Thinking of buying an A380 or B787, here’s 5 gotcha’s to consider before you’ll be ready to fly:
(1) IT Security
With constant terrorist threats to aviation and airframers specification of eEnabled aircraft, IT security must be a priority for any airline. Aircraft eEnablement introduces a new level of IT security that could easily become an elephant in the room if ignored. regulatory authorities view eEnablement security as the sole responsibility of the operating airline. If an airline becomes a victim of an IT security incident, implementation of robust processes and procedures must be a priority, anything less would make it difficult to guarantee a secure operation.
Airframer’s work together within various industry groups and provide good guidance, however in my opinion there is a need to do more, creating a standard integrated security infrastructure would help airlines collaborate with each other.
PKI security is mandatory and if an airline is new to PKI (CA, certificates etc), this could take considerable time to implement, in particular the processes supporting PKI (administration), if PKI processes are not secure and efficient, potentially this could interfere with the aircrafts successful operation and possibly become an air worthiness issue.
It’s important to understand that eEnabled aircraft will be nodes on an airlines ground based IT network and potentially, could be conceived as a security risk to the airlines IT operations.
Consider this possible scenario of how an IT security incident could impact the airlines operation:
A virus has been detected on-board an eEnabled aircraft computer (say the IFE server), an airline will have to mitigate this risk and this will not be easy …. the following must be addressed to successfully rectify the incident:
(a) Determine how long the computer been infected
(b) Determine where the virus introduced
(c) Determine if any ground based systems have been infected.
(d) Determine if the virus has infected other eEnabled aircraft.
(e) Have any customer devices been infected.
(g) What is the impact to the airlines brand!!
Dealing with this type of scenario as you can see could be extremely difficult, especially if the airline has a large eEnabled fleet.
Security is the No1 priority and should be at the forefront of any airlines eEnabled strategy.
Integration of aircraft with back office systems has been carried out for many years, via ‘SneakerNet’, an affectionate name for walking up to the aircraft with a USB stick or CD.
However eEnabled aircraft are a totally new challenge, they produce considerably more data than any previous aircraft fleet and this data is intended to help airlines diagnosis and become more proactive in detecting problems.
eEnabled aircraft need to integrate with an airlines back office system(s) and integration is an area that airframers have chosen to approach independently, creating a complicated support infrastructure for airlines who operate different eEnabled aircraft fleets (eg A380, B787,A350), couple this with airframers having different approaches to the uploading or downloading of aircraft data, inevitably the overall eEnablement operation will be more complicated/costly to maintain and support.
WiFi (Gatelink) can be adopted to integrate aircraft to an airlines wider network. However this could be a major headache as its impossible to guarantee signal strength at an airport, there is far too much noise in what is a busy environment, movement of aircraft etc. At best an airline can expect 2-3 Mb per min and the reality is there could be a number of large files to upload and download, from an operation perspective eating into the aircrafts turn around time.
WiMax is a more appropriate robust industry solution, however this has not been taken up widely by airports and would take considerable investment to introduce.
Airlines need to consider how they implement an Integration strategy to get a maximum return on their eenabled aircraft investment.
Introducing an eEnabled fleet into any airline will impact how individual internal departments collaborate.
Collaboration is a required to operate these aircraft successful. Engineering, Flight Ops, IT, Security etc. all have independent interests in aircraft eEnablement. Within some airlines this may be difficult to overcome, combining departmental processes for eEnabled fleet(s) and maintaining existing legacy aircraft operations may require a leap of faith for departments who may lose a level of control.
One of the dangers of poor collaboration is that problems are resolved independently, adding overall cost and complication to an airlines operation. For different departments, it would very easily become too problematic, to the extent that only processes required to satisfy their regulatory and mandatory processes for operation are implemented.
Airlines must collaborate within their own departments to maximise their return on investment.
Investment in employee skills is absolutely critical, eEnablement is new and its important to understand that a new type of hybrid employee is required. An employee that is experienced with an airlines maintenance, operation and has IT administration skills. This hybrid employee would need to support a 24/7, 365 day operation, producing what could be a significant skill gap to fill. For larger airlines possibly dual roles may be required to support the operation.
Flight crews also need to be trained on the use of new on-board applications such as EFB, techlog, moving maps, electronic documents etc. If an airline has chosen to purchase different eEnabled aircraft fleets, this will lead to independent training requirements and make the maintenance, recording and operation even more complicated.
New skills are required and airlines must invest in training.
To reach true eEnablement new processes are required that manage an airline’s eEnablement strategy. When considering an IT infrastructure, there’s a strong argument to start small and grow as the eEnabled fleet grows, walk before running is an approach to consider.
Business continuity must be a considered as there are many possible ways for an eEnablement operation to be impacted (see virus scenario above), without good backup processes it might not be possible for the aircraft to operate efficiently and if mandatory processes are not robust this may impact an aircraft’s air worthiness.
Operation of an airlines legacy fleet(s) have to be maintained so old robust processes need to sit side by side with the new eEnabled operation adding more complexity to the overall airline operation.
Having good robust processes are the only way an airline will realise a true eEnablement operation.
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