BBA builds engine support ops center

 - October 19, 2010, 12:41 PM

Christmas day last year, a flight crew boarded their jet in Las Vegas, only to find its APU dead with no hope of restarting it. Faced with being grounded and a passenger needing to leave, the crew called in BBA Aviation's engine repair crew.

The response was fast and saw the passenger to his destination with minimal delay, but it could have been faster.

Jump ahead nine months. BBA Aviation Engine Repair and Overhaul (ERO) opened its new mission-control-like First Support Center in Grapevine, Texas (at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport) in September.

First Support can quickly identify the most conveniently located field service technicians, rental engines, mobile response vehicles and tools for any given situation around the globe. "We track the precise status of every field service job as well as the availability of our assets and personnel," explained BBA Aviation ERO president Hugh McIlroy. "By monitoring air- and land-based traffic as well as the impact of weather and airport delays, when a customer calls with an AOG issue, we can rapidly deploy solutions via the most efficient means and routes."

BBA (Booth No. 3257) claims that First Support is a significant step ahead of existing engine support networks. "Decisions on resource allocation that used to take hours to ascertain and coordinate can now be handled in seconds–while the customer is online or on the telephone," said McIlroy.

The new support center has access to engines' historical databases to allow ERO service reps to forecast events and pre-position assets and personnel to respond to these. The workstations can connect with powerplant diagnostic systems such as via live video streaming from borescopes to allow engineering and quality assurance personnel to consult with each other via video conference and have all the necessary information in front of them. The First Support system also has instant access to technical information, airworthiness requirements and reference materials to quickly support on-site demands.

The operations room features a massive wall monitor composed of high-definition screens and nine workstations for the response team. Three of those are tasked with individually covering calls based on engine maker. The workstations are motorized to raise and lower, because–as work-place specialists told BBA–when stressed, people work better standing, according to Christopher Pratt, BBA's director of marketing and strategic planning. "The idea is to make quick decisions, and respond quickly to customer needs," Pratt said.

All workstations in the facility can be linked together to share data, and everything is recorded so service reps can study trends as they develop.
When a customer calls for support, the engine service rep will work with him to first try troubleshooting the problem. "These reps have a lot of experience working with the engines, so they know all the quirks and tricks to get them working again," Pratt said.

If it becomes evident more work is needed, the service reps pass the case over to a dispatcher who can route not just a response team, but ensure any specialty tools are FedEx'd to the airport quickly.

The teams, the tools, replacement engines, even the cases for the engines all carry GPS trackers so the dispatchers in Dallas can see their exact location anywhere on the globe.

The field service teams can send live feeds of what they're doing back to the response center, as well. A representative in the Dallas facility could watch a real-time feed of a borescope examination in Mumbai if needed.

BBA hopes that not only will this new center help increase response speed, but it will also teach dispatchers about maintenance trends so they can begin to predict needs so they can preposition equipment.

"When you know the trends, you can start to place equipment where you know you're going to need it before you do," Pratt said. "After a couple of years, we should be able to even see where the trends fall out seasonally."
The company is also expanding its global presence, according to Pratt.