Embraer has launched a software package that will allow its onboard aircraft health analysis and diagnosis (AHEAD) programme, an option on E-Jets, to transmit real-time aircraft and engine faults to the ground.

US-based JetBlue and US Airways already use AHEAD in the product’s “phase zero” configuration which stores fault information throughout a flight and transmits to the ground through an ACARS (aircraft communication addressing and reporting system) link after descending through 15,000ft (4,600m) for landing.

Fault messages, sent in text format, are sent to airline maintenance bases where mechanics can get a lead on what may need to be checked out or fixed once the aircraft has landed.

With a real-time link throughout the flight provided by the latest “phase one” software upgrade – originally planned for December - maintenance departments in theory can start the troubleshooting process earlier and have materials waiting at the destination airport when the aircraft arrives, says Embraer senior VP, aviation services Edson Mallaco.

Embraer says the programme will eventually evolve into a system that monitors the life of components and structures and become a complete health monitoring system.

The "phase one" software will transmit to the ground only when a fault occurs, and compresses the messages into fault codes that save on ACARS per-bit costs. Mallaco says Embraer receives the data in parallel with the airlines “to further improve the system”.

Along with real-time reporting, the upgrade also includes advanced filters for improved fault analysis and trend identification, and personalised reports containing information per fleet, aircraft or fault type, according to Embraer.

Mallaco says the upgrade will be free for operators and can be completed overnight. He expects the first aircraft upgrade to occur in a few weeks, although he is not sure which operator will be first.

New customers for the AHEAD programme include Aero Republica, Copa Airlines and Finnair.

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Source: FlightGlobal.com