Boeing Frontiers
August 2003
Volume 02, Issue 04
Top Stories Inside Quick Takes Site Tools
Commercial Airplanes


It's a vital strategy for Boeing Commercial Airplanes that is changing the world of aviation


The air transportation industry has always been about reaction time. Acquiring the most accurate information and making the best use of it in the timeliest fashion is the key in every facet.

Pilots must have the most up-to-date information about their aircraft, including the weather and knowing the air traffic control situation, in order to fly as efficiently and safely as possible. Mechanics need to know the condition of the airplanes coming to their sites and how best to address the problems those airplanes have. Airline flight operations centers need to know that they will have the aircraft and crew they need in the right places for upcoming flights. Ground operations need to know where to bring fuel and catering items to service their gates. And passengers need to know what they are supposed to do if their flight is delayed or they are rerouted.

The information technology revolution has gone a long way in helping bring all the information generated in the air transport enterprise to bear in increasing safety, security and efficiency.

But there is a major shortcoming in the system: The airplane itself, the prime generator of revenue and the prime consumer of operating funds, regularly unplugs from the rest of the information enterprise for as much as 14 hours at a time. Pilots have to navigate based on weather reports that are hours old. Mechanics can't diagnose problems and implement solutions until the airplane is parked at the gate. Airline operations centers don't know an aircraft might have a mechanical problem or lack a crew for the next flight until it's time for that next flight. And passengers on delayed or rerouted flights have to scramble to locate and then dash to their connections.

Clearly, there are major gains to be made. And Boeing is working to make those gains. At this year's Paris Air Show, the company unveiled its e-Enabled Advantage, the effort to tie the entire air transport system into a seamless network. E-enabling creates a common onboard information and communication infrastructure for the benefit of passengers, flight and cabin crews, airline operations, system performance and the industry. It offers significant value in its potential to lower airline costs, improve dispatch reliability, reduce passenger-stranding delays and cancellations, improve passenger services, enhance aviation security and provide real-time situational awareness for both flight crews and airline operations centers.

"The most significant and exciting advances in commercial aviation today and in the future are coming from the strategic application of integrated information management," said Mike Cave, senior vice president of Commercial Aviation Services. "Boeing's global breadth and leadership in commercial airplanes, aviation services, and space and communications make it uniquely suited to create an e-enabled system that offers tremendous value to our customers and to their customers.

"Boeing intends to offer content, applications, and services that connect all the data generated by an entire flight operation—in the air, on the ground and in the hangar—meaningful to all users: pilots, mechanics, flight attendants, operations departments and airport users—and other potential customers."

This e-enabling strategy is so vital that Boeing's airplane of the future, the 7E7, will be the first airplane designed to be e-enabled out of the box. Indeed, "e-enabled" is one of the concepts addressed in the "E" in the airplane's name.

But customers don't have to wait for the 7E7 to take advantage of the e-enabled air transport system. Key e-enabling technologies, such as Connexion by Boeing, the Jeppesen Electronic Flight Bag and Airplane Health Management are in production today.

The best of Boeing

Boeing will draw on the skills and expertise of the entire company to create the e-enabled air transport system. Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Connexion by Boeing, subsidiaries including Jeppesen, SBS International and Preston Aviation Solutions, even Phantom Works and Integrated Defense Systems are developing technologies that will allow users across the air transport enterprise to access and use information quickly and seamlessly.

The e-enabling architecture of the system has four underlying components: the Connexion by Boeing broadband data and Internet services system; a central onboard network integration cabinet being developed jointly by Boeing and Rockwell Collins, known as CoreNet; the Jeppesen Electronic Flight Bag; and advanced ground-based software applications.

"CoreNet will be the 'brain on the plane,' managing and routing enormous quantities of data input and output within the airplane and between the airplane and the outside world, while the Jeppesen EFB will serve as the focal point for the e-enabled flight deck," said Connexion by Boeing President Scott Carson.

Some e-enabling applications and capabilities are available today, including the EFB and Connexion by Boeing. Jeppesen will be a leading developer of applications that will reside in the CoreNet cabinet. In addition, Jeppesen is creating a developer's toolkit, which will allow airlines and third parties to create applications that can reside in CoreNet.

E-enabling brings benefits for all

All the self-help books on negotiation and business strategy say the focus should be on finding the win-win solution, where each side benefits. That's a core strategy of e-enabling—except that e-enabling is more like win-win-win-win.

There's something to benefit everybody in the e-enabled air transport system, from the flight deck to the operations center, from the maintenance bay to the passenger cabin, from the tarmac to the boardroom.

Flight crew: a long look ahead

On the flight deck, the Jeppesen Electronic Flight Bag gives flight crews a sharper strategic picture where they are, where they are going, and what awaits over the horizon. The EFB offers the most up-to-date navigational information, live weather reports, instant access to flight and aircraft data, airport surface positional awareness, cabin-to-flight deck surveillance and more.

Ops center: destroying disruption

In the airline operations center, the Connexion by Boeing onboard server, coupled with Boeing's Communication Navigation Surveillance/Air Traffic Management applications; simulation and analysis products from Preston Aviation Solutions; crew management applications from SBS International; and Boeing's Integrated Airline Operations Center project will give managers and planners advanced knowledge of possible schedule disruptions and a wide range of options to mitigate them.


Cabin crew: focus on service

In the cabin, flight attendants will have access to detailed information on their customers' needs, helping them give passengers a more enjoyable flight. In addition, the airline cabin will be connected to the airline's credit-card verification systems on the ground, freeing flight attendants from having to carry thick wads of cash for beverage service, duty-free shopping and other transactions. Catering and duty-free inventories will be updated automatically, assuring that airlines can keep control of their stocks, improve oversight and make sure every flight has the cabin items it needs.

Passengers: business and pleasure

The same Connexion by Boeing technologies that link the airplane with the airline enterprise also deliver real-time, high-speed connectivity directly to the passenger. From the comfort of their seats, passengers can tune in their favorite radio and television programs, follow live sporting events, choose from a list of first-run movies, exchange e-mail and instant messages with family and associates, send and receive documents and files, play video games, or shop for gifts and souvenirs on the Internet.

Travel plan alterations—whether due to flight delays or simple changes in passenger plans—will become less of a disruption when onboard and ground-based information systems cooperate to enable passenger service agents to arrange new itineraries and deliver new tickets en route to the destination.


Maintenance crew: faster fixes

Boeing's Airplane Health Management program takes advantage of high-bandwidth information flow to allow an airline to monitor airframe systems information across the entire fleet in real-time. Engineers and maintenance personnel will be able to examine system behavior while the airplane is in flight, quickly determine whether repairs can be deferred till the next scheduled maintenance, and inform the airline operations center whether necessary repairs can be completed at the destination without disrupting the flight schedule. In fact, AHM will help determine if a problem is developing over time and allow the airline to fix critical systems before they break, avoiding costly delays.

Ground ops: tuned-in tarmac

On the ground, Boeing's Wireless Gatelink project will use Wireless Local Area Network technology to transmit data throughout an airport environment, enabling instant sharing of data among aircraft, passenger terminals, maintenance operations, baggage handling, ground-support equipment and more.

The e-enabled air transport system is Boeing's vision of a day when the airplane is just another node on an enterprisewide information network, ensuring that everyone in the system has all the information they need to react at the very best moment.



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