Emirates Customizes 777 Checks Using Own Data

Emirates Boeing 777-300ER
Credit: Emirates Airlines

Emirates Airline is quickly transitioning its Boeing 777 fleet to a new, customized airframe maintenance program based on its own operational data, and is already reaping benefits from the ambitious project, a senior executive from the airline said.

The Dubai-based airline began transitioning its 154-aircraft 777 fleet to Boeing’s Optimized Maintenance Program (OMP) in early 2019, and the process is now 82% complete, said Ahmed Safa, Emirates VP of engineering and maintenance. 

“Like everything else, there’s always a tinge of nerves about what surprises it could bring to the operation that we did not take into our calculations,” Safa said. “But so far, we have not had a single question mark about whether it was a good decision.”

Emirates committed to OMP in early 2018 following several years of evaluation. The first step was applying Boeing’s OMP modeling to Emirates’ fleet data and finding initial opportunities to adjust task intervals—a process that typically takes about six months, said Boeing Global Services VP for Commercial Services Mike Fleming.

At Emirates, initial changes were made to both A check and C check airframe maintenance intervals. A checks are now done every 2,500 flight hours (FH) or 500 flight cycles (FC), up from 2,000 FH and 400 FC before OMP (a separate Emirates project eliminated a calendar-day limit). The carrier’s C check intervals were adjusted 15,000 FH or 1,125 days to 18,000 FH or 1,200 days.

Bridging requirements to bring aircraft from the old to the new program means transitioning the entire fleet will take about three years. All A checks are on OMP, while 28 C checks remain.

The airline’s deep 777 experience—it operates 10% of the global 777 fleet and has flown every variant produced—has helped keep it at the top of dispatch reliability figures, at about 99.5-99.6%, Safa said. Those marks, slightly higher than the global fleet average, are being maintained under the OMP—a clear sign that the adjusted intervals are not compromising operational efficiency.

“If it was not going to work, it would immediately have [had] an impact on our on-time performance and dispatch reliability,” Safa said. “But to continue to see the operation at 99.5%, 99.6%—it confirms that what we have put in place is delivering what we anticipated.”

Boeing’s OMP complements bigger-picture optimization efforts that accompany any in-service model. The 777’s A check intervals when the model entered service in 1995 were 1,000 FH or 75 days, for instance. While fleet-level interval changes benefit all operators, tailoring programs for individual airlines requires a more concentrated dataset.

“Take a task that we do every 10 days, as the [Boeing maintenance program] prescribes,” Safa said. “Every time we do it, our findings are nil, nil, nil, whereas other operators have some positive findings. We need to be liberated from the shackles of the [portion of] industry that’s driving this threshold to a specific time frame.”

Longer maintenance intervals are only part of the story. “The number of scheduled maintenance delays is reduced, just by virtue of the fact that you’re not opening up the airplane as often,” Fleming said. “So you get aircraft availability increasing; you get scheduled reliability increasing, too.”

Sean Broderick

Senior Air Transport & Safety Editor Sean Broderick covers aviation safety, MRO, and the airline business from Aviation Week Network's Washington, D.C. office.