By Sanjeeb Kumar Sahoo
Today, the passengers just want a safe, comfortable flight with in-flight Wi-Fi and entertainment capabilities like the ones they get in the office and at home. Whereas, the pilots and operators want advanced technological tools that put real-time information and data at their fingertips, allowing them to focus on flying and efficiently tackle air-safety issues in the Indian airspace.
With this, the government of India is likely to permit it by August-end 2017. The initiative of introducing in-flight Wi-Fi highlights one of the major technology trends that Indian aviation will witness.
In a conversation with Voice&Data, Neelu Khatri, President, Honeywell Aerospace, India, elaborates on Future of Indian airlines – Apps for pilots and Wi-Fi for flight passengers!
Voice&Data: What is the current state of technology adoption in aviation globally and in India?
Neelu Khatri: According to the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA), Indian domestic air traffic is expected to grow to 100 million passengers by the end of 2017. Currently, the aviation ministry is developing infrastructure to make air travel seamless for passengers and also, planning to make the regional connectivity affordable in tier two and tier three cities.
These revolutionary changes have increased demand for advanced technological solutions and the need for a connected aircraft. As India strives to become a global hub for aviation and its maintenance services, the industry is set to enter into a software revolution from nose to tail and air to ground.
Today, aircraft operators have started shifting towards real-time solutions for weather, flight planning, auxiliary power units and engine trending. Globally, the aviation industry is also providing its passengers with in-flight entertainment and Wi-Fi services which are similar to the speed that they receive at home.
Voice&Data: What are the emerging and future technologies that will transform the aviation market in India?
Neelu Khatri: We have been in the Indian aviation market for more than 40 years and we are certainly seeing airlines and airports adopt new technologies, and implement global solutions on a regional level.
Paradigm shift from paper chart approach to app based solutions:
India is home to different demographics and terrains, which can make landing difficult, especially at remote airports. Traditionally, pilots had to take print outs and use traditional paper charts to plan their take-off and landing approach. They had to pre-determine weather conditions and preview landing procedures, leaving very little room for modifications. Therefore, the information the pilot had prior to take-off sometimes was not as relevant once the aircraft was in the air. This affects the fuel consumption, operational costs and maintenance time for an aircraft.
Eventually, this gave rise to adopting real-time solutions available through apps made for the pilots in the cockpit. Just as we use Google maps, pilots now have access to the terrain of an area, weather conditions and fuel consumption, all at their fingertips.
India’s Jet Airways recently adopted the GoDirect Fuel Efficiency software, a part of Honeywell’s GoDirect Flight Services family of Connected Aircraft technologies. This helps an airline reduce fuel consumption and costs. The offering provides a full range of data analysis, reporting and monitoring tools for enhanced fuel conservation.
Emergence of Connectivity:
Today, the aviation ministry is demanding connectivity solutions for Indian airports as well as airlines. The Indian aerospace industry, along with the global industry, now has access to high-bandwidth and integrated services within the aircraft. The digital transformation has opened up data sharing in new ways, and allows pilots and operators to pull large amounts of critical data from the plane and create value from it.
In the future, a connected aircraft and airport will be able to receive, transmit, analyze and share data. This enables more informed decision-making, operational cost reductions and an improved flying experience. For fleet managers, this means a decrease in fuel costs and emissions by up to five percent, and operational disruptions by 35 percent.
Indian authorities are in talks with the aviation entry to implement in-flight Wi-Fi. Globally, passengers are receiving Wi-Fi that is 10 to 100 times faster with fewer dropped connections, and soon this technology will enter the Indian airspace.
Voice&Data: When you say apps for pilots – what kind of apps are these and where is it available?
Neelu Khatri: App based solutions are available for pilots and operators at the push of a button. It’s a one-stop shop for all of the integrated services required by pilots to fly efficiently. For example, Honeywell’s GoDirect is a web portal with various developed and enhanced apps.
These integrated services allow pilots to use app-based (iPad) approaches for functions such as weather radar systems, accurate data analysis to achieve fuel efficiency and paperless approaches for landings. These apps are varied and a customized solution can be adopted by an airline. For example, a single app or a suite of apps can be obtained, whichever fulfills the needs of an airline.
Voice&Data: How do these apps help airlines and airports become more efficient?
Neelu Khatri: This suite of applications offer fuel efficiency solutions, Wi-Fi access for in-flight passengers, weather information and customized avionic and mechanical expertise for airlines. The holistic approach of GoDirect has enabled services to live under one roof so that operators can adopt and run a customized set of services to ensure the safety, efficiency and cost-effectiveness of operations.
GoDirect Flight Preview is an innovative solution that enables pilots to “pre-fly” an approach and become familiar with the airport and its landing procedures before making the actual approach. GoDirect Fuel Efficiency offers fuel-saving recommendations, which airlines can quickly deploy into existing or customized analytics reports and dashboards. Another useful app is Weather Information Services which links weather data to flight plans selected by a pilot. To guarantee effective maintenance, MyMaintainer sources data from the aircraft and tracks crew-alerting-system messages that help determine the origin of the fault, track the history of similar faults and alert the central office for corrective actions when needed. Honeywell’s Global Data Center provides a pilot with comprehensive flight support services, which are designed to fly more efficiently, as well as avoid hazardous weather conditions and delays.
Voice&Data: What is the status of in-flight Wi-Fi connectivity in India and what is your take on this initiative?
Neelu Khatri: In India, the use of in-flight Wi-Fi is not allowed over domestic airspace due to security concerns stated by the government. However, in the last couple of months, the Centre has been discussing implementing and permitting use of in-flight Wi-Fi by the end of August 2017. This initiative of introducing in-flight Wi-Fi highlights one of the major technology breakthroughs that Indian aviation will witness.
We are optimistic about this development and hope to see the implementation of in-flight Wi-Fi soon in the Indian airspace. Once implemented, it will result in higher demand for domestic airline services and give a boost to the Indian economy.
Voice&Data: What is the role of Honeywell Aerospace in in-flight connectivity (in terms of technology) in India and globally?
Neelu Khatri: Honeywell Aerospace offers solutions globally to provide a reliable and consistent in-flight connectivity experience to airline passengers. Honeywell has partnered with industry leader, Inmarsat, to deliver global high-speed in-flight connectivity technology to airlines and airplane manufacturers.
Honeywell’s JetWave is a satellite communications hardware which exclusively supports Inmarsat’s Ka-band service. JetWave allows pilots, passengers, operators and maintenance personnel to connect to GX Aviation, an in-flight broadband service. This in-flight Wi-Fi works under all environmental conditions with the support of Inmarsat’s Global Xpress (GX) satellite network, which comprises three fully functioning and launched satellites. Hence, passengers, pilots and other airline personnel can have access to high-speed, consistent and reliable broadband service through GX Aviation on flights worldwide, with speeds similar to those experienced at home or in the office. Honeywell’s GX Aviation is targeted at air transport and regional airlines whereas Jet ConneX is for business aviation.
Voice&Data: Do you think India is ready to adopt and implement connectivity technologies? India’s decision to start with Wi-Fi services in plane – do you think it’s realistically possible?
Neelu Khatri: India is now the third largest aviation market in terms of domestic passenger traffic. In 2016, it witnessed domestic air passenger traffic of 100 million according to a recent report from Sydney-based aviation think-tank, CAPA Centre of Aviation. Currently, many global players in the aviation industry are focusing on the Indian aviation market as it has bright future at hand.
With such an optimistic future, India’s time to adopt global connectivity solutions has come, and with promising schemes such as Make in India and Regional Connectivity, we feel Indian airlines and airports are set to adopt advanced solutions for connectivity and services.
India’s initiative to implement Wi-Fi is due to consistent digital transformation, growing passenger demands and its effort to be a global aviation hub. With support of the ministry, global manufactures and network distributors – providing in-flight connectivity is very much possible in the Indian airspace.
Voice&Data: What are the challenges faced for implementing in-flight Wi-Fi in India?
Neelu Khatri: The Civil Aviation Ministry, along with the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, Government of India (DGCA) finally have the confidence to go ahead with this technology, but are still are awaiting on approvals. Hence, the first step is to get required approvals from concerned parties.
Secondly, Indian aviation industry will have to bring software and hardware capabilities to existing fleets. Encryption of data and security maintenance are crucial to implementing in-flight Wi-Fi.
Operators should have the support of advanced technology solutions that will help them stay safe, secure and efficient.
Fitting hardware on an aircraft can increase its weight and affect the operation and maintenance costs of airlines. Hence, Indian airlines will need the support of companies like Honeywell Aerospace to optimize long haul and big aircraft as well as narrow body and short haul flights.
Voice&Data: What challenges exist in the Indian aviation market regarding technology adoption?
Neelu Khatri: In the Indian aerospace industry, currently the challenge lies in the acceptance and pan-India delivery of enhanced equipment supply, technology transfer and uniform training for all pilots. These parameters help achieve higher pilot safety, seamless services for passengers and a better flight experience for all. Currently, these products and services are in the pipeline for being adopted by the Indian market.
With the rapidly changing face of the aerospace sector in Indian and globally, we need to encourage governments and ministries of human resources and education to focus on developing learning opportunities and offering training programs that will further enhance the capabilities of people working in this industry, be it pilots, operators, suppliers or airline employees.
Another aspect to consider is overseas investors who may feel discouraged due to the complexity of regulations. However, recently we have experienced the positive effects of government initiatives and policy reforms, which are catalysts in the process of India being able to meet its long term aviation objectives.