Good housekeeping, failsafe tool tracking and never-miss procedures for clearing hangars and ramps of foreign-object debris are the everyday contributions aviation maintenance technicians (AMTs) can make to maximize the lifespan of the powerplants they are responsible for, said Stewart D’Leon, CAM, NBAA director of environmental and technical operations.
“As an AMT, you don’t want to be responsible for a problem,” because an errant tool led to an issue, he said. This inadvertent mishap can occur when an AMT is backed into completing a task on a tight deadline. “To avoid this, build a time cushion into scheduled maintenance procedures so you can complete them without rushing should they present an unexpected challenge.”
Engine manufacturer training programs are the go-to reference for maintenance and inspection procedures, D’Leon said, and they provide diagnostic insights. Generally, they are engine-specific because each of the OEM’s powerplants is different.
Participating in a manufacturer’s maintenance and monitoring program is the optimal way to maximize a powerplant’s lifespan.
“Flight departments typically do not have an airline’s engine resources,” said Kevin Moore, a regional customer manager-business aviation for Rolls-Royce. “An engine program can do most of the heavy lifting and give operators direct access to engineering, technical programs and a global support network for parts and technicians.”
When an operator takes an airplane to a service center, depending on its engine program, the customer manager coordinates the relevant teams, such as engine monitoring and engineering, to create a “detailed plan of exactly what that customer needs to do to that engine to maximize its availability until its next inspection.”
This plan also includes service bulletins. Because they are not part of scheduled inspections and maintenance, an operator may not see them, said Moore. During their service center stay, “We recommend which should be accomplished.”
Engine health monitoring is, perhaps, the most valuable aspect of a manufacturer’s maintenance program. The data flows from the engine to its manufacturer. “It compares engine data to OEM technical data, and we can see trend shift before it reaches exceedance, and we can recommend to proactively change a part before it fails. Once it reaches exceedance, it’s too late.”
Frequency is the key to effective monitoring, and that depends on the engine and its age. Older engines require AMTs to plug in and download the data they send to the OEM, and how often they submit the data usually depends on the monthly hours flown. Newer engines often automatically transmit the data via ACARS, and the next-gen powerplants will compare data in flight through two-way communication.
Beyond engine monitoring, the main thing is to stay on top of the required engine service items, said Nate Dietsch, director of maintenance for Netflix.
“Most flight departments have maintenance tracking software, and they should make sure they’re getting the maximum engine health benefit out of it,” he said.