Aircraft Fleet Monitoring

January 20, 2021 | BY: Michael Doherty


Aircraft Fleet Monitoring by Michael Doherty - Aircraft Monitoring Business Development at Curtiss-Wright.

Video transcript for the hearing and visually impaired

Hi everyone. My name is Michael Doherty and I work for Curtiss-Wright here in Dublin, Ireland. Previous to joining Curtiss-Wright I worked for Bombardier Aerospace and I was the manager of the flight test instrumentation group so obviously that will be applicable to most of you.

My job now is as a Business Development Manager for aerospace instrumentation which I'm going to cover later on the slides and previous to that I was a project manager so some of you may have seen me in that in that role before.

As you know Curtiss-Wright is a world leader in designing data acquisition and recording systems for flight testing. This technology can also be used for in-service production aircraft and also for space vehicles. I'm not going to cover space in this presentation but we'll cover some applications where the equipment can be used for aircraft fleet-wide monitoring

I'll not be introducing any new products but we'll be discussing how our existing products are used in a slightly different market space to the flight testing. And hopefully at the end you will let me know of applications where our products could be deployed on your aircraft outside of the traditional flight test market.

So this slide here clarifies the general application that you all should be familiar with. It's your bread and butter flight test instrumentation system. So technology in the overall system design is similar but it'll be deployed fleet-wide for aircraft monitoring so the difference here is the number of aircraft it will be deployed. So I'll be talking about applications where we're using it for 25 to 200 aircraft, not one to five aircraft.

The things that are different - some things are different, some things are similar to their flight test instrumentation. Like FTI, every aircraft application is different and customizable products are desirable. As I said the difference is that there will be maybe 25+ aircraft. The equipment is going to be exactly the same, it's just a deployment and slightly different application.

So it's important to keep aircraft wiring dying and obviously aircraft weight down so our data acquisition products can be mounted close to the sensors which will minimize wiring. Our competitors in this field do not have this option as a general rule and their unit is going to be central rather than being distributed around the aircraft.

Our customers and aircraft instrumentation, their requirements change over time or will change over time so the life of the aircraft is 20 years plus and so it would be nice to keep pace with the changing requirements. Our products will be easy to be expanded later on plus adding more features to the initial data acquisition unit. On the other hand for older aircraft our customers will often need to replace obsolete equipment so if they're using the aircraft for 20 years at times the products will be removed from service. In that case we can come along and step in, use our standard product and configure it to replace an existing data acquisition unit or a recorder.

Obviously nobody likes paying for development costs and our range of off-the-shelf modules will reduce this quite a lot so we can we can supply a quick and cheap data acquisition unit and it doesn't take a lot of development time and money. Our data acquisition unit products can be mounted anywhere on an aircraft to monitor sensor data. This data can be recorded on compact flash on a data acquisition unit or else sent to a remote Curtiss-Wright recorder or to a third-party gateway or else to a storage unit.

Additionally processing can be done by the unit itself thus saving post-processing time. Our data acquisition units can be customized to suit the needs of the customer rather than just using one that doesn't meet all the requirements. Applications include predictive maintenance, operational load measurement, health and usage monitoring systems and integrated vehicle health monitoring etc. A lot of acronyms but basically we're doing the same thing.

Okay now let's talk about basic building blocks which you already should be familiar with. Well the main unit will be the Curtiss-Wright DAU which you've already with the KAM-500, Axon or CDAU from TTC so data acquisition and you'll be familiar with that one. These will obviously be used to collect data from sensors or from aircraft buses and then either store this on board are transmit it via ethernet ARINC 717, ARINC 429 etc.

So our recorders should be known to all of you as well and these are standard recorders with compact flash recorders, solid state disk drives, video recorders etc. I haven't shown the Fortress crash protected recorder here but this is another option for our recorders and lastly we have IADS visualization software which is now part of the Curtiss-Wright team and a lot of you have used this before and it's now Curtiss-Wright.

This can be set up to show the data in a variety of different ways from strip charts to dials etc but additionally we can bring in a third-party option for structural health and homes analysis - so experts in in those fields. So putting it all together we can provide fleetwide monitoring data analysis so it's not just capturing the data but also turning the information into how the fleet - all the individual aircraft - is being used.

So now I'm going to take you through some different categories and some applications of aircraft monitoring. I approved the applications into three main areas. The first is aircraft systems monitoring which can be structural monitoring, systems monitoring etc - very, very similar to your flight test instrumentation applications which you're already familiar with. On top of that we also have recorder applications so we're just expanding that into crash protected recorders, mission recorders etc using the same type of data acquisition units to feed those and lastly, it's very similar for the first two but in cases of obsolescence we will be able to replace any of the above systems.

Now here's a little bit more detail on each of the application areas. Systems monitoring - it covers the use of data acquisition units to monitor sensors around the aircraft. It can also include some post-flight and in-flight processing. Recorder applications - very, very similar as I said but now we're going to add the recorder to the data acquisition unit and in particular crash protected recorders. And lastly as I said obsolescence where we take the original equipment and we reverse engineer it to replace obsolete or aging equipment.

Now we're going to move on to assistance monitoring in more detail - just showing a little picture of it so it fits into what I'm saying. Again you'll be familiar with this. It's a data acquisition - you know, connected to sensors sending data to an end point either over ethernet or ARINC 717. We can also record onto memory onto this application as well. Here we have an example of a recorder and the data acquisition unit. Recorder's obviously the orange box on the right here which is a Penny & Giles crash protected recorder.

The data acquisition unit is on a different form factor so we've taken let's say a KAM-500 or an Axon or a TTC product and we put it inside a standard avionics pack. It'll be slightly different to the KAM-500 - different connectors - but by and large it's exactly the same inside so this unit will slide easily into the aircraft making mounting quick and easy to remove and to install.

I'm moving on to another application here which is on a customer Boeing-737 aircraft so this is an actual example whereby the KAM-500 is installed in the passenger air conditioning system on the aircraft. It's measuring 16 temperatures, six discretes and one pressure so there's approximately 200 of these flying around as we speak. This is saving the customer valuable time and money by projecting when a system will fail or when it's about to fail. It also will pinpoint which component in the system is failing. So the traditional and alternative method says that the system is failing but doesn't pinpoint which component so this is obviously going to save a lot of time to the customer whereby they can remove the component that is failing rather than removing, testing, removing, testing until they find the component.

So currently they're predicting about 95 of the failures are being predicted correctly so saving a lot of time to the customer.

Now another application, it's on the MC-21 aircraft. Pretty simple whereby we've got a data acquisition unit connected to a crash protected recorder or two in this case. It's collecting data from around the aircraft and sending the data to the crash recorders. It's currently undergoing flight testing as we speak and after flight testing and certification this will be fitted to every aircraft in the fleet. Very, very similar application now in this case it's an obsolete equipment - the blue box is obsolete and we're replacing it with the Curtiss-Wright black box in this this case.

This is actually similar but a lot more difficult in that we've got to reverse engineer the unit that's already fitted so if you take all the documentation that we can get, the aircraft wiring etc and trying to reverse engineer the blue box and we have done that. It takes a lot of time so it's not that easy but in the end it gives the customer a replacement box which they cannot easily get.

So this is an example of an application on a helicopter. It's a structural monitoring application whereby there's several data acquisition units installed on the vehicle and gathering structural and systems data. We've also got third-party analysis on this application so it's not just collecting the data but they are analyzing the data, giving the customer meaningful data that they can use.

To sum up in the applications area this is an example of an end-to-end system where we can show all of our expertise from the data acquisition unit, the little orange box near the tail of the aircraft being transmitted down through the aircraft to a third-party gateway, offloading the data from the aircraft up to a server and then we can use our IADS software to process the data and a third-party company to analyze that data and provide actionable data to the customer and the customer can then make decisions for maintenance to extend the life of the aircraft or to change how the fleet is being flown.

Here we have some Curtiss-Wright papers - I'm not going to go down to them you can read those offline or talk to your sales manager to ask them to provide them for you. I believe that most of these can be downloaded from our website so read the list and if you're interested, download and read them.

That's all the slides, thank you for listening to this. I know it's not your main focus but as flight test instrumentation professionals you'll be familiar with all the hardware - we're just using it in a slightly different application. The message here is that we as a company can provide equipment that you are familiar with and which will extend the monitoring up into the whole fleet and not just flight test instrumentation. We can also bring in a third-party company for specialized analysis so if you want me to talk to your systems team, your stress team about potential projects then just drop me a line and I'll be glad to talk to them.

So thank you for listening.

Author’s Biography

Michael Doherty

Business Development Manager

Michael Doherty has 19 years’ experience in Flight Test Instrumentation (FTI) for Bombardier Shorts, Belfast. For 12 of these years, Michael was the manager of the FTI group. Michael also has a lot of experience of aircraft systems, structural and ground vibration testing. He has a BSc in Electronics and an MSc in Engineering Management. Michael joined Curtiss-Wright in 2006 and currently holds the role of Business Development Manager. Previously, Michael was a Program Manager for, and managed, many of the key customer programs run from the Dublin office.

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