Innovative Analytics Help Carriers to Cope with Sand and Steamy Weather
May 19, 2023
Residents of the Gulf and many other parts of the Middle East and Africa are familiar with the high temperatures, humidity, sand, and dust that can make the weather uncomfortable, especially during summer.
As it turns out, that hot and harsh environment is not only a challenge for humans. It can also be hard on aircraft engines. No surprise, given the enormous complexity of these engines that are build to lift huge aircraft into the sky.
With engines spinning at impossible speeds and generating tremendous temperatures, ingesting dust and sand can really deteriorate parts and materials. The hot outside air temperature also puts extra strain on engines.
Since nothing can be done about the weather and climate, the question becomes: what can be done to help these aircraft engines?
This is a particularly important question, given that the region is home to some of the world’s largest international airlines, including Emirates Airlines, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways, and Saudia Airlines.
To rise to this particular challenge, GE Aerospace in 2015 established the Middle East Aviation Technology Center (MTC) in Dubai.
“We brought together engineering specialists in this center to help us better understand the operating environment and customer requirements, all with the goal of improving reliability and time on wing for the engines,” said Ali Farah,
Senior Engineering Manager with GE Aerospace and head of engineering at the MTC.
This work began with gathering sand and dust samples to collect data that the teams used to build analytics and an environmental model to study and predict the impact of these factors on aircraft engines.
This work evolved into one of the main areas of MTC activity today: Analytics Based Maintenance (ABM). This work leverages vast amounts of data collected from engines, and from outside sources, such as weather, to understand what impact the environment is having on the engines and what changes to engine operations can be made to reduce wear and extend time on wing.
By providing insights into material deterioration and maintenance requirements, the software allows carriers to better predict maintenance timings and to reduce or even eliminate costly unscheduled engine removal incidents.
Analytics, however, is only part of what MTC offers. The second main offering is working alongside customers to identify opportunities to improve operational practices, such as takeoff derate. Again, analytics can help pilots understand when they can derate, which means using less than the maximum thrust rated for takeoff given existing conditions. Using less than maximum thrust when safe to do so can reduce wear on engines, thereby extending time on wing.
The third offering is helping customers adopt the latest on-wing technologies, such as GE Aerospace’s 360 Foam Wash that helps restore engine performance and improve fuel efficiency by providing a better on-wing engine cleaning, alongside new inspection tools and techniques.
As a result of the pioneering analytics, alongside improved hardware configurations, and operational and on-wing changes recommended by the MTC, regional airlines have been able to improve both time on wing and engine reliability.
“In some cases, such as with the GE90 engine, regional carriers are achieving a better time on wing than the same engines in other regions,” Farah said.
These results have drawn interest from GE teams in the rest of the world. The best-practice GE90 asset-based maintenance solution is being shared with GE global teams to support their customers and to support other engines, including the GEnx and LEAP.
“The thinking is,” said Farah, “if they are able to solve the problems faced in the Middle East and Africa by using these analytics, we can certainly use them to solve problems found anywhere else in the world.”
Read more here about how GE Aerospace supports customers with innovative solutions across the Middle East, North Africa and Turkiye region.