Emirates began implementing GE Aviation’s Analytics Based Maintenance (ABM) on the GE90 engines that power its Boeing 777s in 2015. The reasoning was straightforward. “To the best of our knowledge, no other suppliers in the market have been able to develop a software with this level of precision and accuracy,” summarizes Ahmed Safa, divisional senior vice president Emirates Engineering​.

With ABM, Safa says unscheduled engine removals have been cut by one-third, and average on-wing time increased by 20%. That means increased aircraft availability, fewer hangar visits and lower shipping costs for fewer engines coming off aircraft.

ABM was implemented by GE analyzing data from GE90 sensors with a predictive, digital model of each engine using real-time operation and environmental data. Emirates provides the fight data to GE and then performs maintenance based on recommendations from GE on removing engines before encountering in-flight problems.

Emirates was the launch customer for ABM, and Safa acknowledges, “There was a lot of learning on both sides during implementation.” For example, flight data is sensitive, and reviews were required to ensure Emirates was meeting national and international guidelines for sharing flight data with an external party. Large volumes of flight data had to be downloaded continually, processed by Emirates teams and then transferred to GE servers in the UAE, per government regulations.

Furthermore, engine performance is affected by environmental factors that vary by place and time, notes GE Technology Executive Tim Umbaugh. In 2014, GE established its Middle East Technology Center and put an engineering team in the region to understand environmental impacts on engines. “Improving regional knowledge was one of the key factors in developing ABM,” Umbaugh says.

GE’s Technology Center was close to Emirates, and this helped develop ABM with close and quick collaboration. One special challenge was the sheer size of the fleet--over 300 GE90s. Fortunately, “it gave us the right platform to demonstrate the value and benefit of ABM to a customer,” notes Paul Vaughan, GE engineering director. 

GE’s understanding of component and engine design enabled it to predict operation and deterioration over time. “This allows us to prioritize which components and distress modes ABM should focus on,” Umbaugh says. If thresholds are getting close, GE reviews Emirates’ coming scheduled maintenance and looks for a maintenance action opportunity.

GE Aviation’s Digital Solutions team assisted ABM in applying artificial intelligence tools such as predictive modeling and deep learning. Data and Analytics VP Dinakar Deshmukh says the team also provided a Fleet Planning Tool that displays ABM results visually to Emirates engineers for both the entire 300-plus GE90 fleet and for individual engines and key components.

Emirates is now applying ABM to the Engine Alliance GP7200s on its 90 Airbus A380s.