Jepp leads the move to declutter cockpits

 - April 25, 2008, 7:20 AM

Aeronautical data specialist Jeppesen is investing heavily in a move from paper-based to electronic products that should enhance flight and ground operations while helping eliminate the need for paper manuals and charts.

The company has been known for too long as “the boys with the books,” according to vice president of commercial aviation Thomas Wede in his introduction to a recent series of briefings at Jeppesen’s eastern hemisphere headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany. Since the mid-1990s, he said, the company has been investing in the development of a new database that will provide the foundation for a new range of integrated products.

Each month Jeppesen processes 25,000 documents from the world’s civil aviation authorities to update its NavData navigation database. To make revised data available as soon as it is ready rather than when new paper charts or manuals are sent out, the company has invested more than $20 million in the Jeppesen Aviation Database (JAD), which went live last October and replaces the flight information management database.

As well as being used to generate charts, JAD can provide direct updates for the Boeing 737 and BBJ flight management systems and for the Rockwell Collins GNLU 9000. Jeppesen also provides OEM database services to Honeywell and Universal Avionics, and is working toward the introduction later this year of the first direct database update services for the Smiths FMS on the Airbus A320 family.

Jeppesen’s acquisition by Boeing in August 2000 has added an appreciation of how to certify software for flight-deck use and a better understanding of the operational use of its products in the cockpit, Wede said. Currently, 70 of Jeppesen’s 1,650 staff are engaged in the advanced business development organization formed to develop products and applications for new and advanced types of electronic data.

Senior manager Ed Schuster said Jeppesen’s electronic charts are already used by the UPS Technologies MX-20 multifunction display and the Universal Cockpit Display (UCD) from Universal Avionics. The e-charts will also be a feature in new avionics suites planned for introduction by the major suppliers within the next two years. Beyond that, Jeppesen is working with the Technical University of Darmstadt on the database supporting NASA’s synthetic vision program, as well as with Rockwell Collins and Smiths Aerospace on the surface guidance system (SGS) enhancement to the Flight Dynamics head-up guidance system (HGS).

Meanwhile, Sandel Avionics, Goodrich Aerospace and Munich-based Euro Telematics are all using Jeppesen’s terrain and obstacle data in their terrain awareness and warning system (TAWS) products. By next March the company expects to complete what it describes as the world’s most advanced database of obstacles relevant to aviation. And it has made proposals to three manufacturers concerning the development of a new five-meter resolution database that would depict taxiways with the same accuracy as existing runway charts.

Electronic displays also pave the way for data-driven charts decluttered of information irrelevant to a particular phase of flight or a selected approach. They would provide a seamless transition between one phase of flight and another, and eliminate the need to switch among terminal, en route and approach charts.

The electronic flight bag (EFB) promises to be the key means of streamlining information management in the cockpit. These devices can already be used to display the aircraft’s position on the plan view, and the taxi situational awareness display shows the aircraft’s position on a geo-referenced airport drawing. Schuster predicted that future enhancements would include the addition of indications of the positions of other aircraft on the airport surface using automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) inputs.

Jeppesen is working with Boeing Crew Information Systems and Astronautics Corp. to develop cockpit installations. But it does not want to get into the hardware business, and it pointed to a wide range of other devices that can be used to display the data, such as the Northstar CT-1000 flight-deck organizer and the Astronautics pilot information display (PID).

While progress on electronic chart and display systems has been slowed by lack of regulatory guidance, said commercial aviation sales director Albrecht Ortmann, Jeppesen already distributes its JeppView terminal charts on CD-ROM. JeppView 3.5 will add text and en route charts in the next few months, with an initial CD followed by updates over the Internet. And a customized extranet intended for use by airlines and fractional operators will make newly approved charts available immediately.

Where JeppView and the extranet service are designed for ground use and preflight planning, the JeppView FliteDeck interface enables the charts to be displayed on the Spirent AvVantage EFB, the CT-1000, Fujitsu Stylistic 3500 or other devices. Gulfstream IV-SP and GV customers can buy an optional Northstar unit as a yoke-mounted device under a supplemental type certificate. These Northstar devices are small and have bright screens, Ortmann said, but do not work off the airplane.

Paperless Cockpit

Fractional operator Flight Options uses two Fujitsu touch-screen devices in each cockpit to display JeppView electronic charts and has already dropped the paper backup, he added. Jeppesen is also supporting OEM developments such as the UPS Aviation Technologies Apollo MX-20, Universal Avionics UCD, Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21, Honeywell Primus Epic and Avidyne FliteMax. FliteDeck 2 will add en route charts.

OPSControl, Jeppesen’s newest integrated flight operations management system, enables operations and dispatch personnel to monitor more aircraft and more flights, while automating and streamlining routine tasks to improve an airline’s ability to deal with disruptions. It interfaces directly with JetPlan, which generates flight plans in no more than 10 sec. OPSControl and is available either for installation at operators’ own facilities or as a hosted service.

Regardless of the type of installation, OPSControl’s integrated alerts make dispatchers aware of any weather changes, such as ceilings below minimums at the destination. The WxTool provides graphic weather displays, with data layering of radar, satellite, planning charts, navaids and flight-plan routes.

A notam filter can exclude non-applicable notices and automatically apply relevant ones to the flight crew’s weather briefing. And the PerforMax module calculates the limiting takeoff and landing weights for the aircraft at its departure and arrival airports. FliteWatch provides a graphic display of the state of current operations, checks flight status relative to the schedule, and can link to the maintenance IT system to make sure the assigned aircraft is actually available.

The JetPlan IV flight-planning engine in Los Gatos, Calif., can also be accessed via the Internet using Jeppesen’s new service. Intended mainly for self dispatch by pilots, provides graphical and text weather and notam functions, as well as flight planning. Alternatively, the JetPlanner Windows-based software can be hosted on a local server with a TCP/IP connection to the flight-planning engine. Intended more for use by dispatchers, it provides more advanced charting functions, including rubber-band routing control. Both access methods can add the EasyBrief crew-briefing module.

Ortmann suggested that small airlines or other operators looking to sharpen their focus on their core business could outsource their cost-intensive flight planning and dispatch requirements. Jeppesen can offer a range of services, from flight planning with 4D optimization, weather and notam briefings through aircraft maintenance schedule monitoring and validation of crew schedules and training requirements to flight following and aircraft tracking. The benefits to operators would include reductions in both direct costs and staff overhead expenses, Ortmann said.