Extending Dispatch Services to the Cockpit through Mobile Devices (Presentation given at the 2nd China Aviation New Technology Forum in Shanghai, China, April 2015)

April 17, 2015 - Today's airline business models are evolving rapidly to exploit the growth of mobile computing, and most airlines around the world are well on their way with mobility-enabled personalized services for their customers.


Presented by Mike Caflisch, Chief Executive Officer


Good Afternoon! Xi-wu hao.

Before I get started, I would like to thank the organizers of the China Aviation New Technology Forum for providing such a great venue for discussing new technology and aviation. I would also like to thank the Forum sponsors and fellow delegates for their support and attendance, for without them this forum would not be possible.

I would also like to say that I know I am in that highly coveted “first up after lunch” speaking slot so I will do my best to keep my remarks on schedule and try not to make you even more sleepy! This afternoon, I will be discussing “Extending Dispatch Services to the Cockpit Through Mobile Devices.”

Today’s airline business models are evolving rapidly to exploit the growth of mobile computing, and most airlines around the world are well on their way with mobility-enabled personalized services for their customers. Today we are clearly past the ADOPTION phase and have entered the EVOLUTIONARY phases along the AIRLINE MOBILE MATURITY MODEL. What started out as mobility application developments focused on improving the passenger travel experience has now started to spread into airport and airline operations with innovative mobility enhancements in the areas of “operational messaging” (between the aircraft and airline headquarters), maintenance, pre- and in-flight services, flight planning, and asset and spare parts management. Let’s take a closer look at how mobile capabilities for airlines have evolved.

With the FIRST GENERATION of mobile solutions, we saw airlines disseminating essential operational messaging for flight plans and irregular operations via SMS and other text messaging applications. And of course, email played a prominent role and set the standard for transmitting flight details, gate information, and other passenger information.

In the SECOND GENERATION, which was driven by the emergence and high adoption rates of smartphones and tablet devices, we have seen the proliferation of apps supported by connectivity and fast communication speeds. The smartphone and tablet evolution has accelerated the use of mobility to enhance the airline passenger’s travel experience.

Today, we are entering into the THIRD GENERATION of mobility and with this generation we will see the move to “smart mobility.” That is, when systems and apps know when to be connected and when to be standalone. This generation will take advantage of everything that connectivity offers–fast communication speeds and high bandwidth for large-scale data transmission and database updates when necessary and appropriate–plus with “smart mobility” we will see the value-added benefit of being standalone, delivering app services without the burden of being connected.

Ask yourself this question “Which generation is your airline living in when it comes to the airline mobility maturity model?”

Airlines are notorious for operating in functional silos, forfeiting the benefits of true operational efficiency. In order to exist in a state of “smart mobility,” today’s airlines must continue to break down the information barriers that exist across the enterprise. Processes and procedures must be developed that facilitate and accelerate information sharing. More often than not, at airlines around the world, the focus on deploying mobile solutions has been squarely aimed at the passenger. Globally mobile self-service initiatives are advancing rapidly. In fact, according to a study by SITA and Airline Business in 2014, ticket booking through airline websites has reached 30% globally but check-in using a mobile device, kiosk, or the web has reached nearly 40% of all check-ins! Clearly the mobile value proposition is proven. But what about internally within your airline? What about flight operations? How will you connect the passenger service side of the house with the flight operations side? The strong recognition of technology’s impact on air travel and providing airline competitive advantage is evidenced by the fact that most, if not all, airlines are expecting to invest more in IT and mobility projects than in the prior year. If new opportunities exist for deploying mobility solutions anywhere in the airline, one could certainly start with the fertile ground in the Flight Operations Department.

Typical Information Value Chain


This slide illustrates a great example of an airline flight operations Information Value Chain. Do you see opportunity for the introduction and deployment of mobile applications? Mobile technology has become a key link supporting airline operations–driven mostly by the proliferation of Electronic Flight Bags, or EFBs. Over these past two days, you have heard case studies and testimonials from airlines who have deployed EFB solutions and the lessons learned from those deployments.

In ancient times–around 2011–the first EFBs focused on delivering navigation and charting functions to the cockpit, starting the airline industry on the technology adoption curve for mobile solutions. Jeppesen has been an important industry pioneer and champion for the EFB and mobility movement. The adoption curve for new technology is steep with many pitfalls along the way–not the least of which is closing the business case!

As nearly all large-scale IT projects remain costly, many airlines are seeking to deliver cost- effective mobile solutions that work in tandem with legacy IT infrastructures and do not disrupt business operations.

To best deliver high value-added mobile solutions, we must think “SMART MOBILITY!” Know when to be connected and when to be standalone. By utilizing efficient and non-invasive integration to legacy airline back end or line of business systems, we can minimize the financial impact of IT deployments and at the same time deliver mobile solutions that provide for quicker, better decision making; improve safety; and improve operational efficiencies.

Let me use a high-level illustration of a Smart Mobility

(Typical) Current State


Consider the typical current state of transmitting briefing packages of flight data from the airline dispatch center to aircraft crew members preparing for their flight. All relevant flight data, including the flight plan, runway performance calculations, weather and NOTAMs, weight and balance, and flight envelope compliance calculations, are prepared in advance (usually hours in advance) in the airline dispatch center. Just prior to flight time this data is sent to the crew via traditional means–fax, airline enterprise communications systems, SITA/ARINC, and other legacy methods. All rely on human in the loop involvement to print, sort, and distribute at the airport ops center or crew briefing lounge.

Today / Future State


Already today and continuing into the future, briefing packages of flight data are being sent via mobile data packets direct to mobile devices carried by flight crews without the need for transmission through legacy methods. Cloud computing platforms and high-speed, high bandwidth communications make legacy delivery methods unnecessary and further move them into obsolescence. Upon receipt of initial and updated briefing packages, the crew has the ability to further make changes and updates, including updating their runway analysis performance calculations, change their weight and balance, retrieving updated weather and NOTAMS, selecting or changing engine-out departures, and signing and submiting their official dispatch release. These capabilities provide maximum operational flexibility, time savings, and other efficiencies that are not possible with traditional flight briefing package distribution methods.

Airlines do not have to embark on the journey alone. Many companies provide commercial apps, Business-to-Business apps, and custom-developed apps for airlines. Any airline currently contemplating mobile app development or in the process already will likely require external resources. The benefits of industry experience and broad subject matter expertise should not go unutilized!

Key functionality, based on subject matter expertise and ease of use, must be considered if airlines are to be able to take advantage of the opportunities that mobile solutions can offer. This will require careful thought about necessary enhancements, integration with other mobile services, integration with airline line of business systems, and the necessary personalization and customization appropriate for your airline.

Mobile Devices and APG Data Services


Over the past 15 years, Aircraft Performance Group has been delivering key portions of the Information Value Chain in the areas of aircraft performance/runway analysis, weight and balance, crew briefing, and flight book creation, for example. These traditional Dispatch Services are now available through SMART MOBILE apps that bring unprecedented value and flexibility to cockpit crews who must deal with last minute operational changes or in-flight planning or re-planning scenarios.

At the end of the day, we have to wait and see how far mobile solutions will continue extending Dispatch Services to the Cockpit. But it is a safe bet that mobile solutions and mobile-enabled platforms in the cockpit are here to stay.

Let me close with several takeaway challenge questions to test your thinking about extending dispatch services to the cockpit through mobile devices.


Takeaway Challenges

  • Where is your airline on the mobility maturity model?
    • 1st? 2nd? 3rd Generation?
  • Does your airline have a mobile strategy?
  • Does your mobile strategy deliver benefits from the Information Value Chain?
  • What Use Case(s) does your airline have for Dispatch Services mobile apps?
  • How will you develop your mobile apps?
    • Custom, in-house development or utilize external industry expertise?
  • Will your airline be a leader in extending dispatch services to the cockpit?
  • Where are you on the airline mobility maturity model? 1st, 2nd, or 3rd Generation?
  • Does your airline have a mobile strategy for flight operations?
  • Does your mobile strategy deliver benefits from the Information Value Chain?
  • Do you have or can you develop use cases for Dispatch Services mobile apps?
  • How will you develop our mobile apps? In-house or with external industry expertise?
  • And finally, will your airline be a leader in extending dispatch services to the cockpit?

These questions should give you plenty to think about!

Thank you. Xi-xi.