Maintaining the data-rich Pratt & Whitney GTF engine

Maintaining the data-rich Pratt & Whitney GTF engine

Pratt & Whitney’s GTF engine is creating a downstream windfall for operators and maintainers.
While telemetry has always played a crucial role in aviation, the volume of data that engine makers used to collect was relatively small. When Pratt & Whitney debuted its first engine in 1925 – the seminal R-1340 Wasp air-cooled radial engine – the design featured horsepower and fuel gauges, but little else in the way of data collection tools. Seventy-five years, Pratt & Whitney’s PW6000 high-bypass turbofan engine, which incorporated almost 100 sensors in its design, marked the beginning of a more data-driven future.

Today, Hartford, Conn.-based Pratt & Whitney, a division of United Technologies Corp., incorporates more than 5000 sensors on its latest powerplant, the PW1000G high-bypass geared turbofan (GTF). The GTF, developed for a new generation of highly-efficient, medium-rage, narrow-body airliners like the Mitsubishi Regional JetEmbraer E-Jet E2Irkut MC-21, and Airbus A220 and A320neo.


 

The GTF data monster

With its sensors, the GTF generates approximately 4 million data points per engine per flight, or 1.02 terabytes of data per second. That amount of telemetry would have overwhelmed the engineers and operators of the original Wasp, but today, using a host of powerful analytics solutions, Pratt & Whitney and operators can effectively manage and leverage data to optimize operations, drive smarter decision making, and enabling significant improvements in addressing unplanned maintenance.

Created in 2017, Pratt & Whitney’s EngineWise platform includes Advanced Diagnostics and Engine Monitoring (ADEM), an engine health management service that uses a suite of web-enabled software tools to provide analysis of engine health data for more than 8,000 in-service engines. With that data, soon to be measured in zettabytes (units of one sextillion bytes), the company and operators of its engines can use a predictive artificial intelligence to make thrust recommendations that increase aircraft fuel economy by up to 15% and reduce operational disruptions and downtime.



Managing that data is an immense undertaking. Pratt and Whitney needed to develop an highly-secure enhanced flight data acquisition, storage and transmission (eFAST) ecosystem to support the data aggregation that ADEM requires to run its algorithms. The eFAST infrastructure accesses and records aircraft and engine full-flight data, generates reports based on recorded data, and seamlessly offloads the data and reports to a remote ground station. Together, these tools enable airlines to manage engine information at a scale and speed previously unimaginable.

Pratt & Whitney’s MRO network

Once ADEM data suggests that a GTF engine does in fact need servicing, Pratt & Whitney maintains a growing maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) network as part of the EngineWise portfolio.



Pratt & Whitney has made more than $188 million in capital investments in its West Palm Beach facility since 2000 to support the production of the world's only geared turbofan commercial engine, the Pratt & Whitney GTF. (Image source: Pratt & Whitney)
 

“The GTF MRO network is laser focused on adding capacity and experience to best service our customers as we see shop visits increasing over the next several years,” says Joe Sylvestro, vice president, Aftermarket Operations, Pratt & Whitney. “Through the first half of the year, we saw GTF MRO output double over last year, a significant milestone across the network. At Pratt & Whitney, we’re continuing to invest in our facilities and state-of-the-art technologies, especially for assembly and inspection, to deliver products quicker with the highest quality.”

The GTF MRO network, comprising engine centers from the industry’s leading MRO companies, includes Pratt & Whitney, MTU Aero Engines, Japanese Aero Engines Corporation, Lufthansa Technik, and most recently, Delta TechOps. As engine volume grows, the network will continue to expand to include other worldwide airline, MRO, and repair facilities.
Additionally, the normalization of the “Internet of Things” (IoT) and big data has helped manufacturers and MROs manage pay-by-the-hour service level agreements and long-term maintenance contracts.

“Today, the growing GTF MRO network spans three continents, and we expect the network to expand to eight engine centers by 2020,” says Eva Azoulay, vice president, Engine Services, Pratt & Whitney. “We’re excited to see the network continue to grow, increase output and be able to support airlines with a variety of aftermarket services.”

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William Kucinski is content editor at SAE International, Aerospace Products Group in Warrendale, Pa. Previously, he worked as a writer at the NASA Safety Center in Cleveland, Ohio and was responsible for writing the agency’s System Failure Case Studies. His interests include literally anything that has to do with space, past and present military aircraft, and propulsion technology.

Contact him regarding any article or collaboration ideas by e-mail at william.kucinski@sae.org.
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