Christmas Eve last year, I was getting late for home. Even though I’m the flight operation controller, the only thought on my mind, while finishing off the last chores of the day, was of my family at the dinner table with a roasted turkey eagerly awaiting me!
The telephone on my desk pulled me back. It was the shift in-charge at JFK airport. I glanced at the perfect flight schedules on my screen.
It beamed – Amsterdam - JFK – Hartford, all in green; declaring that everything was on time, as planned!
The flight had a ‘scheduled grounding time’, an hour at JFK where nothing more than a ‘Transit-check’ was planned. The shift incharge told me that the planner forgot to tell me about a ‘Weekly check’ that was due too, which mandatorily needs to be carried out at JFK; and the aircraft was already in the air and en-route to JFK!
The immediate effects of grounding the aircraft at JFK:
- Being the last flight of the day, all the passengers had to be provided accommodation at company expense.
- 19 passengers will miss their connecting flights from Hartford.
- Financial losses, damaged reputation, loss of business, low customer satisfaction.
- Unhappy bosses and a fuming me!
Any airline could find themselves in this situation on any given day. Though the planner had planned the ‘Weekly Check’ in advance, and the Opps Controller had all the flights well planned, there occured a loss. More than the financial loss, a loss of customers is very expensive with the ‘neck and neck’ competition out there!
As a business model, the planners, shift incharges at various stations and the Opps. Controllers are expected to work in perfect synchronization. However, situations like above do arrive; more than often. Flow of information, being dependent on humans, jeopardizes the whole system.
The situation has underlined the wide gaps in the existing system of the airline management:
- All the departments/business processes are not in synch.
- The IT systems are not at par with the industry needs.
- Critical information sharing is not a robust process.
The question of the hour remains – when the world is getting clad in a fabric that blends humans, ’The cloud’ (pun intended) and the machines (all modern aircrafts of Boeing, Airbus, Embraer and ATR are ACARS compatible), why should information wait to flow over telephone? When the MRO system is intelligent enough to forecast the due activities well in advance, why shouldn’t there be an integrated intelligent system to ensure data flow in real time?
These questions were answered when Ramco MRO/M&E system got integrated (for a blog on Ramco’s integration approach, refer to http://www.ramcoblog.com/aviation-system-integration-approach-options) with a ‘Flight Management System’ (Sabre Movement Manager) for a customer. The integration has provided an edge to the customer, wherein all information flows in ‘Real Time’ across all the systems and is accurate down to ‘seconds’!
1. Automatic Forecast of Maintenance Events :
As and when a maintenance event is forecasted in Ramco systems, the information is sent across to the flight management system.
2.Automatic Updation Of Maintenance Events:
Many a times, after creation of the work package, planner includes another set of tasks to the package. The new tasks may require additional grounding hours. Any modification of the work package is updated in ‘Real Time’ to the Opps. Controller.
3.Efficient Workforce Management:
Being an integrated system, any change (diversion, overfly, delay, ground return, air return) to the flight is updated to the planner/shift incharge in real time. The shift incharge is always aware of the exact geo-location of the aircraft. Workforce is managed on real-time-basis depending on the aircrafts’ location and availability.
4. Automatic Creation Of Flight/Journey logs:
The integrated system efficiently tracks all the journey/flight timings without human interventions. The system is intuitive in identifying the scheduled/estimated/actual time and automatically updates the flight/journey logs.
5. MEL/CDL Deferral Information:
Before assigning an aircraft to a flight sector, the planner needs to be aware of any ‘Minimum Equipment List’ (MEL) or ‘Configuration Deviation List’ (CDL) deferrals on the tail number. As part of the integration, all MEL/CDL deferrals and closures are updated according to the planners view in real time.
Listed below are few of the benefits (of the integration) to various departments of an Airline:
- Availability of two weeks Flight schedule
- Real time Flight information for accurate line planning
- Automatic updation of delayed/diverted/cancelled flights
- Relief from relaying planning information to Opps. Controllers
- For ease of flights across multiple time zones, flights can be scheduled in Coordinated Universal Time (UTC)
2. Operations Controllers:
- System forecasted packages ensure no ‘Surprising Packages’ at the last moment
- Automatic updation of ‘Maintenance Activity’ based on the planners’ package modifications
- Centralized flight scheduling made possible with Engineering team spread across the globe
- Prior intimation of MEL/CDL deferred snags on aircrafts
- Real time schedule update based on Engineering teams’ request of additional ‘Grounding Time’
- Planning is carried out in ‘Work Station’ specific ‘time zone’ (port local time).
3. Quality Control Department:
- Automatic creation of ‘Flight Log’ based on data sent by ACARS system.
- Real time updation of flight statuses – Ground Return, Air Return, Delayed, Diverted, Divert, etc
- Automatic ‘updation’ of ‘Flight Log’ based on ‘Actual Flight Timings’
4. Shift Incharge:
- Based on real time flight information, timely allocation of resource and material
- Advanced information on the activities planned for the shift.
With the onset of the ‘location aware’, intuitive Ramco MRO application on i-Pad (Opinions available at http://www.ramcoblog.com/tablet-aviation-industry) and other PDA/hand held devices (powered by Gen Y – In Memory), all the segments of the organization are always on the same side of the table; working in synch; always delivering the best in class services!