Real-time operational data will be the play that justifies airline investments in inflight connectivity. This is the promise the industry continues to sell and one that, to date, has shown glimmers of success for some carriers. Hawaiian Airlines joins that club this summer with its official launch of the Pacelab Flight Profile Optimizer (FPO).
Pacelab FPO has been instrumental in helping determine the safest, most comfortable and efficient route on every flight. Having previously removed heavy paper manuals and charts, Hawaiian is further increasing the utility of our Electronic Flight Bag tablets by providing real time decision support tools to allow pilots to optimize all phases of the flight. This means guests arrive on our islands well rested and on time to begin their vacation, while we further reduce our environmental footprint.– Captain Brian Beres, senior director for flight standards and qualifications at Hawaiian Airlines
FPO by Berlin-based software provider PACE uses satellite communication to continuously inform flight crews about winds, projected turbulence and aircraft performance. Hawaiian’s Airbus A330 aircraft pilots can access updated information on their tablets throughout the flight to make any needed adjustments to chart the quickest, most comfortable and fuel-efficient trajectory from take-off to landing. The system transmits data over an Inmarsat SwiftBradband link dedicated to flight deck operations; Hawaiian does not offer inflight connectivity for passengers.
The airline estimates Pacelab FPO will reduce annual fuel consumption by an one percent – approximately 1.3 million gallons – and prevent more than 12,000 pounds of carbon emissions from entering the atmosphere, by helping to improve flight routings. Pacelab FPO continuously processes the remaining portion of a flight, providing flight crews with actionable data to maximize operational efficiency, flight punctuality and passenger comfort given current flight conditions. The optimization combines real-time avionics data gathered on board and and meteorological information from the ground.
The service currently operates across Hawaiian’s full fleet of A330 aircraft. The carrier expects to expand that to its A321neo fleet operating between Hawaii and the US mainland as well. Hawaiian expects that the A321neo configuration will be very similar to that on the A330s. The carrier is researching the feasibility of extending that network to cabin crew devices as well. This could allow for real-time processing of food sales, assist with connecting flight details and other, more obvious passenger-facing benefits. Extending the WiFi network to passenger on the A321neo fleet is “under consideration” according to the company.
That passenger connectivity is under consideration suggests that Hawaiian is considering a different satellite network for the single-aisle fleet. The performance of the SwiftBroadband network is woefully insufficient to deliver on passenger demands and it is unlikely that Hawaiian (or other airlines serious about delivering inflight connectivity services to passengers) would consider it viable based on the price and speed mix available. Gulf Air’s recently announced an implementation of the Collins Aerospace GlobalConnect managed digital service on its new fleet of 30 Airbus A320neo aircraft. That will use the higher capacity Inmarsat GX Aviation network to transmit the data, in parallel with passenger wifi connectivity.