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Bombardier brings big data to business aviation

Bombardier is to offer to install a health monitoring unit (HMU) in every Global and Challenger free of charge, as part of an initiative to bring the growing world of big data to business aviation.

The Canadian manufacturer revealed at NBAA it is teaming up with GE Aviation to fit the smart boxes to around 2,500 aircraft from next year under a programme it calls Smart Link Plus. It has already started to install them in new Globals and Challengers.

The HMUs, which GE describes as “brains”, will capture data from each flight. Data will then be “analysed and transferred into actionable insights, drawing on Bombardier’s aircraft expertise and leveraging the power of the entire connected fleet”, says the airframer.

Operators will be able to use this information to predict when maintenance will be required.

The smart boxes combine hardware from GE’s joint venture, Avionica, with the engine manufacturer’s health and data management software.

Big data and predictive maintenance have become big themes in the airline market, but its impact in business aviation – where fleets tend to be much smaller – has been less significant. Bombardier hopes to change this.

“Our new Smart Link Plus connected aircraft programme will create fully connected aircraft, enabling customers to access key data and insights to help with decision-making and flight operations,” says Jean-Christophe Gallagher, Bombardier's vice president and general manager, customer experience.

“This new relationship with Bombardier will help streamline customer service relationships by offering integrated connectivity service offerings and customer support,” says Andrew Coleman, senior vice president for digital solutions at GE Aviation.

Coleman insists the fact that rival engine manufacturers supply the engines on many Bombardier aircraft – Honeywell in the case of smaller Challengers and Rolls-Royce on the Global 5500 and 6500 – is not a conflict of interest, citing examples of where GE supplies similar technology to airlines that fly R-R- and Pratt & Whitney-powered types.

GE and Bombardier also announced a “Preferred Service Provider” agreement, where GE will “power Bombardier’s cockpit and cabin connectivity solutions”.

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