Performance software is ready for new technology

 - October 23, 2006, 12:46 PM

The UK’s Maestro Aviation has started delivering its aircraft performance and operations procedures software to corporate flight departments, including that of the BAE Systems aerospace and defense group. Developed to run on virtually any computer hardware, including PDAs, the software covers functions such as runway performance and center-of-gravity calculations.

The system’s runway-performance function is based on a worldwide database of runways and their surrounding obstacles. The database is currently updated every 28 days, but Maestro is preparing to move to a continuous update process.

According to Maestro founder William Lonnergan, the software can do a full runway weight-and-balance calculation for a widebody airliner in less than one second, and a full performance graph can be displayed even on a PDA. The performance graphs show aircrew how close to operating limits they are when operating at hot and high airfields as well as the obstacles at the airfields.

Performance Calculations

The system, which meets requirements for FAA Part 91K operating rules, keeps a record of each performance calculation. The crew can print copies of runway calculations, fuel load sheets and so on or e-mail them to their base.

Maestro can make calculations automatically in either U.S. or metric units, based on those indicated in the aircraft’s flight manual. This is especially important for fuel calculations, where there is scope for confusion between fuel specified in weight or liquid volume. The fuel units used for a calculation are indicated clearly on the graph to make this evident to pilots.

Lonnergan told AIN that Maestro has carefully studied performance calculation errors from earlier aircraft accidents to develop failsafe features for its software. For example, the system will prevent pilots from accidentally entering an aircraft’s landing weight when they are being prompted to supply the takeoff weight. Taking account of airfield elevation and temperature, the software will calculate the maximum permitted takeoff weight based on payload/fuel weight-and-balance information.

Maestro can also be used for functions such as cabin oxygen planning and calculating airborne diversion time, based on fuel burn, cruise altitudes and oxygen supplies. The graphical display shows the oxygen and fuel consumption lines crossing to indicate the optimum flight altitude for a given mission, as well as the minimum altitude.

“Crews get instant answers for these calculations,” explained Lonnergan. “They can use them to formulate a plan for incidents such as explosive decompression without having to calculate from their flight manuals.”

The Maestro system has been in the works for 11 years, and it has undergone operational evaluation with an undisclosed airline, as well as aboard a VIP Boeing 767 and an Agusta A109 medical evacuation helicopter. Program delays have meant that the Maestro software is now better suited to today’s more advanced portable computer technology.

“We have designed Maestro specifically for electronic flight bag (EFB) technology to allow pilots to operate economically and safely,” he explained. In Lonnergan’s view, EFBs will evolve into slim, solid-state hardware with four-day battery life and full communications capability.

Maestro will demonstrate PDA-based applications at the NBAA Convention next month.