It is just over a year since Rockwell Collins acquired flight planning group Air Routing International and rebranded the business Ascend Flight Information Solutions. The Houston-based operation has had a lower global profile than rival Universal Weather & Aviation for many years but that could be set to change as its new owner supports efforts to get closer to key emerging markets for business aviation.
According to flight operations manager Matt Pahl, the Ascend team in Texas can support operators around the world at any hour of the day or night. They are supported by regional offices in London, Paris, Moscow and Beijing, as well as a network of more local agents who can provide back-up on the ground in countries such as Thailand, Taiwan and Vietnam. From Pahl’s perspective, traffic levels have fluctuated in emerging markets such as Asia and have shown some significant increases over the past six months or so.
“We do now have plans to establish some more operations beyond Houston because some service items require more of a local approach,” Pahl told AIN.
The former Air Routing operation has a 30-year pedigree in flight support, employing more than 90 staff in its weather department, as well as 10 flight planning specialists and almost 40 operations personnel. “We have a long training process and a big database covering operations in different regions,” explained Pahl.
What the Ascend teams find is that dedicated business aviation support infrastructure generally exists only in countries that are receiving significant and sustained volumes of traffic. “The infrastructure will only improve when this is warranted [by the volume of traffic,] so for now we try to make the best of what there is,” said Pahl. “What matters most is not the building but whether there is someone there who can meet the needs of the passengers and crew.”
According to Pahl, most handling headaches start before a flight arrives with arrangements for landing and overflight permits, as well as for parking, being exceptionally onerous and confused in countries such as India and China. Managing expectations is a key part of the flight support role, because companies like Rockwell Collins can rarely control all the outcomes. –C.A.