Air Support’s Preflight Planning System (PPS) is a flight planning engine that produces an operational computer flight plan showing routes, flight levels, distance, time and fuel needs, including reserves. It also provides operational briefings covering factors such as surface weather briefings, Notams for flight information regions (FIRs) and airports, wind charts for flight levels and cross sections with a two-dimensional view showing features such as icing and turbulence.
The company has introduced an option that allows operators that do not have SITA or AFTN telex service to file flight plans directly from PPS from any location via the Internet through Air Support’s worldwide connected AFTN message exchange system (AMEXSY). AMEXSY relays operator- and flight specific AFTN flight plan messages to the operator’s PPS system as well as via e-mail. An optional SMS service means that important flight messages automatically will be relayed directly to the crew cell phones for a particular flight.
The AMEXSY filing service is available for a “modest” annual fee, whereas the SMS service charged is ?0.25 ($0.38) per message.
If Eurocontrol issues a calculated takeoff time (CTOT) message shortly before the planned time of departure, the message is forwarded instantly via Air Support’s AMEXSY system. The optional SMS text message service will alert the crew to CTOTs and other messages that may require their urgent attention (for example, because they need to ensure a prompt takeoff to avoid losing a slot due to possible en route conflicts).
Once PPS has prepared an ATC routing for a flight, it automatically calculates the aircraft’s fuel requirement, optimal flight levels, alternate airports and weather at en route airports. It searches the route for any Notams and filters these so the pilots are not bombarded with irrelevant data. The system can also be used to calculate the ETOPS/EROPS (extended twin-engine operations) requirements for an aircraft on any over-water route, as well as any oxygen system requirements.
The software has been designed so that all information is presented in the same characters so flight crews can easily read it. Flight plans also can be downloaded into electronic flight bags.
The CrewBriefing option is essentially an online folder where operators can store their customized flight logs and retrieve them, along with other stored information. Importantly, this feature allows operators to get all the latest weather information (including live winds) by simply pressing “recalculate” to download the new data. CrewBriefing can also have a mission-planning feature to help crews prepare future flight plans from stored briefing documents.
If an operator flies several short legs sequentially, CrewBriefing allows the flight briefings for these to be merged. This feature could collect, for example, four flight plans into one briefing, so the crew gets only relevant Notams and weather charts printed once.
PPS draws on its core Lufthansa Lido navigational database, which is updated every 28 days following the standard AIRAC cycle. The system will automatically update information relating to routes that operators have stored and will inform them of significant changes in the air traffic management network. The system also reminds pilots if they have forgotten to verify the routings they are planning to use. They are able to refresh data within 60 seconds using any ADSL connection.