Etihad Airways’ Technical Maintenance department has just set a new world record by replacing a GE90 engine on one of its Boeing 777 passenger aircraft in less than seven hours.
With an engine inlet cowling diameter of 3.4 metres, and overall length of 7.4 metres, the GE90 engine weighs approximately eight tonnes, and is capable of delivering an extraordinary 115,000 pounds of thrust – making it the largest and most powerful commercial aircraft engine in use today.
The time taken to replace an aircraft engine is usually between 20 and 25 hours, which can cause significant operational disruption to flight schedules and ultimately reduce profitability.
The world record was achieved overnight at the Etihad Airways Light Maintenance facility on 10 November 2014 by a team of 12 mechanics and engineers from the airline’s Technical Department, who have been looking at ways to enhance efficiency and minimise aircraft down times due to scheduled engine replacements.
Jeff Wilkinson, Etihad Airways’ Senior Vice President, Technical, said:“We are highly focussed on maximising efficiencies and streamlining and enhancing processes to ensure that our aircraft maintenance turnaround times are minimised while, at the same time, maintaining the highest safety standards.
“Etihad Airways has been working with GE through their Six Sigma initiative over the last 12 months and have adopted a systematic approach to improving quality processes and performance standards. We have been able to identify and minimise those time-consuming activities that cause delay, ensuring that all aircraft undergoing maintenance are fully checked and returned to operational readiness in the shortest possible time.”
All Etihad Airways Boeing 777 aircraft undergo a rigorous maintenance program that includes ‘A’ checks at three-month intervals, involving complex boroscope inspections that check for any internal wear and tear.
Aircraft engines are kept on wings for an average of three to four years, depending on the operational workload of the aircraft, and the number of take-offs and landings that have been performed, often referred to as ‘engine cycles.’
Paul Clark, General Electric’s Senior Manager - Customer Support, said:“I congratulate the team at Etihad Airways on the fastest step-by-step documented GE90 aircraft engine change. It’s clear that Etihad Airways’ investment in process improvement using lean Six Sigma methodology is delivering real benefit to its operation.”
The GE90 engine is one of the most fuel-efficient, low noise and environment friendly engines in use today, providing airlines with a 5-6 per cent reduction in fuel burn, lower noise pollution, and NOX emissions that are 33 per cent lower than today’s high bypass ratio engines.
The previous world record for a GE90 aircraft engine change was set in 2009 by Brazilian airline, TAM, when it changed a similar engine in 14 hours.
In November 2013, Etihad Airways announced its largest ever fleet order, for 199 aircraft and 294 engines, in a US$ 67 billion dollar deal which will enable the airline to accelerate its industry-leading growth over the next decade. This deal included the purchase of 127 GE Aviation engines which will power the airline’s new Boeing Dreamliner and Boeing B777-X passenger and cargo aircraft as they come into service, and serve as replacement engines if required.