EBACE Convention News

Web technology gets Arinc flight planning closer to client

 - May 15, 2011, 11:00 PM

      More than 500 business aircraft are now using Arinc Direct services in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, and the aeronautical communications and IT specialist is continuing to expand the scope of its support offerings for operators.

Here at the EBACE show, Arinc (Stand 364) is showing the various applications it has developed to expand on the fundamental flight planning service. The company has been using Web-enabled technologies since 2003, but Arinc Direct business manager James Hardie said the increasing capabilities of Web access combined with client-based application technology is presenting new opportunities for customer interaction.

One is smart safety management system (SMS) functionality. Launched last year at NBAA, it aims to bring together the reams of information that pilots have to filter into a usable and acceptable format for assessing risks to flight against a checklist of risk factors that customers create themselves.

“Arinc Direct files more than 1,000 flight plans per day and provides pilots with all the associated weather and other data,” Hardie explained. “Soon this planning will become an even more integrated part of the risk assessment as real-time data is processed into an SMS as defined by the aircraft operator.”

Since the beginning of March, the system has added the ability to do more common risk assessments automatically using TAF and METAR weather data to determine forecast and meteorological conditions affecting departure and destination airports.

Wind data is the first element to be assessed automatically for risk. The information is factored from databases on airports around the world, whether controlled or uncontrolled, on all runways, the precision or non-precision approaches available to each runway end and computation of headwind, crosswind and tailwind components 

Hardie quoted the example of a pilot preparing to take off on Runway 270. If the wind is 300 degrees and 10 knots there will be a crosswind component of five knots, which is acceptable; if the wind is 50 knots there will be a 25-knot crosswind, resulting in a red flag. A future release will add the ability to use ceiling, visibility, restrictions to visibility such as snow and thunderstorms, and temperature.

Last year Arinc integrated new map technology from online chart provider SkyVector to help make online flight planning easier. The new charts can be dragged and zoomed, while selectable layers of additional data include flight information regions, animated radar, turbulence, icing and winds.

Later this year the applications should be available on the Apple iPad. Using the device’s touch screen to manipulate the forms and data is not quite as easy as using a conventional mouse, said Hardie, so Arinc is developing an app to create a new, more pilot-friendly interface for cockpit use.

The real-time connectivity made possible by the Inmarsat SwiftBroadband high-speed satellite communications service is key to realizing the new possibilities, Hardie said. Arinc became an Inmarsat distribution partner last year, which means it can buy airtime directly from the satellite operator rather than through intermediate providers.

SwiftBroadband offers a nominal 432 kbps data transmission speed, but Arinc’s accelerated SBB service makes it capable of much high speeds, stated Lee Costin, business manager for satcom and cabin services. So far it is possible to tie two 432 kbps channels together and later this year it should be possible to support four.

The speed increases are the result of a combination of compression and acceleration, Costin explained. “We try to squeeze the data to fit the available bandwidth, and accelerate it to manage the latency between aircraft and ground,” he said.

The latency–the time delay resulting from the distance the signal has to travel to and from the geostationary Inmarsat satellites–affects the way some operations are performed, but the Arinc service manages that transparently to the customer. “What we are doing is managing the customer experience from a traffic perspective,” Costin said, “so users get the best experience, whether it’s Internet browsing, email or specific applications the principal is running.”

The current quarter should also see the introduction of voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) solutions to support multiple handsets in the cabin, he added.

Twenty years ago Arinc did little or no business outside the U.S., but international activities now contribute 25 percent of the company’s $1 billion-plus turnover, according to Randy Pizzi, vice president of the company’s newly formed international division.

Growth since its acquisition by The Carlyle Group in 2007 has been “excellent,” Pizzi claimed, and Arinc is now one of the global alternative asset manager’s top-performing aviation companies, he said. One of the new division’s responsibilities will be to oversee the creation of a new airport technology center that will be based in the U.S. but focused on developing products and solutions for international airport customers.