With the world of computing and “big data” changing rapidly and environmental pressures coming to the fore more than ever, French avionics specialist Thales has presented the development environment for its “PureFlyt” next-generation flight management system (FMS) for commercial airliners and beyond. It even envisions it running on UAVs and military aircraft, depending on demand.
PureFlyt will connect more than ever to the outside world to draw on the advantages of real-time updates that allow constant planning and replanning, taking into account slot times and the latest weather information. Thales will also make available PureFlyt software for pilots’ electronic flight bags (EFBs) so that flight plans and other data immediately download to their aircraft—with safeguards protecting the aircraft and making it cyber-secure.
Thales believes PureFlyt will provide a "step-change" in various aspects of functionality to the extent it offers all OEMs an opportunity to adopt it, though it looks destined to make the first application an existing Airbus type. The company provides flight deck avionics suites, including the FMS, for all Airbus aircraft, most recently the A350, but faces stiff competition from Honeywell of the U.S.
Honeywell and GE Aviation dominate the Boeing market but, according to Peter Hitchcock, v-p of commercial avionics for Thales, the European company sees PureFlyt as an “inflection point,” where it could become the FMS supplier for a mainstream Boeing type for the first time.
However, Hitchcock, speaking to journalists at Thales’s avionics development center in Toulouse, acknowledged it would mean “reconnecting” to up to 30 major aircraft systems. He said airlines would serve as the driver, adding that a potential first customer is working with Thales with a view to a possible application. However, he would not elaborate further on the identity of the customer or aircraft type.
He did say, though, that Thales envisions a first application entering service in around 2024. Beyond that, the company has already been presenting PureFlyt to various OEMs and airlines and envisions its incorporation into clean-sheet aircraft designs.
Hitchcock said the system features four core principles—powerful, trusted, flexible, and connected: “and it will be available for both existing and future aircraft.” Its design also considers the fast-growing aircraft fleet and increasingly crowded skies, airport capacity constraints, and the need to manage everything better for greater efficiency of the whole aviation ecosystem.
At its core lies ensuring aircraft trajectory can be permanently “controlled, adapted and enhanced, resulting in optimized flight and decreased fuel consumption.” Hitchcock suggested an immediate fuel savings of 3 to 4 percent. According to Thales calculations, that would equate to cost savings of up to $500,000 per aircraft per year, or a total of up to $100 million a year for a large carrier.
Thales further estimates that the adoption of PureFlyt capabilities by 2025 could mean a saving of 40 million tonnes of CO2, “equivalent to the emissions of one-third of the cars in France,” said Jean-Paul Ebanga, Thales v-p of flight avionics.
Thales also said PureFlyt will enter service at a high maturity level due to the amount of simulation testing in which it would apply artificial intelligence technologies “to simulate two billion test cases…equivalent of 100 million actual flight hours."
The company calls PureFlyt's design "future-proof," accommodating the implementation of concepts such as the Initial 4D trajectory management methods now under study by SESAR (Single European Sky ATM Research) in the EU and NextGen in the U.S. It will, in fact, take into account a fifth dimension as well—aircraft weight management (thus 5D).
“In the air, the digital revolution has only just begun," said Ebanga, a former CEO of CFM International. "A paradigm shift in onboard cockpit electronics is taking place in the connected airspace and PureFlyt is at the forefront of this digital new age, leading the next generation of Flight Management System that truly makes the aircraft a node of connectivity.
“By computing and sharing vast amounts of data, PureFlyt will make flights safer, greener, easier for the pilots to manage, more profitable for airlines and, all this, ultimately for the full benefits of passengers.”