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Monday, November 1, 2010

Boeing Unveils In-Flight Advisory Services

Boeing is launching a system of real-time inflight advisories, under the heading Inflight Optimization Services, aimed at saving airlines time, fuel and emissions using existing equipment.

In a recent briefing, Mike Lewis, Boeing director of Airline Efficiency Services, described the first two of what will be a suite of new services, called Direct Routes and Wind Updates. The subscription-based services will be available to airlines using Boeing, Airbus or other aircraft in the first quarter of 2011.

“In-flight optimization services is a suite of capabilities that give real-time, actionable advisories to aircraft in flight, post departure,” Lewis said. The system incorporates real-time surveillance information, weather, winds, traffic and airline-specific inputs, calculates optimal flight maneuvers and sends advisories to airline operations centers or directly to the flight deck via ACARS data link.

The Direct Routes product continuously monitors flights in United States airspace, leveraging a NASA-developed air-traffic control automation tool for its core algorithm. “What this algorithm does is looks for any time you can basically cut a corner that’s wind-optimal,” Lewis said. The advisory route adjustment is “prechecked to be cleared of other traffic, prechecked to be consistent with normal airspace operational procedures (and) prechecked to not run into special use airspace or restricted airspace.” The system’s assessment is updated every 12 seconds.

“Any time a subscribing airline can see two or three minutes worth of potential savings, we fire off one of these messages to the airline’s operations center in a preformatted way,” Lewis said. Boeing estimates a medium-sized airline can save more than 40,000 minutes of flight time a year, or the equivalent of hundreds of full flights.

Wind Updates provides automatic wind data updates for individual flights, delivered to the flight deck in a format that can be loaded directly into the aircraft’s flight management computer. Boeing estimates potential savings of 100 to 200 pounds of fuel per flight based on FMC adjustments for optimal speed, altitude and trajectory.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has been working with Boeing as a developmental partner, and is using Wind Updates for its Boeing 777, MD-11 and Airbus A330 arrivals into Amsterdam Schiphol airport, Lewis said. More recently, Alaska Airlines started using the wind reporting service.

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