Aircraft engines are expensive. They are expensive to purchase and expensive to maintain. Aircraft operators and leasing companies are always looking for ways to reduce engine maintenance costs without sacrificing their incredible reliability.
One technique that is widely used to improve the reliability of modern jet engines is to monitor certain engine parameters over a period of time. This is sometimes referred to as, "Engine Trend Monitoring". The idea being that a skilled technician (or teams of technicians) can review key engine performance data to try to identify potential problems before they become serious.
Think of it as your typical health check up where your doctor checks your blood pressure, cholesterol and other health indicators and then establishes a plan to keep you (or get you) on track for a healthy life. However, unlike a health checkup that you take every 1 to 3 years, engine data is collected every flight.
The potential cost savings of these programs can be very substantial. Consider a very simple example in which the engine data suggests that a fuel pump is acting up on a particular engine. The maintenance scheduler can take that information and plan to have the pump replaced the next time the aircraft is down for regular maintenance before it fails.
Now, if you are thinking that this is just creating extra work, consider the alternative: the fuel pump fails during a revenue generating flight. The aircraft lands safely and, depending on the aircraft type, the passengers may not even know that there is an issue with the aircraft.
But now the return flight is delayed while a replacement aircraft is positioned. Parts may need to be ordered and the aircraft will need to be temporarily removed from service for what a Fleet Manager looks forward to the least, "Unscheduled Maintenance". Early replacement of that fuel pump now looks like a much cheaper option.
Like most data analysis techniques, Engine Trend Monitoring was quite expensive in the past, but it is becoming much more affordable for even smaller operators - particularly those that are already monitoring their flight data as part of a Flight Data Monitoring (FDM) or FOQA program.
For example, at Scaled Analytics, we offer an Engine Trend Reporting option for our FDM/FOQA customers where we use the aircraft flight data to capture the required engine parameters for every flight. No special hardware is required, other than the flight recorder being used for the FDM/FOQA program (normally a Quick Access Recorder (QAR) or the Flight Data Recorder).
The only obvious "catch" is that the parameters that the operator require need to be available in the data, but this is not normally a problem on modern aircraft.
Because data collection is handled after all of the data is collected as part of the Flight Data Monitoring program, the specific flight phases at which to collect the data can be fine tuned and precisely defined. Many operators collect the data just after takeoff and during steady-state cruise, but these conditions can be "tweaked" to meet a particular operator's specific requirements.
Technicians and engineers can then review the data for each engine on each aircraft to help them make maintenance and serviceability decisions.
Because the data is already being processed as part of the FDM/FOQA program, the additional cost to collect engine trending data is quite minimal, but the potential benefits can be significant.
This is but one more example where your flight data can be used for purposes other than flight safety. A modern aircraft has a wealth of information recorded and operators would be wise to make the best use of that data.
If you would like more information on how an engine trend reporting program could work for your team, send us an email at email@example.com and someone from our team would be happy to provide you with more information.
For example, at Scaled Analytics, we offer an Engine Trend Reporting option for our FDM/FOQA customers where we use the aircraft flight data to capture the required engine parameters for every flight.