NBAA Convention News

Operators Find Cost Of Jet-Care Engine Testing Is Still Well Spent

 - October 10, 2011, 4:20 AM
Jet-Care touts its oil testing system as a means of spotting potential problems early on.

Business aircraft operators may be battling to control costs, but they aren’t cutting back on the oil and engine debris analysis services provided by Jet-Care (Booth No. N4916). In fact, growing demand for tests has prompted the company to increase the size of its facilities on both sides of the Atlantic.

In July, Jet-Care completed a $2 million refurbishment of its facility in Cedar Knolls, N.J., which has increased the available laboratory and office space by more than 60 percent to around 16,000 sq ft.

Meanwhile in the UK, its sister company Spectro has begun redevelopment work for a new headquarters in Odiham, close to the London-area Farnborough Airport. Next year, Spectro will move into the similarly sized complex, having developed a 21st century technical center from buildings that were built in 1780.

Oil and engine debris analysis is not mandated under regulatory maintenance requirements, although they are required under the warranty terms of several engine manufacturers (see below). So why do growing numbers of operators invest in having these tests done on a regular basis?

Naturally, safety is the main driver. Systematic laboratory testing of engine oil and debris can reveal early symptoms of potential problems. The resulting data can allow operators to identify possible wear trends that could compromise safety at a far earlier stage than might be revealed in other ways during scheduled maintenance. Though not specifically identified in the new requirements for safety management systems (SMS), the data from the Jet-Care tests could contribute to an operator’s obligation under SMS to analyze and assess all safety risks.

The Jet-Care labs also test fuel, hydraulic fluids and filters. Tests involve the use of the latest analysis equipment to assess debris, filters and fluids, checking for factors such as oil viscosity, acidity and contamination.

Optical Microscopes

The recent introduction of new optical microscopes in Jet-Care’s labs have enhanced its filter and debris analysis. Jet-Care can now send operators images detailing what they find on the patches used to collect debris from filters.

There is also an added-value element to the process, and this is where the company’s engine trend monitoring using gas path analysis (GPA) completes the picture provided by the lab tests. GPA looks closely at key engine parameter data, such as shaft speeds, turbine temperature and altitude, comparing it to standardized performance models for that powerplant-and-airframe combination.

By identifying looming problems in the engine and by monitoring wear trends, the tests allow operators to plan maintenance events more efficiently. GPA can allow operators to understand why, for instance, their engines may be delivering less-than-efficient fuel burn rates. Each engine has a “fingerprint” that Jet-Care recognizes in its database, so excessive wear on any particular component can be checked against pre-determined limits and tracked trends.

Online Reporting System

The company has also developed its own reporting program called Engine Condition Health Online (Echo). This is supplied at no extra charge, allowing customers to access electronic reports about their samples. The program also allows reports to be created in Adobe PDF format and displayed as detailed figures or easy to read graphs, which can then be networked through maintenance departments. Jet-Care is in the process of developing upgrades to Echo to further enhance the service.

Jet-Care currently holds approvals from the following manufacturers: CFM International, Williams International, Honeywell; Pratt & Whitney Canada, Messier-Dowty, Eurocopter, Sikorsky, Turbomeca and ZF Gearboxes. In some cases, OEMs require operators to use the Jet-Care tests as part of their warranty terms. The power-by-the-hour support contracts offered by Honeywell and Williams require analysis as part of their programs.

According to the group’s sales and marketing manager Alan Baker, one of several factors that sets Jet-Care apart from other laboratories is that clients have direct access to its technicians, if they want to ask further questions about results. As business aviation spreads globally so does Jet-Care’s customer base. Baker told AIN that the company is working with growing numbers of clients in the Middle East, Latin America, Africa and Asia. For the time being, its labs in the U.S. and Europe (it also has one in Basel, Switzerland) can cope with the volume of tests, but the company hasn’t ruled out the need to open another in one of these emerging markets (most likely Asia).

Jet-Care, which was founded in 1976, currently monitors more than 14,000 engines worldwide. Its services are available around the clock in order to support AOG situations for operators.