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Aviation and drilling industries face similar challenges, could implement similar solutions

Frederico Curado, President and CEO of Embraer, outlined some of the challenges shared by the aviation and drilling industries at the 2016 IADC/SPE Drilling Conference in Fort Worth on 2 March.
Frederico Curado, President and CEO of Embraer, outlined some of the challenges shared by the aviation and drilling industries at the 2016 IADC/SPE Drilling Conference in Fort Worth on 2 March.

Like the oil and gas industry, the aviation industry is highly focused on continuously improving the reliability and safety of its equipment. “Both industries are complex in the equipment they operate and the integration of systems, in which there is a requirement of high degree of reliability and availability of the equipment,” Frederico Curado, President and CEO of Brazilian aerospace company Embraer, said at the 2016 IADC/SPE Drilling Conference in Fort Worth. Because the two industries share similar challenges – both are capital intensive, highly regulated and highly sensitive to economic swings – they could also deploy similar solutions.

While aviation incidents typically turn into high-profile events, they have always been very rare and are becoming increasingly so. In fact, preliminary data shows 2015 to be the safest year on record for the aviation industry, according to Mr Curado. This is in large part the result of collaboration, he explained. “This is the result of investments, the result of strong interaction between OEMs, regulators and other stakeholders, such as air traffic control.”

The aviation industry is also working to reduce emissions through collaborative efforts. Although the industry is responsible for only about 2% of total global emissions, the public perceives it to be much higher, Mr Curado said. In response, the industry has set a goal to cap its emissions by 2020 and then cut emissions by 50% by 2050. Achieving these goals will require collaboration between airports, airlines, equipment manufacturers and air traffic control. Optimizing flight routes, decreasing the amount of time planes are idle on runways or taxiing will not only reduce emissions but also improve the aviation industry’s economics and increase passenger satisfaction, he said.

Another major area of improvement that the airline industry has identified is maintenance. In particular, airlines are focusing on using real-time data and condition monitoring to avoid unplanned downtime. “The more you have knowledge about your equipment, the more you understand your operations, the more optimized your maintenance plan can be,” Mr Curado said. Embraer is utilizing systems that constantly monitor the health of its aircraft. Data can be downloaded and analyzed at the end of a flight but can also be transmitted during the flight in real time. The latter is particularly enabling, Mr Curado said. If something goes wrong with a piece of equipment in-flight, the ground crew can be alerted while the plane is still en route. This can enable ground crews to collect and prepare any parts or tools required for maintenance before the plane touches down. “When it lands, it does not wait for the crew to do troubleshooting, go to the warehouse and get the new equipment and come back to fix the aircraft,” he said.

Condition monitoring can also help the aviation industry increase the interval between maintenance checks. The current standard is to go 6,000 flight hours between checks, but the industry is now moving toward 7,500-hour intervals. “The advantages are obvious as far as planning and costs,” Mr Curado said. “This is something where I think there is room in the oil and gas industry to improve – to improve maintenance plans and reduce interventions in the equipment.”

Embraer is working with our industry to do just that. The company was contacted by Petrobras to explore ways to apply the aviation industry’s knowledge, technology and models to the subsea sector, Mr Curado said. The two companies announced the partnership in 2014 at the Offshore Technology Conference. This has resulted in the formation of a joint engineering study that includes not only Embraer and Petrobras but also National Oilwell Varco, Diamond Offshore, Ocean Rig and Transocean.

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