Rockwell Collins and Stellar Labs have signed a long-term agreement to bring a comprehensive, end-to-end flight operations management platform to the Cloud, providing operators, flight departments and other users access to key flight and revenue management information through mobile devices and web browsers. Under the 10-year agreement, Stellar Labs is marrying its commercial operations system with the Rockwell Collins ArincDirect Flight Operations System (FOS).
“This vision will transform the industry,” said Dave Poltorak, v-p, business and government aviation of Rockwell Collins. “It addresses the growing demand for flight departments, aircraft management operators, FBOs, maintenance and crews to work together – even across company lines.”
Stellar Labs, which runs a charter marketplace for both operators and end users, had developed a commercial operation system that provides precise availability and pricing of charter aircraft based on a number factors, including weather, airport, aircraft performance and an operator’s “pricing rules,” said Stellar Labs chairman and CEO Paul Touw. That system is able to track empty legs and other availability factors, generate pricing quotes and optimize revenues.
Touw noted that the industry largely has been “offline” with much of charter quotes still hand generated, similar to how the airlines operated before the advent of systems such as Sabre. The Stellar Labs system was designed to automate those processes, he said, likening its system to Sabre.
He noted that Rockwell Collins, meanwhile, has strong expertise in the areas of all the “activity associated with the day of flight,” including flight planning, maintenance, aircraft logs and crew logs, among many other areas.
“When we sat down with Rockwell Collins, we realized we were coming from two different directions,” Touw said. “We recognized very quickly that we ought to come together and build one system that spans all the things that operators need to do. If we do it in the Cloud and do it with one complete database approach, then we can include collaboration.”
Stellar Labs (Booth 3293) and Rockwell Collins (Booth 3594) are co-developing and co-funding the project, with their respective engineers working together. Stellar Labs is rebuilding the international trip planning, flight operations functions, maintenance and other ArincDirect systems into the Internet-based operating system. “We’re taking FOS and rewriting it into the Cloud,” he said.
The Cloud is critical for several reasons, he said. “If we have the Cloud, then operators, FBOs, maintenance specialists, everyone can collaborate in one single system,” Touw said, adding this further eases the ability for operators to use other operator fleets for trips.
“It’s an incredibly labor intensive effort to get a Part 135 charter flight into the air. We call it the 300-email problem,” he said. “It involves schedules interfacing with pilots interfacing with FBOs interfacing with consumers. The collaborative part of all this is pretty profound.”
He added this takes many of the collaborative networking concepts in social media sites such as Facebook. “It is a complete rethinking of how the business aviation industry works,” Touw said. “It’s a pretty comprehensive effort by both companies, and it’s about time this industry was put online.”
Stellar Labs, which has dedicated 40 engineers to the project and has been working on its portion of the system for more than two years, has beta tested the system with about 35 operators over the past six months. “The results have been fantastic,” he said noting one of the larger operators, which operates out of 14 bases, has said it will transform their business “because everything they had done was manual.” The system is creating “enormous efficiencies,” he said.
Noting that Rockwell Collins has about 500 operators and 6,000 aircraft using its FOS system, Touw said the companies hope to move the remaining operators over to the new system over the next year.
Pieces of the system will roll out at here at NBAA, he said, including the ability for operators with FOS to integrate into the Stellar Labs commercial operating system. Ultimately this system will be moved to the Cloud.
While Stellar Labs continues this work, it is continuing to add functions to its charter marketplace. The company is working on a new real-time safety risk assessment scoring system for each flight. The system will not only consider factors such as an operator’s safety ratings, but also what airport would be used, the weather involved and the aircraft’s operational abilities. “We are already calculating performance, routing and other flight information so it is not to far to take those elements and look at scoring the actual flight.” He said that Stellar Labs hopes to roll out this feature by the end of the year.