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IMS EMEA Newsletter Issue 3 - July 2010

 

Clearing the air

 

Vol3-1During the recent volcanic disruption air transport in Europe was paralysed by motes of dust, billion on billion of them. The handling of the crisis itself turned on the interpretation and management of billions of bytes of information, as will the more effective measures being developed to reduce the impact of any recurrence.

Airline chief executives were scathing of the authorities' response to an incident the likes of which had never before been seen in such densely trafficked airspace. But the safety buck didn't stop with the airlines, it stopped with the national civil aviation authorities – and they were playing with a hand of cards that was far from complete.

They had a very sketchy view of the three-dimensional extent of the clouds and of the varying density of the dust within them. And at the height of the crisis there was still no international standard for how much dust jet engines could tolerate without damage or catastrophic failure.

The first problem will take some solving. Satellite sensors can tell just a fraction of the story. The only way to get the full picture is to fly through the cloud, sampling as you go. Airbus is currently working on how best to do that. But that raises another question – should the data be used to develop better computer models, or should every future cloud also be sampled, at no little risk and cost?

More progress has been made on the other front, with the British and Irish CAAs setting their own standards for tolerable ash densities, and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) starting work on development of a pan- European standard. In the future, if the airlines and CAAs can be supplied with reliable information on dust levels they should know exactly where they stand when it comes to assessing the risks.

Standing, and waiting, is what a lot of would-be travellers did during the crisis. And while the airlines complain of the billions of dollars the volcano cost them, their thwarted customers paid a heavy price too. Some of that money was wasted because many of them entered an information black hole during the journey to the airport – only to find that their flights had been cancelled and hours of replanning time wasted.

Even slicker delivery of flight status information must be part of the strategy to deal with repetitions of the Iceland incident. Providers like ARINC offer a way of keeping the passenger in the loop from the moment they set out to the time they board the aircraft, complementing their screens and kiosks at the airport with delivery of real-time flight information to mobile phones, BlackBerries and other personal devices.

Sooner or later there will be more volcanic disruption, in Europe or elsewhere. In the last few months some hard lessons have been learned and are being applied. The airports can play their part by giving passengers what they need to carry out personal disruption management at any point en route to the aircraft.

 

 

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Vol3-2smallPRESS RELEASE: ARINC's Announces New International Division

Annapolis, MD, July 28, 2010 — John M. Belcher, Chairman and CEO of ARINC Incorporated, today announced the creation of a new International Division to lead the company's operations in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

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