Case Study: Using technology to improve flight ops experiences at IndiGo
Author: Aakash Bhatnagar, Director-Flight Operations Support, IndiGo, and William Hu, Regional Head/Senior Sales Director, Asia Pacific Region, NAVBLUESubscribe
Using technology to improve all flight ops experiences.
Aakash Bhatnagar, Director-Flight Operations Support, IndiGo and William Hu, Regional Head/Senior Sales Director, Asia Pacific Region, NAVBLUE explain IndiGo’s flight planning program, meeting current and future needs.
This article will illustrate how a fast-growing low cost airline in a fast growing market has applied the latest technology to ensure that it not only keeps up with what is needed today but also gets equipped to better manage future flight operations needs and developments while providing flight planning employees/staff with a better experience.
IndiGo, a low-cost carrier based in Gurgaon, India, commenced operations in 2006. Their present fleet includes 126 Airbus A320 aircraft and the airline has started taking delivery of the A320 Neo; IndiGo is currently the largest operator of the A320 Neo. A further 416 aircraft are on order to be delivered in a staggered manner over the next 10 years.
NAVBLUE is a wholly owned subsidiary of Airbus providing a new generation of digital, user-friendly Flight Operations and Air Traffic Management solutions. Combining the best of both worlds, it is fueled by the agility of Navtech and the pioneering spirit of Airbus. The NAVBLUE solutions and services, however, are not limited to Airbus aircraft, but are also for mixed fleets and support both civil and military environments, on the ground or on board any aircraft.
NAVBLUE is a 100 percent wholly owned Airbus subsidiary that was created when Airbus acquired navtech. The company aims to provide end-to-end flight operations and air traffic solutions. 5,500 people work for Airbus’s support function and 2,800 worldwide for the Service by Airbus division which has 13 Flight Operations offices, 14 training centers, ten material and logistics centers and nine M&E (maintenance and engineering) centers that have relocated in Asia. For Airbus operators, NAVBLUE is one of the Airbus Flight Operations divisions so works very closely with airline field service engineers to provide solutions.
There are six service areas for Service by Airbus to provide one-stop solutions, including Flight Operations where NAVBLUE is located. There are other parts of the business as you can see from figure 1. NAVBLUE incorporates a couple of companies plus some other Airbus products in the new business.
A HISTORY OF DEVELOPMENT
In the context of this article, IndiGo began working with Navtech ten years ago initially using their Navigation database services and flight planning software, and progressing, with the introduction of EFB to the fleet, to using FlySmart applications. During that time, the software went from a web-based user-interface for Flight Planning to a server-based Dispatch Pro and now NFP. The flight planning system that IndiGo uses has also evolved over time and has given both crews and dispatchers a very good user experience.
One of the things that IndiGo, like any fast growing airline, values in a provider is prompt and highly skilled tech support to resolve queries quickly. It’s also important to be able to sync across different platforms; IndiGo values the continuity advantages that are derived from the navigation database used for the aircraft and the flight planning software being from the same source. All airlines face challenges when trying to integrate systems (crew scheduling, load and trim…) and getting them to ‘talk’ to each other. That’s often the most difficult part in setting up a flight operations process. With technology evolving and automation being introduced at multiple points in any process, airlines require end-to-end automation and integration with many commercial software solutions used for crew scheduling, tail optimization, aircraft scheduling etc., which their vendor should be in a position to supply.
In an example of enabling automation in practice, IndiGo has recently customized it’s system to automatically generate a flight plan whenever a zero-fuel weight variation of 500kgs or greater happens. Previously, IndiGo dispatchers and crew focused on three tonnes of variation but now the variation has been lowered to 500kgs which has allowed automation of this step in the process. IndiGo, with 118 aircraft today operating more than 800 daily flights and by March 2017 expecting to have 137 aircraft in the fleet, expects to save $1.5 million a year, just by establishing a simple logic for variation of 500kgs
PAPERLESS SAVES WORK AND IMPROVES OUTCOMES
Going paperless is, of course, an important imperative for flight ops systems today and IndiGo went paperless in mid-2015; installing two iPads in each cockpit. Regulatory approval from the Indian authorities was also gained in 2015 following a further year and a half of application and satisfying the authorities’ requirements. Going paperless provided a brilliant experience for IndiGo crews who have expressed a ‘Wow’ factor in no longer having 40 odd pages of manual paper forms in the cockpit with all the time consuming and error-prone processes needed to extract information from paper manuals then figure out what to do. It’s all now extremely fast and easy to access the needed data. They find the new system easy to search; easy to find what they need; easy to complete altitude calculations, reduced runways, accelerations… everything is now available at their fingertips. As well as the capabilities, the way information is displayed and ease of navigation through the documentation has all added to staff endorsement.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
With IndiGo’s positive experience implementing these new systems the airline is planning future software developments such as flight hazard routes optimization and flight altering, flight tracking software and charting application for EFB. The Asia Pacific region is undergoing rapid growth and IndiGo has reflected that in its own growth with plans to add 416 more aircraft to the fleet in the next decade. With such intensive growth, IndiGo is partnering with key suppliers of flight operations solutions who can enable them in this growth
Mr. Bhatnagar is the Director of Flight Operations Support with IndiGo with more than 16 years’ experience in flight operations. He has led deployment of projects like EFB, VOIP and ACARS, and now heads performance engineering, air traffic management, navdata management, company documentation, fuel analytics and automation at IndiGo with a primary responsibility for performance engineering, EFB and automation documentation. He has also worked with the Indian Air Force and Airport Authority of India towards better airspace management.
Since May 2013, William has served as Regional Director, Asia Pacific of Navtech, now NAVBLUE. He is responsible for NAVBLUE’s sales strategy, sales and account management for Asia Pacific region. With almost 20 years of experience in the aviation industry and many years of experience as sales, before Navtech, William filled various roles, including software development manager, solution architect, business consultant, project manager and territory sales manager, for SITA.
IndiGo, a low-cost airline headquartered in Gurgaon, India, is the country’s largest airline in terms of passengers carried, with a 40.3% market share as of December 2016. The airline operates to 41 destinations including five international destinations.
NAVBLUE integrates the product offering of Navtech with Airbus ProSky’s air traffic management solutions, as well as Airbus’ popular flight operations innovations such as ROPS and FlySmart. The Airbus subsidiary will also draw upon the expertise of Airbus Defence and Space coupled with proprietary high quality satellite data plus extensive data analysis expertise; and its services will not be limited to Airbus aircraft, but will build on the independent scope and position of Navtech.