Flight planning, charter data merged on Caeroscene system

 - November 24, 2009, 6:41 AM

Austria’s Caeroscene IT Solutions claims to have developed software and a Web-based portal that can combine all core flight planning and support functions in one system and provide a convenient way to book and market executive charter capacity online. The Innsbruck-based company’s Caeroscene Client system is now being used to manage the operations of about 100 aircraft based in various European countries and South Africa.

“This isn’t just another platform for booking aircraft on the Internet,” said Caeroscene CEO Robert Kurz. “We wanted to offer the maximum data quality [in terms of the available charter fleet] and for this you need to offer a real tool for the operators so that the system knows where the aircraft are at any time.”

“So our Caeroscene iFrame is a multiplier for aircraft data,” he continued, explaining how the marketing and operational aspects of the system work together. “If operators implement this on their own Web sites they have real-time information on [the status] of their fleet, or a charter broker could have all the Caeroscene fleet on its Web site and it could also be integrated into airport Web sites to attract new charter customers. It multiplies [the market profile of] aircraft operators through the Internet.”

The company claims that the Caeroscene Client flight operations management functions of the system can handle just about all the flight planning and support functions that operators currently entrust to a variety of different vendors. According to Kurz, the software has been developed over the past four years with a view to requiring minimal training for users and automating many common flight-planning functions, such as filing flight plans and relaying instructions to ground support providers.

“For example, if the flight time changes, the system informs the crew and customers automatically and changes the flight plan,” explained Kurz. However, he acknowledged that not all flight-planning functions can be handled automatically via the Caeroscene system. For example, it cannot handle such tasks as securing overflight and landing permits in less user-friendly parts of the world such as China.

So Caeroscene has established its own flight support department with five dispatchers providing assistance to clients. The company estimates that for an operator needing to be operational around the clock, each aircraft requires 0.72 dispatchers. However, it believes that one dispatcher supported by the Caeroscene software can handle between 10 and 15 aircraft. Caeroscene has access to technical and flight support data (including local ground support providers) for some 14,000 airports worldwide through a partnership with The Airport Guide.

The software includes dispatch/scheduling, fleet and crew management, duty period planning, online crew briefings and charter quotes. All data can be stored in various types of document both for long-term record keeping and can be sent via e-mail to various parties within an operation and to its clients and brokers.
The trip folder feature in Caeroscene Client includes a semi-automated check system. This uses a color-coded system to indicate whether 10 or so key elements of flight planning have been completed. If a flight time or other details are changed, the system will show each folder as in need of further checking.

Caeroscene is now working on a way for operators to indicate customer preferences for flight support services via a new company notam feature. The system can already log individual company restrictions and conditions, such as minimum runway lengths for specific aircraft.

Caeroscene does not believe that its software renders existing flight-planning systems superfluous. In fact, it has been working with Danish flight-planning software specialist Air Support with a view to offering its established PPS system in tandem with Caeroscene. “The main gaps in what is available already are daily flight scheduling and crew management,” said Kurz.

He explained that Caeroscene will need to sign up more operators before it has sufficient volume of aircraft to operate a comprehensive choice of aircraft for the online booking function of the software. The system can generate charter quotes based on specifications for a flight.

The company does not believe the market is yet ready to actually make payments directly online for charter flights. So once the system has confirmed the availability of aircraft, brokers will be prompted to contact the operator directly to lock into the booking, while individual customers will be directed to Austrian charter broker Call & Fly. The system will include a function to allow brokers and clients to rate the service of operators. Kurz argued that Caeroscene will still have an advantage over existing online charter portals such as Avinode and Charter X because its data genuinely reflects real-time aircraft availability.

To keep data secure, Caeroscene Client uses 10-24 kBit encryption, which Kurz said provides a higher degree of protection than systems used for e-banking. Each crewmember has a personal log-in. For system redundancy, the company has
two dedicated servers, hosted remotely in Germany. Each has six mirrored hard drives running with same data knowledge.

Instead of having fixed monthly charges for the software license and online access, Caeroscene has opted for a pay-as-you-go formula through which operators pay according to the number of flight hours logged through the scheduling function. The billing system also factors in the hourly charter price of each aircraft, as well as how much flying is done. Operators who fly more pay less for each flight.