Flight Ops software makers offer to streamline flight dispatch, reduce delays, recover from weather and maintenance problems and improve passenger service.
How do these software systems help flight operations departments manage their operations safely, efficiently, in accordance with regulation and save their companies money? We will take a look at what these products really do and how they can ultimately increase profitability.
Honeywell has launched the next generation of its Honeywell NAVITAS software suite platform, a System of Systems (SoS) offering that the company says will help airport operators and air navigation service providers make more informed and accurate decisions across airside operations – from approach to gate. The latest updates enable automation and digitization of air traffic services to help achieve efficient ground movement, improve situational awareness, control and monitoring of airside and Air Traffic Management (ATM) equipment, information management and integration.
Honeywell NAVITAS is a collection of task-oriented systems that enables airports to more seamlessly digitize, visualize and automate everyday operations such as orchestrating an aircraft’s final approach, landing, taxi-in for arrivals, turnaround, pushback, taxi-out, line-up and take-off for departures.
Honeywell NAVITAS is designed to meet the challenging requirements of modern aviation with the latest technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data, cybersecurity and leveraging human centered design principles. The SoS offering is comprised of nine “managers,” or dedicated systems, available within the full suite, including:
Engineering Manager: Provides the airport or air traffic engineering team with a more comprehensive insight to communication aids, navigational aids, visual aids and weather aids.
Surface Manager: Provides airport safety support, routing and guidance services for Air Traffic Control (ATC) to help safely manage clearance services to aircraft and vehicles, and expedite and maintain an orderly flow of traffic even during low visibility conditions.
Surveillance Manager: Provides identification and accurate position information of aircraft, vehicles and unauthorized targets on airport surfaces and in approach.
Lights Manager: Provides a more comfortable working environment for tower controllers and airfield technicians through a computerized control and monitoring system for airport lighting equipment, which is a distributed and scalable system that stands out due to its high-speed operation, redundancy, and easier integration with further subsystems.
Tower Manager: An Integrated Tower Working Position (ITWP) that incorporates unique elements, like strip-less ATC workflow automation tool, electronic flight strip, ground situation display, air situation display, airfield ground lighting and voice communication system, and all others in a single display.
Performance Manager: Creates a repository of all operational information of airport surfaces covering data originating from multiple sources, to show metering and performance metrics of different areas like runways, taxiways, aprons and gates. Provides real-time dashboard supporting Airport Collaborative Decision-Making (A-CDM).
Turnaround Manager: Delivers higher gate efficiency and optimized throughput to support smoother operation of arrivals and departures at gates through an automated gate management system.
Arrival/Departure Manager: Facilitates more efficient sequencing and times to promote smooth traffic flow, both arrivals and departures.
Integration Manager: Receives and transmits data over multiple interfaces through an air traffic management (ATM)-grade integration engine while prioritizing, merging and recording data in a reliable data storage sub-system to help enable system wide information management.
“The Honeywell NAVITAS suite helps create more resilient, agile and efficient airports,” said Philipose Jacob, general manager, Global Airports, Honeywell Building Technologies. “Creating the airport of the future requires a strong operational backbone that prioritizes safety, experience and efficiency to adapt to the daily needs of travelers and employees. The upgrades to the Honeywell NAVITAS software suite support airport operations and help drive decreased operational expenses, all while promoting a higher level of safety, security and uptime and an improved experience for travelers and employees.”
South Korea’s Incheon International Airport, one of the highest-trafficked hub airports in Asia, commenced an end-to-end Honeywell NAVITAS Platform as an Integrated System which has helped the airport significantly enhance air traffic management efficiency. Incheon International Airport also implemented 24-hour ‘follow the greens’ which helped the airport to improve situational awareness with precision and consistency across airfield, increased the level of conflict detection and resolution, as well as generated meaningful reductions in energy consumption, CO2 and lamp replacement cost for the Aerodrome.
“By unifying air and ground traffic control, airport operations and maintenance with predictive performance analysis, Honeywell has provided Incheon International Airport a true, end-to-end airport management platform,” said Chang-Jun Lee, director, Aeronautical Ground Light Team, Incheon International Airport. “Over the past 20 years, we’ve worked with Honeywell to improve our operations and experiences to be one of the world’s most critical travel hubs. We plan the schedule to expand Honeywell NAVITAS by validating it, which allows us to continue to provide our travelers with an unmatched experience while supporting our employees with improved technologies.”
Brussels South Charleroi Airport (BSCA), Belgium’s second-largest airport in terms of passenger traffic, and EMMA Systems, a provider of operations management solutions for airports, have agreed to collaborate to jointly configure, test and commission an airport operations management platform (with A-CDM functionality) at BSCA. EMMA System’s platform will help BSCA increase the predictability of operations, reduce delays, conserve fuel and decrease operational costs.
“We look forward to working closely with EMMA Systems to develop a best-in-class A-CDM approach and leverage the power of EMMA’s cutting-edge technology towards reaching new levels of efficiency and sustainability within our operations,” stated Philippe Verdonck, Chief Executive Officer at Brussels South Charleroi Airport.
EMMA Systems’ airport operations management platform utilizes a microservices architecture which facilitates the seamless implementation of new solutions and features. In the rapidly evolving sphere of aviation technology, this allows for the quick development of additional services and the integration of multiple data sources into the platform, reducing development and integration time from months or years to just a few weeks. Using artificial intelligence, EMMA’s platform analyzes current and past traffic flows to accurately predict key timestamps and upcoming operational hindrances, improving operational predictability.
Brussels South Charleroi Airport will introduce A-CDM at the airport and implement all functionalities of EMMA Systems’ airport operations management platform. With traffic gradually increasing, the airport hopes to see traffic ramping up further to pre-COVID levels after the pandemic. This proactive measure will allow BSCA to improve passenger experience and put the airport in a better position to manage an increase in passenger numbers. “We are extremely happy that BSCA has selected EMMA Systems as their partner to jointly develop their A-CDM approach. The airport has a unique setup and has developed commendable ambitions through its long-term plan. EMMA is ideally placed to support the airport’s success now and in the future,” says Wisam Costandi, CEO and co-founder of EMMA Systems. This collaboration will help EMMA Systems gain additional insight into airport operations and fine-tune their offering so that the company’s solutions can be further tailored to match airports’ evolving needs.
NAVBLUE and the University of Waterloo’s Institute for Sustainable Aeronautics (WISA) in Canada have partnered to address some of the industry’s most complex sustainability challenges through applied research and innovation.
Over the next five years, NAVBLUE and WISA will explore how emerging technologies can identify and drive sustainability in NAVBLUE’s core business of software for operations and crew management, flight planning, aircraft performance, flight data analysis and navigational data.
A first in Canada, WISA was launched in the summer of 2021 to foster cross-disciplinary research technology, and education aimed at making the aviation and aerospace sectors more environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable.
“The aviation industry relies on trusted partners like NAVBLUE to provide state of the art integrated systems that work in the background yet are the backbone of every traveller’s experience,” said Suzanne Kearns, director of WISA. “There are enormous opportunities to reduce the negative environmental impacts of the sector, by supporting more direct and efficient operations, thus reducing fuel burn and resulting emissions.”
“We are thrilled to be partnering with the Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Aeronautics, to research new technologies for flight operations” said Thomas Lagaillarde, head of Product Portfolio & Programs and managing director Canada at NAVBLUE. He adds: “Sustainability is a complex issue we can only solve by working together. Working with WISA allows us to combine NAVBLUE’s flight operations expertise and Airbus’ manufacturing knowledge, with the University of Waterloo’s renowned research capabilities to build sustainable solutions for our partners.”
Sustainable aeronautics is a rapidly growing interdisciplinary field that encompasses all types of air transport, including aviation, aerospace, and space. Researchers develop innovative solutions, tools, and practices to create a viable future for air transport that delivers long-term social, environmental, and economic value.
“Aeronautics can be a force for good – connecting people around the world, driving cultural and economic exchange, creating millions of jobs, and providing limitless opportunities for innovation,” said Jean Andrey, dean of Waterloo’s Faculty of Environment, where WISA is housed.
The long-term viability of the aviation and aerospace industries depend on socially, environmentally, and economic sustainable solutions and practices. Through this partnership, faculty and graduate students from across the University of Waterloo will work collaboratively with the team at NAVBLUE on applied research to address some of the industry’s most complex issues.
Over the past few years, Memphis International Airport has transformed from a regional hub to an ‘origin and destination’ airport. Rather than serving as a transfer hub for one primary airline, Memphis has diversified its number of carriers and is working to recruit additional airlines, including ultra-low-cost carriers that fly point-to-point routes. In addition to a major concourse redevelopment, the airport is acquiring a new generation of IT systems to support this change.
With a more diverse range of airlines operating from Memphis, the airport sought to enhance its operational capabilities with technological upgrades that include several Amadeus Airport Management Solutions. The introduction of a new Airport Operational Database (AODB) provides information that includes airline flight schedules a year in advance, so all systems and partners at the airport have a consistent, long-range operational view.
Memphis International Airport will transition to the Amadeus Resource Management System (RMS) for management of shared gates, ticket counters, and baggage drop-off points, based on a real-time view of demand from different airlines.
In addition, the airport will utilize the Amadeus PROworks contracting and billing management system.
“Our modernization project will reinvent the travel experience for the Memphis passenger, and welcome millions of travelers to our great city,” Scott A. Brockman, President and CEO, Memphis International Airport commented. “This technology will be a key part of our modernization and our operations moving forward.”
Elena Avila, EVP Airport IT and Airline Operations, Amadeus added: “Airports across the United States are adapting to the operational shifts ongoing in aviation. Our technology is specifically designed to help manage the complexity of terminals and resources that are shared by multiple carriers, which will prove critically valuable in this ongoing transformation. In particular, we’re excited to support this important transformation at Memphis.”
Rolls-Royce North America has been awarded a U.S. Transportation Command contract for the demonstration and continued development of a revolutionary new software system that will maximize efficiency in managing air refueling assets, improving mission availability and reducing cost for the U.S. Air Force.
The Rolls-Royce Air Refueling Optimization and Planning System, or AROPS, is part of the new suite of digital services known as TwinAlytix from Rolls-Royce Defense. TwinAlytix features the benefits of digital twins and digital analytics to improve customer services through advanced, secure software applications.
The AROPS software package contract, valued at $800,000, is intended to increase air tanker availability and eliminate inefficiencies caused by disconnected systems and process challenges within a highly complex air refueling enterprise. Working with our partners at Applied Aeronautical Systems Inc. (AASI), Rolls-Royce has developed and continues to improve on a solution to make the overall air refueling enterprise more effective and efficient, which could lead to millions of dollars in cost savings and a reduced environmental impact.
Additionally, the Rolls-Royce and AASI team’s concept of creating an Operational Process Digital Twin (OPDT) of the USAF’s air refueling enterprise became the first Rolls-Royce submittal to advance to both Phase 2 and Phase 3 of an AFWERX challenge (Reimagining Energy). The OPDT will allow the USAF to plan future air refueling requirements ahead of actual deployments, providing multiple courses of action in a low-risk/low-cost environment to best serve its missions.
Darryl Roberson, Rolls-Royce Defense, Senior Vice President, Business Development, said, “The new AROPS software package will lead to significant improvements in the entire U.S. Air Force air refueling enterprise. Rolls-Royce is proud to be leading the way in the aerospace industry in digital advancements with our new TwinAlytix® suite of offerings. We are focused on removing complexities and transforming operations for our customers.”
The AROPS development activity includes an expansive team joining Rolls-Royce, the USTRANSCOM, Operations Directorate’s Air Refueling Branch (J38-R), Air Mobility Command (AMC), the 618th Air Operations Center, and other major commands, to modernize air-refueling management for the Department of Defense.
In addition to the AROPS platform, the TwinAlytix digital suite includes Virtual Reality Training, already fielded in the Air Force; Foreign Object Debris (FOD) Prevention Services, already in operation in the U.S. Marine Corps; Asset Management Protection Service; TP400 Tip Clearance; Enterprise Modelling Services; and Remote FSR Service, with more offerings to come.
Rolls-Royce has recently completed a $600 million investment in advanced manufacturing facilities and technology in Indianapolis, Indiana in the U. S. transforming manufacturing capabilities. The revitalized facilities are highly efficient and will improve competitiveness in an increasingly contested marketplace for propulsion and power solutions. The modernized and digitized facilities have already significantly improved energy efficiency and the company says it is helping them become net-zero in carbon use in operations by 2030.
Rolls-Royce Indianapolis primarily serves U.S. military customers, manufacturing engines and components for the C-130J and C-130H Hercules, V-22 Osprey, Global Hawk and Triton, E-2 Hawkeye, F-35B Lightning II, and other military aircraft. The site also produces engines and power components for the U.S. Navy, industrial power generation, commercial aircraft, and helicopter customers. See our related feature story about fuel management and efficiencies applications see page 98.
Aviation has come a long way in reducing its emissions, with new generation engines and aerodynamic tweaks such as winglets producing significant savings. However, the next stage is harder, with only smaller incremental changes possible. One technology being applied is big data.
Aircraft generate massive amounts of data and advances in processing have allowed the development of innovative solutions that can help to save fuel. One hindrance to these is crowded airspace, which mean altitude changes for more favourable winds, short cuts by direct routing, or continuous descent approaches are not always possible but it still possible to make other aspects of a flight more efficient. In addition, burning fuel to carry fuel can be reduced by more accurate planning.
François Chazelle, chief commercial officer, says Safety Line is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year. It started as a funded research project at the Telecom Paris Tech Incubator in 2011, with the company being founded in the same year. Its first product was SafetyCube, an integrated compliance, safety and risk management solution,
Analysis of some 30 parameters of flight data stored by the Quick Access Recorder led to the realisation that it very precisely captured individual aircraft performance in different configurations. An in-house data science research lab was set up to develop predictive and prescriptive solutions, using Machine Learning performance models for each aircraft, that could optimise specific flight phases and provide recommendations to pilots. There is an OEM aircraft model, he notes, that is used by the FMS but it is not as accurate as real life data, which can also detect changes in aircraft performance over time.
The first area of interest was the climb-out phase, which has the highest fuel burn. Often, climb-out starts with a first speed of 250kts to 100,000ft but this, he says, is a response to regulations that say a maximum of 250kts to a minimum of 100,000ft. The result was OptiClimb, launched in 2018, a more nuanced approach with the potential to produce significant savings. By using wind and temperature inputs every 1000ft, which are predictable up to 12 hours ahead, customized climb speeds and altitudes are sent to pilots to be included in their briefing package. These are slower horizontal speeds which for a given thrust result in higher vertical speeds and a higher climb angle, getting the aircraft to altitude sooner, where it consumes less fuel.
Transavia France was the first airline to implement OptiClimb. The first experimental flights started in Summer 2015, followed by an initial test phase with 10% of the pilots the following year. In the second half of 2017, it was tested by sister company Transavia Netherlands. A contract was signed with both companies in December that year. In 2019, Transavia France had 18,067 OptiClimb flights, with an average saving of 85kg of fuel per flight, giving a reduction in CO2 emissions of 4,837 tons.
Mexican ultra low-cost carrier VivaAerobus started testing OptiClimb in April 2020. This followed a full scale trial of almost 4000 flights before the pandemic eventually reached Mexico, with application rates as high as 83%, providing plenty of useful data. As a result, the airline should be able to save in average of 70kg of fuel for each climb, which could represent a fleetwide carbon footprint reduction of at least 14,000 tons of CO2 per year.
Other OptiClimb customers include Air Austral, Air Asia, Sky, TAP Express and TUI.
OptiClimb is now just one of a suite of programs that form OptiFlight. The others are:
• OptiSpeed, which shows pilots the fuel and time impact of Mach variations to enable on-time arrival with the best fuel/time ratio.
• OptiDirect, which recommends shortcuts that pilots can request from ATC based on historical tracks flown, with an indication of fuel and time savings taking into account the wind and temperatures forecasts for the flight.
• OptiLevel, which advises pilots on the best initial flight level and potential cruise level changes taking winds into account.
These three products are packaged as OptiCruise.
Finally, there is:
• OptiDescent, which helps pilots better anticipate on Distance to Go based on Machine Learning of historical approach patterns, including landing direction and the time of day.
OptiDirect trials were carried by Transavia, starting in June 2019. Almost 18 months later, pilots had taken 1895 shortcuts, with average savings of 37kg of fuel and 55 seconds of time saved on average per shortcut. That represents 84tons of fuel and 35 hours of flight time saved in the test, with CO2 emissions reduced by 264 tons.
Other OptiDirect customers include Air France, Aerologic and Condor.
Following a partnership agreement in September 2020, OptiCruise was integrated in SITA’s widely used eWAS Pilot mobile application, which is part of SITA FOR AIRCRAFT’s ‘Digital Day of Operations’ portfolio. eWAS Pilot, used by 50,000 pilots of commercial airlines, business jets and cargo airlines, provides accurate 4D weather forecasts and real-time updates from various sources to warn about weather hazards such as thunderstorms, lightning, clear air turbulence, strong winds, icing and even volcanic ash.
First customer for the new package was AeroLogic, the joint venture between DHL and Lufthansa Cargo. It operates around 12,000 international flights a year with a fleet of 17 Boeing 777F freighters.
In July 2021, the link between the two companies was strengthened when SITA announced the acquisition of Safety Line.
This will bring Safety Line’s AirsideWatch into SITA’s portfolio, expanding its airports offering to airside operations
AirsideWatch uses surface movement radar data. This is usually used to monitor live ground traffic of aircraft and airside vehicles for safety purposes. However, by converting the data into searchable aircraft trajectories, it provides insight on a variety of criteria such as multiple points of passage, airline, aircraft type, date and time, type of trajectory phase, and visibility and lighting conditions.
Trajectories are broken down into specific phases, from parking and pushback to line up and take off, or from landing and runway exit to the gate, with the possibility to identify the time and distance covered. This allows for additional analytics such as taxi time and distance, time at gate, or time at de-icing bays. These extremely precise inputs can be incorporated into noise and emissions simulation models to help airports to reduce their environmental impact.
Finally, Safety Line has been involved in several two and development projects related to the reduction of CO2 emissions. As part of the European Commission’s Clean Sky2 research program, PERF-AI will apply Machine Learning techniques on flight data to accurately measure actual aircraft performance and provide real time optimisation of flight. It is joined by INRIA Lille, the French national research institute for digital sciences, and Thales as Topic Leader and had Lufthansa and Transavia France on the project advisory board.
An earlier project also involved INRIA, this time the COMMANDS research team from the Saclay–Île-de-France research center, whose main focus is studying dynamic optimization. This has seen the creation of an INRIA joint Innovation Lab called OptimiSation of Consumption for AiRplanes (OSCAR). The three-year project aimed to improve climb optimization.
LATAM DIVES INTO THE GREEN
LATAM Airlines is to upgrade over 200 of their A320 Family fleet by adding the Descent Profile Optimisation (DPO) function from Airbus to aircraft’s Flight Management System (FMS) performance database. All the equipment kits required for the installation of the DPO performance software will start to be delivered from the end of 2021 until early 2022.
The DPO function allows aircraft to descend from cruise altitude using only idle engine thrust, which reduces fuel consumption, bringing proportional CO2 and NOx reductions. It also maximises the time spent at efficient cruise levels by not starting the descent too early, which minimises the amount of time spent at the inefficient ‘level-off’ stage at the bottom of the descent, when the aircraft’s engines need higher thrust to maintain level flight in dense air prior to final approach.
LATAM Airlines will generate savings of more than 100 tons of fuel and more than over 300 tons of CO2 emissions per aircraft per year across their network, including constrained airports like Lima, Santiago and São Paulo. Across the fleet, this represents a reduction in fuel consumption of more than 20,000 tons and 60,000 tons of CO2 emissions.
TAKING CONTROL OF EMISSIONS
While saying that airspace efficiencies are sometimes compromised by ATC restrictions, it is only fair to look at the experience of one airspace navigation services provider. In this case, it is NATS in the UK, which has handled up to 2.4 million flights and 250 million passengers in a year.
Obviously, that was before COVID-19, which, ironically, made it easier to be more efficient with a reduced level of flights – holding patterns almost entirely vanished, as did vertical limitations, direct routings increased, and continuous climbs (direct to 100,000ft without levelling off) increased by 15% to 85% of all departures. For arrivals, the biggest fuel saver is Continuous Descent Approaches (CDA), a smooth descent with reduced power and no levelling off. However, this was unaffected by the pandemic. In fact, the 2019/20 average was 80% across the 22 UK airports covered by NATS, with London airfields operating around 90%.
The focus now is to maintain that efficiency as the industry recovers, although, in the case of CDAs, higher targets will only produce marginal gains as 100% is impossible due to factors such as go-arounds and non-standard conditions such as high winds.
NATS also gathers other data such as continuous climb, fuel burn and CO2 of the actual radar tracks and airline flight plan, as well as the amount of track extension over optimum. This is used in what it calls it 3Di metric (three-dimensional insight score), which has been running since 2012 as part of the contract with the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). This measures the efficiency of every commercial aircraft flight, which, across the year, are averaged and compared to targets set by the CAA. While it is a barometer of performance, with financial penalties or bonuses, NATS says it is also a strong incentive to make every flight handled as efficient as possible, with subsequent reductions in emissions. The data is used by airports, airlines and ATC to identify differences and opportunities.
The U. S. company has taken a slightly different approach to emissions reduction with its Honeywell Forge Flight Efficiency program as it allows flight planners to reduce the amount of reserve fuel that needs to be carried, while meeting regulatory safety minima.
Traditionally, fuel loads are determined using flight plans, weather forecasts, navigation changes and aircraft performance data as well as historical fuel burn records on each sector. This is known as Statistical Contingency Fuel (SCF). However, airlines have always been very conservative in their fuel loading practices.
In 2015, environmental researchers studying a major US airline found 4.48% of the fuel consumed on an average flight was due to carrying unused fuel, with 1.04% consumed to carry fuel above what they called “a reasonable buffer.” That is important as, depending on the aircraft type and configuration, it takes 3-4kg of fuel per hour to carry each 100kg of load.
The company estimates that SCF quantities can be reduced from today’s customary 5-10% to the range of 3% or even less, saving hundreds of kilos of weight and dramatically reducing fuel consumption on a typical flight.
For a typical airline with a mixed fleet, the most frequent SCF exceedances for flights less than 500 miles and over 1,500 miles would be in the 3-3.3% range, with 4.5% for flights between 500-1500 Very long flights have a wider discrepancy (5.5%) deviation.
The variation is often greatest when flight times between a particular city pair may be affected by such things as headwinds and tailwinds. For example, there may be a smaller exceedance on an outbound flight between Chicago and Phoenix than on the return flight. The flight planner might allocate an additional 3% of fuel for each leg, whereas Honeywell Forge Flight Efficiency would probably recommend 1% for the outbound flight and 5% for the return. While that might mean refuelling at Phoenix, there are still overall reductions in costs, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.
“No matter where an airline is in its flight-efficiency and sustainability program, Honeywell can help it take the next major step — and the step after that — towards a smaller carbon footprint and simplified tracking and reporting, thus engaging the entire organization to promote a fuel and carbon reduction culture. Additionally, it can help optimize current best practices, unearth new fuel-saving opportunities, or perform a deeper analysis of operational data in support of the broader sustainability commitments of the enterprise,” said Bob Buddecke, president, Honeywell Connected Aerospace.
The program’s decision comes from analysis of the variation between the planned and actual fuel used over hundreds of flights between city pairs and a two-year period. It is easily integrated with major airline flight-planning systems such as LIDO and Sabre DM/FPM, while easy-to-read data displays let flight crews and dispatcher compare options and clearly see the impact of their decisions on fuel consumption. Data also is normalized to reflect seasonal variations, like changing weather patterns that can cause delays or diversions.
To ensure consistent accuracy, Honeywell continuously monitors the custom algorithm for each operator to ensure that it accurately reflects the fuel-loading recommendation for each city pair flown.
StorkJet, based in Katowice in Poland, helps airlines save fuel with advanced data analysis. Thanks to artificial intelligence they monitor precisely aircraft performance and optimize fuel consumption across 44 fuel initiatives. Its customer base includes JetSMART and Volaris in the South America and Air Atlanta, LOT Polish Airlines and Wizz Air in Europe. Air Astana signed up in July 2021.
Piotr Niedziela, co-founder and head of Business Development, explains that one of the company’s products is AdvancedAPM which helps airlines precisely monitor aircraft performance and diagnose root causes of performance degradation. It compares actual fuel consumption of each aircraft to a brand new one. The difference is called performance factor and is later on used in multiple systems like FMS and Flight Planning System to properly plan fuel for the flight, as well as optimize speeds, altitudes and trajectory of the flight.
The second StorkJet product is FuelPro — a fuel efficiency platform with over 44 options across the entire spectrum of airline operations which can be optimized, including fuel policy, flight planning, ground operations, APUs, departure, flight speed, vertical profile optimisation and arrival. Each fuel initiative has a dedicated AI mode, that creates ‘what if scenarios’, compares fuel burn between them and indicate the precise savings potential that an airline can achieve. Such powerful analysis can be further broken down into time periods, airports, runway, aircraft type, individual aircraft and many more.
As pilots are the most important factor in the efficiency process, with FuelPro they also have dedicated app where they can check their fuel score. They are being encouraged in a friendly way, being informed how much CO2 or trees they have saved with efficient flights. After each flight they receive a debriefing with information on how close they were to optimum policies, like optimal flight speed and vertical profile during climb, cruise, and descent.
One example of where fuel savings can be made is the amount of additional fuel that is carried. There are many different types of additional fuel which could be safely optimized like contingency fuel, final reserve, discretionary, alternate fuel etc. Looking at the numbers, even with 100kg fuel less onboard at an airline operating 50 aircraft can save between $120,000-200,000 annually. See Table 1, previous page.
In the case of LOT Polish Airlines, it used FuelPro to reduce Contingency Fuel on their Boeing 787 fleet. The result was a change in policy from 5% to 3%, which brought savings of $1.8 millions in just one year.
With FuelPro airlines can also easily check what is the real saving potential with using low acceleration altitude and low flaps during take-off. What might be interesting is that with AI models airlines can check different scenarios and be aware of real impact of non-compliant flights. Averages, based on 1 mlnute of flights are shown in Table 2, previous page.
At the moment the company is working on an EU-funded project for real time optimizations — fuel briefing and debriefing via the EFB.
On Friday, September 17, 2021, United Airlines a “technical system issue” they say was caused an outage that impacted flights nationwide.
The outage frustrated travelers because it prevented them from checking in or boarding flights at certain airports. The mobile United app and website were unavailable, according to many passengers.
“This morning we experienced technical system issues that impacted our operations and have since been resolved,” a statement released by the airline said. “All systems are now working normally and we are working diligently to get customers to their destinations.”
The airline requested a ground stop, according to the FAA website. A ground stop prevents all flights in the U.S. and Canada from proceeding.
The ground stop for the U.S. and Canada began at 5:45 a.m. CT and was issued “due to computer issues.” The ground stop was lifted about 45 minutes later.
Innov’ATM is allowing all regional airports in Europe to access to its AirportKeeper platform, enabling them to digitize their operations and share information within the airport community.
For more than eight years, Innov’ATM says it “has distinguished itself as an innovator in the field of air traffic optimization and drone traffic management solutions.” The company, based in Toulouse, France, employs many technical and business experts. The company touts it’s Agile approach as “concrete and efficiency-oriented, putting technology at the service of air transport with pragmatism.”
With this in mind, Innov’ATM has decided to support regional and local airports in this period of recovery of European air traffic. This support is translated by the opening of a new platform of information sharing and collaboration for all types of airports, whatever the typology of its traffic and directly accessible on the website.
In 2020, with the health crisis related to COVID-19, airports saw their traffic severely reduced with an average drop of 70% compared to 2019. The outlook for 2021 reveals a traffic divided by two compared to the pre-crisis period.
“With the acceleration of the vaccine policy in many European countries, the recovery of air traffic should be confirmed over the next few months but will remain slow. It is therefore essential for airports to reduce their operating costs by improving the use of their resources. In this context, we want all types of airports to be able to benefit from digital solutions such as ours, which until now have been reserved for larger airports,” says Stéphane Bascobert, president and co-founder of Innov’ATM.
For Laurent Nicolas, director of Innov’ATM’s Aircraft Transport Industry Business Unit: “Since 2016, we have been working hand in hand with our partner airports’ operational staff in order to offer adapted and pragmatic solutions. Our agility and expertise, recognized by users, have enabled us to adjust AirportKeeper to many different use cases.”
Operational since 2019, this complete airside operations management and team collaboration solution has an ergonomic, simple, efficient and cost-effective interface.
AirportKeeper offers real-time flight tracking, gives access to information and facilitates communication in a mobile way for all airport actors.
“Many smaller airports are not in a position to make investments to improve their information systems in these times of crisis. With AirportKeeper, we provide them with a flexible, immediately accessible and universal solution to enable better cooperation within teams, saving time and efficiency, and this without any commitment for the manager” says Audric Semezies, Innov’ATM’s sales manager.
So that airports can judge for themselves the relevance and efficiency of such a tool, AirportKeeper offers a trial period, without installation and without commitment, up to 1 month of free use of AirportKeeper features.
Malaysia Airlines and GE Digital are collaborating to transform and modernize the airline’s fuel efficiency program by adopting GE Digital’s Fuel Insight and FlightPulse aviation software as part of the airline’s on-going initiative to meet its sustainability goals.
Malaysia Airlines has implemented various initiatives including efficiency measures, investments in sustainability solutions, and waste reduction across its operations to address sustainability goals. The fuel efficiency program has been running for more than a decade, contributing to a 15% fuel burn improvement recorded over the past eight years. Data analytics has been a cornerstone of the program with various improvements made in systems infrastructure and capabilities. As a part of this focus, the airline will use technologies by GE Digital to facilitate efficient and digitally-connected operations.
Fuel Insight is a cost and emissions monitoring solution that works by understanding data from the aircraft to uncover valuable intelligence that help increase fuel efficiency and reduce waste, GE says. The software uses GE Digital’s Event Measurement System (EMS) aviation data and analytics platform to merge flight data with flight plans, load sheets and fuel uplift data, identify the most attainable fuel savings opportunities, and track the incremental savings across the operation. Fuel Insight gives operators actionable intelligence at multiple levels allowing analysts to drill down macro trends to understand issues on a per-flight level.
FlightPulse puts data directly into the hands of pilots, helping them to visualize their savings over time. Pilots who understand their own performance can adjust their flight plans to maximize safety and fuel efficiency. Secure benchmarking and data sharing lets crew members see their contribution to projects and dramatically shortens the feedback loop.
“Advocating sustainability in all of our operations has always been the primary goal for Malaysia Airlines,” said Ahmad Luqman Mohd Azmi, group operations officer of Malaysia Airlines, “We look forward to such collaboration that contributes to the airline’s efforts to accelerate our sustainability goals. Digitalization is a core component of our Long Term Business Plan and we have seen how these efforts bring immediate value especially in the area of fuel efficiency. Through these solutions, we seek to play a greater part in building a legacy for future generations and enhancing our own airline’s sustainability efforts.”
Malaysia Airlines said they evaluated the software with a team of pilots, dispatchers, and analysts who endorsed the software solution, which is hosted on GE Digital’s EMS Platform. EMS is built on the Microsoft Azure cloud platform providing compute, data and security services.
Additionally, GE Digital provides the tools for Malaysia Airlines to build their own big data analytics and leverage modern tools for data analysis including AI/Machine Learning. These analytics can be leveraged by pilots to make informed fuel decisions and departure briefings before flight and secure access to data from the pilot’s personal flight history, allowing them to analyze their aircraft operation with their peers and discover areas to optimize operations and efficiency for future flights.
“GE is committed to environmental excellence and that includes ensuring that our customers are empowered to reduce the impact of their technology and environmental footprint within their operations,” said Andrew Coleman, general manager of GE Digital’s Aviation Software business. “These solutions will help Malaysia Airlines to leverage software to improve efficiency and reduce carbon emissions.” The solution will be implemented by the GE Digital Aviation Software teams in Austin, Texas and Shanghai, China.
Now that COVID-19 is subsiding, global aviation traffic is recovering and ready to resume growing in the years to come. The strain of this growth on the world’s Air Traffic Management (ATM) system has been recognized for years, which is why aerospace bodies such as ICAO, Eurocontrol and the FAA are championing a new ATM system called Trajectory Based Operations – TBO, for short. If successfully implemented, TBO will replace the current piecemeal, fragmented approach to ATM with a rational, coordinated system that will increase usable airspace capacity while streamlining flight management, enhancing safety and reducing aircraft emissions. This ‘TBO Primer’ aims to distill a complex concept into clear and simple terms.
What TBO Is
Trajectory Based Operations uses the flight trajectory of every in-service aircraft in four dimensions (4D) – latitude, longitude, altitude, and time — to ‘know’ their 4D positions at any second of linear time. It then uses this data to manage the airspace more effectively.
To make this happen, “The trajectory is defined prior to departure, updated in response to emerging conditions and operator inputs, and shared between stakeholders and systems,” explained the FAA TBO web page (/www.faa.gov/air_traffic/technology/tbo). “The aggregate set of aircraft trajectories on the day-of-operation defines demand, and informs traffic management actions. A ‘day-of operation’ refers to operating conditions during the day an operation takes place, including equipment outages, weather, airport conditions, airline delays and cancellations, and other temporary conditions in the NAS (National Airspace System).”
According to Airbus, TBO can reduce the inaccuracy of current ATM prediction models by approximately 30-40 percent. This level of improvement, plus TBO’s ability to safely manage more aircraft flying within the same airspace, explains why the concept is so compelling to players in the civilian aerospace sector.
“Fundamentally, TBO’s purpose is to smooth airspace and airport demand by managing the entire trajectory of all aircraft in four dimensions ‘from gate to gate’,” said Michael Bryan, founding principal and managing director of Closed Loop Consulting, a global aviation industry consulting firm. “Its concept seems utopian, but it’s entirely achievable if airlines, air navigation service providers and their industry bodies get on the same page.”
Sharing, Maintaining, Using
Henk Hof is head of Eurocontrol’s ICAO and Concept Unit. He is also chair of the ICAO ATM Requirements and Performance Panel (ATMRPP). This panel developed the TBO concept under Hof’s leadership, and is developing it further through standards and guidance.
According to Hof, TBO is based on three simple ideas: “Sharing of flight information including the 4D flight trajectory between all actors involved in managing the flight, maintaining the flight information at all times during the flight, and using this flight information for collaborative decision making,” he told ATR. “It all comes down to three words: Sharing, Maintaining and Using.”
These three words encapsulate an ATM concept that is truly breathtaking. TBO integrates all aspects of civilian flight management into a common shared platform — one that is designed to deal with unexpected delays and events by addressing the needs of everyone affected by them, rather than leaving it to flight crews and harried air traffic controllers to sort things out on the fly.
This is a true paradigm shift from the way in which ATM is being done now. “Today, you can think of ATM operations as being like a group putting together a puzzle when nobody can see the full picture on the front of the box,” said John Bernard, lead for L3Harris Technologies Mission Networks’ Advanced Concepts Engineering Team. “Each player pretty much knows how their own pieces fit together, but as they’re trying to assemble the broader puzzle, they can only talk to the other players about their respective pieces to try and understand the bigger picture, because they can’t see it themselves. In contrast, TBO hands everyone the lid on the box so they can see how their pieces fit into that picture.”
When everyone can see the picture on the box, everyone can work together to put solve the puzzle. The same is true for ATM under TBO: When all players in civilian air transport can work together to plan, execute, and adjust collective flight trajectories, delays, fuel wastage, and risks are reduced while aircraft throughput and on-time arrivals/departures are increased.
What TBO Has to Offer
At the highest level, TBO is superior to current ATM because it is a ‘clean sheet’ system. In contrast, “ATM today is very much an extrapolation from the past,” said Hof. “Everything is more or less the same but a bit better.”
“With TBO, we changed the approach,” he continued. “This is because TBO is built upon principles such as System Wide Information Management and FF-ICE (Flight and Flow Information for a Collaborative Environment). These TBO principles will enable automation to support Collaborative Decision Making (CDM) by all TBO players during all phases of flight. They will allow traffic flows to be optimized and conflicts to be anticipated and solved. They will reduce the need for tactical interventions and increase the efficiency and capacity of the whole ATM system, while reducing the cost of it.”
TBO’s support of CDM is what makes this system to superior to current ATM. “With TBO, all of the stakeholders will understand in detail what is happening tactically, enabling improved strategic decision making,” said Bernard. “Likewise, with improved understanding being provided at a strategic level, controllers and aircrews can collaborate for more effective tactical decisions.”
A case in point: If an aircrew flying within a TBO ATM regime know that they will be delayed in landing due to an emergency at their destination airport, they can work with air traffic control to slow down their flight, absorbing that time delay en route while burning less fuel while doing so. As well, all airlines flying in this airspace will be able to adjust their own flights based on this TBO data, working with ATM to use slower, more fuel-efficient routes.
TBO’s level of integrated control also allows airlines to make more informed decisions in route planning and management, and gives ATM the ability to move beyond reacting to changes in their respective airspaces as they occur. Most importantly, TBO allows the players in civilian air transport management to work together as a team using a shared information platform, rather than players with conflicting interests working with limited, unshared data. John Bernard’s ‘puzzle box’ analogy underlines this benefit neatly. When everyone can see the whole picture, everyone can work together to their mutual gain.
That’s not all. By allowing more aircraft to fly in the same airspace safely, TBO positions ATM to safely manage the growth of civilian air traffic going forward. Like the radio frequency (RF) spectrum, airspace is a limited resource. The only way to fit more traffic into either of them is by finding better ways to do so. In the RF spectrum, the answer has been digital data compression and smaller transmission footprints to support 5G wireless service. In aviation, co-ordinated end-to-end traffic management through TBO can deliver the same kind of expanded usage in a similarly finite space.
“TBO brings macro benefits to the industry that conventional air traffic management (that’s Air Traffic Control) cannot achieve,” said Bryan. “Without TBO, conventional ATM will eventually reach the limit of its capability.”
This last point matters. When it comes to ATM as it now stands, “the current system is not scalable,” said Hof. Moreover, the infusion of drones, unmanned air taxis, commercial space vehicles, High Altitude Aerial Platforms, and hypersonic aircraft into civilian airspace only adds to the ATM challenge. “Bringing all these different types of vehicles and operations together requires a more advanced way to manage the mix than is done today,” he noted.
L3Harris’ Bernard cites a slew of other benefits associated with adopting TBO. “First, there are the economic benefits of improving efficiency: Savings on flight times, shorter routes, more predictable arrival times — all reduce costs associated with aviation,” he said. “TBO also increases system capacity, enabling more flights.”
“Second, climate change is increasing societal pressure on all forms of transportation to improve efficiency, including aviation,” continued Bernard. “TBO improves both per flight and overall system efficiencies through the various mechanisms already discussed, driving down aviation’s carbon footprint.”
“Finally, technology is evolving rapidly with a focus on leveraging large data sets to improve decision making and reveal previously unknown opportunities,” he concluded. “Aviation is no different. TBO is the key step to improving data exchange and enabling an information-centric aviation system that can take advantage of new technology like artificial intelligence and autonomy moving forward.”
Is TBO Achievable?
From all angles, Trajectory Based Operations appears to be the next logical step for ATM worldwide. But there’s a big divide in life between what should happen and what could. TBO has already proven itself in the first category; where does it stand in the second?
Let’s start with the regulators. “We developed the TBO concept in ICAO and will start with the development of further guidance,” said Hof. “In Eurocontrol, we are implementing FF-ICE release 1 (‘Flight & Flow Information for a Collaborative Environment’, the translation of the TBO concept into an actionable plan; available www.icao.int/airnavigation/ffice) and are deeply involved in R&D on TBO. TBO implementation is a phased process that will take several years.”
In the United States, “The FAA is delivering decision support for TBO through evolving enhancements and integration of two legacy and one new automation platforms: Traffic Flow Management System, Time-based Flow Management, and Terminal Flow Data Manager,” according to the FAA. “Also known as the three T’s, these systems help strengthen strategic planning and resolution of capacity-to-demand imbalances throughout the day-of operation.”
This said, disparities in ATM budgets between the ‘developed world’ and Third World nations means “implementation of TBO, while interoperable, will not be the same in all states,” said Hof. The good news: “Eventually TBO will become the norm and it will be more expensive to maintain old legacy systems than change to the state of the art. But this will take some time.”
Of course, to deploy TBO on a meaningful basis globally (even if only in the busiest air corridors), “communications must be improved across a variety of boundaries,” Bernard said. “Aircraft to aircraft, aircraft to ground, ANSP (air navigation service provider) to airline, ANSP to ANSP across national borders — these boundaries and the limitations of today’s information exchange across them are the challenges TBO must solve.”
L3Harris is helping the FAA address some of these TBO challenges. The company’s assistance includes providing Data Communications (Data Comm) services to the FAA to modernize air-to-ground links between pilots and air traffic controllers; enhancing ground-to-ground information exchange between the FAA, airlines, and other stakeholders through the System Wide Information Management (SWIM) program; and assisting the FAA with ADS-B and related services as part of the Surveillance Broadcast System (SBS) program.
Still, there are several obstacles that have to be overcome to make TBO a reality. For instance, “While the concept is quite mature and some ANSPs have reached a point where they are ready to begin applying it, there are too many differences in perception about what it really is in other parts of the industry,” said Michael Bryan.
As for the technology to support a TBO rollout? Some of the necessary elements such as SWIM has already been deployed, Bryan noted, while “FF-ICE, the penultimate step for the ANSP-side of the problem, is being trialed, although perhaps too quietly. Other components that rely more on the airline side of TBO, such as PBN (Performance Based Navigation), have been around for years, but global uptake is still just over halfway there. Overcoming airline inertia is a hurdle for most global initiatives. The airline side simply takes too long to get things like this done.”
A major obstacle to TBO deployment is a lack of financial commitment from airlines still dealing with COVID-19 losses. This gap between theory and practice is nothing new: “The supplier-side of the aviation industry is brilliant at coming up with innovative technological solutions,” said Bryan. “Unfortunately, most of it is developed in a vacuum with respect to the airlines’ business-driven requirements.”
Nations who have suffered economically due to the pandemic may also be hesitant to adopt TBO, opting to allocate scarce public funds to other more pressing (and publicly popular) projects. Some of them may also fear TBO’s geopolitical implications. Under such a trans-border scheme, “It will be entirely possible for more prominent, adjacent states to extend a high-level TBO-centric overlay above smaller states,” Bryan explained. “Some may not wish to yield ‘control’.”
This said, the biggest challenge to implementing TBO may be the fact that the initiative is being driven by ICAO and air traffic management, rather than IATA and airlines. Right now “IATA is confused about what TBO is, what it means to them and their members, and what they should be doing about it,” said Bryan. “Although no one in IATA appears to recognize it, airlines need IATA to build the industry-wide frameworks and implementation projects necessary to achieve TBO. This is because TBO is not a technology project for individual airlines to implement. It is a business program that will bring a paradigm shift to the way all airlines operate.”
An Unavoidable Necessity
Even with the drop caused by COVID-19, global air traffic is destined to keep growing with more kinds of aerial vehicles trying to share the same finite airspace.
This inescapable fact explains why the adoption and implementation of TBO is an unavoidable necessity for global aviation.
“Do we need TBO? Absolutely. There is no alternative,” said Hof. “Unless a Star Trek-like transporter is invented or a global hyperloop network is built, there is simply no other choice,” Bryan agreed.