AMTs that maintain corporate and business aircraft are responsible for some very important people and very expensive aviation assets. These corporate AMTs generally work in small corporate flight departments or for individual owners and operators.
Back in the day, my best friend, Larry Watkins was one of those corporate AMTs. We met in the Air Force, attended the same AMT school, and after graduating Watkins took a job with one of the local oil companies, while I hired on with an airline. I worked in an environment that was rich with maintenance decision-making tools and resources. I had access to technical experts in MOC, industry product engineers, and onsite support staff from the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), as well as all the other senior AMTs and managers with years of experience. By contrast, Watkins was a one-man maintenance department. He maintained his aircraft when it was in home base, and often flew as the crew chief when it was away on business trips.
Watkins ‘s job pressure came from being the solitary AMT with 100 percent maintenance responsibility for not only the beautiful aircraft, but also the corporate family that used the plane, including not only the flight crew and owners, but sometimes friends and family members as well. One of Watkins‘s main worries was aircraft reliability and utility. I often wished he had access to some of my resources, but that was not possible at the time.
Now manufacturers have recognized this business need, and have stepped up with products to support the maintenance of corporate and business aircraft engines.
At the October 2008 NBAA conference, Honeywell first presented its Remote Aircraft Diagnostic Service (Zing™) for aircraft equipped with the TFE731 engines. Zing is a service package that includes avionics hardware, wireless connectivity and transmission, plus customer access to a Honeywell portal, as well as support from both computer and human experts. Granted this is not a new concept — the airlines have used remote engine monitoring and trend analysis for years. However, what Honeywell did was integrate remote monitoring with current wireless technology, along with a third-party engine monitoring service, thus making remote monitoring accessible and affordable for the smaller corporate aviation market. These integrated systems provide corporate and business AMTs with more decision-making and support resources. Honeywell’s and other similar OEM systems, when implemented, can dramatically improve the AMT and aviation department’s maintenance effectiveness and bottom line.
These systems significantly streamline the maintenance process for the AMT by reducing the time, effort, and procedures required to maintain their aircraft engines. This is accomplished by reducing data downloads to minutes, thus allowing more frequent downloads, as well as providing for more data to be sent. Increasing the frequency and amount of downloads means more data for analyzing trends, thus reducing the risk of performing unscheduled maintenance. Further, the download and analysis can be completed anywhere through the use of wireless devices. According to Jim Beasley, Honeywell field service engineer for engines, APUs, and ECS, the Honeywell Zing system “significantly improves engine reliability and utility” in two ways:
First by helping owners, operators, and maintainers continuously monitor their engine performance parameters. Per Beasley, this function facilitates both situational awareness and decision-making. “Users can put engines on watch if they see some degradation in performance. If the trend lines warrant, the aircraft can be brought in for engine tests or maintenance long before an event or hard shutdown.”