About half of E-Jets and 40% of their operators use Ahead. Both Embraer and customers receive data, some via Acars in flight, with larger data sets downloaded on landing. The system tracks component status and recommends troubleshooting steps as needed.
Benefits depend on how fully Ahead is used. “Smart integration of Ahead predicts the best unscheduled and scheduled maintenance stops, the amount of inventory and manpower at each location and the optimum moment to exchange degraded components,” Lima says. He estimates Ahead can increase aircraft availability by up to 35%. Embraer will offer a smart-integration package to new customers and is studying structural monitoring on new aircraft.
Major MRO providers also offer predictive services. SR Technics has provided data and predictive maintenance to customers for 20 years. It expects to support the Boeing 787 before year-end.
Martin Frutiger, head of IT tools at SR Technics, says data sensitivity and security are additional hurdles to predictive maintenance by independent MROs. “Data for predictive maintenance also provides an overview of pilot performance, so it creates a number of sensitivities. It is essential that strong trust is built up between the MRO and the flight operations, engineering and technical departments of an airline to ensure all data is provided.”
Frutiger emphasizes the data differences between new and old aircraft. “New aircraft are like flying servers,” he says. More data, more parameters, more frequent data and more efficient transmission can dynamically improve scheduled maintenance on new aircraft. “If a component is performing better than expected, its replacement or overhaul can be delayed. If performance is not as good as it should be, it can be overhauled earlier.”
Fault codes and troubleshooting recommendations alone are not predictive maintenance. One major OEM has taken the plunge into a full predictive-maintenance offering. General Electric and Accenture, through a joint venture, are offering Taleris on all manufacturers' commercial airframes, engines and components. The support will be end-to-end, offering hardware for collecting and wirelessly downloading sensor data, prognostic analysis, a ground-support network, Accenture's planning and recovery tools, and transmission of recommendations to personal devices.
Raffaele Delogu, director of strategic markets for GE Avionics, says Taleris analysis will go beyond physical models to detect the unexpected and suggest actions relevant to operators. Delogu sees the major challenges as harmonizing data from multiple systems and changing airline business processes.
“OEMs will still make recommendations for repairs, but we will do advanced anomaly detection at the system and subsystem level above OEM fault codes,” explains Taleris CEO Norm Baker. “We will be able to see before anyone else the probability of degradation.”
In addition to OEMs, consultants also help carriers with predictive challenges. As head of technical operations at Finnair, Manu Skytta was having expensive challenges with his A330s' bleed systems. Since they were flown 19 hr. a day, there was little time for maintenance and none to waste on no-fault-found removals. “We needed to do the right action at the right time,” Skytta stresses. “That way you also have materials available when you need them and you can do production planning for repairing components.”