GE Aviation’s annual Waypoint conference held last week in Dallas highlighted customer collaboration and the latest ways data and digital tools are improving operations, fuel efficiency and maintenance needs for airline customers. Airlines made up the majority of the more than 500 Waypoint attendees along with a strong representation from corporate operators, lessors, business jet OEMS, partners and key military customers.

3 Key Digital Highlights from Waypoint 2019

ONE — Showing aviation digital leadership

Two deals signed with GE Aviation show the scale of advances in digital airline management, bringing the total number of aircraft with GE Aviation’s Digital Solutions to more than 15,000. AirAsia, a low-cost carrier with more than 200 planes, and Copa Airlines, a Panama-based carrier averaging more than 350 daily flights, are implementing GE Aviation digital solutions such as Network Operations that promise to improve the timeliness and reliability of their respective fleets.

“Every airline wants to fly all of the flights it has scheduled,” said Jon Dunsdon, chief technology officer for digital technologies at GE Aviation. “They rarely are able to do that. Stuff will happen — weather, crews, air traffic control strikes. The challenge is, how do you work through those issue while running as optimally as possible?”

GE Aviation is developing these new digital tools using a recently introduced open avionics approach, partnering with airlines to develop better software solutions.

The open platform supports applications developed by GE, airframers and other third-party providers, allowing airframers to pick and choose the best apps that fit their needs or work with any vendor to create new apps. Like an iOS or Android operating system, open avionics allows airlines to download and update apps.

TWO — Big data helps predict maintenance needs

Thanks to digital tools that capture engine performance with sensors, apps that help pilots measure their flights and virtual maintenance records, big data is helping airlines better predict their operations and, in some cases, even prevent disruptions, said Mahendra Nair, VP of Sales, America.

For example, AirAsia signed a five-year contract for Network Operations Insights to provide a single view of disruption impacts on AirAsia’s entire multi-hub network—which carries close to 90 million passengers per year. This includes a Data Science project to help analyze the flight schedule, give insights into flight disruptions and prevent them altogether.

Network Operations is a software suite that collects data from multiple sources to provide:

  • Real-time monitoring of operations
  • Real-time prediction of passenger misconnections
  • Calculate financial impact
  • Predict performance

Emirates recently started using GE’s Analytics Based Maintenance software, or ABM, to minimize maintenance surprises. ABM uses data gathered from many sensors fitted on each plane to monitor engine health. Using indicators such as real-time climate data collected with ABM, Emirates has reduced unscheduled maintenance by 50 percent and increased engine “time on wing” 20 percent.

THREE — Better digital solutions for our customers

From the Waypoint conference, GE Aviation’s Digital Group launched a new product and expanded its collaboration with Qantas

Following years of testing, an all-new cloud-based program was announced called Aviation Asset Performance Management (APM). Aviation APM for aircraft operators collects and aggregates full flight and maintenance data across a heterogenous fleet, identifying potential maintenance issues. One of the biggest benefits: by using technology to better predict maintenance needs, it can reduce unexpected disruptions that cause delays and cancellations, turn backs and grounded planes, increasing our customer dissatisfaction and lost revenue.

“Aviation APM is helping airlines reduce maintenance-related delays by up to 98 percent, delivering real value to their operations,” said Sean Moser, senior vice president, Product Management for GE Aviation’s Digital Solutions.

Additionally, FlightPulse, an application developed jointly with Qantas, helps pilots analyze data after each flight and reduce the amount of fuel they burn. At Waypoint, FlightPulse 2.0 was revealed, which will help pilots before they take off.  With FlightPulse 2.0, pilots will be able to easily locate key details such as safety-related issues, conditions preventing past flights from climbing to cruising altitudes or general traffic-flow issues that might affect arrival or takeoff times.