Jet-Care's engine-monitor program goes online

Aviation International News » September 2003
August 11, 2008, 8:49 AM

Increased use of the Internet and software improvements have made Jet-Care International’s engine condition health online (Echo) program more user-friendly, according to technical director Peter Smith. Previously, the monthly reports sent to customers were mailed or faxed, but Echo can now e-mail the reports as PDF files.

Jet-Care is also making the engine condition reports available to customers via its
Web site (www.jet-care.com). This allows it to offer more frequent updates, with the system being refreshed every night to reflect the outcome of any follow-up testing. For example, Smith explained, an operator suspecting that a problem is due to a gauge can swap it out with another instrument and then send in fresh flight data for Echo to analyze. Confirmation will be available the next day via the Web site.

The files that Jet-Care e-mails to clients will either be standard PDFs or Echo files. Customers who opt to receive Echo files can create their own PDF from this, as well as a separate PDF that can be edited to include follow-up comments. Importantly, the original Echo data can never be altered.

In fact, the German-based Lufthansa-Bombardier business jet maintenance joint venture is now making extensive use of this e-mail capability. It produces customized report files for each of the operators it serves.

To make life easier for a client’s maintenance staff, the report files can be automatically translated by a customer into French, Spanish, German, Italian, Danish and Portuguese. The original file can be kept in English to facilitate communication with Jet-Care and OEMs.

The Echo process is based on monitoring the following key engine performance parameters and operating conditions for individual flights using gas path analysis (GPA): outside air temperature; airspeed; flight level; N1 and N2 speeds; temperature of engine exhaust gas after the combustion process; and fuel flow. From the GPA data–gathered either manually or via direct download from the digital engine control system–Jet-Care calculates how a notional engine should perform in these conditions and plots differences with the engine being monitored. The version of Echo used for the new Honeywell AS900 turbofan family also now shows the time taken for the engines to spool down to a particular speed.

Another innovation with the Echo software is that the program can “smooth” data over sequences of five flights to reveal exactly when a problem started to appear so that operators can identify it more quickly. According to Smith, by comparing the five-flight data with data smoothed over 15 flights, the system gives a better overall picture of the problem so that operators can truly assess its severity.

Echo also now offers color-coded risk categorization of problems associated with particular engines. Serious incidents are flagged in red, mounting problems requiring corrective action are shown in yellow and problem-free engines in green. This is helpful to larger operators, which are more likely to prioritize the workload of their maintenance teams.

The program can also present data from two or more sets of engines together so that their performance can be compared directly. This is especially useful for operators of Falcon trijets and four-engine Avro RJs, where one pair of engines can share common problems not experienced by the other pair.

Fluid Analysis

Jet-Care is also now using Echo to process its oil-analysis work. This has allowed it to compare and contrast the relative levels of the chemical and mineral traces that its tests look for as indicators of operating problems.

Smith explained that the safety limits for specific chemical and mineral traces can be adjusted for different operators, according to their own circumstances. For example, one European helicopter operator kept getting apparently high readings for zinc until it was realized that this was almost entirely a result of the type of oil drums used for storage. The zinc limits were adjusted so that the tests did not constantly give false safety warnings.

Jet-Care also examines hydraulic fluid, replaced oil filters and engine debris for clues pointing to actual or potential problems with an engine. It provides operators with test kits, which include a new filter element, an O-ring (if required) and an oil-sample kit, filter bottle and packaging to send back the sample. It now offers kits for APUs, as well as engines.

The main purpose of Jet-Care’s battery of tests and engine-condition monitoring is to identify early signs of serious hot-end distress. They highlight serious damage and wear to engine components, such as discs, blades and stators that would not necessarily be picked up in routine flight-line inspections. Operators are quickly advised to follow up with borescope tests when such symptoms are revealed.

According to Jet-Care founder and president David Glass, the company’s customer base has continued to grow. He believes operators are reluctant to drop the service from their maintenance budget because if the tests catch a million-dollar problem early enough for it to be a $100,000 problem, they pay for themselves several times over.

And, Glass said, the company’s services also provide an important consumer function, in addition to their roles in ensuring safe and efficient operations. Clients now have an independent source of operating data, which can be compared with a large database of other engines of the same type. And in several instances this information has given customers the power to confront manufacturers or suppliers with some unpalatable truths about their products.

For example, one operator noticed a serious drop in performance after changing to a different brand of oil. The oil company refused to accept any responsibility until Jet-Care’s data showed that the problem had started precisely the day that the new oil had first been put into the engine.

Glass said Jet-Care has quite deliberately decided to retain control of the Echo test process rather than simply selling the software package for operators to use entirely autonomously. The main reason is quality control, because the outcome of the tests could be compromised by an inexperienced user entering data or changing analysis coordinates incorrectly. But he also argued that the process is more valuable to its users because it can draw on a vast central database for the engines it covers, rather than simply looking at an individual operator’s hardware in isolation from the rest of the fleet. The Jet-Care president predicted that, for these very reasons, engine manufacturers now providing their own engine-condition-monitoring software to operators will opt to take the process back in-house.

Jet-Care’s Cedar Knolls, N.J. facility has just installed a second $500,000 scanning electron microscope, which is used for oil, filter and debris testing. The Odiham, UK facility of its parent company, Spectro Oil Analysis, already has two of the microscopes and its laboratory at Basel, Switzerland, also has its own unit. The laboratories also use inductively coupled plasma spectrometers and viscometers to test the viscosity of oil and fluids.

At next month’s NBAA Convention in Orlando, Fla., the company is expected to announce its new Echo and lab analysis services for the Williams-Rolls FJ44. The 1,900- to 2,400-pound-thrust turbofans power new-generation small business jets such as Cessna’s CitationJet, Raytheon’s Premier I and the Sino Swearingen SJ30-2. Jet-Care operates its own Citation CJ1 on both sides of the Atlantic.

All three of the company’s facilities are approved to test GE and Honeywell engines, as well as Turbomeca powerplants (for which it is the only firm authorized to test debris picked up by the magnetic chip detectors). The UK facility–located 40 miles southwest of London–has been approved by Pratt & Whitney Canada as an official data acquisition center for all of its engines.

Collectively, Jet-Care is now monitoring the health of more than 12,000 engines for operators in some 60 countries. Its established business-aviation client base includes NetJets, Flexjet, Jet Aviation and TAG Aviation.

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