Rolls-Royce experts attending a leading world conference on aero-engine reliability have highlighted the latest initiatives for enhanced operational predictability for military and airline customers.
Five Rolls-Royce delegates have been speaking at the two-day Aero-Engine Life Management Conference (AELMC), 2-3 March, in London. This event, attended by a range of engine makers and aircraft operators, is being organised by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
Paul Anuzis, Chief Reliability Engineer for the company's Civil Airlines business, who is among the speakers, said: "We are working towards ever-higher levels of engine reliability and, at the same time, seeing an increasing trend towards long-term support agreements with our customers. Both parties in these relationships need to be able to predict accurately how the equipment will behave, and we now have systems which can track engine performance in real time."
Latest generation predictive maintenance tools are bringing new levels of sophistication to this area. The new QUICK system is an integral part of the Trent 900 development programme. This engine will be the first to enter commercial service on the Airbus A380 in 2006. This multi-sensor data fusion system 'learns' the characteristics of normal engine operation and instantly recognises any variances from this norm.
Key components of this capability are the company's relationships with Oxford Bio-Signals (OBS) and Data Systems & Solutions (DS&S).
Last year, Rolls-Royce, after working for some years with OBS on system technologies, took a shareholding in the Oxford-based company, which develops bespoke production advanced diagnostic health monitoring systems for the aerospace and medical industries.
DS&S is a joint venture with US-based Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), a world leader in software systems and development. DS&S also supplies ground-station networks for monitoring the flow of in-flight data.
"By deploying our technical knowledge, and the specialist systems we and our partners have developed, we are able to monitor an engine's health at any point in time - and spot faults that may be developing, and warranting maintenance attention, well in advance of that situation causing a real operational problem," added Paul Anuzis.
Such levels of predictability translate into savings both for Rolls-Royce, in terms of avoiding unforeseen maintenance needs, and for airline and military customers in less down-time for their aircraft. It also means more certainty in operational planning and, as part of long-term care agreements, a clearly visible budget based on agreed rates per flying hour.
With the growing reliability of aero engines, operators are increasingly looking to concentrate on their own areas of expertise - satisfying the travelling public, maximising airline schedules, or achieving key military missions - while leaving the manufacturers to handle the day-to-day support of their equipment.
The growth of long-term support deals is the obvious outcome of this trend, and Rolls-Royce has a range of offerings branded as TotalCare packages for its airline customers, CorporateCare for bizjet owners and Mission Ready Management Systems for defence operators. These aspects are due to be covered in presentations given by Mike Corne, Head of Marketing - Service Business, and Chief of Life-cycle Engineering Richard Beasley.
Among latest developments to support these initiatives is a newly commissioned Operations Room at Rolls-Royce in Derby, UK, which is the subject of an AELMC presentation by its manager, Rob Hill.
This is a constantly manned single point of contact for customers, offering immediate support and advice on technical and operational issues. The facility's database includes full operational records of the worldwide fleet of Rolls-Royce civil engines.
A fifth Rolls-Royce delegate at the conference, Chief Engineer, Research and Technology Sam Beale, is participating in a close-out panel session looking at the industry way forward.
Rolls-Royce plc operates in four global markets - civil aerospace, defence aerospace, marine and energy. Rolls-Royce has a broad customer base comprising more than 500 airlines, 4,000 corporate and utility aircraft and helicopter operators, 160 armed forces and more than 2,000 marine customers, including 50 navies.
Rolls-Royce employs around 35,000 people, of which 21,000 are in the UK. Forty per cent of its employees are based outside the UK - including 5,000 in the rest of Europe and 8,000 in North America. Annual sales total nearly £6 billion, of which 50 per cent currently comes from aftermarket services. The order book stands at more than £18 billion, which, together with aftermarket demand, provides visibility as to future activity levels.