The aviation industry is approaching a time when the use of pen and paper will become nearly obsolete, underscoring the importance of ensuring the accuracy of data, industry leaders agree.
Speaking during an EBACE Connect session on “The Importance of Data and Why EVERYTHING Must Be Connected,” which Tim Ford moderated, president of air operations software provider myairops, executives from an operator, and multiple data providers explored the growing uses of information throughout business aviation.
“We are in the very early stages of digitizing aviation and automation will come very soon on top of that,” said Diego Magrini, CEO of airport and operational data service aviowiki. Magrini noted the importance of having accurate, up-to-date information in areas such as airports. “We all realize that we cannot follow 28-day cycles in modern days. With airport data, we are now talking about near real-time information about the availability of these airports.” Information that is a day or two old can be outdated, he added.
“It's no surprise that we get some information updates on airport closures for example, from Twitter quicker than from the notams,” he said, stressing a need for “information that you can trust” and update quickly. This is true for other information such as visa, permit, and other requirements.
“We cannot rely anymore on pen and paper.”
Shay Har-Noy, general manager of space-based flight and weather data provider Spire Aviation, stressed the importance of adding data that is useful, reliable, current, and actionable. “If you're missing any one of those [qualities], you're back to pen and paper and logbooks,” Har-Noy said. While conceding that pen and paper “have kept pilots alive for the last a hundred years…so let's not throw them out,” he added, “we can do better. We should strive to do better.”
Paul Cremer, who leads the charter team for global business aviation services provider Gama Aviation, agreed and said there are four key data areas Gama requires as an operator: aviation management, flight-planning software, notams, and tracking.
“It is imperative data is accurate and up to date, and that it can be trusted and validated,” Cremer said. Gama also needs to be able to demonstrate to its clients that the data comes from an official source.
He echoed concerns that notams are often not correct, noting that its air ambulance in Scotland will frequently get calls from small island airport operators saying they are done for the day, are going home, and will be on call. “There is no notam that tells you that information,” he said. But he also stressed that when receiving data, “it needs to be [from] a validated source. We can't be on approach to an airport with some information that's come in via the internet that is not substantiated.”
Chris Marich, founder and global strategy director for aviation asset and spend management service provider MySky, said companies can build trust in data through transparency and independence to conduct verification. Marich also noted the need to have complete datasets.
“A big thing is being able to backtest information that you have,” added Har-Noy. He noted that his company has ADS-B data going back to 2017. “Now with hundreds of millions of points of records...putting that at people's fingertips is something that's really powerful because now it allows you to backtest.”
This enables an operator to examine things such as fuel savings and decisions that could be made differently. “So now going forward, you have more trust in those models,” he said, adding that he believes “the days of data snacking are rapidly coming to a close” and that companies will look at fuller sets of data.
Magrini also underscored the need to work collaboratively. Recognizing that some information may be held closely for proprietary reasons, he added, “That's something that we as data providers are really pushing forward." He noted that his company has seen some resistance but said, "I think that's one of the major objectives of the next years is if we can get that message across to say, 'Look, please share it,' because there is no benefit in data retention.”
Har-Noy agreed. “Your file folders are where data goes to die," he said. "The question is, can you digitize that? Can you make it accessible? If you can share it, you can reap the benefits of it. There's a culture of default to closed rather than default to open.”
Magrini also cited “network effects” that come from sharing data for the benefit of the customer. For example, customers who make a trip request may have to wait for a dozen or so operators to ask all the same questions. That could be resolved through data sharing. He also noted that sharing international trip information in one region may spur business down the road in another.
“It really comes to yet again connection and all working on our specialty while sharing the information,” he said.