This is the next in our series of reports from the Pratt & Whitney Media Days, May 19-20. This interview with Robert Saia, VP Next Generation Product Family, occurred before the Bombardier CSeries-PW GTF engine issue occurred.
Real time tracking information tracking came to the forefront because of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370. Much was written about ACARS, which apparently was turned off shortly after 370’s last radio transmission. ACARS provides hourly updates to the airline, or to the engine/airframe makers, about the aircraft’s health monitoring system. ACARS was also important in the Air France 447 investigation in which the Airbus A330 disappeared over the South Atlantic.
We sat down with Saia to discuss, among other things, real-time engine tracking transmissions.
“We have developed in the past, the ability to monitor the engine in service, taking snapshots or continuous monitoring why the airplane was flying and downloading that when the aircraft landed. Either the airline or PW could analyze that data to look at what we call health monitoring to manage the serviceability of that engine.
“In addition to looking to solve problems, PW can also simulate characteristics to predict whether problems might arise based on prior flights,” Saia says. “The intent was to help the airline or PW, if it was providing the maintenance service, to troubleshoot, especially for an AOG (aircraft on ground) situations.
“On the GTF we’ve now gone to the next step of expanding prognostics and allowing real time satellite data transfer,” he says. “We take the data that’s being transmitted, convert it to engineering unit so you can understand it, do some analysis and then provide that back to the airline.”
PW has a 24-hour help desk, similar to the global monitoring system we’ve previously written about that Boeing Commercial Aviation Services operates. PW’s center has been in service 10 years but there was a “major, major upgrade in the last two years. We can monitor any major airline anywhere in the world,” says Saia. “As soon as we know there is a problem with the engine…whether or not we have to take action. This is real time. A certain amount of it is free—it’s customer service. And then we can offer layers of service as a function of what the airlines are asking us to do.”
More than 90% of the questions that are called in get answered on the call, Saia says.
The new Geared Turbo Fan engine is scheduled to enter service in 2015, first with the Bombardier CSeries around next summer, and then the Airbus A320neo in the fourth quarter. There had been some debate within PW whether the GTF will be serviced through its joint venture partner International Aero Engines or via PW directly. Saia said the two organizations are effectively becoming one, under the PW banner.
“We’ve integrated [IAE] into the Pratt system, so whether it’s the PW4000 or the V2500, it’s all the same organization.” GTF will follow.
PW announced a thrust bump for the GTF that will go on the A321neo, from 33,000 lbs to 35,000 lbs. (PW continued to decline to confirm a thrust bump for the CSeries GTF.) Typically a thrust bump is for hot-and-high take-off operations. Saia said PW and Airbus are studying how to further expand the capabilities of the airplane/engine combination.
“The airplanes today have more capability than the power plants can provide,” he says. He noted that a lot of times aircraft take-off performance is limited by runway length or obstacles. “As we work with Airbus going forward, we’ll see if there are other areas we can expand the capability going forward.”