A DIGITAL SOLUTION SIMPLIFIES MAINTENANCE FOR AG OPERATORS
P&WC’s digital engine health management solutions help agricultural aviation operators maximize engine performance and availability while minimizing maintenance costs. Airtime spoke with an industry veteran about the benefits to her business.
MAKING MAINTENANCE A PRIORITY
“I’m very particular about engine maintenance,” says Brenda Watts, owner of K & P Flying Service.
She has good reason to be.
Brenda’s company depends on a single PT6A-65AG-powered Air Tractor 602, which provides services such as aerial application for farms growing rice, soybeans, corn, cotton and other crops across a 30-mile swathe of the Arkansas Delta.
During the January-to-October application season, the aircraft—flown by Brenda's long-time pilot Don Glasscock—typically racks up 800 to 850 flying hours.
If the plane can’t fly, the entire business grinds to a halt. That means engine performance and availability is a matter of the utmost importance to Brenda. She takes her aircraft into the shop more often than recommended, she does nozzle maintenance more frequently than stated in the manual—and in 2016 she adopted P&WC’s ADAS trend monitoring solution, with plans to upgrade to the FAST™ solution, which was certified earlier this year for Air Tractor aircraft.
It proved to be an insightful decision.
REDUCING THE NEED FOR MAJOR MAINTENANCE EVENTS
P&WC’s FAST solution captures, analyzes and wirelessly sends full-flight data on critical engine and aircraft parameters within minutes of engine shutdown so operators can maximize flying time, optimize maintenance planning and reduce operating costs.
For aircraft not yet certified for FAST, P&WC’s ADAS trend monitoring system—like the one installed on Brenda’s aircraft—provides an effective alternative. ADAS records data on critical engine parameters after every flight and automatically sends it to P&WC’s Computerized Aircraft Maintenance Program (CAMP) for analysis. Readings are then emailed to the operator, providing actionable insight into the engine’s health within 24 hours of the flight.
Using the insights from her trend monitoring system, Brenda has found it easier to plan her maintenance and seen her aircraft operating costs go down. Case in point: at the end of this season, for the first time in her 21 years in the aerial application business, she won’t be sending her engine in for a hot section inspection (HSI).
According to Watts, she has always done an HSI each year to ensure the engine is ready to go at the start of the next season. This year, however, she was able to forego one based on the readings from the digital health parameters and borescope.
If I don’t have to do a hot section inspection, that’s wonderful. I’m saving money—and that’s the bottom line.
Brenda appreciates having more information about what’s going on inside the engine at her fingertips. “Knowing what happens in [the engine] and in the cockpit gives me an advantage,” she notes.
For example, along with gauge readings provided by the pilot, she uses the trend data to give her operational insights such as whether the engine is being operated within its optimum performance range. Monitoring the engine’s performance also makes it easier to do preventive maintenance.
If something comes up, it’s a lot easier to fix it before it happens. Digital trend monitoring lets me do that.
BLAZING A TRAIL FOR OTHERS
Digital trend monitoring was uncharted territory for Brenda, but getting a handle on the technology has not been a problem. P&WC installed the system on her Air Tractor 602 and provided personalized training to show her how to get readings and what to look for in the data.
Brenda’s willingness to embrace this technology is typical of her can-do mentality. While the “K” and “P” in the company’s name represent her son Kelly and ex-husband Phil, neither are involved in the business any more. Brenda runs it herself, handling pretty much everything except for the actual flying.
In a field were women owners are few and far between, she is a rarity. She also broke new ground in 2016, when she was named the first-ever female president of the National Agricultural Aviation Association (NAAA).
I hope that I can be a role model for other women. When I was president of the NAAA, I would speak to women’s groups and tell them my story. I'd say that it’s not always easy, but if you’re determined to do it, you can succeed in this business.
Along with the FAST solution and ADAS, P&WC has developed a variety of diagnostics and prognostics solutions to suit customers' diverse needs. Operators can use the customized data readings to plan their maintenance, improve performance, perform troubleshooting and more. Take an in-depth look at 4 Ways FAST™ Helps Ag Aircraft Operators Grow Their Business.