Commercial, Embedded Avionics

Hawaiian Acquires New Aircraft Connectivity Technologies

By Woodrow Bellamy III  | February 3, 2015
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[Avionics Today 02-03-2015] Hawaiian Airlines is engaging in a connected aircraft flight operations strategy in 2015, dropping paper manuals for Electronic Flight Bags (EFBs) and adding new technology to enhance its weather monitoring capabilities on long-haul oceanic routes. The island-based carrier is in the process of adding EFBs from UTC Aerospace subsidiary Rosemount Aerospace and cockpit-mounted OpsTablets from WxOps to improve the ability of flight crews to monitor in-flight weather conditions and make real-time route changes.
 
 
WxOps weather information displayed over Google Earth. Photo: WxOps
 
"Being able to gain the fuel savings from dropping paper-based manuals for EFBs is going to be huge for us," Daniel Smith, manager of systems engineering for Hawaiian Airlines told Avionics Magazine. "Combining the fuel savings from the EFBs and the graphical weather information from WxOps is going to be a major step forward for our pilots."
 
The WxOps proprietary software operates on tablets mounted in the cockpit connected to an aircraft server and IP satellite transceiver. The transceiver communicates with the Inmarsat satellite constellation to deliver operational data including position reporting, telemetry, aircraft-reported meteorological data, fuel status, aircraft systems data and more. 
 
Hawaiian first began integrating the WxOps technology into its flight operations in 2011, after the airline’s flight dispatch manager Mark Spence witnessed how NASA was using a prototype tool called WxAzygy to present an interactive display of geographical data about the earth’s climate over the virtual globe user interface provided by Google Earth. At the time, Hawaiian was already using Google Earth in their dispatch operations, but Spence saw an opportunity to use the WxAzygy tool to boost their ability to predict weather patterns on their routes.
 
Spence then went on to create WxOps, a joint venture with Scott Shipley, the director of WxAnalyst which created WxAzygy. They then began using the software in their ground-based flight dispatch operations to predict turbulence, convection, frontal boundaries, tropical movement, icing and lightning conditions. Now, with the addition of the WxOps OpsTablets to their cockpits, pilots will be able to see that same information in real-time. 
 
“Our ultimate safety goal is simply to improve the joint responsibility operational control process between the pilot in command and dispatcher through better tracking and communication during all phases of a flight operation; release, taxi, climb, cruise, descent and forensically after the flight,” Al Peterlin, chief operating officer for WxOps told Avionics Magazine. “Position and weather sensor data will be sent approximately every few minutes to the OpsTablets but may also be requested anytime by dispatch or maintenance inquiry.”
 
The biggest benefit provided by the WxOps OpsTablet will be the graphical operational information display of weather being viewed by pilots while en route to their destination airport.
 
"Their idea is to supply graphical weather in a fairly compact form using Google Earth with the objective of flying economical routes and really giving the pilot a very good idea of what the weather is that they’re being asked to navigate around and change altitude for," said Smith. "From a maintenance perspective we really like it when pilots avoid bad weather so we don’t have to do onerous inspections for severe turbulence. They can cause aircraft to have to sit down for a day or more based on the damage caused."
 
Smith said that along with the integration of their EFBs and WxOps tablets, Hawaiian will also be upgrading its aircraft connectivity to Inmarsat's SwiftBroadband, an IP-based packet-switched service offering “always-on” data at up to 432kbps per channel. Those installations will occur ahead of the EFB integration so that pilots can take advantage of multiple streams of flight operational data once they're ready to drop the paper-based flight operations manuals and incorporate the cockpit-mounted WxOps tablets as well.
 
According to Smith, the move to SwiftBroadband this year will be a major step forward as well, because it opens up even more possibilities in the future. SwiftBroadband will give Hawaiian pilots the ability to stay connected and informed, as Inmarsat makes the network available globally, with the exception of the extreme polar regions.
 

"The idea is that you use all the available sources to have updated data so that you’re not operating on old weather data," said Smith. "On these oceanic routes we fly, giving pilots updated information about weather will allow them to make the best use of available winds, avoid severe storms and make more dynamic flight planning changes instead of relying on reports about weather from when they originally departed. These changes are a major step forward for our flight planning capabilities." 

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