Ornge Makes Flight Operations Efficiency a Priority
Emergency medical services (EMS) company Ornge in Ontario, Canada, provides life-saving transport services. Ever progressive, the organization has adopted some of the most advanced engine services to bring new levels of efficiency to its flight operations.
The Ornge fleet consists of eight Pilatus Next Generation single-engine PC-12 aircraft (powered by the PT6A-67P engine) and 11 Leonardo AW139 twin-engine helicopters (powered by the PT6C-67C engine). The fleet has to cover a land mass of 908,607 square kilometres (350,815 square miles) – roughly the size of Germany and France combined. What’s more, Ontario is Canada’s most populous province – home to some 14.3 million people.
When asked how the Ornge fleet came to be fully P&WC powered, Chief Engineer Barry Hesketh responds that a decision was made a number of years ago to replace the legacy fleet. Ornge was focused on safety first and foremost for the patients and crew, so one of the main goals was to find aircraft that met “Category A” criteria.
“To achieve Category A flight requirements, the AW139 was selected and the PT6C-67C plays a crucial role in making the aircraft meet that performance criteria.” Barry Hesketh, Chief Engineer, Ornge
Funded by the Ontario provincial government, the organization is responsible for more than 20,000 patient-related transports every year aboard its aircraft and ground-based ambulances. The air ambulance program in Ontario was launched in 1977 and today operates from nine bases around the province providing inter-facility transfer, on-scene response and organ transports (organ retrieval from across North America). Ornge has more than 130 highly trained EMS pilots, more than 200 paramedics and 50 aircraft maintenance engineers.
Mission-Ready through a Planned Environment
Ornge currently has 23 – soon to be 25 – PT6C-67C engines on P&WC’s Fleet Management™ Program (FMP™) solution. The FMP maintenance program provides tailored pay-per-hour coverage that allows Ornge to budget its costs and simplifies fleet operations management through a planned and preventive maintenance environment.
Ornge's helicopters were delivered in a short timeframe making some of their engines due for an overhaul in the same year. The FMP allows Ornge to avoid peaks in maintenance costs which would otherwise jeopardize financial performance in any given year.
“The most significant FMP benefit is the flat lining of our costs and the knowledge that lease pool engines are available.” Barry Hesketh, Chief Engineer, Ornge.
Barry Hesketh, Chief Engineer, Ornge
Barry sees the FMP as an extension of the service levels provided by P&WC. “In my experience, P&WC has always provided us with great support. To date I have noted a few instances where being enrolled in the program has given us an edge with respect to engineering support and timely access to spares.”
Ornge has been working closely with the P&WC Customer Service Manager and technical representatives to mitigate what would otherwise be a very demanding overhaul schedule. A more planned maintenance environment ultimately delivers a better service to the people of Ontario by allowing Ornge to be proactive in moving assets to avoid gaps in coverage. “This is particularly important given the nature of our work,” says Barry.
Digital Insights into Engine Health
Ornge is also implementing the FAST™ solution on its fleet of AW139 aircraft. FAST (Flight data Acquisition, Storage and Transmission) collects data on a host of key engine parameters (plus data from the flight data recorder [FDR] if the operator choses) and transmits it wirelessly for analysis. The results are then shared with the operator. The entire process happens in near-real-time, within 15 minutes of the pilot shutting down the engines. By comparing trends over time with baseline engine data, it’s possible to track the engines’ health and provide suitable maintenance recommendations whenever needed.
“The speed at which the FAST system provides feedback via email is incredible. In many cases, I’ve received notification of an issue prior to the crew even reporting it.” Barry Hesketh, Chief Engineer, Ornge.
He says that Ornge recently implemented a Flight Data Monitoring (FDM) program in its operations and the FAST system was a key component in support of that program. In addition to monitoring the status of the engines, the system also collects FDR information which is automatically sent to Ornge’s FDM analysis provider without any maintenance intervention.
“This provides us with close-to-real-time data on our fleet operations and increases our up time due to the automation via the FAST system,” says Barry.
Automating Power Assurance Checks
The FAST solution also allows pilots of the AW139 helicopter to conduct automatic power assurance checks (APAC). For Ornge, the key to trending is collecting consistent data. The solution ensures this through a demand-and-reply checklist to correctly configure the aircraft prior to data collection. It also monitors the torque to ensure the engine values are stable prior to calculating performance margins.
“The APAC removes most of the potential for human errors,” says Barry. “This helps ensure that correct data is collected the first time and avoids any potential requirements for recollection of data.”
Read more about how P&WC’s FAST diagnostic and prognostic solution can contribute to more efficient flight operations.