Category Archives: Aircraft

Aircraft

Top 5 Aircraft eEnablement Gotcha’s

Thinking of buying an A380 or Boeing Dreamliner, here’s 5 gotcha’s to consider before you’ll be ready to fly:

(1) IT Security
eEnabled aircraft IT security must be the first priority for any airline as newer eEnabled aircraft introduce a new level of security that could easily impact an aircraft’s or possibly a fleets operation if not implemented correctly.

Air-framer’s are working together within various industry groups and with Regulatory bodies to provide guidance to airlines, but guidance is all they can give as every airline has different infrastructures and systems for operations and it is accepted that eEnablement security is the sole responsibility of any operating airline.

 All airline’s experience daily attempts to breach their security infrastructure’s, eEnabled aircraft will be targets too, unfortunately a successful attack would have a disastrous impact on an airlines brand.

New processes and procedures for new eEnabled aircraft have to run  side by side with existing that serve legacy fleets. Take LSAP software updates for example, this is carried out by a mandatory process implementing PKI security. If an airline is new to PKI (CA, certificates etc), this could take a considerable time to implement, in particular the processes for supporting PKI (administration), if these processes are not secure and effective, this will interfere with the aircrafts successful operation and possibly become an air worthiness issue.

It’s important to understand that eEnabled aircraft are nodes on an airlines ground based IT network and should be considered as a potential security risk to the airlines overall 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 was introduced

(c) Determine if any ground based hardware systems have been infected.

(d) Determine if the virus has infected other eEnabled aircraft fleet(s).

(e) Have any customer devices been infected.

(g) What will be 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.

(2) Integration
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.

(3) Collaboration

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.

(4) Skills
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.

(5) Operation
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.

Related Links

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Airbus, Aircraft, Aviation, Boeing

Dream Start For Boeings 787 First Flight

It was a wonderful experience watching the maiden flight of Boeings 787 Dreamliner as it was broadcast live via Boeing’s webcast.

Seeing the vast Everett buildings brought back memories of my visit there in April 2008. Particularly the enormous size of the buildings where the aircraft are constructed.

B787 Production Everett April 2008

During my time in Seattle I had the opportunity to view the B787 flight simulator, not then in operation, but did give an impressive overview of the flight deck, which I can only described as ‘a visit to the command centre of the USS Enterprise’. Seeing the head-up display (HUD) in a commercial aircraft was a first for me and I was also impressed by the large electronic flight bag (EFB) display.

However now the Dreamliners first flight is over, both Boeing and its Airline customers can focus on the successful operation of the aircraft. Unlike any other aircraft the 787 is unique in its operation. For year’s airlines have operated aircraft safely and securely with tried and tested processes that are applied to new aircraft types as and when they have arrived. Not so for the 787, this aircraft (Also the Airbus A380) is heavily dependant on the digital transfer of information to and from the aircraft.

Ok, you might say ‘what’s the big deal in this day and age, we move data around all the time!!’. Well yes we do but that’s mainly with ground-based nodes on a wide area network. When you have a network of users (350+) on an IT network node that is sometimes disconnected and moves around the world at 35,000 feet you have a different proposition.

For the ground based IT experts this introduces a new set of challenges and for the established aircraft technicians in engineering this introduces challenges of a different kind. Both groups of experts will come from different angles when dealing with connectivity and security, as they will focus on how to secure their independent issues. However they must both look to the horizon to see potential looming regulation that will challenge the most experienced experts to get it right in an operational environment. Getting it wrong may impact the air worthiness of the operation.

Boeings accomplishment of the Dreamliners first flight has to be applauded, I’m sure all those employees seen on the webcast were rightfully proud of their achievements.

Leave a comment

Filed under Aircraft

New Generation Aircraft Challenges

Over the last decade commercial aviation has been engaged in a major transition towards a ‘digital aircraft’. With the next generation of aircraft (A380, A350 & B787), the industry is moving towards the ‘connected aircraft’ or ‘eEnabled aircraft’ This evolution is propelled by the need for increased efficiency and interoperability at a reduced overall operational cost.

In the past, specialized avionic systems provided predictable interactions with the aircraft, the introduction of commercially available ‘off-the-shelf’ hardware and software components has expanded the scope for aircraft interactivity. To maintain the predictability and security of the aircraft, the new systems have safeguards built in, to interoperate without unintended consequences. The systems design and certification onboard the aircraft are handled by the airframe and equipment manufacturers.

However this new generation of eEnabled aircraft has extensive requirements for external interaction. Here lies the greatest challenges. Whether it is aircraft systems transferring data to a ground station, or a passenger in the aircraft accessing a service using the Internet, great care has to be taken to ensure that only legitimate communication or ‘information transfer’ is occurring.

Check this link out for an interesting debate by Bruce Schneier in this area.

Airlines must have the ability to identify individual components, to a high level of assurance, this is important for the security of the aircraft and its operating environment. This is also true for the identities of the people that interact within the aircraft environment, such as pilots, cabin crew, mechanics, and other airline employees. Additionally, it is important to verify the integrity and the origin of data (including software) loaded onto the aircraft.

Architectural design challenges faced by airlines, are to provide a secure, reliable, flexible and adaptable ground based IT environment that will grow with the business and its operational requirements.

As eEnabled aircraft are added to airline fleets verifying the integrity and origin of data flows will become an ever-increasing challenge for airlines. A particular problem for airlines that operate both Airbus and Boeing ‘connected aircraft’, would be, how to create common processes, workflows and data feeds for the different fleets, that will require updating in many different worldwide locations and communication channels.

This new aircraft evolution will bring lots of challenges and opportunities for airlines but providing the right ‘Network Architecture’ foundation will be key to supporting the airline operation of the next generation aircraft.

Leave a comment

Filed under Aircraft

Airbus A380 Simulator

September 2008 I visited Airbus in Toulouse France on a business trip, where I had the opportunity to fly in the A380 simulator. Now I should say upfront that my flying skills amount to zero and frankly this realistic experience confirmed why I should never consider flying as a career.

As luck would have it my captain on this journey was a pilot with many hours of flying under his belt … even if it was only a few feet above ground on this occasion.
What struck me was the joystick, how small it was for such a large aircraft, the slightest movement of the controls would send this 500-ton aircraft (OK much lighter simulator) off to the right or left.
When asked by the Airbus simulator manager to try and roll the aircraft (turn it upside down), I replied ‘you kidding me’, I needn’t have worried however, immediately the electronics assumed I had lost leave of my senses it automatically corrected itself …… Impressive…

1 Comment

Filed under Aircraft