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IMS EMEA Newsletter Issue 2 - March 2010

 

Direct Action

 

Vol2-6"Let the plane take the strain” could be the motto of every business jet operation. And that's exactly what they do for their VIP and senior executive passengers, whisking them past all the waiting and petty annoyances of airline travel. But behind each smoothly conducted mission lies a lot of detailed hard work by pilots and flight departments. ARINC Direct is now lightening that burden for the operators of more than 2,000 aircraft around the world.

This package of flight-planning and other support services was launched in the USA in 2003 and has since also been taken up by growing numbers of operators in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and in Asia-Pacific.

“Ten years ago ARINC was supplying communications to large numbers of business jets via intermediate providers,” says James Hardie, senior manager for ARINC Direct in EMEA. “The decision was made to combine that with a suite of flight operations services and offer an integrated, one-stop-shop package to the corporate and VIP aviation community.”

At the heart of ARINC Direct is the operations centre at company headquarters in Annapolis, Maryland, where about 50 staff are dedicated to flight co-ordination, technical support and software development. Hardie and his team are based at ARINC's EMEA facility in Crawley, southern England, serving the owners of more than 320 aircraft in the region. “When we're troubleshooting for customers we can rely on 24/7 telephone support from the operations centre and its on-call engineers,” he says.

ARINC Direct offers service in three main areas – flight planning, datalink communications for the cockpit, and passenger connectivity.

“We file over a thousand flightplans a day and can provide a range of capabilities from basic Web-based planning and filing all the way up to a full international trip planning service,” says Hardie. “Specific functions include online fuel ordering, advance passenger information system (APIS) manifests, weather information, Notams, aeronautical charts, and flight tracking.”

Hardie prides himself on the human touch applied to the ARINC Direct flight planning service. “Our flight co-ordinators are always on hand to help the customers,” he says. “You're never alone with a problem, no matter how big or small your operation may be.”

A variety of different technologies are available to support datalink communications to the cockpit and ARINC Direct can support them all – ARINC's own VHF Data Link Mode 2 (VDLM2), high-frequency datalink (HFDL), and both Inmarsat and Iridium L-band satellite. Says Hardie: “Information that can be supplied direct to pilots wherever they may be in the world includes weather forecasts, Notams, departure and oceanic clearances, flightplans from our own system and from third-party providers like Jeppesen, and emails.”

Datalink customers enjoy round-the-clock access to their aircraft at a fixed price. “In return they get an operation that is unquestionably more efficient,” says Hardie. “What's more, we often see them coming up with fresh ideas about how to use the link to obtain further benefits.”

Inmarsat and Iridium, along with ARINC's own SKYLink Ku-band system, are widely used for passenger voice, email and Internet access, and a number of other satellite services are beginning to emerge. “We can facilitate phone and data connections via any flavour of satellite,” says Hardie. “As long as the necessary equipment in installed in the aircraft, we can make the connection. We also provide management services such as call records, and we have some great ideas in the works to make even better use of Inmarsat's recently introduced SwiftBroadband 432kbit/sec service.”

The list of ARINC Direct offerings continues to grow in response to customer demand, according to Hardie. “We listen to our clients and do our utmost to assign development resources to meet new requirements as they arise,” he says. “In EMEA we've made a speciality of helping newly established business jet operations that don't have an established legacy of existing services.”

APIS and preparations for the European emissions trading scheme (ETS) are among recent regulatory developments that have added to the workload of corporate flight departments and created an opportunity for the ARINC Direct team to go the extra mile for their clients.

“Last year we introduced an APIS service that is integrated with the flight planning engine already being used by customers,” says Hardie. “It exceeds the capabilities of the free data submission and tracking facility offered by US Customs and Border Protection (USCBP), and we have been asked to make it available to the membership of the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA).”

NBAA members can register and enter APIS data via ARINC's secure networks and in a format that is fully compliant with USCBP requirements. “The information on crew and passengers is stored securely for future use in much the same way as a frequent-flyer record,” comments Hardie. “This yields significant time savings on data entry.”

Europe's emissions trading rules will affect aviation in full from 2012. In the meantime, operators are required to monitor and record the tonnages of CO2 emitted by their aircraft. “Though the task is fairly straightforward, it does represent yet another addition to the daily ops chores,” says Hardie. “So we're developing a system to simplify recordkeeping for business jet operators.”

The ARINC Direct ETS solution will be integrated into the existing flight planning and, possibly, datalink systems, and will allow supplementary data entry, storage and reporting for the operators' own purposes. “We think that this combination of capabilities will not only make it easier for the operators to be compliant but will also allow them to obtain increased efficiencies in fuel procurement and trip management.”

ARINC Direct serves the widest possible range of customers, from owner-pilots to major corporate flight departments and charter operators. It's a sector renowned for its discretion, and compliments tend to take the form of a quiet pat on the back followed by suggestions for further service enhancements. “Fortunately, we're completely wedded to the idea of continuous improvement,” concludes Hardie. “We're always adding new things, very often as a result of direct customer feedback.”

 

 

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