What is Engine Health Monitoring?

rolls royce jet engine

Rolls Royce jet engine under construction (photo by Mark Hillary CC-BY)

Whether flying on a business trip or a vacation, as your aircraft takes off you will probably be confident that the pilot and the crew have carried out their pre-flight checks, the ground crew have serviced and checked over the aircraft, and throughout the flight the crew will be monitoring the instruments.

But you may not realise that far below you and perhaps on the other side of the world, an aerospace operations centre is monitoring each of the jet engines on your aircraft and can immediately identify a problem with any of the engines. This is known as Engine Health Monitoring (EHM).

Companies such as Rolls-Royce offer real-time tracking and monitoring of their jet engines to their customers. These post-sale service agreements provide not only monitoring, but also advice and expertise on engineering and maintenance of the engines. The airline operators find it is cost-effective to pay for these service agreements as it cuts down on their staff and maintenance costs, and helps prevents service disruption by advance warning of potential problems.

Each engine is fitted with sensors which record up to thirty important functions of the engine. Such as temperature, operations of the various components, vibration, and the cooling and oil systems. While in flight, real-time data is sent via a satellite link to the operations centre. In the case of Rolls Royce, their main operations centre is in Derby, UK.

In the operations centre, computers record and analyse the incoming data. If the computers identify that an engine is performing beyond set parameters, the computer will highlight the problem to one of the members of the tracking staff who decide what action is required. If necessary the tracking staff can contact the pilot via the airline and warn them of a potential problem, but most often, the centre arranges for an engineering team to inspect the engine when the aircraft arrives at its destination, and carry out maintenance or replacement of parts if required. The data can also be downloaded from the engine’s sensors on arrival at an airport.

So next time you are flying and see one of the more recent Rolls Royce engines on the aircraft wing, you may be assured that it is probably sending out messages as to how the engine is performing.

More information on the Rolls-Royce website.

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