[Avionics Today 06-01-2015] Austrian Airlines has big plans over the next few years, as the Lufthansa Group subsidiary recently announced growth in passenger volume, revenue and total number of employees. In absolute terms, Austrian Airlines expects 1.5 millions passengers, 400 jobs and a revenue increase of $229 million within the next years. And those plans won't involve paper, at least not in the cockpits of their aircraft, as Austria's flagship airline is swapping its legacy laptop Electronic Flight Bags (EFBs) for Microsoft Windows Surface Pro 3 tablets powered by Navaero's system architecture.
Austrian Airlines A320 Captain and EFB Administrator Philipp Haller holding the Microsoft Surface tablet in an A320 cockpit. Photo: Austrian Airlines.
The airline's ongoing restructuring program confirmed a new CEO in Kay Kratky on May 12 and is finally returning to profitability. Flights to new destinations in Africa, Asia and the United States are planned for the remainder of 2015 while, at the same time, a fleet shift from Fokker to new Embraer aircraft will occur going into 2016. Those flights to new destinations will be more convenient and a little lighter allowing Austrian to save fuel.
"We have been using Electronic Flight Bags for 15 years, since the year 2000. But so far we had three generations of standard laptops, and those laptops had one drawback, which was we could not use them during all phases of flight," Philipp Haller, A320 Captain and EFB Administrator for Austrian Airlines, told Avionics Magazine.
Austrian has already started installing the navAero mounts for the Windows 8.1-based, 128 GB, Intel i5 processor Surface Pro 3s across its fleet of A320s, Boeing 767s andBombardier Dash 8 Q400s, and is currently in the process of obtaining an European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) for the Boeing 777. The Swedish EFB system designer plans on completing that STC by the end of June.
Haller said the airline will be able to eliminate up to 50 pounds of paper of flight, allowing them to reduce fuel burn while also increasing situational awareness since the mounted tablets can be used during all phases of flight. The move to the portable, connected EFB was seamless for Austrian, as the applications they will be using are similar to what was featured on their laptop EFBs with the addition of touchscreen capabilities.
"Over the last 10 years we had continuously refurbished the laptop-based applications and brought them up to the latest programming language. We have also upgraded them to use the latest database technology," said Capt. Haller. "This is a Windows tablet with a lot of touch capability. All of our applications needed to be redesigned to allow touch capability as well. That resulted in a change of the look and feel of the applications, but the actual functionality remains more or less the same."
According to Navaero CEO Simone Giordano, Austrian's flight operations will also receive a slight boost of connectivity, as the company's universal Aircraft Interface Devices (AID) will be used to connect the EFBs to the Q400s and existing AIDs will be used on other aircraft for charging and distribution of aircraft data. The Q400s will also feature Navaero's communications module to provide an integrated cellular/Wi-Fi communications portal for on-ground data connectivity.
"Austrian has a lot of expectations and plans to include data transfer from the cockpit to the ground by multiple forms of media including wireless and wired models," Giordano told Avionics Magazine. "They also need and want to use a lot of data coming out of the ARINC 429 and 717 connectivity that is provided by our AID. The setup is a provision for data into the avionics bay that is connected by the tablet and the tablet will be receiving real time data from the airplane."