Honeywell Aerospace has undertaken a large project that is leveraging Big Data to help operators save time and money in the inspection of aircraft components. The company is performing a comprehensive review of its entire product portfolio to determine whether intervals between component inspections can be extended.
According to Mike Beazley, VP Global Technical Operations at Honeywell Aerospace, the company has a “massive database of in-service data” related to the operation of all of its products, which is based on operating data from aircraft operators as well as repair and overhaul shop data. Typically, Beazley says maintenance plans for new products are based off historical data for similar products, which often results in erring on the side of conservatism.
“What’s happening a lot in this process now is us going back to our entire portfolio and saying, ‘We’ve now received enough data—where does it make sense to go back and say we were overly conservative?’” he explains.
Since March of this year, the company has had a team of data scientists and engineers evaluating which of Honeywell’s products might be good candidates for maintenance interval extensions. The team started by looking at approximately 11,000 parts at the line replaceable unit level, which was narrowed down to 817 that are designated for on-condition maintenance—meaning routine inspections are not required and maintenance is only performed if the part fails. These types of components make up approximately 93% of the company’s portfolio, but when the project is completed Honeywell expects this number to grow to 95%.
Beazley says the project team then determined whether extended maintenance intervals could be recommended for those 817 components, keeping in mind whether changed intervals could interfere with an aircraft’s overall operations.
“We recognize that when you move out some intervals, it can have a knock-on effect. For example, you could move the interval to inspect a main engine, but if the subcomponents are still at that previous number, you haven’t really helped the operator all that much—you’ve just broken the work into two chunks now,” he says. “We’re very mindful to establish inspection intervals that make sense with the rest of the maintenance that’s going on with that aircraft.”
With this in mind, the team eliminated a couple hundred items from the list, narrowing the portfolio down to 500 products. These were segmented into three waves based on the amount of effort required in their analysis. In the first wave, Honeywell identified 134 components that were “kind of a no brainer” in terms of instant payback for operators, which Beazley says provided an easy case based on existing data to argue for the extension of maintenance intervals to aircraft manufacturers and regulators.
The project has already provided savings for operators. For example, Beazley says recommended inspection intervals of a battery inside an emergency locator transmitter (ELT) have been extended from every two years to every five years. Meanwhile, a drive mechanism within a radar system that previously needed to be inspected every 5,000 hr. has been pushed back to every 7,500 hr. Filters inside avionics boxes to prevent particles, dust and dirt from getting inside will now only need to be inspected every three years rather than on an annual basis.
Over the next two years, Honeywell’s team will review the remaining two waves of components. The next grouping will investigate components found on Airbus A350 aircraft, which will enable recommendations to be offered on a platform basis instead of just on a product basis.
Beazley says Honeywell’s culture already revolves around continuous use of data to determine recommendations for maintenance intervals, but the project will help it be smarter about adjusting maintenance intervals for new components moving forward.
Updates to recommended maintenance intervals will be published in service bulletins on Honeywell’s MyAerospace customer portal as well as in service information leaflets for aircraft manufacturers that are automatically sent out to operators of affected aircraft types.