Posted on: 04 June 2015 by Ross McSweeny
easyJet has announced that it has successfully completed automated drone inspection of one of its aircraft, the tests proving that pre-programmed drones could help reduce the number of hours an aircraft is out of service after events such as lightning strikes compared to manual inspection.
easyJet aims to bring the drones into service in its engineering bases across Europe within 12 months.
The airline has also announced that it is trialling the use of 3D printing to replace parts within the cabin, such as arm rests, to speed up the replacement process and reduce the storage of spares. 3D printing will be a part of the CFM LEAP engines that easyJet has on order for its A320neo aircraft. The LEAP engine features 3D printed parts including fuel nozzles, carbon filter fan blades and ceramic-matrix composites.
In collaboration with Airbus, the airline will study a solution for prognostics maintenance including services and eSolutions which can receive real-time information from aircraft systems via the ACARS messaging system. This information is then analysed, with fault predictions sent to airlines’ operations teams so they can use it to troubleshoot technical faults as soon as the aircraft lands or schedule work into its regular maintenance. Aim at eliminating technical related delays, the technology has already reduced the rate of these from 10 delays per 1,000 flight movements to 6 delays per 1000 flight movements over the past 5 years.
Commenting on these advances, chief executive of easyJet, Carolyn McCall, said, “easyJet has always been pioneering. We revolutionised travel in Europe enabling people to fly to more places more cheaply than before. From our birth almost twenty years ago we have innovated from selling through the web and more recent moves like introducing allocated seating.
“Last year we presented a range of new and emerging technologies that we intended to apply to the aviation sector for the first time to help us run our fleet of aircraft more effectively, efficiently and safely. A number of these technologies have now been implemented into our everyday operation including flying our fleet of planes with entirely paperless cockpits, using apps to help to simplify processes like managing our fan changes after a bird strike and an app for our ops control centre to help engineers and crew resolve technical issues with easyJet’s aircraft across the airline’s network.
“Since then we have continued to look for new and original innovations to help run our operation smoothly and ensure passengers get to where they need to go safely and on time,” Mc Call continued. "We have made great strides on our work with drone technology having successfully tested automated drone inspections of our aircraft and we have agreed a new collaboration with Airbus for an inflight prognosis tool. Both of these support our aim of eliminating technical related delays.
"All of this work is aimed at further increasing the reliability of our aircraft and therefore improving our passengers' experience. We have also been investing in digital innovations including a new iPhone App, our bespoke Apple Watch app and a new digital self-managing tool that will hand back power to passengers so they can book their own accommodation and flights in event of flight disruption.”
Ian Davies, easyJet's head of engineering, added, “The use of these emerging technologies frees up our engineering and digital teams to enable them to undertake more skilled tasks, keeping our costs down which in turn keeps our fares low, helps minimise delays and ensures that we maintain our industry leading punctuality for our passengers.
"Safety is our number one priority and so all of these new technologies will be applied by our experienced engineering and flight crew to ensure our leading safety record is maintained," Davies emphasised.