user for collecting removal data from a variety of aircraft operational sources 10. For example, disparate aircraft systems may be monitored to gather desired removal data either form one or a fleet of aircrafts utilizing one or more well-established aircraft data recording methods.

Computer server 60 may further include a data field transformation engine 125 for parsing the removal data into multiple data fields responsive to an expert defined first criteria. For example, the expert defined first criteria may include a dataset selection criterion and a custom format criterion.

In particular, data field transformation engine 125 generally provides for transforming of information or data contained in user-operated aircraft data repository 100 to an aircraft data maintenance analysis system 150 comprising an aircraft maintenance information database 160. Aircraft maintenance information database 160 stores the parsed removal data into the multiple data fields. In one embodiment consistent with the present invention, the removal data in aircraft maintenance information database 160 may be generally signed to form interactive data fields. Such interactive data fields are organized to facilitate the efficient search and retrieval of information most pertinent to a maintenance analysis session for which the aircraft maintenance information database 160 is employed.

Aircraft data maintenance analysis system 150 further includes a maintenance analysis engine 165. While maintenance analysis engine 165 is included to analyze the removal data for preventative maintenance, a maintenance analysis reporting interface 170 is incorporated to disseminate a plurality of analyses 175 such as Analysis A, Analysis B, and Analysis C to a desired audience. In addition, an expert interface 170 may be operably coupled to aircraft maintenance information database 160, data field transformation engine 125, maintenance analysis engine 165, and maintenance analysis reporting interface 170 for providing an interactive access to a plurality of experts 180.

Expert interface 170 may include a set of instructions to carry out the expert defined first criteria from the plurality of experts 180. For example, expert interface 170 may include a graphical user interface having an input template or a command line operated interface. Maintenance analysis engine 165 may generally execute data field transformation engine 125 to realize the first criteria functionality.

Preferably, the plurality of experts 180 comprises a diverse group of technical processionals associated with the aircraft industry, as well as aircraft operators, technicians and engineers. Furthermore, with each authorized expert 180 having access to the aircraft data maintenance analysis system 150 from a remote location by way of a computer using a keyboard and a video monitor, thereby enabling dynamic response to aircraft maintenance whether preventative or otherwise.

In an exemplary embodiment, a video display comprising data entry fields, point-and-click icons, and navigational controls is accessible at a web site by way of a plurality of Internet connections to the remote locations of experts 180. An expert 180 may select from a plurality of displays a desired set of data entry fields for requesting information either from computer server 60 and/or aircraft data maintenance analysis system 150, and view a display of requested information retrieved from user-operated aircraft data repository 100 and/or aircraft maintenance information database 160.

Typically, the system implementation of user-operated aircraft data repository 100 and removal data acquiring application 105 can be readily devised to be compatible with the needs of a diverse plurality of consumers 185 for distributing plurality of analyses 175. Because of system incompatibilities, disparate data organization methodologies and varying security requirements, appropriate network and security requirements may be provided through a network layer 190 and a security layer 195.

In one exemplary implementation, network layer 190 and security layer 195 could be readily customized to satisfy the information access requirements of diverse plurality of consumers 185 for which plurality of analyses 175 are created. For example, the present invention also may provide for customization of the network layer 190 that enables connectivity to one or more access locations. Such connectivity may be a plurality of Internet connections, dedicated wire line connections, and similar connection arrangements. The network layer 190 may therefore serve multiple connections by way of the Internet, as well as local area networks, wide area networks, virtual private networks, and other network types.

As an example, the present invention also may provide for a customization of security layer 195 to prevent unauthorized access to information. Thus, access to information in maintenance analysis reporting interface 170 could be controlled to exclude access to sensitive information by individuals who have no authorization to access the sensitive information.

As persons skilled in the art will appreciate that data processing system 50 could be readily devised for a particular operating platform employing suitable programming tools. For example, one or more compatible high level programming languages such as BASIC, C, C++, Java, mainframe languages such as EBCDIC, COBOL or visual programming languages such as Vbasic may be advantageously employed for a specific operating platform including legacy platforms such as for an IBM mainframe operating system from International Business Machines Corporation, Armonk, N.Y. It is to be understood that data field transformation engine 125 and maintenance analysis engine 165 could be readily devised for a particular operating platform employing suitable programming tools as generally utilized to synthesize data processing system 50.

EXEMPLARY EMBODIMENTS

It should be understood, however, that the detailed description and the specific exemplary embodiments, while indicating preferred embodiments of the invention are given by way of illustration only and not by way of limitation. Various additions, changes and modifications within the spirit and scope of the underlying inventive concept will become apparent to those skilled in the art from the detailed description.

FIG. 2 depicts an exemplary implementation of the one embodiment of FIG. 1. With reference to FIGS. 1 and 2, for the depicted exemplary implementation, a web server 205 may employ the maintenance analysis engine 165 for operating on aircraft maintenance information database 160 to enable a maintenance analysis process for deriving preventative maintenance conclusions. To report such preventative maintenance conclusions obtained from such maintenance analysis process, web server 205 utilizes an aircraft maintenance information web portal 210 that may be remotely accessed over a computer or communication network including, but not limited to World Wide Web or Internet.

As shown in FIG. 2, the aircraft maintenance information web portal 210 may be executed under control of a web browser 215 by the plurality of consumers 185 (not shown). Using operator interfaces 220A and 220B, such as operator interface A and operator interface B, respectively, the preventative maintenance conclusions may be distributed in real-time to the plurality of consumers 185 via the aircraft maintenance information web portal 210.

In particular, maintenance analysis engine 165 includes one or more software modules for performing the maintenance analysis process. In one embodiment, a limit setting module 225 is incorporated for dynamic limit setting on any data field that has been parsed. In addition, maintenance analysis engine 165 may include a data field flagging module 230 for allowing dynamic flagging of data fields 235A through 235C with datasets 240A through 240C, respectively. Moreover, maintenance analysis engine 165 may include a queuing module 245 that provides a quality audit queuing of limit setting for management approval. Furthermore, the queuing module may provide a quality audit queuing of informational report submittal for management approval. Finally, maintenance analysis engine 165 may include a reporting module 250 for preparation of informational reports 255A and 255B, such as informational report A and informational report B. Reporting module 250 delivers the preventative maintenance conclusions to appropriate operator interface A and/or operator interface B in aircraft maintenance information web portal 210. Each informational report 255 may comprise a respective status level information and performance trend information.

More specifically, informational report A, 255A comprises a status level notification A, 260A, a performance trend indication A, 265A, and proactive maintenance recommendations A, 270A. Likewise, informational report B, 255B comprises a status level notification B, 260B, a performance trend indication B, 265B, and proactive maintenance recommendations B, 270B. Optionally, the reporting module 250 may issue an electronic notification such as an email message or electronic page for a maintenance condition alert to a particular consumer among the plurality of consumers 185, in response to the status level notification 260 meeting a predefined criteria.

In operation, web server 205 may receive a parsed portion of the removal data from associated datasets 235A through 235C, as examples, Dataset A 235A, Dataset B 235B, and Dataset C 235C in respective data fields 240A through 240C such as Data fields A 240A, Data fields B 240B, and Data field C 240C. Informational reports 255A and 255B may be generally created through maintenance analysis engine 165, responsive to an expert defined second criteria or set of rules.

Aircraft maintenance information web portal 210 may receive the informational reports 255A and 255B through a communication channel 275 generally unitizing a communication protocol. A variety of such communication protocols are known. One communication protocol that may be deployed is Hyper Text Transport Protocol (HTTP). Other communication protocols are known to those of skill in the art.

In one exemplary embodiment, using Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML), web browser 215 displays informational reports 255A and 255B via operator interfaces 220A and 220B at aircraft maintenance information web portal 210. Furthermore, web server 205 operates on aircraft maintenance information database 160 including, but not limited to a DB2 database or a DB2 for OS/390 subsystem that are on the same machine or on different machines in a distributed network. Relational or non-relational removal data can be stored, accessed and/or updated, using database products such as Microsoft SQL Server and Sybase SQL Server to enable manipulation of the datasets 235A through 235C within data fields 240A through 240C.

FIG. 3 depicts a flow chart of exemplary steps embodying a maintenance analysis routine in accordance with one aspect of the present invention. With reference to FIGS. 1, 2 and 3, in step 300, the maintenance analysis routine is initialized. In step 305, for example, an expert 180 may specify a first criteria including a data transformation criterion for extracting appropriate removal data from removal data repository 100 to aircraft maintenance information database 160 as one or more particular datasets 235A through 235C within data fields 240A through 240C. Alternatively, a pre-entered first criteria may be automatically utilized by management analysis engine 165.

In step 310, for example, an expert 180 may specify a second criteria including a trending criterion, a filtering criterion, and/or a charting criterion to management analysis engine 165 for processing data fields 240A through 240C to perform a maintenance analysis. Alternatively, a pre-entered second criteria may be automatically utilized by management analysis engine 165.

In step 315, management analysis engine 165 generally executes on web server 205. Accessing aircraft maintenance information database 160, management analysis engine 165 derives one or more performance trends. In particular, management analysis engine 165 determines the one or more performance trends responsive to the second criteria specified in step 310. Alternatively, in step 315, for example, an expert 180 may manually analyze the removal data within data fields 240A through 240C for deriving preventative maintenance conclusions including, but not limited to the one or more performance trends.

In step 320, a trend test may be performed on the one or more performance trends to identify a significant removal data performance trend If the trend test is affirmative, the management analysis routine may proceed to step 325. Conversely, if no significant removal data performance trend is identified, the management analysis routine returns to step 305.

A web-based informational report may be prepared at step 325. Such web-based informational report may comprise a notification having a status level and a performance trend indication. A status level test may be performed in step 330 to determine if status level is high. If the status level test is affirmative the management analysis process may proceed to step 335. Conversely, if the status level is low, step 335 may be skipped and the management analysis routine may proceed directly to step 340. In step 340, the web-based informational report may be automatically delivered to a predetermined location such as the web portal 210 for retrieval by a consumer 185. In step 335, the consumer 185 may be notified by an automated electronic message such as an email for communicating delivery of the web-based informational report. At step 350 the management analysis routine may end and wait for a next cycle of the management analysis to begin.

FIG. 4 shows a flow chart with exemplary details, consistent with one aspect of the present invention, embodying a portion of the maintenance analysis routine of FIG. 3. Referring to FIGS. 3 and 4, in step 405, an aircraft dataset, such as Datatset A, 240A may be utilized for analyzing removal data from at least one operational source, such as one from the aircraft operational sources 110 to perform preventative maintenance. Next at step 410, the aircraft dataset may be parsed into at least one data field. In step 415, an acceptable range of values for the aircraft dataset within the data field may be determined. Then, in step 420, an adjustable dynamic limit may be derived from the acceptable range of values for defining a threshold for the aircraft dataset on the data field. A dynamic trigger may be set on the adjustable dynamic limit, in step 425, for analyzing the aircraft dataset within the data field. The data field may be dynamically flagged by an automatic activation of the dynamic trigger to indicate a maintenance alert when the threshold is crossed, in step 430.

In step 435, the automatic activation of the dynamic trigger may be processed to derive a performance indication, such as the performance trend indication A, 265A for the operational source by identifying one or more performance trends of the aircraft dataset At step 440, the maintenance alert may be associated with a notification having a status level, such as the status level notification A, 260A indicative of a maintenance condition for the operational source. The performance indication and the notification may be combined into an electronic report, such as the informational report A, 255A, in step 445. The electronic report may include one or more proactive maintenance recommendations to forecast whether to perform a preventative maintenance job on the operational source. Further, the electronic report may be automatically delivered to a predetermined location, such as the operator interface A, 220A of the aircraft maintenance information web portal 210 for retrieval by a consumer 185. And, selectively the consumer 185 may be notified by an automated electronic message based on the status level of the notification. The automated electronic message communicates delivery of the electronic report for the consumer 185 to the predetermined location.

Prior to the act of utilizing the aircraft dataset the aircraft dataset may be collected form the operational source, in response to a first criteria provided for a maintenance analysis. In one exemplary embodiment, a consumer 185 provides the first criteria including a predetermined period of time over which the aircraft dataset is to be collected by monitoring the operational source. The dynamic trigger may be determined responsive to a second criteria including an external profile from an expert 180. The external profile could include a plurality of input attributes indicative of the maintenance analysis for the aircraft dataset at issue. In addition, as the status level may include different levels such as a green level, a yellow level, and a red level. A particular level may be selected based on a predetermined excursion of the aircraft dataset in the data field beyond the adjustable dynamic limit, and the external profile.

Moreover, the predetermined location can include a web site dedicated for the consumer 185, and the web site may be controllably accessed by the consumer 185 via Internet 505. Additionally, the web site may be generally employed for disseminating to the consumer, among other things, the one or more proactive maintenance recommendations, such as the proactive maintenance recommendations A, 270A. In one embodiment, at least one of such one or more proactive maintenance recommendations includes an incentive associated with the at least one operational source, whereby the incentive encourages the consumer 185 to consider carrying out the preventative maintenance job on the operational source. The electronic report may further comprise a maintenance problem description and analysis for the operational source.

FIG. 5 shows exemplary hardware/software components in a system 500 for analyzing aircraft removal data for preventative maintenance using Internet-505 according to one aspect of the present invention. With reference to FIGS. 1 through 5, an expert 180 (not shown) may use a first computer, such as an IBM compatible computer 510A or 510B, to request over a computer network, such as the Internet 505, a criteria template from an Internet computer server 515 that preferably services multiple operators or consumers 185 (not shown) though a second computer, such as an IBM compatible computer 520A, or 520B or a Macintosh personal computer 520C.

Experts 180 (not shown) can request a blank template for creating a first criteria template or use a previously created criteria template for transforming selected aircraft removal data as datasets 235A through 235C from removal data repository 100 to aircraft maintenance information database 160 within data fields 240A through 240C. The experts 180 may use a second criteria template to define the process illustrated in steps 300 through 350 and steps 405 through 445, which specifies a maintenance analysis process for web server 205 to operate aircraft maintenance information web portal 210.

Internet computer server 515 may include a network server 525, such as a Sun Solaris UltraSpare Server, executing communications software, such as Apache HTTPD Server from The Apache Group, www.apache.org, to communicate over computer network including Internet 505. Also, at the Internet computer server 515 may be an applications server 530, preferably operating behind a firewall, in data communications with network server 525 and having a memory 540 that contains software used in the present invention, including a server engine 545, for generating and processing templates, and a maintenance analysis application engine 550 in data communications with applications server 530. Internet computer server 515 may be operably coupled to an aircraft removal data storage 555 and an aircraft maintenance information database storage 560. The software operating on the applications server 530 and network server 525 communicate with each other and with necessary databases using standard protocols, such as CGI or Apache API. Skilled persons will understand that additional or different servers may be suitably deployed.

Operators such as consumers 185 could be part of a single enterprise and connected to Internet computer server 515 over a local area network, a wide area network, an Extranet or an Intranet. Alternatively, Internet computer server 515 could service many unrelated operators or consumers 185, each having appropriate access to the content of aircraft removal data storage 555 and/or aircraft maintenance information database storage 560 that are being accessible through Internet computer server 515 while connected to Internet 505. Typically, many operators or consumers 185 could continually accessing in real-time informational reports that are being posted over the computer network such as Internet 505, optionally by the experts 180.

In an alternate embodiment, the present invention provides a maintenance decision support to a user. Utilizing a dataset, such as the Dataset A, 240A, indicative of maintenance information associated with an operational source, such as one form the aircraft operational sources 110, an active dataset is derived. In response to an analysis criteria, a predetermined period of time over which the dataset is collected by monitoring the operational source. The user may provide the analysis criteria to parse the active dataset into at least one data field, such as the Data field A, 235A. By creating a trigger having a first limit and a second limit for the data field may be set. The trigger is determined responsive to an external profile having a first input, a second input, and a third input. Then the active dataset is analyzed by selectively flagging the data field. Next, the trigger is activated, in response to a predetermined amount of excursion of the active dataset within the data field beyond one of the first limit or the second limit.

Associating with the predetermined amount of excursion, a status indication, such as the status level notification A, 260A may comprise a first level, a second level and a third level that indicates the degree of maintenance-related concern regarding the operational source. The particular level is selected based on the predetermined amount of excursion beyond one of the first limit and the second limit, respectively.

Next, by processing the predetermined amount of excursion of the active dataset, for the data field, one or more specific trends are derived within the performance-trend indication A, 265A. Then the status indication and the one or more specific trends are transformed into a report within the informational report A, 255A. Preferably, the report may comprise an informational content and a form indicative of the maintenance decision support for the operational source.

Finally, the report with the status indication may be delivered to the user, and optionally, issuing a notification concerning the delivery of the report may alert the user. The report could include a maintenance problem description and analysis thereof for use to arrive at a decision for maintenance of the operational source.

The term connected, coupled, or operably coupled as used herein, is defined as connected, although not necessarily directly, and not necessarily mechanically. The term engine, routine, interface, program, software or phrase computer program or software module, as used herein, is defined as a sequence of instructions or code designed for execution on an electronic machine such as a computer or computing device and/or system. For example, a program may include a subroutine, a function, a procedure, an object method, an object implementation, an executable application, an applet, a servlet, a source code, an object code, and/or other sequence of instructions or code advantageously designed for execution on a computer system.

EXAMPLE

Specific embodiments of the invention will now be further described by the following, non-limiting example which will serve to illustrate in some detail various features of significance. The following example is intended merely to facilitate an understanding of ways in which the invention may be practiced and to further enable those of skill in the art to practice the invention. However, it should be appreciated that many changes can be made in the exemplary embodiments which are disclosed while still obtaining like or similar result without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. Accordingly, the example should not be construed as limiting the scope of the invention.

Referring to FIG. 6, an exemplary flow diagram of an Internet-enabled Aircraft Information Maintenance Management (AIMM) application software for use with the system 500 of FIG. 5 to analyze aircraft removal data for preventative maintenance over Internet 505 is illustrated according to one aspect of the present invention. In one embodiment, the AIMM application software acquires the aircraft removal data from multiple onboard sources and subsequently processes to selectively transform that aircraft removal data into graphical charts, trends, and filters.

Using the AIMM application software, technical expert personnel then analyze the aircraft removal data to identify maintenance-related symptoms to determine aircraft system operational information including failures, faults, and events. Such aircraft system operational information is utilized to provide proactive maintenance recommendations within an informational report presented as a customized customer informational report web page. The proactive maintenance recommendations within such an informational report may enable the customer such as aircraft operators to reduce unscheduled mechanical delays and cancellations, thereby reducing bottom line costs. The informational reports can be delivered periodically such as daily, weekly, or monthly.

As an example, to provide a periodic informational report regarding preventative maintenance, consider the actuation system of the Boeing 777 High Lift System (Flaps/Slats) as a project to analyze for a customer, e.g., an aircraft operator entity such as a "X Airlines." First, a project profile is created in the AIMM application software for the customer. The 629 BUS architecture and the Flap/Slat Electronics Units (FSEU) on the Boeing 777 collect aircraft removal data on an actuation rate. This aircraft removal data is then stored in a flight data acquisition system known as the Central Maintenance Computer (CMC). A server coupled to the AIMM application software may receive the aircraft removal data from "X Airlines" from their CMC's every other day on a fleet of 6 aircraft. The AIMM application software reads a dataset from the CMC that include the data fields for each of the 8 hydraulic actuators and their associated RVDT's & LVDT's sensors.

As a server reads the aircraft removal data, it transforms it into engineering units, by creating a unique dataset that comes across 100 data fields of data that are new to the AIMM application software for this project. The AIMM application software interactively communicates with one or more experts that are assigned to the project to ask whether the experts would like to add all the data fields to the project, and on what data fields the experts would like to set limits on. For example, an expert may choose to set the rate of movement on the 8 RVDT's at 10 degrees per second drawing from experience or from reading a system description document for this particular system provided by Boeing, Inc. of Seattle, Wash.

If the data in the selected data fields shows one or more occurrences indicating any time the rate of movement goes below 10 degrees per second, the AIMM application software will inform the expert with an automatic issuance a trigger having a visual and/or audible message. This may happen each and every time a new dataset is entered that has these data fields and dynamically as the AIMM application software parses the dataset into the data fields the first time. Then AIMM application software allows the expert to plot the data fields against any other field or time or even against a standard rate model trend line. Keeping track of triggers, the AIMM application software identifies form the dataset that a particular aircraft failed to maintain its extension rate 5 times within the last 4 flights.

Based on experience of the expert in dealing with this type of system or a prerecorded event, the AIMM application software knows that the flaps only extend twice in a flight. This means that the determined rate for the system failed to achieve its optimal performance 5 out of 8 times when it went to extend in the last 4 flights. Using this performance trending analysis of a maintenance condition, the expert using the AIMM application software may start the submittal of a status report for this system by categorizing this maintenance condition as a yellow alert for this particular aircraft as it doesn't warrant a red alert; since it just didn't move at the optimum rate.

Now, as part of the submittal the expert using the AIMM application software need to determine what is causing the problem, at least to at a preliminary level. However, the problem may be due to a part of another system, not the High Lift System. If the dataset includes any information on the valves or the central hydraulic system of the aircraft, then this data may be evaluated as above, by setting limits and processing the associated dataset.

This way, the expert using the AIMM application software will be able to narrow the problem down to maybe only a few components or the actual component causing the problem. Through the expert's experience in dealing with this system, the expert knows what part is causing the problem. For example, it could be a high lift system priority valve, which is shared, coincidentally, with the nose landing gear and is located in the nose gear well.

As a check, the expert using the AIMM application software examines the rate of nose gear extension in the dataset. As it should extend at 30 degrees per second, however, for the last 4 flights it has only been extending at a rate of 18 degrees per second. Also, knowing from experience, that the gears are given priority to the hydraulic system, and it was still not able to maintain its optimum rate, a maintenance-related conclusion may be accordingly drawn.

To this end, the expert using the AIMM application software then creates a report, which may include graphs, method flow charts, description, and some data in spreadsheet format. In this manner, the aircraft operator entity "X Airlines" may be timely and in real-time informed about the potential maintenance problem being with the valve and they can take certain measures for preventative maintenance.

Once submitted, the report goes to a management queue where one or more experts including technical professionals can review the contents and form of the report for clarity and completeness. Then the experts submit the report for posting to the "X Airlines" on "My X Airlines Site." In this example, the maintenance alert, because it is yellow, will trigger an automated email message to be sent to a contact person at "X Airlines" and to the contact person's pager, if desired. The AIMM application software does this automatically when it is a yellow or red status level. This avoids a failure in the examined system.

For example, a particular aircraft could be very close to a failure as to extend the flaps, not too mention it may have had a failure to extend the nose gear in the future also. The aircraft in such a condition cannot be dispatched without these functions. Moreover, it could be very dangerous if it failed while in a flight. As a result, a delay or even possibly a cancellation or in a worst case an incident/accident may be caused. However, the informational report with preventative and status information can avoid that delay or cancellation if the "X Airlines" act on the status report and catch the particular aircraft at its next down time.

In one embodiment, the AIMM application software provides virtual real-time posting via the World Wide Web. Once an expert using the AIMM application software analyzes the aircraft removal data, a customized customer informational report web page is created for the customer. In one embodiment, the customized customer informational report web page lists a system status for an aircraft system and descriptive information regarding various maintenance-related problems with the functionality of that aircraft system.

This customized customer informational report web page is then posted to an encrypted, secure web directory that only the customer can access. In addition, if a status is not "in-the-green" an automatic email alert is sent to the appropriate personnel in a technical expert group assigned to the customer. This provides for an immediate "heads-up" to go check their custom web site for preventative maintenance-related information.

FIG. 7 shows an exemplary customer informational report web page obtained from executing the AIMM application software of FIG. 6 on the system 500 of FIG. 5 to analyze aircraft removal data for preventative maintenance over Internet 505 in accordance with one aspect of the present invention. Other embodiments, variations, and improvements not described herein are not necessarily excluded from the scope of the invention, which is defined by the following claims.

Although the present invention and its advantages have been described in detail, it should be understood that various changes, substitutions and alterations can be made to the embodiments herein without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims. Moreover, the scope of the present application is not intended to be limited to the particular embodiments of the process, machine, manufacture, composition of matter, means, methods and steps described in the specification. As one of ordinary skill in the art will readily appreciate from the disclosure of the present invention, processes, machines, manufacture, compositions of matter, means, methods, or steps, presently existing or later to be developed that perform substantially the same function or achieve substantially the same result as the corresponding embodiments described herein may be utilized according to the present invention. Accordingly, the appended claims are intended to include within their scope such processes, machines, manufacture, compositions of matter, means, methods, or steps. For more information go to WWW.GAPATENTS.COM OR WWW.GOOGLE.COM.