Pilots for Emirates, the Dubai-based air carrier, have always flown straight. Now they’re going to fly “smart,” too: Emirates is adopting a GE Aviation data and analytics platform that will allow airline analysts and pilots to understand how their planes are operating with a high degree of precision, accuracy and automation.
Today’s passenger jets don’t just carry travelers to business conferences or vacation destinations — they’re also vehicles for endless data points that can be analyzed in order to improve airline and pilot performance. GE Aviation’s mobile app FlightPulse, for instance, connects pilots with their own flying metrics and trends, shortening the feedback loop and letting pilots review each flight after they’ve landed. The app also lets pilots understand their individual performance in the context of the company overall. Informed pilots make better choices; over time, many will adapt their flying to reduce risks and improve trends.
Emirates plans to expand the digital capabilities of its fleet of Boeing 777 and Airbus A380 aircraft with FlightPulse and a GE Aviation platform called electronic Flight Operations Quality Assurance (eFOQA). Just like pilots, airlines also benefit from taking a 30,000-foot view of the data their planes generate. By analyzing thousands of routinely recorded flight data parameters, eFOQA enables airlines to understand trends and risks to their operations. eFOQA quickly identifies the most important aspects about a given flight and fuses that information with third-party data sources to paint a complete picture. Airline analysts can quickly study trends spanning months or years and drill down to root causes with automated data quality checks and filtering.
“We’ve continually invested in the use of data and technology to inform our operations and are keen to further enhance our safety and efficiency using the latest technologies,” says Capt. Brian Tyrrell, senior vice president of Fleet for Emirates.
The carrier already employs GE’s Analytics Based Maintenance software, or ABM, which uses data gathered from many sensors fitted on each plane to monitor engine health. ABM’s real-time monitoring allows engineers to spot problems early and send engines for servicing before they fail.
Using ABM, engineers at GE’s Middle East Aviation Technology Center in Dubai, which opened in 2015, have been using GE machine learning software to analyze 10 gigabytes of data per second. The insights provided by the algorithms allow the team to design digital models that predict the optimal time for preventative maintenance for each engine, which keeps engines running at peak performance longer. Engines also have shorter routine downtimes and significantly fewer breakdowns, which boosts efficiency and decreases costs. In fact, with ABM, Emirates has reduced unscheduled GE90 engine maintenance by 50% and increased engine “time on wing” by 20%. That’s led to more efficient and effective use of staff for maintenance, because people aren’t being regularly reassigned to emergency repairs.
“ABM allows us to address those engines that require the highest attention by proactively removing them from operation and saves us money because now maintenance is only performed when warranted,” says Ahmed Safa, Emirates’ divisional senior vice president of engineering. “This has made our engine maintenance program more stable and predictable.”
One of the key elements of ABM is the ability to spot problems as they occur. Engineers can “see” the engine’s current health, estimate its future problems and share the information easily and accurately among shifts and even airports. These cutting-edge digital tools allow engineers to create customized maintenance plans for each engine, and allow pilots to tap into their own flight data on a per-flight basis.
The digital suites help beyond smart maintenance. Crews and pilots can use the generated data to operate the engines in the most advantageous way, optimizing fuel burn, which is good for the environment while also reducing jet fuel costs. Pilots can review their performance and become more active in achieving best safety standards while optimizing operations. Additionally, engineers are integrating the real-time data collected from engines with their maintenance histories. That allows the teams to develop a framework for continuous improvement and to gain more insight into the root causes of performance and mechanical problems.
ABM has already achieved significant stability and cost savings for Emirates, Safa says. The airline expects its newest digital additions to create even more operational and efficiency gains.