Connecting the Data

Sept. 4, 2018
Honeywell’s GoDirect Connected Maintenance helps airlines leverage data to reduce downtime and improve operational efficiencies.

As heavy-duty trucks travel interstate highways, onboard Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) sensors are collecting, sending, and receiving information via cloud-based fleet management systems. Trucking fleets are increasingly tapping into this data stream to predict asset failure and schedule maintenance from the road. With this data in hand, fleets are moving from predictive to prescriptive maintenance and are reducing downtime and improving operational efficiencies as a result.

But did you know that the IIoT, which has already been driving value in factories, trucks and even trains, is also available to the airline industry?

Just as sensors on trucks gather intel to run fleets, today’s sophisticated aircraft generate a wealth of health and performance data. Honeywell’s GoDirect Connected Maintenance leverages the power of an aircraft’s IIoT capabilities to monitor mechanical systems’ health and performance. It analyzes data coming from an aircraft’s auxiliary power units, navigation systems, wheels, brakes, environmental control systems, and other connected components to streamline inspections and repairs and provide predictive, prescriptive maintenance alerts to end-users.

Analyzing this data in real-time puts the airline industry on the cusp of a major digital transformation, where it too can unlock the power of this data to identify potential faults before they become problems and move from reactive and preventative maintenance to predictive and prescriptive maintenance, improving aircraft reliability, reducing costs, and limiting delays.

Two airlines are already relying on Honeywell’s GoDirect Connected Maintenance for their auxiliary power units (APUs). Hainan Airlines’ fleet of more than 50 Airbus A330s are utilizing Honeywell’s service and will deploy it for the airline’s future fleet of 40 A330s, to improve fleet availability by predicting potential mechanical issues or failures before they happen and prescribing targeted maintenance recommendations. Cathay Pacific Group also relies on Honeywell GoDirect Connected Maintenance for its fleet of Airbus A330s to keep passengers comfortable and happy.

“Honeywell’s GoDirect Connected Maintenance helps support our commitment to passengers by reducing operational disruptions and limiting flight delays, without adding any sensors or a single ounce of weight to the aircraft,” reports Neil Glenn, director of engineering for Cathay Pacific, as he explains the reason for the airline’s decision to partner with Honeywell.

The reality is that like heavy-duty trucks, modern aircraft generate a wealth of health and performance data and analyzing this data can help maintenance teams identify faults before they become problems, improving aircraft reliability. In fact, Roman Lopatko, senior director of strategy and business for Honeywell, says GoDirect Connected Maintenance has been shown to slash flight delays and cancellations by 35 percent, reduce troubleshooting time by 30 percent and push maintenance accuracy to 98-99 percent.

Prioritize Predictions

Connected maintenance capabilities are not exactly new. Honeywell has used them in predictive maintenance of APUs for more than 10 years, and expanded these capabilities to other components, such as wheels and brakes and navigation systems, approximately three years ago. What is new is how precise the capability has become. Honeywell’s system is moving the needle from predictive maintenance to prescriptive. Lopatko explains many companies offer predictive maintenance solutions, where a software dashboard lights up like a Christmas tree with red, yellow, and green lights, predicting maintenance needs of varying importance across an aircraft. “The more capabilities these systems have, the busier that ‘Christmas tree’ becomes,” he says.

Though this information is helpful, traditional systems leave it to customers to prioritize the lights on these digital “Christmas trees” and act on the brightest needs. “Statuses are provided but customers have to draw their own conclusions about how to react, when to react, and what to do,” he explains.

Honeywell’s GoDirect Connected Maintenance cuts through the flashing lights and noise, analyzing each alert in this digital light show to prioritize actions for customers, who are no longer exposed to the entire universe of what’s taking place inside an aircraft, but rather receive alerts, either via email or a dashboard portal, about the most pressing maintenance needs it has.

“What we do differently is we monitor this data for you, and only tell you about high priority actions that require your immediate attention,” he says. “We provide the minimum amount of information necessary for you to take action and we actually tell you what action to take.”

The benefit to airlines is tremendous. Lopatko explains a very experienced aviation maintenance technician (AMT) might be able to observe a fault code and accurately determine a course of action, but AMTs with less experience may need to follow the OEM troubleshooting manual. This document might recommend three things that could be wrong and prescribe an order for fixing them. The AMT follows each step in order, checking each component and replacing it.

But this method is a lot like throwing darts at a dart board with your eyes closed. You may hit the bull’s eye the first time, or it may take you three throws to strike the center. “The AMT replaces one part and when that doesn’t fix the problem, he replaces another one. He continues until the problem is fixed,” Lopatko says. “But the Honeywell system tells him exactly which part to replace. We say just go directly to Step Three and replace that part.”

Airlines benefit through greater efficiency and reduced maintenance costs. An AMT is no longer pulling five parts to replace one faulty one. He or she is only pulling parts that are defective. In fact, customers using GoDirect Connected Maintenance have reported a 35 percent reduction in operation impacts caused by unscheduled maintenance events and report only 1 percent false removal rate for parts.

Dig Through Existing Data

Honeywell also simplifies the implementation of GoDirect Connected Maintenance. There’s no need to add hardware on the aircraft to tap into the power of this solution. Rather, the remedy utilizes data an aircraft already collects. Lopatko explains modern aircraft are equipped with a variety of sensors that continuously collect data, and the Honeywell system analyzes this information to pinpoint maintenance needs and prescribe remedies.

Though it’s possible for airlines to immediately use the information being collected, they may opt to take phased approach to Honeywell’s connected maintenance solution. For example, an airline may start with analyzing APU data then later move to wheels and brakes or environmental control systems. The solutions are flexible and can be tailored to accommodate the needs of any business, Lopatko reports.

Airlines might opt to phase in approaches for each of the following areas:

• Environmental Control Systems, where GoDirect Connected Maintenance offers an automated health check, smart diagnostics to provide component-level insights into issues, and predictive maintenance options;

• APUs, where the system continuously monitors APU data, compares it against information in Honeywell’s database, and yields insights to inspect and repair these units before they fail;

• Inertial Reference Systems, where the system helps ensure these devices are always accurately calibrated;

• Wheels and Brakes, where Honeywell’s connected predictive maintenance solution can reduce landing costs, increase maintenance efficiency, and reduce unscheduled downtime; and

• Mechanical Components, where Honeywell combines existing aircraft data and shop records with sensor data to provide predictive maintenance solutions.

Honeywell aids airline partners in deciding their course by first studying the types of disruptions and mechanical issues they routinely face. This helps Honeywell determine the most pressing needs and the scale of the system’s initial implementation. Lopatko says, “It makes sense to start [implementation] with the systems causing the most significant problems, and address the issues causing the most significant operational interruptions. A system that causes a flight cancellation is more critical than something that causes a 10-minute delay.”

There is a cost savings to doing it this way. Lopatko explains, “If they want to address one particular system, say the APU, it’s one price. If they want to address the full aircraft, it will be another. If they enter a maintenance agreement with Honeywell on these components, there is more we can do in terms of favorable pricing.”

Lopatko warns if an airline already collects the data for all components covered by Honeywell’s connected maintenance solution, the best approach is often to go all in at once. He explains, “If you’re interested in just one system, but have this huge file coming off the aircraft with information on all systems, it involves extra work to strip out unnecessary information to focus on just one system. In that situation, I’d recommend that you don’t limit yourself.”

Though in most cases an aircraft does not need additional hardware to run the system, there are times when adjustments will be needed. The simplest change is when the aircraft already has sensors, but the data is not being captured or downloaded. In these situations, software changes are necessary to capture and download the data. Sometimes airlines need to add a large-capacity, hard drive data acquisition server to aircraft. “You are still using the same sensors and have the same wiring, but you’re adding more powerful data acquisition and an aircraft data gateway,” he says.

If an airline is having trouble with components without sensors, Honeywell offers EdgeNode, which is a small device that combines communication capabilities and storage and can be added to components requiring additional sensors. The EdgeNode will transmit data wirelessly to the aircraft data gateway in flight or after it lands.

Honeywell’s connected maintenance system is for any aircraft and all fleets, but Lopatko reports airlines must study the financial feasibility of adding it. “Depending on the type of modifications that are required or the pattern of issues you are going to experience, it may not make economic sense to deploy it on a very small fleet,” he says. “But, if the aircraft are already equipped and no modifications are required, it makes sense to do it, even on a smaller fleet.”