Date of Award

Summer 2022

Access Type

Dissertation - Open Access

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Aviation


College of Aviation

Committee Chair

Mark A. Friend, Ed.D.

First Committee Member

Ryan J. Wallace, Ed.D.

Second Committee Member

Kim Chambers, Ph.D.

Third Committee Member

Sarah M. Hubbard, Ph.D.

College Dean

Alan J. Stolzer, Ph.D.


Asset management programs can keep senior airport managers informed of the performance and life-cycle costs of assets critical to airport operations. With this information, managers can adjust operations and maintenance to minimize costs without sacrificing service quality. However, program implementation is costly and time-consuming. In addition to management and information technology changes, the individual maintenance shops must also develop and incorporate new data collection processes into their everyday workflow. Knowledgeable and experienced maintenance managers must evaluate the data, consider alternatives, and find strategies to reduce costs without negative impact. Unfortunately, such managers are rare for highly specialized assets like airfield lighting systems and often gain most of their experience working at one airport.

This research investigated the maintenance strategies most often used for airfield lighting, examined which criteria affected strategy choices, and asked how managers make their selections. The researcher interviewed 23 participants from 15 airports, including facility managers, maintenance engineers, and supervisors. Interview statements were first individually coded in detail and then grouped using focused codes to enable the continuous comparison of each organization’s approach to addressing common problems. Ultimately, the analysis identified eight primary criteria that managers should consider when selecting a maintenance strategy.

The process used by U.S. commercial service airports for selecting a maintenance management strategy is modeled as a Multi-Criteria Decision-Making (MCDM) problem. The model includes a problem goal, the criteria affecting the decision, and all the possible alternatives. MCDM models can employ various quantitative decision support systems such as Simple Additive Weighting (SAW), which requires subject matter experts to assign weights to the performance of the multiple alternatives for each of the criteria. However, the research shows that airports consistently use an intuitive decision-making process that relies on the expertise and experience of their maintenance staff. Therefore, this research constructed a theory of airfield lighting maintenance strategy selection modeled as an MCDM problem using an intuitive decision support system.

Maintenance managers should consider each of the following criteria when considering their work strategy: access, environment, regulations, budget, design, condition, impetus, and staff. Data analysis also found nine alternative maintenance strategies divided into corrective and preventive types. Corrective maintenance involves action after an asset degradation or failure has occurred. Preventive maintenance is the action taken before problems to prevent degradation and failure. Research shows that maintenance managers consider corrective maintenance to be less costly. However, overuse of corrective maintenance results in higher risks of unexpected asset failure and higher costs over the long-term. In comparison, preventive maintenance may require more daily effort but yields more reliable system performance and lower asset life-cycle costs. In practice, successful maintenance requires using both strategies.

Asset management practices require maintenance managers to measure and analyze their system performance, then regularly consider how they might change the maintenance program to minimize operating and maintenance costs without sacrificing performance. This research provides information helpful to maintenance managers with their strategy selection. Future research should investigate developing a quantitative decision-support system that maintenance managers could integrate into the current process and potentially deploy to maintenance organizations wanting supplemental guidance.