EBACE Convention News

Online planner set for liftoff

 - May 9, 2007, 8:47 AM

AirData (Booth No. 1236) is close to releasing the first module of its new Web-based SwiftOps.com flight planning system. The Weather & Notam Briefing module is currently in user acceptance testing with customers ahead of an imminent commercial launch.

The Gatwick, UK-based company, which is a subsidiary of Miami-based World Fuel Services, has been providing computerized flight-planning and crew-briefing products for 20 years, and many airlines and trip-planning companies in both Europe and the U.S. use its AirPlan3 system. According to Andy Farrar, AirData’s commercial services manager, AirPlan3 works well in the modern aviation environment, but it is an on-site system with relatively high maintenance requirements.

“Just over three years ago we decided it was time to undertake the development of a completely new system,” Farrar explained. “The idea was to take full advantage of the technology and systems that are available today.”

SwiftOps is a Web-based system that has been designed through a $3.2 million development to provide a “virtually on-site” look and feel, so it can become an integral part of a user’s working environment. Although the system resides in a secure hosted site, it is fully integrated with the Internet and other industry communications systems in standard use.

That means the exchange of all messages and data takes place behind the scenes and is controlled from the user’s own workstation, wherever it happens to be. “The result is that SwiftOps retains the most useful advantages and capabilities of an on-site system while providing all the benefits of a hosted system,” Farrar told EBACE Convention News.

The Weather & Notam Briefing module is being launched in advance of the full flight-planning system for strategic and commercial reasons to give operators a foretaste of the capability to come. “We want to show the industry our new product in a practical way, one which will stimulate interest and attract customers in a user-friendly and cost-effective fashion,” Farrar explained.

The strong American influence exerted by both World Fuel Services and AirData’s sister company, Baseops International of Houston, recently resulted in a slight shift in emphasis to include the U.S. as a target market along with Europe. This has involved enhancing the initial product to make it more dispatcher-oriented by including the ability to input flight plans in U.S. Federal Aviation Administration as well as ICAO format, and the sourcing of more U.S. data, such as FAA notams, pireps, aireps and airmets.

A particularly user-friendly function highlighted by Farrar is that SwiftOps can produce a fully route-specific crew brief based entirely on the text of an ATC flight plan, which can even be “cut and pasted” into the system. The brief can then be printed, transmitted using a sophisticated “Message Center” interface or saved in the user’s chosen format. Any subsequent use of the saved brief will result in an automatic refresh to update the information, avoiding the need for repetitive user input.

Another feature is the ability to create a “Watch Area” comprising all stations of interest and display a color-coded synoptic chart with weather and notam alerts triggered by user-defined values. Users can create as many of these as they need and switch easily from one to another.

Work on the flight-planning module is expected to be completed by the end of the year. It will include a highly automated routing feature which will make use of dynamic environmental data to provide an optimum route, based on the simplest of inputs, including the concept of reusable templates.

In addition, thanks to considerable input from Airbus, which is a user of the current AirPlan system and keen to help in the development of SwiftOps, the system will be capable of supporting electronic flight bag technology.