Digitization of Flight Operations Manuals

Digitization of Flight Operations Manuals

Tom Samuel, CEO of Comply365, says that the move to a single platform for authoring and distribution of operations manuals is a recent trend.

The overall business need for airlines is the need to streamline their operational content management processes — and they prefer a single platform for authoring and revision management, as well as distribution and compliance tracking for all types of operational manuals and to make them easily accessible to customers across all departments. One obstacle here is the different formats in use for OEM manuals (XML) and company manuals (Word) for flight operations and for technical operations (SGML but also have to integrate with engineering and maintenance ERP systems).

Comply365 is seeing increased adoption of their ProAuthor platform from all types and sizes of airlines. Some of these are established operators coming to the technology for the first time, while others are start-ups that see the technology as a way to establish a solid foundation.

A good example of the latter is MYAirline, a Malaysian low cost carrier, that selected and started using Comply365 before it even started flying Airbus A320s in December 2022. As part of the Air Operator Certificate (AOC) process, the airline’s Document Management team and Subject Matter Experts collaborated, and used ProAuthor to create operational manuals and handbooks from scratch for eight departments across the airline.

During the creation of MYAirline’s operations manuals, tags were applied that allowed reusable content to be standardized across all manuals, and specific electronic forms and workflows were created That allowed for better congruency and optimization across all authoring and reviewing processes.

The airline has also mapped their manual content against Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) regulations and IOSA Standards and Recommended Practices (ISARP) to ensure effective governance, empowering compliance monitoring from the start, and drastically reducing the time it takes to prepare for audits.

However, today there are still obstacles that prevent airlines from getting significant operational value through their operational content management processes. Airlines still focus on delivering a set of operational manuals to front-line staff — pilots cabin crew, mechanics — rather than thinking about delivering specific context-specific operational content to their front-line staff, such as information pertinent to an individual aircraft (perhaps with a slightly different equipment fit from others in the fleet) or information specific to the destination and diversion airports for a particular flight.

A recent new customer is Calm Air, which operates ATR 42s and ATR 72s on passenger and cargo services to small communities in the far north of Canada. Crews will now be able to review and comply with their most up-to-date operational content more accurately and quickly, even in the most remote locations — Gillam Airport has a 5,000 ft gravel runway. The airline also will be able to deliver content and personalized notifications based on roles and locations and drive higher rates of compliance with reporting insights. Electronic forms also will allow crews to capture data from the field to send back to the operation.

KLM Flight Operations

There are also obstacles in interactions between operators and regulators as well, Samuel adds. Of course, some content has to be approved by the regulator before it can be distributed to front-line staff. He says there is some progress here, with some operators wanting the regulator to be involved at an earlier stage in the approval process. Instead of all the changes being completed and sent for approval, an airline can include the regulator to look at some proposed changes during the work. That also applies to real-time operational compliance tracking, where the operator can provide a regulator with access to a portal to monitor airline compliance with a new version of a manual.

Adoption of more efficient operational content management technology can often be seen at a country-level. Once one operator adopts new (and more efficient technology) within a country, and the first regulatory approval is gained, it is common to see other airlines in that country make changes to their operational content management technology, and easily gain the required regulatory approvals. An example here is SunExpress, a leisure carrier based in Turkey, which became a Comply365 customer in early 2022. Pegasus Airlines then followed, becoming a Comply365 customer in early 2023. The same trend can be observed in other countries.

As airlines of different sizes, ages and geographies adopt new operational content management technology, they want increased sophistication in system capabilities, and increased simplicity in daily use. A further requirement is good support services to help them with managing change, and to enable them to get the most from the system. This involves a consultancy role for Comply365, using its expertise and experience with other airlines to help new customers realize value from their solutions. This occurs before, during and after implementation, where Comply365 tracks the customer’s progress of realized value against the original efficiency baseline.

Web Manuals, based in Malmö, Sweden, has also seen business booming, with the addition of 70 new customers globally. Krister Genmark, VP of sales, says this growth has been distributed across various regions, with 57% of new clients hailing from the EMEA region, 26% from the Americas, and an exceptional 17% from the Asia Pacific. In addition to a geographical spread, 33% of the new clientele represents the business jet sector, while 14% each belong to the airline and special mission/medical evacuation segments. The remaining percentage embodies a dynamic blend of operator categories, including helicopters, ATOs, MROs, cargo, and drone operators.

Italian leisure carrier NEOS, which operates a fleet of Boeing 737-800, 737 MAX 8 and 787-9 has been a customer since 2021.

One of the main reasons for choosing Web Manuals was the ability to automatically link compliance while editing documents, which was not possible with the airline’s previous manual editing software. Implementing a digital system means that the laborious task of manually monitoring and updating regulatory requirements becomes a thing of the past.

Before switching to digital manuals, the compliance and quality team at Neos had to edit documents in Word or FrameMaker, while manually recording compliance checklists using Excel files, which was time-consuming and prone to errors. With Web Manuals, this process is now automated, saving time and improving operational accuracy.

Web Manuals was also able to support the airline’s recent IOSA renewal audit, successfully completing and certifying conformity with the IOSA regulation, as well as with the continuous compliance with EASA AOC, CAMO, Part-145 and ATO certifications.

A customer since 2022, Widerøe in Norway has been using Web Manuals for flight operations, ground operations, CAMO, Part-147 and ATO. It recently added the IQSMS connector. It had been using IQSMS for audit planning, where detailed compliance lists are provided to facilitate requirements checks and control over the audit preparation. The integration between the systems allowed for real-time alignment of documentation through linking between manuals and regulation items. The process started with the internal EASA Part-SPA audit, which has about 150 requirements. Typically, this audit would take about two days with five participants, but with the assistance of the IQSMS connector it was completed in half a day.

Stefan Bundgaard, director of product, says there have been a few new developments.

The company’s Reader App, which is usable as an EFB Type B and is adapted to iPads, iPad mini, iPhones and Android devices, has now been updated with improved features for flight crew, such as the Offline Mode providing access to critical documents, and the Dark Mode allowing a cockpit-specific dark mode to use during the night to reduce eye fatigue. It can be tailored to fit the user’s preferences in terms of navigation buttons, document filters and search bars, announcements, navigation tabs, and tags.

New compliance libraries have also been implemented. As well as regular updates to the major standards like EASA, FAA, and IATA, those from Bahrain, Canada, Papua New Guinea and the United Kingdom have been introduced, while work is in progress to introduce those from the UAE.

May saw the introduction of the MRO Combi Package, which involves Web Manuals and AeroEx in a strategic partnership aimed at supporting businesses in navigating the recent changes in Part 145 regulations while maintaining operational excellence. These are related to safety management, personnel and compliance monitoring systems. The package combines Web Manuals’ digital documentation solution with AeroEx’s expertise in aviation regulation compliance and includes the user-friendly Web Manuals platform, which facilitates editing, distribution, and monitoring of manuals, along with the exclusive Part 145 compliance library. To further enhance compliance and safety management, the package incorporates AeroEx’s cloud-based AMAS.aero platform.

The MRO package also includes the AMAS.aero Connector, enabling direct links to relevant manuals within the Web Manuals system during compliance audits. Additionally, it features the AeroEx Part 145 Maintenance Organization Exposition (MOE) template, facilitating easy implementation and compliance with the new legal regulations.

The company is also working with Time To Fly, which tracks and analyzes all published and upcoming changes in regulations. The result is the Regulatory Watch to combine systems to provide a real-time compliance verification solution for upcoming changes for OPS, IATA, ICAO, CAMO/Part 145 and ATO.

Not the most exciting or obvious part of an airline’s operations, digitization is increasingly proving to be a game changer for those smart operators with an eye on the future.