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Connected aircraft - if it's inevitable, why is it taking so long?

Published on  25 September by Gregory Ouillon , Vice President , SITA
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Make no mistake: the future of 'connected aircraft everywhere' is inevitable. In-flight and on the ground, digitalization is a need for passengers and airlines alike. For passengers, who check their mobile phones on average 150 times per day, in-flight connectivity is a no-brainer. For airlines, who want to optimize operational processes and reduce maintenance costs, digitalization is also vital.

So, if everybody wants it, why is it taking so long to materialize? In a word: complexity.

Nose-to-tail, air-to-ground data exchange involves the cockpit, cabin, ground crew, pilots, maintenance and repair operations (MROs), passengers, air traffic control, and airline operational control centers -just to name a few. With so many stakeholders, it's a bit like herding cats to get everyone pulling in the same direction at the same time.

For SITA's part, with a mandate to offer neutrality in aircraft e-enablement, we'll be working with the air transport industry to reap the benefits of an automated aircraft ecosystem.

Hard choices

Airlines that want to put into place such a system need to make some critical decisions.

First of all, there's the need to achieve the right cost-benefit ratios to justify the business case.

Then you need to choose the right aircraft communications, applications and services so you can protect current investments. Airlines with mixed fleets, for example, need to consider that new generation aircraft designs restrict choices in the implementation of electronic flight bags (EFBs) and broadband communications -which prevents a common approach.

What are you doing?

Is your airline working on a strategy to enable aircraft connectivity? If so, what are some of the challenges you've faced? How have you overcome them? Leave a comment below and let us know.

Our curiosity is more than academic: SITA has a mandate to offer neutrality in aircraft e-enablement, so we'll be working with the air transport industry to reap the benefits of an automated aircraft ecosystem.

Charting a course

How can an airline that wants to engage or accelerate their strategy chart the right course?

Learn some best practices in the Air Transport IT Review article, e-Aircraft reality.

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