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Building the new technology flight path

Rebecca Merrett | Jan. 22, 2014
The aviation industry is increasingly tapping into mobility, analytics and real-time IT solutions to drive efficiencies and new customer experiences both at the airport and in the air.

Technology underpins almost every part of a business these days, and that is certainly the case when it comes to the aviation industry. Whether it's internal operations or customer facing, IT is at the forefront, making it happen. But this also means there's not much room to mess up.

Gordon Dunsford, CIO at Airservices, a government-owned corporation that manages airspace, says when IT systems don't work it can be catastrophic. "It could potentially mean loss of lives. IT is about helping to ensure more than anything else that we continue with our safety-led way of [operations], ensuring that we have zero loss of separation."

Peter Nelson, ICT manager at Queensland Airports Limited (QAL), says IT is a 24x7 requirement right across the business. "We have to make sure we are on top of our game and have reliable systems and adequate support resources all the time."

To help ensure there are no interruptions to business-critical operations, Nelson is in the process of enabling a mobile workforce across QAL's four airports — Gold Coast, Longreach, Mount Isa and Townsville. He is equipping field workers with iPads so that they can access the systems they need remotely in order to help them carry out their day-to-day activities more efficiently.

In early 2012, QAL decided to replace clipboards and paper forms with an enterprise mobile platform that allows staff to access and enter data through its Microsoft SharePoint system. QAL has deployed about 40 tablets so far.

The mobile platform, provided by Blink Mobile Interactive, is used by aviation safety officers to make sure the runways are clear for take-off and landing; baggage handlers and refuelling staff, who also do daily and weekly equipment safety checks; and customer service officers.

"We estimated the customer service officers and the aviation security officers are saving between one and two hours per person per day [using e-forms on tablets]. These are seven days a week jobs, so the efficiency stacks up pretty quickly," Nelson says.

"The customer service officer used to do lots of miles back and forth to the office to check records for somebody who lost their sunglasses, for example, and if they have been handed in. Now we have a mobile software platform for tablets and they can [access] a lot of these systems from anywhere so they can give people an answer immediately. That's brought us huge efficiencies."

General manager of ICT at Regional Express (REX), Mayooran Thanabalasingam, is also enabling a mobile workforce across the Australian regional airline and developed a number of iPad applications for the airline's pilot training school, Australian Airline Pilot Academy. The applications allow pilots to carry out load control, fill in flight lesson assessment forms and read electronic performance charts.


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