Aircraft IT OPS Issue 55: Spring 2023

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Aircraft IT OPS Issue 55: Spring 2023 Cover

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CASE STUDY: A digital solution for greater flight efficiency

Author: Frank Appeltrath, Head of Flight OPS & Support, AeroLogic GmbH and Vincent Toegel, Fleet Chief B777, AeroLogic GmbH

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Frank Appeltrath, Head of Flight OPS & Support and Vincent Toegel, Fleet Chief B777, both at AeroLogic, show how Predictive Analytics and a Real-Time Weather App drove efficiencies and fuel savings

This being Aircraft IT eJournal, this case study is going to look at IT systems in an airline, in this case, AeroLogic. I’ll share with you what we have seen, what we have implemented and, in particular, our implementation and use of eWas Dispatch and eWas Pilot. We’ll also look at our implementation of SITA Optiflight. But before we go into details about these solutions from SITA FOR AIRCRAFT, let quickly introduce you to the airline in question, AeroLogic.

AEROLOGIC

The airline, a fifty-fifty joint venture between Lufthansa Cargo and DHL Express, is German based operating cargo only services with an all Boeing 777F fleet. We serve a world-wide network flying ninety-five precent intercontinental missions with several routes that we fly every day. AeroLogic is a very lean business and a young company compared to others, having started operations as recently as 2009 and having adopted a Greenfield approach. In that, we were very keen to use innovative IT systems from the start to provide the support that the airline needs for Operations. Now, let us look at the software, starting with eWAS Dispatch.

eWAS DISPATCH

This is a great software meeting the need to track and monitor all flights in order to be aware if anything goes wrong or anything happens that shouldn’t. But eWAS Dispatch does more than just this; it’s not only a tracking tool with which we can see the actual position of an aircraft, but also full navigation data is included plus it can act as a planning and pre-planning tool with FlightWatch or Lido. With the planning tool, we can improve flight efficiency and, most important, it considerably increases flight safety, one of its biggest benefits. It’s a ‘manage by exception’ tool which works in the background at the OCC (Operation Control Center), serving large screens showing where our aircraft are located around the world plus some additional dashboards that we can take a look at below.

Figure 1 shows that AeroLogic has a fully integrated navigational database and a system that allows us, even in-flight, to re-plan with the tool.

Figure 1

That has happened a few times, especially during the Covid pandemic. Flying into the USA and Canada, we were made aware shortly after departure from Germany that some ATC centers had been closed because of Covid cases. We were expecting to receive a re-route and were able to do that planning in eWAS Dispatch. There is a dashboard which gives us an overview of the status of all flights. If everything is green, as in the figure, we know that all of our flights in the air are working well.

SITA OPTIFLIGHT

Having introduced eWAS Dispatch, we’ll now move on to consider the customer case for the SITA OptiFlight suite of fuel efficiency solutions. For AeroLogic, saving fuel for each mission is a big issue, it’s one of the key priorities set to challenge aviation in the future. In that context, eWAS Pilot and the SITA OptiFlight suite are really helping us in making valuable fuel savings.

SITA OptiFlight solutions that we are currently using are SITA OptiClimb and SITA OptiDirect. With them, we are able to leverage flight data for predictive analytics of fuel saving opportunities and outcomes (figure 2).

Figure 2

In the first stage, an aircraft predictive performance model is built taking one year or more years of historical data and using Machine Learning with a so-called trained model. There is input data and output data, which is fuel, and the model is trained with the mathematical function so that we can predict the fuel at each stage in the climb with certain input factors. This initial predictive model is customized to one aircraft. Normally, performance manuals are for the whole fleet of an aircraft type: the performance data has to match each aircraft regardless of the aircraft’s age, weight, or how clean or dirty it is; but SITA OptiFlight uses data specific to each aircraft. On the right of figure 2, SITA OptiFlight is updating the performance model with Quick Access Recorder data which means that, if there is an engine wash, the data base will recognize that and the model will change. If the engine is changed, the model will similarly update. That way, we always have a specific performance model for a specific tail.

This helps us in fuel efficiency because we then take this predictive performance model, introduce four-dimensional weather forecasts, combine with our planned flight as per the OFP (Operational Flight Plan) and then apply the ‘what if’ engine with external influences on the flight such as, what if there’s a noise abatement procedure, what if there’s an ATC restriction: the ‘what ifs’ can be customized and then a certain speed schedule can be sent out for the pilots to use. AeroLogic uses the Logipad EFB and has introduced the SITA OptiFlight suite into the EFB which can also use eWAS Pilot so the information can be presented both ways.

Figure 3 shows a SITA OptiClimb Speed Schedule which is always planned for a certain weight. We introduced it into the EFB because, when there is an update in weight, there is automatically an update for performance data in SITA OptiClimb.

Figure 3

It’s really easy to use, just telling the pilot the target speed and the speed restriction that have to entered into the FMC for Boeing aircraft. From there, it’s all up to the auto-pilot to fly the speed schedule. Everything else is automated.

Here, based on customer experience, one really important thing is that, if you use this as SOP (Standard Operating Procedure), there has to be a really good cross-check between the data calculated and the data introduced in the FMC because any errors tend to happen in the transfer, when humans are involved.

HOW SITA OPTICLIMB WORKS

As we have already mentioned, the performance model supplied by the manufacturer is valid for each aircraft and you can calculate a model for each specific tail which then normally results in slower climb speeds with a slower speed up to the washout schedule, then you near the true speed again but this results in less fuel flow during the climb (figure 4)

Figure 4

In the climb, the engine runs at a high power setting which means that there is a high margin for savings. What is being leveraged is the margin between the performance data calculator and the performance data of the actual aircraft. With luck and a good aircraft, there will be more savings than if not. With a target application rate of 75 percent, we achieved up to 80 or 84 percent with training, training, training.

In figure 5, you can see a heatmap calculated by the performance model.

Figure 5

As can be seen, if you plot the top of climb (ToC) versus the take-off weight (TOW), for most combinations of Top of Climb and Take-off weight, there is a fuel saving achievement if SITA OptiClimb is used. There are certain weights, say 260 tonnes, with weight with low Top of Climb level, say 290, where SITA OptiClimb will report no savings are achievable (figure in red on the bottom line) but there will usually be savings, the figure shows, of up to 500kg of fuel savings per climb and that is really a lot. Also SITA OptiClimb is fully automated if you introduce it as SOP.

SITA OptiDirect – Cruise optimization

SITA OptiDirect is the other solution (figure 6) that we use at AeroLogic and it also is a machine learning (ML) model but this time it’s about lateral trajectories.

Figure 6

Basically, it’s better/data matching; taking the historic flight data and the system looks at which direct was most often given by ATC (Air traffic Control) in the past; so, you’re using real-time data, and analyzing it for directs flown leading to an output which says ‘this flight plan was flown in the past on twenty-one occasions and the average saving achieved was 71kg of fuel and two minutes flight time’.

All pilots benefit from historical shortcuts which were given to colleagues flying on earlier occasions (figure 7).

Figure 7

In figure 7, you can see results from all of AeroLogic’s fleet of 20 Boeing 777F aircraft as analyzed by SITA OptiFlight. It is also possible to filter when a direct is recommended or not, plus, combined with eWAS, the system also looks for danger areas and where there will not be a direct shortcut through closed airspace. It is extremely easy to use and also visually pleasing.

That brings us to the SITA OptiFlight savings achieved by AeroLogic (figure 8) from May 2021 to April 2022 (12 months).

Figure 8

We achieved an application rate of 83 percent because we used SITA OptiClimb as a SOP: the average savings were 205 kg of fuel per climb which worked out to 2,718 tonnes of fuel over the 12 months, cutting 8,561 tonnes CO2 emissions in that period. From AeroLogic’s experience with our pilots we talk about emissions because they care about emissions. On the same figure, you can see that OptiDirect delivered smaller savings but they were really easy to achieve and delivered an average of 83 kg per shortcut taken which amounted to 226 tonnes of fuel saved over the year with CO2 emissions reduced by 712 tonnes which is a lot for a system that is fully automated if introduced correctly.

eWAS PILOT

At AeroLogic, we also use eWAS Pilot (figure 9) for our pilots who really like it because, the more precise weather forecast data they have for their flight, the less fuel they need to take; it’s a matter of trust.

Figure 9

If the data is precise, they’ll trust the data and fly precisely. If there is a margin for error in the data as presented, then they will take on extra fuel or will try to get some extra margins in there. The tool is really great, because the weather data is accurate, it is introduced with ATC restrictions, is highly intuitive and it’s managed by exception, so shows the pilot when there is something out of line.

SITA OptiClimb and SITA OptiDirect are fully integrated in the eWAS Pilot App as can be seen in figure 10.

Figure 10

This is the same output that AeroLogic introduced in our Logipad EFB. It just has to be taken over in the FMC, in this case for Boeing aircraft, where it’s really easy to enter and, if you have checked the entry, from here on, its automatic for achieving fuel savings.

SITA OptiDirect also has a really nice implementation (figure 11).

Figure 11

The route for the aircraft is the solid white line: the dashed lines are recommended directs from the system. The pilot can click on each dashed line which will then turn green and show past achievements; including how often it has been flown, how much fuel it can save and how much time it can save, taking the weather also into account. Thereafter, the pilot can ask ATC for the direct and normally will get it, if requested politely, in most parts of the world.

That is a brief look into how AeroLogic has applied modern, data driven software applications – predictive analytics and real time weather information – to improve aircraft and on-time performance as well as achieve significant savings in fuel consumption while reducing CO2 emissions.

Ends…

Contributor’s Details

Frank Appeltrath

Frank is Head of Flight OPS & Support at AeroLogic GmbH,and the responsible Manager for the entire airline operation at AeroLogic. With 35 years of experience in aviation, Frank and his team focus on the control and monitoring of all of AeroLogic’s flights, including contingency handling, postflight analysis and emergency response within a highly developed and automated IT environment.

Vincent Toegel

As fleet Chief B777 at AeroLogic GmbH, Vincent is a Training Captain on the B777 with a total of 21 years aviation experience, including more than 10 years holding management positions. He is a member of the DHL Fuel Optimization Program and responsible for Flight Efficiency at Aerologic, being very passionate about Fuel Efficiency and Software due to his academic background in Electronics Engineering and Telecommunications.

AeroLogic

A joint-venture between DHL and Lufthansa Cargo, AeroLogic is a German cargo airline which operates scheduled international and long-haul cargo services out of its hubs at Leipzig/Halle Airport and Frankfurt Airport with 21 Boeing 777F aircraft. Operations are broadly in two parts. From Monday to Friday it mainly flies to Asia, serving the DHL Express network. On weekends, it mainly operates to the United States on behalf of Lufthansa Cargo

SITA FOR AIRCRAFT

SITA For Aircraft represents the aircraft arm of SITA, with solutions for airlines, airports, aircraft and governments and delivering the promise of the connected aircraft to more than 400 airlines on 17,000 aircraft globally. One hundred percent owned by the air transport industry, SITA, with its service team of more than 2,000 people around the world, powers a digital shift to make air travel more connected, seamless, efficient, safe and sustainable.

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