From the evolution of aircraft data, we know that pilots have historically had limited data access, but today, pilots have access to more aircraft data than ever before. Greater data access is industry progress, but the value of data is only as good as what you can do with it. Flight Ops is the airline group that can benefit the most from newly exposed aircraft data. It’s now available at their fingertips through an Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) and can enhance EFB applications and enable more robust operational solutions.

Enhance EFB applications

Integrating location data from the aircraft into applications like Jeppesen’s FliteDeck Pro (an EFB application tool supporting high quality terminal and en route charting) is an example of the benefit of accessing real-time aircraft data. The FAA recently approved the display of own-ship position in EFB applications as a source for supplemental location information in all phases of flight. Access to real-time own-ship position data (time, latitude, longitude, altitude, heading, velocity) enables real-time positional awareness – meaning pilots can now see where they are in any map-based application which results in better decision making. Pulling directly from the aircraft itself into Jeppesen’s FliteDeck Pro is the most reliable source of information and reduces the need for additional equipment or pilot training.

Leverage robust operational solutions

Pilots can leverage more robust operational tools such as automated turbulence and flight optimization when access to real-time aircraft data is combined with pilot connectivity (downlinks to ground systems).

Automated Turbulence Reporting

Turbulence is estimated to cost commercial airlines at least $200M annually in costs due passenger and crew injuries and aircraft damage1. Further, nearly 3 out of 4 passengers are made anxious when flying through turbulence. Turbulence is difficult to predict and is manually reported through pilot reports (PIREPS), which can be sporadic, subjective, or over/understated. It’s evident that managing turbulence is operationally challenging for airlines and there’s a need for automation. Automating the calculation of turbulence and the reporting requires real-time aircraft data such as pitch, roll, inertial vertical velocity, gross weight, baro altitude, true airspeed, and angle of attack at the correct sampling rate. Further, downlinks to ground systems allow the automated turbulence reports to be crowd sourced among an airline’s fleet to help aircraft avoid turbulence. Automating turbulence reporting plus downlinks to ground systems disseminates real-time turbulence information faster, enabling more fuel savings and enhancing passenger, crew, and aircraft safety.

Flight Optimization

Aircraft data is a key input to help pilots identify more efficient routes with airborne software such as NASA’s Traffic Aware Strategic Aircrew Request (TASAR) application. Using real-time data (e.g. aircraft speed, mach number, environmental [temp, pressure, wind], as well as ADS-B traffic, nav databases, and real-time weather from downlinks to ground systems), pilots can optimize their routes by evaluating more efficient routes given a set of constraints and review flight change logic with dispatch. More efficient routes can save reduce fuel consumption and drive on-time arrivals. NASA simulation studies estimate between 8,000-12,000 gallons of fuel saved and 900-1,300 minutes of flight time saved per Alaska Airlines aircraft when utilizing TASAR to optimize routes – resulting in over $5 million in cost savings from fuel, maintenance and depreciation2.

Whether installing an Aircraft Interface Device hardware solution or leveraging an integrated broad band solution, Flight Ops can derive the most value from real-time aircraft data with direct access through pilot EFBs. The overall benefit of pilots leveraging real-time aircraft data is more powerful EFB applications, which means mean more data to make smarter flight decisions. This can result in improved safety, reduced fuel consumption, and eliminated cost inefficiencies.

1 National Center for Atmospheric Research: https://nar.ucar.edu/2017/ral/turbulence

2 Wing, David J. Annualized TASAR Benefits for Alaska Airlines Operations. NASA Langley Research Center, Sep 01, 2014.

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