Engine monitoring programs take off

 - May 17, 2008, 6:16 AM

UK-headquartered Spectro, and Jet-Care, both divisions and trading names of Palace International, Ltd. (Booth No. 1523), have returned to EBACE with their largest ever range of performance monitoring programs, focusing on the Pratt & Whitney Canada series of small turbofans and turboprops. At the same time, Jet-Care is highlighting its condition monitoring service, which it now is offering to helicopter operators.

“A lot of major fleet operators and original equipment manufacturers are looking at it,” Spectro sales and marketing manager Alan Baker told EBACE Convention News. “We feel our existing programs, coupled with the sensitivity of our software and early warning systems create a market-leading capability.”

Currently Spectro is collecting field data from rotorcraft operators to create the models needed to carry out performance analyses. “We believe there is a huge market for helicopter engine on-condition monitoring services,” said Baker. Spectro already has become the preferred independent laboratory for Eurocopter.

Palace International’s two main divisions, Spectro and Jet-Care, are headquartered close to Farnborough Airport, the London-area business aviation gateway. Each division has become vital to the ongoing health of aircraft engines entrusted to its care: Spectro specializes in the in-depth laboratory analysis of engine oil, fuel, hydraulic fluids, filters and debris, while Jet-Care is a leading independent provider of gas path analysis, or total engine condition monitoring. The service operates 24/7/365.

Jet-Care had maintained a trend monitoring office in the U.S. for many years. In 1996 Spectro opened a laboratory at Cedar Knolls, New Jersey, using the name Jet-Care International and expanding its range to offer all services. “We continued with the Jet-Care name in the U.S. because it was already providing trend monitoring for a large number of Garrett [now Honeywell] TFE731-powered business aircraft, as well as Honeywell HTF7000 and Avco Lycoming ALF502 and ALF702 engines,” explained Baker.

Spectro opened a third laboratory, Spectro Oil AG, near Basel, Switzerland, in 2001. All three have approvals from all leading airframe and engine manufacturers. It is considering expanding to a fourth laboratory in the Far East as a natural next step, but according to Baker, there is no urgency. “The logistics advantages of being located in the shadow of [London] Heathrow [Airport] mean we can provide
a 48-hour turnaround with no problem,” he said.

According to Baker, engineers at Spectro and Jet-Care are continually upgrading the technology for analyzing oil. By detecting wear early on, oil analysis reduces costs, limiting the need for large stocks of spares. Regular health monitoring also contributes to operator confidence as aircraft ranges increase, thus allowing them to remain away from their home bases longer.

Spectro maintains a database of “fingerprints” for each aircraft engine, which permits wear on any particular component to be checked against pre-determined limits. Laboratory analysis of oil and hydraulic fluids includes checking oil viscosity, acidity and contamination. It uses scanning electron microscopes to establish the precise specification of a material–for example, a grade of titanium used in an engine shaft– which is cross-referenced to the engine specification so wear parameters can be established.

Baker explained that Spectro has expertise in establishing wear generation trends in combinations of metals in a particular engine that might point to a specific component within, such as a bearing. “A dedicated Spectro engineer will then follow up the analysis,” he said. “We like feedback and often call operators to find out what happened to the engine after they received our report.”

Jet-Care carries out gas path analysis, which, for example, can identify problems with main engine instrumentation and reveal deterioration in an engine by providing a constant reading of temperature margins. This would give operators advanced warning of engines likely to be power-restricted for hot-day operations.

The company is believed to be the only engine condition monitoring provider to receive the prestigious LRQA [Lloyd’s Register Quality Assurance] approval to AS9100 and ISO 9001. The award, granted in September 2007, is an approval of its quality management system.

Jet-Care has also developed a unique reporting program called Engine Condition Health Online (ECHO), which it supplies gratis to customers, allowing them to access electronic reports about their engines or oil samples. The program also allows reports to be created in PDF format and displayed as detailed figures or easy to read graphs, which can be networked through maintenance departments.

According to Baker, both Spectro and Jet-Care are experiencing “huge growth” at present as operators recognize that condition monitoring is essential to reducing costs. “We’re the recognized leader in the field,” he claimed. “We’ve handled samples from tens of thousands of engines since we began analyzing engine lubricants in 1976 and we monitor the performance of 12,000 engines every day. That’s a lot of experience.”