Aircraft IT OPS Issue 57: Autumn 2023

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Aircraft IT OPS Issue 57: Autumn 2023 Cover

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CASE STUDY: KLM implemented a new airports and obstacles database

Author: René Dijkema, Flight operations Engineer, KLM and Bruno Ramioulle, Partner, ACFTPERFO

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René Dijkema, Flight Operations Engineer, KLM and Bruno Ramioulle, Partner, ACFTPERFO share a safety focused implementation for take-off and landing performance computations

With the pace of change today, those who are involved with IT matters in aviation will be more or less constantly interested in what is available and whether it might be something that could suit their purposes. In this case study, we’re bringing you the experience from both sides of KLM’s recent implementation of a new take-off and landing performance solution; both sides being the airline itself and the IT provider whose solution was selected. But first, a brief profile of KLM.

KLM

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has been operating for more than one hundred years and is a major European legacy network carrier operating from its Amsterdam base with a European fleet of Boeing 737s plus an intercontinental fleet of Boeing 777s, 787s and Airbus A330s. There is also a subsidiary airline called KLM Cityhopper operating an Embraer fleet in Europe. The airline is part of the Air France KLM group.

ISSUES THAT KLM FACED

A couple of years ago, the airline started a project that was mainly motivated by safety considerations; they wanted to reduce erroneous take-off data by reducing the total number of manual actions required for back-office and flight crew and, through visualization, creating more awareness of margins among flight crew. This was the main driving force for the project. Through an analysis within the business, KLM arrived at the conclusion that the legacy system in use at the time, which was an ACARS based take-off performance calculation system, had reached the limit for any further development or any possible improvements or safety mitigations that could be applied to it. So, the decision was made to start a project to transition away from that legacy system and introduce a fully iPad EFB-based performance solution.

Soon after that decision, ACFTPERFO came onto KLM’s radar as already being a supplier to other operators within the Air France KLM Group, and things progressed naturally from there to what is now the solution that KLM uses.

The process started with the selection of KLM’s new iPad based EFB performance solution. A request for proposal (RFP) was issued to a number of different vendors. One specific requirement that the airline was looking for was around the ease of integration with other KLM systems through the use of interfaces; they also wanted an open architecture that would be easily customizable to fit within the existing IT landscape. Another important requirement for the selection of the EFB system was the ability to visualize outcomes from performance calculations and to have that situational awareness for pilots.

With all of that in mind, KLM arrived at a selection for a new EFB performance solution: Airbus FlySmart EFB suite for the Airbus fleet and DynamicSource EFB Performance suite from the Swedish company DynamicSource for the Boeing Fleet. That completed the first part of the selection process.

The next thing needed was an airport database provider to supply the necessary airport, runway, obstacle, NOTAM and Engine Failure Procedure data required for take-off and landing performance calculations. Up until that point, KLM had been generating that material in-house for the legacy system, but part of the whole transitions plan was to leverage the services from ACFTPERFO which, as already noted above, was a well-established supplier to the wider Air France KLM group. This would allow for a lot of alignment with the other operators in the group and that was how the process naturally went.

THE ACFTPERFO SOLUTION

As a provider of airport database and performance software services, ACFTPERFO has more than 15 years of experience. The primary offering is the Airports and Obstacles database, which boasts unique features and enables airlines to outsource a business process that requires specialized knowledge and tools. The business possesses the expertise to provide data and calculate performance for all major manufacturers, such as Boeing, Airbus, ATR, Embraer, etc., and specializes in the development of performance calculation tools.

ACFTPERFO provides an airport database to KLM. One of the key points of this database is the continual 24/7 NOTAM watch. So, a database is provided each time a NOTAM is issued impacting on performance anywhere in the network. This is a dynamic process, as the database is not updated based on a fixed time-defined cycle (every week or every month) but it is updated on a near real-time basis, based on daily NOTAM flows. There is an automated trigger to let KLM know that there is a new database available because a change has happened somewhere in the network and, even for the EFB part of the solution, ACFTPERFO is integrated with Dynamic Source and pushes the database in an automated way, so removing, as much as possible, the operational burden of manipulating data. In addition to that, KLM has access to ACFTPERFO’s proprietary software that allows them to see what is beyond the database; they can open up and see how the database has been built. The solution is not hidden from the users in a black box, it is open, making sure that KLM can work, as in any business process, with a complete business process supplied by ACFTPERFO, but they can still stay in command because they have access to all the data.

The 24/7 NOTAM watch was one of the key differentiating factors from ACFTPERFO; to have that kind of flexibility and speed in data delivery, ACFTPERFO has a main update cycle of three times a day and, in the comparison between solutions, that really was a unique selling point appreciated by KLM. Furthermore, the vast number of airports which are available for subscription in the ACFTPERFO database and which can be activated in an instant, is another key property of the solution as it greatly improves the operational flexibility for KLM by having the performance data readily available for any new airport added to the network.

THE IMPLEMENTATION

The main challenge was that most of the implementation process occurred during the COVID pandemic. KLM started the combined EFB replacement and take-off performance replacement project at the beginning of COVID and was fortunate that this was one of the few IT related projects that was able to be continued during that time, mainly due to the safety related objectives. It was fortunate that there were no delays but, at the same time, the pandemic did have an impact on availability of resources which was a significant challenge. KLM was working with ACFTPERFO as the supplier of the airport performance database but the airline was also trying to introduce two EFB suites at the same time which was a further significant challenge.

There was not much in the way of processes that needed to be adjusted; KLM was already well-experienced with the use of the iPad platform as an EFB and so all of that was already in place when these new performance applications were introduced. The airline was also well-experienced in working with third party suppliers in terms of data services which meant that that part of the project went very smoothly. Furthermore, KLM has the internal aircraft performance expertise required to validate all the underlying data.

For ACFTPERFO there were not a lot of additional challenges for this implementation as they are pretty well experienced with these sorts of deployments. The main difference for KLM was that ACFTPERFO allows its customers to use their own EFB system and any customer specific Engine Failure Procedures at specific airports and runways. If there are some company policies such as regarding restricted areas, because of those policies that they might have, the standard database which ACFTPERFO provides might not be suitable for every airline. In that case, ACFTPERFO can work with the airline to integrate with the EFB. That was a challenge to ensure that the airport performance database and the EFB were fully in tune with each other. Overall, the process went smoothly and the two teams, airline and vendor, acknowledged that the implementation had been a pleasure.

An important implementation step was the data validation process, to investigate whether there were any performance differences between the database that KLM were generating internally and ACFTPERFO’s project. In fact, in some cases there were improvements indicated, while in other cases the two had to work together towards a solution to fit both parties’ requirements. This part of the cooperation also went smoothly. For KLM, having the ability to perform a proper objective comparison between the legacy in-house database and the ACFTPERFO solution proved to be immensely valuable for both parties.

USING THE NEW AIRPORT PERFORMANCE SOLUTION AT KLM

When introducing such a new EFB platform, there are requirements from EASA legislation to also deliver appropriate training: KLM was able to do that using self-briefing training methods. It was also necessary to update the operational manuals with supporting materials which included the transition to ACTFTPERFO as provider of underlying data; that included the different terminology used in ACFTPERFO Engine Failure Procedures compared to the legacy in-house database and some other smaller changes. All the changes were picked up well by KLM’s pilot population. They see the new solution as easy to use and appreciate the effort that has gone into making it intuitive; on the one hand, there is the underlying data from ACFTPERFO; and then the next part is in having that presented well and incorporated in in the EFB applications. That has been the main experience on that front.

With the regulators, there were no real challenges as they were fully onboard with the change-over. KLM did have a demonstration session with the regulators; however, since the project is aimed at the objective of reducing erroneous take-off data, the regulator had no concerns about that. Of course, the airline had to demonstrate full compliance with all the related EASA legislation on which KLM’s local competent authority judged the project. KLM also did their own internal risk assessment which is a mature process within the airline and proved valuable. So, the airline went through the entire pre-approval process for the system by the book and without any major challenges.

FUTURE PLANS

One of the main opportunities that KLM has enjoyed from the new solution is that it allows them to move the focus away from processing their own bulk data, whether that is AIP (Aeronautical Information Publications) data, NOTAMs or engine failure procedures, and to really focus on optimizations for the more critical or difficult airports in the KLM network. That is the power that automation of the process aims for and which allows KLM to provide increased added value to the airline’s specific situations and optimizing certain airports and procedures as much as possible.

A COMMUNITY OF USERS

When ACFTPERFO has a new customer such as KLM, they try to add them into a community of users who are concerned with safety because it is a very complex topic. It is necessary to gather data from users all around the world including from countries that might be a little more exotic or countries that might be a little more protective of their information, or about satellite images. ACFTPERFO fosters a community and emphasizes the fact that they want to get as much feedback as possible. When they receive that sort of information about a runway from a customer, they will challenge it and try to determine what is the truth before eventually the system will be adapted/updated for everybody’s benefit. So, because a customer of ACFTPERFO is flying to that airport, they’ll share that information with the vendor who will then update the database for all users of the solution. That is the idea and ACFTPERFO is also trying to make their customer community alive by holding a forum every year for users. For the vendor, this community of users is really important. ACFTPERFO understands that it cannot be perfect alone but tries to be as perfect as possible together in the user community.

This community aspect is something that is appreciated by the Air France KLM group, that any improvements or corrections are applied to the general data base for all customers to access.

We hope that this article will have given readers some insight into the real case when KLM implemented ACFTPERFO performance solution.

Contributor’s Details

René Dijkema

René has been with KLM for six years, as Flight Operations Engineer specializing in Aircraft Performance (take-off, enroute and landing) with a focus on the KLM Boeing fleet. He has been involved with various performance related projects and operational implementations within KLM Flight Operations over the years, most recently as engineering project lead for the implementation of the new EFB performance suite for the Boeing fleet and ACFTPERFO database product within KLM operations.

Bruno Ramioulle

Bruno, a partner at ACFTPERFO, joined the business in 2017. He is a seasoned business professional with an extensive experience in managing SMEs. Bruno’s engineering and MBA background has equipped him for working in various industries and for his strong focus on Cloud based IT solutions and digital transformations.

KLM

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has been operating for more than one hundred years and is a major European legacy carrier operating from its Amsterdam base with a European fleet of Boeing 737s plus an intercontinental fleet of Boeing 777s, 787s and Airbus A330s. There is also a subsidiary airline called KLM Cityhopper operating an Embraer fleet in Europe. The airline is part of the Air France KLM group.

ACFTPERFO

ACFTPERFO has more than 15 years’ experience as a provider of airport database and performance software services. The primary offering is the Airports and Obstacles database, which boasts unique features and enables airlines to outsource a business process that requires specialized knowledge and tools. The business possesses the expertise to provide data and calculate performance for all major manufacturers, and specializes in the development of performance calculation tools.

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