On the ground and in the air
Each new generation of aircraft aims to be more technically advanced and data-driven than the last. Compared with legacy fleets that were limited in their data acquisition and offload capabilities, operators of new generation aircraft can produce data like never before.
Through the thousands of sensors modern aircraft carry onboard, along with the latest connectivity links and intelligent data management systems, it is now possible for aircraft operators to extract every last bit of value from their fleet data, and by doing so, enhance their connected aircraft operations.
One of the big challenges for airlines before COVID-19 was putting this into practice. Though the pandemic has placed unforeseen pressures on carriers’ operations, retrieving prompt, actionable insights from fleet and part data enables them to make fresh, informed and invaluable efficiencies at a time when it really counts.
The path of connected data
How do we practically achieve it? Marek Rakowski, Senior Manager Product and Strategy, SITA FOR AIRCRAFT, explains.
“Aircraft data management begins with the aggregation of data from multiple sources onboard the aircraft, including aircraft interface devices (AIDs) and avionics systems. This data is then categorized, handled and encrypted before it is sent to the ground.
“Airlines can choose when and how this aircraft data is used. It can either be packaged up and routed to the ground for later use, or it can be processed directly on the aircraft for pilot or crew applications.”
The benefits of seamless data exchange
But what do data management advances, enabled by neutral and secure connectivity, such as provided through SITA FOR AIRCRAFT, mean for airlines and their aviation digital service partners, from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and maintenance, repair and overhaul organizations (MROs), to airframers, part suppliers and lessors?
As Marek sees it: “There are two clear benefits of enhanced data management enabled through advanced connectivity and pragmatic data management principles.
“On the aircraft, enabling onboard connectivity to support data exchanges presents immediate operational benefits. These include enabling crews to become better informed to make decisions leading to reduced fuel consumption, optimized flight routing, and risk avoidance, such by responding to real-time weather updates to steer clear of significant weather events.
“There are also major advantages for maintenance processes on the ground, as relaying timely information makes it far easier to understand and predict component wear and failure, and therefore be ready to position replacement parts appropriately – avoiding unnecessary aircraft-on-ground type situations.”
Marek adds: “We strongly believe that if airlines don’t take advantage of the new data parameters offered by next generation aircraft and seamless connectivity, significant opportunities to optimize operations could be missed, at a time when efficiency finding is critical. However, airlines also need to be smart in how they manage and share data with their aviation digital services providers to ensure they maximize the potential of their aircraft data, while maintaining control.”
Airlines are aware of the untapped value wrapped up in their data sets. However, concerns over relinquishing control over data, and divulging potentially sensitive flight or pilot performance information to a third party, has held them back. As a result, a number of airlines to date have formed data committees to better manage data exchange practices. Increasing OEM and other third-party requests for airline data also find operators often compelled to embark on individual time-and resource-intensive projects to be able to distribute data to different parties.
It’s no wonder there have been continued calls for simple solutions to help airlines deal with multiple suppliers on their terms.
What are the limitations to existing aircraft data exchange practices?
While a range of methods exist for enabling airlines to unpack and share data, most come with a catch. One option is for an airline to form bespoke, one-to-one relationships with their OEMs, MROs or other partners. However, this then puts the onus on the airline to create and manage each individual relationship, each with its own time, cost, and IT resource implications.
Other options require airlines to put aircraft data fully into the hands of an external entity, and so lose control over who can access it, and how. As Marek explains: “The data belongs to the airlines first and foremost. Airlines should have free access to all of the data being offloaded from the aircraft, not just a specific subset, or for a fee.”
The future of aircraft data exchange
SITA is already connected to the majority of the world’s airlines, through its SITA FOR AIRCRAFT domain of expertise, many of whom have entrusted the company to manage their data as a neutral partner.
Marek explains: “Whatever the communications link, SITA FOR AIRCRAFT can help airlines extract benefits from data without the hassle of setting up their own infrastructure to handle large data volumes or deal with third party integration considerations. When it comes to data management, regardless of the network being used, we can secure, analyze and decode that data, and leave the customer in control to use their data as they wish.”
He adds: “SITA has always been synonymous with the proper handling of customer data, both in the air and on the ground. Our expertise in delivering secure and neutral cloud-based aircraft data-brokering services grants airlines the freedom to connect to any aircraft over any link, and remain fully in control of their data.
“In addition, the technically agnostic nature of products like e-Aircraft® DataHub and AoIPConnect® allow us to not only receive data from our direct customers, but from any airline globally.
“Our technology on-ground and onboard the aircraft delivers, whoever the datalink provider is, enabling us to ensure we keep airlines in full control over their data at all times.”
To discover our Aircraft Data Management and Unified Aircraft Communications portfolios, and how they could benefit your operation, visit sita.aero/aircraft, email firstname.lastname@example.org or submit an enquiry form.