Passur program helps FBOs but could irk operators

 - January 25, 2007, 4:11 AM

A small company that began life by providing collision-avoidance hardware to the U.S. Navy has grown into a larger provider of data tools for airports, airlines, charter operators and FBOs. Megadata sells its data products under the Passur name, a contraction of the term “passive secondary surveillance radar.”

The Passur system consists of more than 70 passive antenna systems that cover about 110 U.S. airports. Each passive antenna monitors interrogations from airport secondary surveillance radars and the replies from aircraft transponders. “That gives us real-time tracking of aircraft,” said Ron Dunsky, Megadata vice president of marketing.

Passur’s computers correlate the tracking information that the company receives with the FAA aircraft situation display to industry (ASDI) feed, which provides data–including altitude, airspeed, destination, estimated time of arrival and tail or flight number–from FAA radars. Passur’s system can also pull data from mode-S transponder returns.

Once the data system has captured its own and ASDI information about aircraft flying in the U.S., it correlates that data with airline flight guides such as OAG and the Amstat database of business aircraft owners and operators. Passur subscribers can then see, in near-real-time, who is flying where and when. Passur’s tracked aircraft information is 4.5 seconds old; the FAA’s ASDI feed is one to four minutes old, according
to Dunsky.

Aircraft that have been signed up for NBAA’s Block Aircraft Registration Request system are blocked only on the FAA’s ASDI feed, not on the Passur system. The system bypasses the blocking system because its computer looks up the ownership and operator records at Amstat and Passur’s antennas do their own traffic detecting. Blocking will work only with flight tracking companies that rely solely on the FAA ASDI feed; it will not work with a tracking company that employs its own network of passive secondary surveillance radar antennas.

Megadata customers use Passur for a variety of tasks. Airlines and charter operators use the system to track their airplanes and monitor delays. Airports can use Passur to make sure no airplane avoids paying a landing fee. FBOs use Passur to track customer aircraft and as a marketing tool, to prospect for new customers.

One of the reports available from Passur is a historical operational snapshot. An FBO, for example, can run a report to view all the Gulfstreams that landed at a particular airport during a certain month. Or the FBO manager can view all the Gulfstreams that landed at nearby airports, look up the owners and operators and use that list to try to persuade those operators to try his FBO. According to Dunsky, “FBOs say, ‘I’ve been able to add Gulfstreams or Challengers as new customers. And that equates to significant growth in sales revenue.’”

The system also features a visual flight-tracking tool that shows aircraft superimposed on a map of the U.S., along with Nexrad weather. Moving the computer mouse over one of the tracked aircraft pops up a block of information, including the Amstat owner/operator data. FBOs can use that tool to ensure they are ready for arrivals.

Passur helps each base in an FBO chain such as Sheltair Aviation Services or Galaxy Aviation be aware of customer movements throughout the chain. For example, if a customer uses a Sheltair FBO in Fort Lauderdale but not in Long Island, Sheltair’s marketing people can research the customer’s movements and try to encourage more visits within the chain.

“It is a great tool for us,” said Sheltair customer relations manager Ivette Pla. “We use it at all locations.” To prepare for Super Bowl XLI on February 4, Pla is running Passur reports from previous Super Bowls so she can invite prospective customers to spend the day at Sheltair’s Fort Lauderdale FBO.

Passur also helps FBOs to notice when a customer stops using the FBO and try to bring that business back. Users can flag information such as whether or not a tracked aircraft is a customer. At one FBO that noticed a customer had shifted to a competitor, Dunsky said, “they offered him a deal and he came back.”

Megadata complies with FAA security requirements for all the data it gathers and stores, according to Dunsky. The company offers Passur in Class 1 and 2 formats, with Class 1 offering delayed tracking when information is placed in public venues. Generally, he said, if an FBO doesn’t have a charter operation that requires flight tracking, it can’t sign up for non-delayed Class 2 service. Companies can also use Passur without the visual tracking feature, in a Class 2 near-real-time format.