HOW TOLL HELICOPTERS USES FAST™ TO IMPROVE ITS OPERATIONS
P&WC’s FAST™ solution is providing Toll Helicopters with full situational awareness for its aeromedical helicopter fleet, thanks to high-quality actionable data on both engine health and operations. Here’s how.
A LEADER IN DATA-DRIVEN OPERATIONS
When Toll Helicopters purchased eight new Leonardo AW139s in 2016, it opted to have P&WC’s FAST™ solution for proactive engine health management technology installed on the PT6C-67C helicopter engines at the factory.
At that time, FAST technology was newly certified for the AW139 and as a firm believer in the power of big data and digital technology to improve its operations, Toll was confident the investment would be worth it.
“We can be considered an early adopter,” explains Cameron McAndrew, Maintenance Manager, who supervises maintenance for Toll’s fleet, which includes two Bell 212 helicopters along with the eight AW139s. With Rescue Helicopter bases in Sydney, Wollongong, Canberra and Orange, Toll provides Aeromedical Helicopter Services for NSW Ambulance, ACT Ambulance and NETS (Newborn and paediatric Emergency Transport Services) across the Southern New South Wales and ACT regions. “Using technologies like FAST in an emergency medical services environment is absolutely beneficial.”
As aircraft become smarter and engines and airframes become more digitized, it’s imperative to have this kind of technology. It gives us visibility into the health of our engines.
RECEIVING FULL-FLIGHT DATA WITHIN MINUTES
The FAST system automatically captures data on key engine and aircraft parameters during a flight, then wirelessly transmits it for analysis. This is done for every single Toll Ambulance Rescue mission, with all data offloaded, encrypted, filtered and sent to Toll within 15 minutes of the pilot shutting down the engine.
For Toll, this data serves a dual purpose. Engine data is analysed and used for proactive maintenance and troubleshooting. Aircraft data is forwarded for analysis to Truth Data, a third-party solution provider, which issues detailed operational reports that are used to progressively monitor performance and enhance pilot briefings and training.
“Toll is a very data-driven operator that has truly embraced a learning mentality. They understand that data is your friend and use it as a continuous improvement tool,” says P&WC’s Bjorn Stickling, Director, Digital Engine Services.
“With the help of metrics captured using FAST, they’re always learning from the previous day and looking at how they can improve flight performance and safety.”
AUTOMATION ENHANCES TOLL’S EFFICIENCY
In the past, operators who wanted to monitor engine trends had no choice other than to record and input data manually. But with FAST, they are able to avoid that time-consuming process, which is a significant plus for Toll.
The data is transferred seamlessly and automatically, almost immediately after engine shutdown. That reduces the workload for our engineers and allows them to focus on tasks that cannot be automated.
Based in the Netherlands, Thierry van Bennekom, a flight data monitoring (FDM) specialist for Truth Data, receives data about Toll Ambulance Rescue flights every day and combs through it to identify notable trends and prepare reports.
“Automated and mobile transfer is quite an advantage in the helicopter industry,” he says. “I’ve worked with many operators who put a lot of effort into getting data off the aircraft. With the FAST solution, that whole process is now automated. Nobody has to worry about it. That frees up time for interesting analysis.”
GETTING INSIGHTS INTO ENGINE HEALTH AND MORE
Receiving detailed data analysis after every mission has made it easier than ever for Toll to monitor, manage and be aware of engine performance. If there are health trends that are starting to become negative, the frequent updates allow the operator to take action with timely preventive maintenance.
“There’s a real benefit in looking at the aircraft’s behaviour regularly instead of waiting for scheduled events,” remarks Cameron. “The future is to review the aircraft’s performance 24 hours a day rather than at scheduled intervals.”
Thanks to the arrangement with P&WC and Truth Data, Toll gets much more than just engine data. Within 24 hours of a mission, they also get a fully processed operational report.
There are two keys aspects of the FAST system that make this possible, as Thierry explains. The first is its integration into the aircraft, which provides access to data from the flight management system, not just the engine. The second is the speed and frequency with which data is made available.
Speed is critical. I see FAST as being a very unique system because of its short download cycle. You can get back to the pilots in a day or two. That can only be done if you get the data every time the aircraft lands.
GIVING PILOTS RAPID, PRECISE FEEDBACK
The founder of Truth Data, Peter Henrikson, is a former F16 pilot. During his military aviation days, he took detailed daily performance debriefings for granted. He started Truth Data with the aim of using digital flight data analysis solutions to bring that same level of practical feedback to operators around the world.
“When I got into the helicopter business, I realized that a lot of the aircraft had recording capabilities that weren’t being used,” he recalls. “It’s a very niche segment of the industry. We help customers who don’t have the resources to do data analysis in-house.”
FAST™ SOLUTION DELIVERS COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE
Helicopters have historically led the way on detailed data capture, but the problem has been how to make it readily usable by operators. With the FAST Solution, that’s no longer an issue. The system also provides operators with the option for an automated power assurance calculation, with a simple to use cockpit display, reducing pilot work load and ensuring high quality consistent power assurance points are taken and automatically transmitted. Customers don’t need to spend time collecting and analyzing data—they can simply act on it.
Having a robust, timely system with high-quality, clean data enables the operator to build it into their day-to-day operations and improve their safety and training systems. That can be a differentiator when competing for new contracts.
For all these reasons, Peter Henrikson believes systems like FAST are an integral part of the digital operational landscape and will continue to play an increasingly important role. Besides the existing benefits, they could eventually become even more powerful by integrating machine learning or capturing a wider range of data.
“As operators appreciate the value of these systems, it will become more of a de facto standard in the industry,” he concludes. “It’s not just for helicopter operators—it’s a benefit for anyone who flies an aircraft, regardless of fleet size.”
In 2019, P&WC is focusing on enhancements allowing operators to use the Automated FAST downloads eliminating the current manual process and hence reducing maintenance time. The team will introduce an automated in-flight power trend monitoring capability which will further reduce pilot work load and allow for more efficient departure procedures by reducing hover time.
Check out our previous Airtime features on the Royal Flying Doctor Service and 4 Ways FAST Helps Ag Aircraft Operators Grow Their Business to discover how other customers are using the FAST™ solution.