Perspective

In the airline industry, we talk a lot about various critical points that make an airline operate more efficiently and profitably. We often center around areas such as network planning, revenue management, pricing, customer experience, merchandising, etc. However, there are two essential components airlines must focus on … aircraft and flight crew. At the heart of all successful airlines is the aircraft and crew they rely on to move people and cargo from point A to point B. Without them, none of these other areas would matter.

Cleary, modern aircraft yield operational efficiencies and help airlines maintain a competitive edge. However, the expense of new aircraft can be rather off-putting. There are long-lived, on-going debates about leasing over buying aircraft as well as what types of aircraft to introduce into an airline’s fleet and when to retire certain aircraft.

And then there is the expense of operating and maintaining aircraft. Does it make sense to keep the older aircraft with higher maintenance costs but lower ownership costs? Or do new aircraft with lower initial operating costs have more appeal? Of course, leasing helps relieve some of these expenses, but is that the best route long term? Perhaps it is a combination.

Dr. Massoud Bazargan, a professor and department chair at the College of Business at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University has conducted extensive research in the area of aircraft replacement strategies, and he has shared with us his mathematical model that airline executives can apply to determine when to buy, lease and retire aircraft.

His approach is not theory based. Rather, he tested the model on two airlines with vastly difference fleet types to examine whether their aircraft replacement strategies would differ with fleet diversity, business model, network size and philosophical business approach.

I welcome you to read his findings in our special section, which covers a variety of topics around aircraft and cockpit crew.

On the crew front, a very controversial topic in recent years centers around crew fatigue. It appears to have picked up momentum after the crash of Colgan Air four years ago that took the lives of 50 people. The National Transportation Safety Board believes the cause, in part, was pilot fatigue.

Airlines are responsible for complying with laws surrounding crew fatigue and implementing standards and practices around the prevention of crewmember fatigue. But it goes well beyond regulatory requirements. There need to be solid practices in place that are continually managed and monitored.

It goes without saying that we all — airlines, passengers and any aviation-related entity alike — take air safety seriously. As a technology and services partner to airlines around the world, we feel every bit as responsible to help our customers resolve the issues surrounding crewmember fatigue. We work closely with the Institutes for Behavior Resources, the creator of the SAFTE-FAST model, to help airlines identify, prevent and remediate crewmember fatigue through fatigue risk management practices. Our consulting team has helped a number of airlines construct a strategy to effectively manage crewmember fatigue and, most importantly, to prevent it.

Naturally, it doesn’t start or stop at fatigue in the cockpit. Another area that is steadily developing and widely talked about is the electronic flight bag. Since the beginning of aviation, pilots have carried 20 to 40 pounds of paper every time they fly. That is cause enough to explore EFBs and the technology supporting them. More importantly, giving pilots access to real-time information, such as current weather conditions, clearly improves flight safety.

With the touch of a finger, they can easily remain informed about every aspect of their flight, from viewing charts and weather to looking at camera feeds. EFBs help pilots in many ways. First and foremost, it’s a great tool for taxi position awareness. It offers electronic charts for all the airports around the world for which a given carrier flies, giving them accurate, up-to-date data about their every destination. Some EFB applications also provide a diagram of the airport and place an icon on the graph to show pilots exactly where they are in relation to their destination airport. That level of airport tracking helps prevent runway incidents. And that just scratches the surface in terms of the benefits brought about by EFBs.

There is a lot of activity around aircraft and their crew, and whether it relates to aircraft replacement strategies, crewmember fatigue or electronic flight bags, we are here to partner with you to ensure these and many other critical issues facing your airline and the industry as a whole are addressed and resolved.

I hope you enjoy this issue of Ascend, and I look forward to working with you as you build comprehensive strategies around your aircraft and crew.

Hugh

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