WHY ENGINE CONDITION TREND MONITORING IS A MUST FOR PT6As
Whether it involves recording and inputting data manually or using the latest automated Digital Engine Services, Engine Condition Trend Monitoring delivers net gains for all PT6A customers.
A WORTHWHILE PAYOFF
Rob Winchcomb, PT6A Customer Manager, is the first to admit that doing Engine Condition Trend Monitoring (ECTM) by hand is a hassle.
It requires writing down key engine and aircraft data at a set time during each flight once the plane is at a stable cruising speed, inputting the recorded figures into a computer after landing and sending them to the analysis company for comparison with the results of previous flights.
For busy operators who already have plenty on their plate during a flight, the extra work might seem like an unnecessary nuisance. That’s why Rob’s customers always ask him the same question: “What’s in it for me?”
He’s been telling them the same thing for 25 years: “ECTM reduces the cost of ownership, increases the engine’s availability and gives you more peace of mind.”
Rob walks the talk. Thirty years ago, before joining P&WC, he was on the other side of the fence as a customer. He began his aviation career with the Royal Flying Doctor Service as well as other regional airlines in Australia. Back then, he was already a strong proponent for recording and using engine condition data, despite having to do it all the hard way—computing the trend values by hand on a Texas Instruments calculator and plotting his own handmade ECTM graphs.
Rob Winchcomb, back in 1988, performing a hot section inspection on a PT6A engine
On any aircraft engine, there’s natural wear and tear over time. You don’t see it, but it’s happening. There are a lot of moving parts as well. How do you keep your eye on all those parts and track changes? With ECTM. Yes, it’s a bit more work, but I always encourage it.
A LITTLE EFFORT, A LOT GAINED
“PT6A engines are very reliable from one inspection to the next, but in my mind the question is, why not take the next step? With ECTM, you can optimize performance and maintenance planning,” says Rob. “It doesn’t cost you much considering the gains it will bring.”
By analyzing parameters such as power, speed and fuel flow on a flight-to-flight basis, ECTM can identify subtle changes in an engine’s performance. Based on the analysis results, P&WC’s engine health monitoring partner CAMP Systems will let the operator and maintenance team know if any actions are required.
Is a sudden 10-degree increase in temperature simply the result of replacing a fuel nozzle set? Is an increased power load due to excess air leaking from the cabin rather than an issue with the engine itself? Do you need to take a look at the compressor? ECTM will tell you.
This kind of detailed insight into engine performance means that issues can be detected and resolved before they turn into costly repairs and affect operation. It also makes it easier for PT6A customers to move to on-condition hot section inspections.
It all adds up to better maintenance planning, lower expenses and increased engine availability.
The worst thing that can happen to you if you’re an individual operator, as many of my PT6A customers are, is for your aircraft to be suddenly unavailable because of an unscheduled maintenance event. When you launch an aircraft into a remote place like the Australian outback for example, you want to know your engines are in good health, 24/7/365.
There’s also a financial benefit when selling a used aircraft. If you’ve been consistently performing ECTM, you’ll have a record to show potential buyers that the engine is well maintained. That will give them more confidence, which in turn enhances your aircraft’s resale value.
AUTOMATED ECTM AND MORE WITH THE FAST™ SOLUTION
Today, many operators can enjoy all the advantages of ECTM with none of the downsides, thanks to P&WC’s FAST™ Solution for proactive engine health management system.
Now available on a growing number of PT6A platforms, the FAST solution captures, analyzes and wirelessly transmits a wide range of engine and aircraft data after each flight, providing detailed, customized alerts and trend monitoring information directly to the operator within minutes of engine shutdown.
FAST is the direction I would like all our customers to take, but it’s not yet available for some older aircraft, so operators can review our diagnostics solutions page online to see which option is best for them to capture the correct data at the correct time.
“I wish I’d had this technology 30 years ago,” remarks Rob. “It’s light years ahead of what we were doing back then—and it keeps evolving.”
Besides making operators’ lives simpler through automation, the FAST solution also has the capacity for enhanced functionality going forward. For instance, the company is looking at introducing FAST’s propeller vibration trend monitoring technology – available for regional turboprop aircraft – as a solution for PT6A-powered aircraft in the future. That’s another reason why Rob believes it is now the most attractive solution for customers.
Ultimately, though, what’s most important is to be doing ECTM, no matter whether it’s with pen and paper or state-of-the-art digital solutions. “When I talk to customers about FAST,” Rob concludes, “what I’m selling them is not the hardware itself, but the full value of automated ECTM to their operations and asset value.”
Rob has also helped PT6A customers master the art of engine rigging by appearing in a detailed instructional video. Read all about it here.