PT6A Engine Health Data Gives Flying Medics Better Insights
Data captured by P&WC’s FASTTM solution allows the Royal Flying Doctor Service to monitor engine health data and, operational performance closely and make proactive decisions based on insights gathered through this powerful tool.
A GOLDMINE OF ENGINE HEALTH DATA
Justin Degotardi sums up the advantage of using FAST™ technology in three words: “Information is gold.”
As Airworthiness Manager for the Royal Flying Doctor Service’s (RFDS) Southeastern Section, Justin is always looking for any angle that will give his fleet of 17 King Airs an advantage. That's become easier since the aeromedical organization introduced the FAST™ system in 2015. Every time a FAST-equipped aircraft lands, the RFDS receives easy-to-interpret, full-flight engine health data within minutes of the pilot shutting down the engines.
Having rapid access to a wealth of diagnostic and prognostic information has boosted the RFDS’s ability to proactively identify and take action on engine maintenance requirements. This is making a difference when it comes to operational and maintenance optimization—helping the operator fulfill its aeromedical missions more effectively and in a planned maintenance environment.
Trend data has always been there, but what we’re getting out of the FASTTM system is different in terms of quality and speed. The information that we’re getting now is easier to read which reduces our investigation and decision making timeframes.
On FAST-equipped aircraft, high-density full-flight data is recorded for every mission. This is combined with P&WC’s proprietary algorithms to extract consistent and accurate trend information from flight to flight. With this ability, RFDS has been able to quickly develop its Flight Data Analysis Program (FDAP).
“FAST™ results in a more precise representation of changes in overall engine performance characteristics,” notes P&WC’s Michael Ellbogen, Sales & Marketing Manager, Diagnostic and Prognostic Health Monitoring, P&WC. “The RFDS can therefore make accurate assessments of trend anomalies to feed proactive maintenance recommendations in a timely manner.”
DATA ON TRENDS DRIVES PROACTIVE DECISION-MAKING
The more in-depth engine knowledge, available through the FAST™ solution, is giving the RFDS new, actionable insights into its fleet’s operations.
For instance, when analyzing data, the RFDS Safety Department noticed that there was an unusual number of “higher speed and descent rate” alerts for aircraft flying into Sydney. The organisation investigated further and discovered that air traffic control, whilst attempting to fast track our approaches, was placing our aircraft in a state inconsistent with the RFDS’s operational procedures.
The RFDS contacted Sydney’s air traffic control about it and arranged for their personnel to accompany RFDS pilots on flights into the airport. In return, the organization's pilots visited the air traffic control centre to learn more about the environment there. Following this exchange, air traffic control made adjustments to accommodate the RFDS fleet’s standards, resolving the higher speed and decent rate alerts and creating a positive impact on operational safety.
“We didn’t really know what was happening until we had the FAST™ data,” comments Justin. “Sometimes we knew we were getting over-torques, over-temps, things like that, but we didn’t have the full-flight profile.”
He adds that, in general, FAST™ data provides more visibility whenever the RFDS needs to investigate an engine or operational event: “We get a better picture now of what was happening when the event took place. It’s good, instant information that makes the whole investigation process a lot easier for us.”
BETTER PLANNING = FASTER TURNAROUND TIME
With a hot section inspection is fast approaching for one of its engines, the RFDS can look at FAST™ data combined with other information, such as past borescope results, to better plan. Determining what parts will be needed, obtaining them in advance and performing maintenance work without delay can all expedite the process.
Traditionally, we’d open up the engine not knowing anything about what was happening inside, then have to order parts from overseas, which takes time. Now, we can have the parts there before it’s open and be ready. With the FAST™ data, turnaround times for hot section inspections have become fairly seamless.
Training is another area of the RFDS’s operations that has benefited from the engine health data provided by FAST™. Thanks to the improved understanding of engine trends and flight profiles, the RFDS’s Head of Flight Operations has been able to adjust his training plan and tailor the content, including flight simulators, to reflect what pilots should know.
FULL-FLIGHT ENGINE HEALTH DATA HELPS MAINTENANCE PLANNING FOR EXTREME CONDITIONS
RFDS’s fleet operates in extreme heat and sometimes rough terrain, which takes a heavy long-term toll on even a durable engine like the PT6A. This means it requires more intensive maintenance than an engine used under standard flying conditions.
For Justin, FAST™ technology offers the advantage the 24/7-365 aeromedical organization needs to make it easier to schedule and perform maintenance—and he is confident that the organization will benefit from the data even more in future. “I think we’re still learning how much we can get out of this technology, but from what I’ve seen in the initial stages, the whole system is very positive,” he told Airtime.