Air Transport World

Fixing the problem before it occurs: predictive engine monitoring systems allow airlines and MRO providers to track, isolate and identify anomalies before they become big headaches. (Engine Maintenance).

The current financial condition of the airline industry has increased pressures to keep aircraft out of maintenance shops and engines flying at peak performance. To that end, the industry is turning to advanced electronic measures for engine monitoring and preventive maintenance.

"Preventive maintenance is one-tenth the cost of fixing something after it breaks," asserts Gary Conkrighr, president and CEO of Lisle, Ill.-based SmartSignal. "In a situation where about 60% of all maintenance operations are unplanned, the opportunity for an airline to significantly affect its cost structure and at the same time increase revenue and customer satisfaction while reducing capital costs is pretty compelling. An event in an aircraft engine where a component fails can easily have a repair cost of $1.5 million. In a lot of cases, that is prevented by performing the maintenance before it causes damage."

Conkright says SmartSignal's Equipment Condition Monitoring is an agnostic approach airlines can use on any engine type. The system uses data already being drawn from onboard sensors and transmitted to the airline's ground operations maintenance center, then fed into basic trending programs provided by engine OEMs. He says eCM provides a more predictive analysis by looking at deviations within normal operating ranges rather than only at the extremes.

"We do that by building a personalized model for each engine," he explains. "We see very subtle changes in the engine as a problem develops, which gives us the ability to see problems much more quickly than other techniques. …

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