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Monday, June 1, 2009

Intelligence: News

Pratt & Whitney, Southwest Host EcoPower Demo

In an April 21 demonstration at Dallas Love Field (DAL), representatives from Southwest Airlines and Pratt & Whitney explained how EcoPower engine wash is saving fuel costs for the carrier and reducing emissions. The event, which consisted of a wash cycle on a Boeing 737-700’s CFM-56-7B engines, was designed to show the benefits of the closed-loop system.

EcoPower has saved an estimated nine million gallons of fuel and led to a 90,000-metric-ton reduction in carbon dioxide emissions since Southwest initiated the program in July 2006. According to the companies, the airline has saved $12.5 million in fuel costs from around 1,500 engine washes. Pratt & Whitney conducts the service for the full Southwest fleet of around 650 CFM-56-7Bs through service center locations in Orlando, Fla. and Oakland, Calif.

Anupam Bhargava, general manager of line maintenance services for P&W, explained that each engine undergoes a 45-minute washing process between two and four times per year, with high-cycle engines requiring more washes. During the four-part cleaning process, the first cycle is typically very cloudy, with significant particles present in the water. Bhargava displayed four containers to show that the second and third cycles get progressively cleaner, with the fourth cycle exhibiting less than a 1/4 of the particles than when the process began.

TechOps Stretches Component Usability with LPB

Cincinnati-based Lambda Technologies has named Delta TechOps the commercial MRO provider of its low plasticity burnishing (LPB) technology, which extends the life of certain components, including landing gear, engine blades and propeller hubs. The two companies are working together to apply LPB in order to eliminate some airworthiness directive (AD) inspections on MD-88 main landing gear. David Garrison, TechOps managing director of engine and component maintenance, notes that LPB will help "reduce maintenance costs and maximize part life through enhanced resistance to fatigue and foreign object damage."

Co-Operative Industries Repair Center Grows

Fort Worth, Texas-based Co-Operative Industries has opened a 10,000-square-foot expansion of its manufacturing headquarters and repair center near Meacham Intl Airport (FTW). The space will serve the company’s wiring harness operation and repair station. Co-Operative has relocated its flexible metal conduit production to 10,400 square feet of renovated space in separate buildings, allowing the company to dedicate the main 48,000-square-foot facility to its aerospace and repair station business. Other improvements at the complex include reorganization of the manufacturing and repair station workspace, climate controls and investment in tooling and equipment. President & CEO Sam Symonds says the FTW complex "now totals 6,000 square feet giving us much needed space and room for future growth."

Bombardier Completes Dallas Component Repair and Overhaul Center

Bombardier has opened a 50,000-square-foot component repair and overhaul facility near Love Field (DAL) in Dallas, Texas. The $4.3-million service center will focus on repairs and overhauls of structural components for nacelles, including RB211 E4 and IAE V2500 engine support, for customers in the U.S. and Central and South America. Situated within the Pinnacle Industrial Center, the center is a mix of workshop, office and storage space that was designed using lean principles, according to Bombardier.

Initial plans call for a staff of 16 people, with expansion to around 60 workers by 2014. Michael Ryan, vice president and general manager, Bombardier Belfast, says that the maintenance personnel in Dallas "will be led by managers who have gained specific product and process training at our Belfast repair facility." From left to right are Kenneth Leonce, director of the Dallas component repair and overhaul center, Ryan and James Hoblyn, president, customer services & specialized and amphibious aircraft. Separately, Bombardier has named Lufthansa Flight Training (LFT) and Lufthansa Technical Training (LTT) authorized training providers (ATPs) for the CSeries line. LTT will provide technical training for European operators of the CS100 and CS300, which are scheduled to enter service in 2013. A subsidiary of CSeries launch customer Deutsche Lufthansa, LFT will supply pilot and crew training for the aircraft. The programs will be similar to CSeries training in Montreal, Canada, where the aircraft will be assembled. The manufacturer plans to expand its ATP network to other regions.

Chromalloy Pumps $16.5 Million Into Tampa Casting Complex

Sequa Corp. division Chromalloy is planning to invest $16.5 million to expand its engine component facility in Tampa, Fla. The funding will be used to restructure the more than 110,000-square-foot plant and purchase new equipment, including vacuum furnaces that will increase the company’s ability to make castings.

Armand Lauzon, president of Chromalloy and CEO of Sequa, says that the ability to make a casting is "certainly one of our top two differentiators going into the marketplace, and to me it’s the foundation of what we do." He explains that all the new equipment for the facility — which will include Retech Systems furnaces, a wax press, dip-room apparatuses, dryers and other tools — is on order, with a target of ramping up production in early 2010. Installation of the equipment is scheduled to start this July. Tom Trotter, general manager, will oversee the effort, which includes hiring up to 200 skilled workers as the casting equipment and furnaces come online. There are currently 195 employees at the Tampa site.

Chromalloy President Armand Lauzon

Lauzon says that the autoclave and the foundry, where the furnaces will go, are the only two areas that won’t be reorganized. "We’re going to restructure the whole facility so it flows in almost one big horseshoe," he adds.

By keeping the foundry in the same location, Chromalloy will avoid having to re-certify key elements of the operation. "Our goal was to minimize the amount of re-qualification we have to go through, so we’ve gone through painstaking evaluations to make sure we’re minimizing the amount we have to do from an engineering point of view," he continues.

Lauzon is promoting Chromalloy as a single-source provider for replacement PMA parts, from design to machining and coating — services that would typically require five or more separate companies to complete. A customer would have to find separate suppliers for each of five "very distinct, unique" steps in the process — tool and dye, ceramic core, casting, conventional machining and coating — that could all be handled by a single organization.

"We can make the wax dye, the ceramic core dye, and the ceramic core," Lauzon explains. "We can then make the casting, machine it inside our company, do all the laser drilling for the holes, airflow it, coat it, and do all the final inspections an OEM would do. It never has to leave the Chromalloy name."

With more than 30 sites around the world, Chromalloy is in the midst of a company-wide effort to streamline operations and improve coordination among various business units, which started when Lauzon began rolling out strategic goals for the company in Dec. 2008. At the top of the list is improving lead times.

"You can never be fast enough," he says. At the Tampa operation, the company is seeking to cut casting time by two-thirds, from today’s order-to-remit speed of 8 to 16 weeks, to a target of less than four weeks, and in some cases much shorter.

"That’s something you have to do in this marketplace if you’re going to compete, you’ve got to be fast. And that’s been my biggest complaint about Chromalloy, is we’ve been slow, way too slow." According to Lauzon, the company will continue to invest and make internal improvements. "We’re in a time when you’ve got to be on the offensive," he says. "You cannot be on the defensive, and that’s the one thing that I constantly preach — get out and make opportunities. We’re spending money right now that a lot of pessimistic people and conservative people and non-aggressive people wouldn’t be spending." — Andrew D. Parker, Managing Editor

PAMA Backs Re-Testing Mechanics

The Professional Aviation Maintenance Association (PAMA) is supporting FAA’s efforts to re-test hundreds of mechanics who may have received improper certification, some dating back to the early 1990s. Former FAA manager Gabriel Bruno told Dallas television station WFAA in late April that the agency has not done enough to re-test A&P mechanics that were certified in 1999 by St. George Aviation Testing Center in Florida. According to WFAA, up to 80 St. George mechanics still have not been tested, and records show that 33 may still be active in Texas, several of which work for major airlines. In addition, the credentials for up to 1,300 mechanics may be in question related to Tobias Aerospace in San Antonio, Texas, whose owner is under investigation. FAA spokesman Ronald Herwig — who insisted that the agency has a handle on the situation — said that 43 percent of the 1,445 mechanics who received certificates from St. George’s passed a follow-up test. Half of the mechanics had their licenses suspended or revoked, and another seven percent are no longer under FAA scrutiny, he added. In a May 5 statement, PAMA Chairman Clark Gordon and President John Casker noted that the work of an improperly certified A&P "not only reflects negatively upon all maintenance professionals, but presents an inherent danger to the purpose of our industry — the safety of flight."

Rhinestahl Acquires GE’s CTS Division

Cincinnati, Ohio-based Rhinestahl Corp. has signed a deal to take over GE Aviation’s Customer Tooling Solutions (CTS) unit. Under the agreement, Rhinestahl will become GE’s preferred OEM provider for turbine engine and airframe tooling. Rhinestahl CEO Dieter Moeller explains that GE customers "will continue working with the same customer account managers and support staff that they have been accustomed to working with at GE CTS, only now they will be employees of Rhinestahl." The transition will involve 14 GE employees and the warehouse operations in Vineland, N.J., which will move to a new location in Cincinnati.

Full Bird Strike Database Released

FAA has opened up its entire database on reports of aircraft involved in bird strike incidents. Following some initial resistance to releasing the full database, the agency decided to make it available on its website and withdraw a proposal to keep some portions under wraps. Parts of the database have been available since 1990, when data collection began. After redacting a small amount of information relating to personal privacy, such as phone numbers, FAA determined it can "release the data without jeopardizing aviation safety." The agency plans to continue upgrading the database through this summer. NTSB Acting Chairman Mark Rosenker points out that reporting a bird strike incident is "currently on a voluntary basis," adding that he supports Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s comments about making the reports mandatory.

Airline, Engine and MRO Executives Highlight Conference

Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson was the keynote speaker at the 2009 MRO Americas Conference, held in late April in Dallas, Texas. Panels at the event included reinventing MRO in a changed world, which featured GE Aviation Services President & CEO Tom Gentile, Delta TechOps President Tony Charaf, SR Technics CEO Bernd Kessler and Stephen Kolski, Air Tran Airways executive vice president of operations and corporate affairs. Other topics included the labor and staffing outlook, fuel savings, interior maintenance, PMA parts, green aviation, FAA/regulatory compliance, supply chain, engines and OEMs.

AMR: Factors Lessen Economy’s Impact

In an April 15 letter to employees, Gerard Arpey, chairman and CEO of American Airlines parent AMR Corp., said that the global economic situation is impacting profitability, reporting a net loss of $375 million in the first quarter of 2009. But last summer’s high fuel prices, new fees and other initiatives have helped lessen the impact. "The capacity cuts we implemented in the back half of last year, in response to high fuel prices, have positioned us to weather the current economic storm better than we would have otherwise. The various service charges we implemented last year have also been helpful," he wrote, adding the drop in fuel prices "has mitigated at least some of the damage from our revenue decline."

CFM Bets on New Materials for Advanced Turbofan

Engine maker CFM International is making a new contribution to the debate between proponents and opponents of composite materials on turbofan moving parts by introducing fibers woven in three dimensions (3D) for fan and even low-pressure turbine blades. The bet on this next-generation composite materializes on the Snecma-General Electric venture’s LEAP-X "advanced turbofan" program. CFM is targeting a 16 percent cut in fuel burn. The LEAP-X’s development schedule calls for a full engine demonstration in 2012 and certification by 2016.

Full-scale testing of the LEAP-X’s fan is well under way. Slightly adapted, it has been mounted on a CFM56-5C (the engine of the Airbus A340-200/300). Characteristics such as stall margin and performance have been assessed at Snecma’s Villaroche plant, near Paris.

Crosswind and acoustic trials are scheduled to take place in May at GE’s test facility in Peebles, Ohio. The engine will then be shipped back to Villaroche, where a 5,000-cycle endurance test is planned. Bird ingestion trials are to begin this year. The campaign includes a total of 1,000 test hours.

The LEAP-X fan has 18 blades, whereas the current CFM56-7 (which fits the Boeing 737) has 24. For a 71-inch fan diameter, each blade weighs about 9 lbs. Moving from metal to 3D-woven composite fan blades and case saves 1,000 lbs on a twin-engine aircraft, according to CFM’s calculations.

GE already has composite blades (albeit 2D woven) on the GE90, which powers the Boeing 777. Rolls-Royce, on the contrary, is sticking to titanium for fan blades on its latest programs. CFM’s composite fan blades still retain a titanium leading edge. The bypass ratio is increasing from 5 – 6 on current CFM56s to around 10 on the LEAP-X. This is done with a minimum diameter increase.

In terms of maintenance, 3D-woven composites have benefits, said Jérome Friedel, chief engineer for the LEAP-X demonstration program, during a March AM visit to Snecma’s Villaroche plant. As with other composite materials, crack propagation is very limited — compared to metal properties. Moreover, 3D means the material is no longer made of layers. Therefore, there is no risk of delamination, Friedel pointed out.

To manufacture a 3D-woven composite fan blade, 7,000 needles work on the loom. A water jet cuts the fibers. The process then involves resin transfer molding (RTM). CFM claims a good command of the technology, since approximately 300 fan blades have been manufactured so far. The company plans to demonstrate that detachment of the inner part of the blade is so unlikely that blade-off tests should be conducted only with the outer half. Jacques Renvier, senior VP of engineering, research and technology, called the concept "Safe Life."

On the low-pressure turbine, a ceramic-matrix composite material saves another 350 lbs per aircraft. Due to the lighter weight, the rotor no longer needs a disk. A challenge, however, has been to weave the blades with their integrated shroud. The material’s fibers are made of silicon carbide, while the matrix is ceramic — the equivalent of resin in conventional composites.

Further work is to be expected on single crystal. On the high-pressure turbine, cooling blades use part of the core’s airflow — 6 to 12 percent, according to Renvier. This impacts the engine’s efficiency. Therefore, improving the way single-crystal materials (which belong to the family of metals) withstand temperature is crucial. It reduces the need for cooling and has less impact on the engine’s efficiency.

Maintainability used to be the focus of engine design improvement. This was in the 1990s, when maintenance was first seen as a major contributor to direct operating costs. At the time, CFM was even shrugging off IAE engines’ lower fuel burn, insisting the cost of maintenance, for airlines, was several times that of fuel. Times have changed. On the LEAP-X, reliability and maintenance cost are not to be improved — just kept at current same level.

Rather, the aerospace industry feels stronger pressure to address environmental concerns. It also widely expects fuel prices to skyrocket again in the mid term. Hence, a focus on reducing fuel burn drastically. Therefore, CFM is also studying open rotors, for a 26 percent cut in fuel consumption. The 3D-woven composite technology is very suitable to open rotors, Renvier said.

Bypass ratio in an open rotor is in the order of 40. A major challenge is noise, since the rotors are no longer in a casing. This work is said to be "parallel" to that of the LEAP-X. However, the schedule loosely refers to "late next decade" for a possible certification. CFM executive vice president Olivier Savin eventually made it clear the concept is still at the "study of feasibility" stage.

In terms of maintenance, the open rotor’s size and complexity makes it challenging. "Such an engine would be bigger than the GE90, both in length and diameter," Savin told AM. The open rotor has heavy parts and numerous gearboxes. — Thierry Dubois, European Contributing Editor

LHT Opens Second Maintenance Line in Sofia

Lufthansa Technik has initiated a second line for base maintenance on Airbus and Boeing commercial aircraft at its facility in Sofia, Bulgaria. An A320 operated by Ural Airlines was the first aircraft to receive services from the new line. Sofia opened in October 2008 and has completed IL2-checks on three Lufthansa A321s, as well as base maintenance and painting for various airlines. Lufthansa expects to employ more than 350 workers at the 12,500-square-meter (269,100-square-foot) site when it reaches full capacity, completing heavy maintenance on up to 24 aircraft annually.

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