Aircraft and aero engines are complex equipment and are getting sophisticated day by day. More complex the equipment higher is the failure rate and this holds true for electronic systems using latest emerging technologies. Another factor for high number of failures is early release of non-safety critical electronic /mechanical aero systems due to market pressures, before implementation of the complete reliability improvement program. Such systems show high failure rate in operations, and to compensate OEMs offer longer warranties to the aircraft operators.
Failure prediction is a di‑cult task as there are factors of uncertainty; some of these are material, technological, manufacturing and usage profile. The usage profile factor is however, significant and prediction is challenging as each product may be used differently in varying environments. This is common for military aviation where aircraft and engines are used at their extreme performance regimes more often and for longer duration. Uncertainties in failure prediction lead to random failures and unscheduled maintenance and are more frequent for high failure rate components and systems.
Unscheduled maintenance is a big drag on aircraft operators and is quite high in aviation. A research by London school of Economics puts the cost of world aircraft fleet unscheduled maintenance to about $ 41 billion by 2035. This shows how a small percentage reduction in unscheduled events could result in substantial savings for airlines and operators.
Most aero systems show performance degradation before failure; however the key is to determine the critical properties that indicate system performance. This could be temperature, pressure or any combination of physical properties and data of these key properties needs to be captured at regular intervals to monitor performance. In order to reduce unscheduled maintenance OEMs need to predict impending system/component failures with high level of confidence, so that flying remains safe and lifecycle costs are at a minimum. The availability of cheap and robust sensors, internet and storage has made this easier for performance monitoring and data capturing. Towards this OEMs are populating their structures and systems with sensors to capture every possible data. Pratt and Whitney have fitted about 5000+ sensors on its PW1000G engines for the Bombardier C Series and are generating about 10 GB of data per second. Similarly, many aircraft manufactures are following the trend to capture load, performance and usage data.
The ability to provide meaningful insights from the large amount of data captured one needs domain expertise and thorough knowledge of data analytics, along with the expertise in tools. This may be provided as a service by engineering data analytics service providers. These service providers may further offer to do maintenance for the customers with tailored solutions for individual aircraft/ aero engine. Timely actionable insights from service providers would enable OEMs to improve their product performance and offer better & safer products to their customers.
QuEST Global provides product engineering services and solutions, and has more than 2 decades experience in supporting the top aircraft, aero system, and engine OEMs, making it one of our key industries. Our engineering services span the complete product lifecycle across mechanical, electronic, and software products. We support from design & development, through supply chain and manufacturing, all the way to aftermarket, which includes digital transformation services. Our domain expertise on aero structure and aero engine from early stages of design help us understand the product better. Combined with the in-depth capabilities in engineering data analytics, sensors, IoT, and cloud computing QuEST can be your right partner for aircraft and aero engine product support and MRO.