April 2005 
Volume 03, Issue 11 
Commercial Airplanes

Tomorrow takes shape

Commercial Airplanes continues its work on making the e-Enabled future become reality


Tomorrow takes shapeAt the 2003 Paris Air Show, Boeing unveiled its vision of an "e-Enabled" future. According to this vision, the entire air transport system is tied in to a seamless network, employing a common onboard information and communication infrastructure for the benefit of passengers, flight and cabin crews, airline operations, system performance and the industry.

Nearly two years later, elements from throughout Boeing have brought to life many key aspects of the e-Enabled business environment. And there's more to come.

"Boeing and the industry know this is coming because of things we are experiencing in our daily lives," said Chris Kettering, e-Enabling program director for Boeing Commercial Aviation Services. As an example of this daily-life transformation, Kettering said his mother was a travel agent whose job was "to be a middle person to help communicate what the airline was capable of providing." But today, he said, with the World Wide Web and Internet sites such as Expedia and Travelocity, "people can do that for themselves—and, by the way, do it quicker, easier and, most importantly, cheaper."

Boeing observed that trend and jumped into the information technology world with a variety of offerings that have provided real value to the air transport industry. Among them:

  • Airplane Health Management, which e-Enables maintenance by letting airlines monitor engine and airframe systems information in real time. AHM is working well at four airlines around the world.
  • The Boeing Electronic Flight Bag, which e-Enables the flight deck by giving pilots all the information they need to fly the airplane in a handy digital format. The Boeing Electronic Flight Bag became the first commercially certified EFB in November 2003 and has been ordered by seven airlines around the world.
  • Connexion by Boeing, which brings the fastest available high-speed Internet, data and entertainment connectivity to aircraft in flight. Connexion entered commercial service in May 2004 and has 11 airline customers.
  • MyBoeingFleet, a secure business-to-business site on the World Wide Web that gives airlines access to Boeing aircraft data such as engineering drawings and flight technical manuals. MyBoeingFleet has more than 10,000 users from more than 130 airlines, who generate more than 5 million hits each month.

Holistic view needed

These and several other technologies on or nearing the market give Boeing a solid footing in the e-Enabled world. But there's still a way to go, Kettering said.

"We saw some pockets of need and how to fill those pockets. But there was no systemic, holistic view of how to add them together," he said. That led to the formation of his organization. Its task, he said, is to "take these building blocks and allow them to work together to further increase efficiency."

Kettering's first technological priority is to help create an interoperable architecture that will allow e-Enabled technologies to talk to each other and to share data.

"What we're going to need is a middle hub to allow the exchange of information between these disparate products," he said. "We're not championing any one system, but we're here to understand the issues and come up with what's best for the customer, to figure out how we can work across 'stovepipe' businesses to put together solutions."

Kettering's first business priority is understanding what airlines really want and need. Airlines are at different points along the e-Enabled path. And, in any case, no airline is going to come in and order a standard "e-Enabled airline" package.

"To be effective, we have to take a consultative approach. We have to ask, 'What are an airline's areas of pain or need, and what can we do to help solve that?'" Kettering said. "It can't be, 'I come bearing a gift of technology,' but 'I'm helping you examine what you need to become more efficient.'"



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