Modern aviation requires a new approach to data management – here’s how
By Pierre-Yves Bénain, SITAONAIR Portfolio Head, e-Aircraft
Today’s new generation aircraft generate more data than ever before in aviation history. Data that, when properly managed, helps airlines improve operations and continue to compete in the hotly competitive air transport environment.
To understand the significance of this shift in new aircraft data, look at the technological gulf between a classic A320 and the latest A320neo. While the classic model generates data around 400 different parameters, its modern cousin has an astonishing 24,000, with roughly 40-60% of these engine-related. With this in mind, it’s clear that expert data management will be a defining factor in aircraft operations in the years ahead.
Data holds the key to airlines revolutionizing and future-proofing their entire aircraft operations. But to benefit, airlines need to become truly effective at marshalling their data. Fail to do so, and they could soon find themselves left behind.
Transforming airline operations
Rising volumes of aircraft data presents greater potential for richer insights, and in turn, greater scope for transforming airlines’ operational efficiencies. One of the areas that stands to benefit most is aircraft maintenance.
For maintenance, a smooth exchange of performance data with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) teams, as well as air framers, is crucial for improving the performance of parts. This, in turn, improves maintenance and repair processes, reducing the chance of delay. With grounded and delayed aircraft costing airlines billions of dollars a year, enabling seamless data exchange, optimizing maintenance and repair and, ultimately, minimizing AOGs, is essential.
Nick Ward, Head of OEM Digital Solutions at Rolls-Royce, explains: “The ultimate goal of all OEMs is to maximize availability at minimum burden and disruption. For this, optimizing data insights, in tandem with airline customers, is key.
“We constantly seek a more detailed view on our customers’ fleet condition. Having that greater understanding means we can more accurately predict an aircraft’s service needs. This translates to optimized aircraft availability, because we can use the data to avoid unnecessary inspections, engine removals and part replacements. At a fleet level, it also enables the right maintenance capacity planning, which reduces turnaround time during planned maintenance.”
Knowledge of the equipment performance through the whole flight cycle is critical in achieving this level of service. Historically, OEMs have used heavily summarized data recorded a few times a flight. Nick explains: “Continuous flight data, recorded every second or so, gives us an accurate picture of the wear on every significant engine component. This means we don’t need to assume every flight is a worst-case load, and therefore can avoid much of the contingency in maintenance planning.”
If, for example, timely airline data can show an OEM that most flights are benign – that is, not inflicting severe wear – parts can be optimized, and replaced far less frequently. For Rolls-Royce, greater data insights can translate to an additional 5-40% more life out of components, as a result.
Seamless data also presents opportunities for other parts of an airline’s business, such as fuelling. With fuel costs representing anywhere between 25-35% of the global airline industry’s total expenditure, aircraft data insights could help reduce burn and optimize usage.
Obstacles to effective data sharing
Despite this clear potential, airlines see two major barriers to fully embracing the opportunities data sharing presents. Those are, the perceived loss of control over their aircraft operations data, and costly IT projects.
While, for airlines, data offload has become more straightforward overall, every new OEM request presents potential added costs. Airlines are also reluctant to hand over big data sets that contain flight safety, pilot performance and other sensitive information, requiring appropriate handling. Naturally, airlines want to keep control over their data, along with choice and transparency in sharing with multiple OEMs and partners.
To overcome these barriers, airlines want a seamless data management system that leaves the current, ad-hoc landscape of emails and point-to-point file transfer protocol exchanges behind. And they want this without losing control, or burdens in terms of costs, time and IT resources. Without a seamless, central hub meeting these airline needs, every new request for data sharing they receive, will continue to present potentially major IT costs.
e-Aircraft® DataHub overcomes airline barriers
Today, a neutral and trusted solution exists to overcome these obstacles and keep airlines in full control of their data.
Launched in January 2019, SITAONAIR’s e-Aircraft® DataHub is a neutral, state-of-the-art aircraft data brokering service. It has been designed to deliver the openness, trust and collaboration airlines want from third party data exchanges, to enhance their operations.
Available for roll-out in just a few weeks, e-Aircraft® DataHub allows airlines to share data from diverse fleets – including multiple aircraft models – with their chosen OEM, at no extra cost. The system environment acts as a neutral buffer, allowing airlines to keep control of their data, secured by state-of-the-art ISO 27001 security and IT measures.
The solution functions by first automatically collecting an airline’s authorized raw data, before classifying, decoding, storing and distributing structured data sets to its specified partner. By connecting to airline ground servers to identify and upload relevant, approved aircraft data files and ACARS messages, e-Aircraft® DataHub then sorts, filters, classifies, decodes and distributes the data, under that airline’s control.
e-Aircraft® DataHub also affords airlines with the ability to store data in a safe location, prior to sharing with an OEM. This gives control and choice, providing a recovery point in the event of a failure on the part of a digital service provider, while also enabling the ability to switch providers and ease any future data migration.
With our foundations as a cooperative serving the air transport industry, all SITAONAIR solutions are imbued with our expertise and established reputation for managing aircraft data for airlines.
With e-Aircraft® DataHub, we deliver an even bigger pipeline to support the exchange of crucial and rich aircraft data to airline-authorized OEM datacenters. Where previously, millions of aircraft health and performance data points would be sent to OEM datacenters every day, tens of billions of airline authorized data points can now be shared, as soon as an aircraft lands. This is, even now, allowing artificial intelligence and machine learning to be applied to big data sets, bringing big associated efficiencies.