As the aviation industry undergoes a digital transformation, data is at the center of everything,   creating new value for air transport operations. Recently, at the IATA Digital, Data, and Retailing Symposium, technology experts came together to discuss the key enablers for digital transformation and the opportunities that lay ahead for the industry.

Shiv Trisal, Director of Applications and Analytics at Collins Aerospace, highlighted the importance of achieving “quick wins” in today’s environment and how data and orchestration enable those wins.

Historically, operational excellence in air transport has been focused in three core areas: safety, reliability, and efficiency. While these core areas will always remain a focus for the industry, new layers of operational excellence were added to the equation as the industry faced the global pandemic, Trisal noted. These elements include resiliency, agility, and sustainability.

“Customers are trying to solve a broader equation than what we’ve seen in the past,” Trisal said. “Several more variables have been added to achieve operational excellence.” He noted that there is an increased focus today on resilience. In fact, as passenger numbers dwindled,  and borders closed,  many operators had to change business models overnight from passenger traffic to cargo. “You can’t make the switch without being agile and resilient,” he said.

Additionally, the industry can’t address these new variables and achieve quick wins without digital transformation. Data and technology have played a key role in enabling air transport operations to shift and deliver significant sustainable benefits. This includes everything from increased ancillary revenues that are generated throughout the passenger journey related to connectivity demands, to enhanced fuel efficiency with data-driven flight planning and decreased maintenance costs from predictive data analytics solutions.

“The common denominator around each one of these variables is the increasing role of data,” Trisal said. As technology becomes more available, secure, and stable, air transport operators are seeing the possibilities and are able to unlock value in areas that they had never considered previously.

The digital transformation that is occurring today and will evolve over the next two decades won’t come only from applications but by building a digital and data-driven infrastructure, Trisal predicted. It will require legacy systems to work hand-in-hand with new smart technologies that can capture data and turn it into actionable insights.

Flight profile optimization is one example that Trisal shared that showcased how the evolution is occurring. While flight planning is evolving, “the reality is that as soon as you print a flight plan and hand it to the pilot, it is already out of date. It requires optimization as the flight is executed,” he said. “That’s where we’ve focused our efforts— on building optimization into a system that is already developed. You don’t have to remove the system or the processes that have been invested in for years in order to take advantage of this new technology and gain that efficiency and sustainability,” he explained.

“Orchestrating between the old and the new and creating those win-win opportunities that enable air transportation operations to continually evolve and optimize” is where Trisal believes that we’ll see more operational excellence and digital transformation in the future.

About Shany Seawright

A senior executive at Strategic Communications Group and Managing Editor of Connected Aviation Today, as well as other publications, Seawright oversees the editorial direction of the publication and managed the editorial staff.