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Pratt & Whitney hires IBM to gather and analyze engine data

By Marina Lopes

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Engine maker Pratt & Whitney will partner with International Business Machines Corp to compile and analyze data from about 4,000 commercial aircraft engines in order to be able to predict trouble before problems arise, the company announced on Thursday.

The announcement comes as more aircraft engine suppliers tune in to data analytics to increase safety and reduce costs. In 2012, IBM rival Accenture partnered with GE Aviation to launch a similar offering that allows airlines to chart fuel-efficient flight paths and decrease hold times at landings.

Pratt & Whitney, a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp, said in a statement it has hired IBM to analyze the half terabyte of data that engines generate on every flight to detect and predict engine trouble.

"Rather than reacting to some sort of an engine event, we are leveraging data from various sources for maintenance, for planning engine diagnostic systems and building predictive models," Jerry Kurtz, vice president of strategy and analytics at IBM, said.

A typical engine overhaul can cost between $3 million and $10 million. Using IBM's data analytics, Pratt & Whitney expects to prolong engine life to up to six years from the current four to five and reduce maintenance costs by up to 20 percent, said Jim Pennito, director of service programs at Pratt & Whitney.

Through the partnership, which has been in the works for a year and half, IBM will analyze the massive amounts of data already generated from engines on the field and flag those that have the highest risk of presenting problems in the near future for proactive maintenance.

"The focus is to be a lot smarter and efficient in how we overhaul engines. Customers should see that in less disruptions, and removals, and when the engine is in the shop, targeted repairs so the engine can come out of the shop quickly," Pennito said.

(Reporting by Marina Lopes; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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