[Avionics Today July 21, 2014] Despite current challenges, Europe's second largest airline, Deutsche Lufthansa is keeping its fleet technology strategy rooted in modern avionics. The airline faces a tough market as competing low cost carriers continue to cut into passenger demand and Middle Eastern airlines cut into lucrative routes between Europe and Asia, which drove it to reduce its profit forecast for the next two years in June.
Lufthansa Airlines Boeing 747-8. Photo, courtesy of Boeing.
However, Lufthansa is keeping a focus on its use of avionics technology to improve flight operations. Over the last five years, the airline has completely eliminated paper-based manuals and replaced them for Electronic Flight Bags (EFBs) and has introduced upgraded data link capabilities and Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System (EGPWS) avionics across several fleets of aircraft, said Jens Ritter, director of fuel efficiency and pilot at Lufthansa. But the biggest avionics modernization process that Lufthansa is currently undergoing is a move away from using floppy disks to distribute and load navigation databases on to aircraft.
Navigation databases had to be updated on the aircraft every 28 days, or about 13 times per year, according to Lufthansa. The majority of airlines are still using floppy disks to do this, but that era is quickly coming to an end. Portable Data Loader (PDL) technology can speed up the process by enabling faster data loading with the ability to communicate with the aircraft over Ethernet or Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) technology.
Ritter said that Lufthansa is looking to introduce PDL technology across its entire fleet of 282 cargo and passenger jets. However, after evaluating available options in the market, the airline decided to develop a the mini-PDL-Pad solution in-house through their aircraft Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) services company, Lufthansa Technik together with a partner.
The mini PDL-Pad supports up to ARINC 615 protocols and can acquire data via 3G, Wi-Fi or Ethernet, eliminating the need to store databases on floppy disks and then go through the lengthy process of uploading them onto Lufthansa's in-service passenger and cargo aircraft. Lufthansa is currently using the mini Pad for 15 of its aircraft, and will look to increase usage throughout the fleet in the near future.