Words by Kirstie Pickering
Companies and charter operators can control almost every aspect of a business aviation flight. Luckily there is a growing suite of platforms and apps available designed to make planning and supporting trips – and customers’ wishes – as smooth and pain-free as possible.
These platforms and apps are a mix of well-established names and new entrants to the market. But a commonality across them all is an almost constant drive to innovate new features, improvements to user interfaces and connectivity with other platforms and data sources.
A complete aviation management ERP (enterprise resource planning) system, Myairops allows all aspects of flight operations to be managed. The system is delivered as a cloud-based platform and can be accessed from anywhere on any internet-connected device.
The system can be used to manage the full lifecycle of a trip – from the moment the demand comes in, through to billing and everything in between. In addition to the flight system, there is a crew app that keeps all staff – pilots, flight attendants and maintenance users – connected. This means the people who are customer facing are connected to the ‘back office’ staff managing all aspects of the trip within the flight system.
“Whilst there are specialist flight planning tools for the detailed planning of a flight – which includes routing, weather, overflight avoidance, obstacles, NOTAMS and so on – before the flight gets close to needing a flight plan, you first need a system to manage the end-to-end lifecycle,” says Tim Ford, president of myairops. “When the initial demand for a trip is received, the system allows the details to be captured, including routing and time information, details relating to the passenger manifest and catering requirements.
“This information is then used to generate automated tasks within the system that allow the people responsible for managing the trip to know everything that needs to happen, such as purchasing overflight permits, arranging fuel, passing APIS information, immigration authorities, and arranging parking and handling.”
When the flight is en-route, the operational team can track the flight directly within the system so it’s clear when an aircraft has departed and is flying according to plan or whether there have been delays incurred. Where there are delays, the knock-on impact on the flight schedule of the aircraft or the crew can be easily determined. All operational information is sent to and from the crew via the crew app.
Last year, the system managed over 250,000 passengers on over 130,000 flights, with approximately 800 crew members using the crew app globally.
Flexibility in any planning system key. Because of this, myairops has recently added more ways to tailor and configure the workflow and information captured.
“Some operations want the fuel information to be captured pre-flight, while others want it handled post-flight when the crew have completed their flying for the day,” says Ford.
“As we have expanded our operations and support into North America, we have added support for VOR
checks and for the recording of hours and cycles across aircraft assemblies.
“A major capability uplift that we have provided recently is completely automated notifications of trip changes directly to the crew without any need for human intervention. Key to this feature is that it doesn’t overwhelm the crew with updates when many changes occur.”
The crew app integrates with the myairops flight system, which then connects to other systems and data sources. The list of connected systems and data sources includes fuel pricing information via platforms like FuelerLinx; Polaris Vocus Flight Risk and the Pulsar fatigue tracking system for risk management, and connections to Spire to get accurate ADS-B positional information.
UAS and Air Support
This summer trip support and aviation technology solutions provider UAS International Trip Support teamed up with Air Support, a global provider of advanced aviation software and ADS-B network solutions, to add the PPS Flight Planning System to its offering.
The fully tailored and optimized PPS Flight Planning System contributes to users’ integrated operations control center (OCC), saving time and increasing productivity.
“Users can quickly create, file and review a flight plan within minutes,” says Mohammad Al Husary, co-owner, founder and executive president at UAS.
“They can also preview a flight log in real-time and get instant access to their complete briefing package via the CrewBriefing app, a mobile version of the CrewBriefing web service. This enables crew to easily access the latest briefing package for the flight, including the operational flight plan or log, along with updated winds and temperatures, ATC flight plan, trip-tailored NOTAM briefing, surface weather, wind charts, cross-sectional wind chart, significant weather chart, and company messages and NOTAMS.”
The CrewBriefing app is compatible with iOS and Android platforms and allows crew to recalculate last minute changes to a flight following the initial flight planning process.
“PPS users also enjoy total cost optimization calculated on a per-leg basis, resulting in lower operating costs per hour and improved cash flows,” adds Al Husary.
“Dispatchers are enabled to make the optimization method used based on specific mission criteria – no two flights are the same and different objectives or constraints warrant different optimization methods. Since the criteria may change mid-flight, PPS also provides the most relevant data in order to act and make good operational decisions in an efficient way.”
The UAS team of flight planning specialists offer 24/7 expert support for PPS users to assist or guide them where necessary. UAS also offers a variety of system add-ons and advanced interfaced solutions to airline operators and business aviation operators who utilize third party aviation software systems.
The Boeing owned platform for business aviation has grown to include much more than just the mobile app used by pilots globally. It is also an integrated suite of products that brings together all the major aspects of flight planning in a single, automated system for flight departments of any size.
The ForeFlight mobile app provides pilots with an enormous wealth of resources – including airport information, live and forecast weather, and Jeppesen charts and documents – to help them complete flights safely and efficiently.
Other products include the web-based ForeFlight Dispatch for collaborative flight planning, ForeFlight Runway Analysis for ensuring a safe take-off and landing based on passenger or payload weight, runway length and weather conditions and ForeFlight Fuel Advisor for calculating optimized fuel tankering scenarios to help flight departments maximize their savings.
“The app helps flight planning with integration, collaboration, automation and optimization,” says Sam Taylor, Foreflight’s marketing manager. “ForeFlight’s integrated app consolidates multiple existing apps into a single flight planning and flight deck solution, while data propagates across devices in seconds so that air and ground crews can collaborate across web and mobile from anywhere.
“ForeFlight Dispatch supports custom business rules to automate portions of the workflow and reduce the workload on the dispatcher, and our next-generation flight planning engine provides optimized routing, fuel burn, safety, and much more.”
ForeFlight has hundreds of thousands of active users in countries all around the world, including thousands of flight departments ranging from single-tail operators to some of the largest fleets in business aviation.
The company releases new features and updates monthly, often based on customer feedback. A recent update includes Global Graphical NOTAMS, where users can view NOTAMS with a new map layer. The NOTAMS are color-coded red, yellow or gray based on type, severity and active times, and can be filtered to only show certain types. Graphical en-route NOTAMs were previously only available to ForeFlight customers in Europe, but are now accessible by users globally.
“Our many integration options are what truly make ForeFlight such a comprehensive solution for flight planning,” says Taylor. “ForeFlight Dispatch integrates directly with a range of flight scheduling providers to import newly scheduled flights so flight planners can start working with them right away.
“Dispatch also integrates with flight service providers such as Jeppesen International Trip Planning Support to allow approved personnel to access a customer’s Dispatch account directly and plan, edit or file flight plans, upload flight documents for crew members, and anything else needed by the customer.
“Customers and flight departments can also aggregate all of their contract Jet-A pricing in one place, allowing them to easily locate and compare FBOs that partner with their contract fuel provider to find the best price.”
Customers can also connect their portable and installed avionics devices with ForeFlight Mobile and deliver capabilities like two-way flight plan transfer, ADS-B weather and traffic, and GPS position.
This EFB (electronic flight bag) is a fully integrated flight planning app for pilots that can be run on iOS or Android devices. The app supplies digital maps and documents suitable for global flight planning purposes.
Key features include a moving map with chart overlays, detailed weather planning that integrates with ATC data, airspace, terrain and obstacle warnings; full weight and balance; and weather cameras.
“AvPlan EFB integrates all aspects of planning into one handheld device,” says Bevan Anderson, the Australian-based founder and CEO of AvPlan EFB. “From setting up an aircraft profile and route planning, to checking the weather or filing a flight plan, planning is quick, simple and cost effective.”
The app, which has tens of thousands of monthly users, offers a standard subscription for pilots who fly largely VFR (visual flight rules) by day; standard plus for pilots who want more features, and premium which targets IFR pilots. The company also offers subscriptions to the AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association) Airfield Directory, the Country Airstrip Guide and a Dynon Skyview add on. The app will soon launch version 9.0, which will introduce changes to flight plan storage, filing and integration.
“Our customers include many small and medium size charter operations, as well as the Royal Flying Doctor Service, Police Air Wing and Defense in Australia,” says Anderson. “We also offer an Enterprise system, which allows charter companies to manage their pilots via a cloud-based system.”
The app integrates with ATC data to provide weather updates and flight plan filing. It also supplies meteorological radar maps as well as other weather models like 4D wind modeling.
AvPlan EFB users have access to three devices per subscription and can sync their flight plans and aircraft profiles between these devices.
Avplan Trip Support is Avfuel’s in-house trip support subsidiary. Avplan provides access to support and service at every point of a trip, from initial planning to final landing. The service allows for complete flexibility, with the team offering personalize planning to meet a client’s specific needs.
“Avplan’s experts use a variety of data sources to create a plan and provide ongoing support for the trip,” says Heath Beasley, manager of operations for Avplan Trip Support.
“These include, but are certainly never limited to, NOTAMs, state department advisories, handler guidance, and general news concerning the destination. Avplan even has meteorologists in-house to provide up-to-the-minute weather briefings.”
Avplan’s website has been designed to be completely responsive for ease of use across different devices. The system’s online nature means using it does not impact internal device storage.
Avplan continues to bolster its trip support systems to capture specific data that helps operators and commercial customers make informed decisions regarding fuel purchases, in addition to supporting trips with sustainability programs and options through Avfuel’s system. This system includes access to sustainable aviation fuel, book and claim, and carbon offsetting.
The main aim of flight planning apps and platforms for business aviation professionals are that it makes it easier for them to do their job. But the ultimate aim must be to improve the passenger experience.
Taylor says, “Avoiding delays, quickly finding the fastest and most efficient route, and easily making adjustments all lead to fuel and time savings, providing passengers with cheaper and more pleasant flight experiences.”
Beasley agrees: “Passengers benefit from a streamlined trip – working as an extension of a flight department means operators have more time and resources to dedicate to the passengers.
“It also means delivering the necessary services at the anticipated cost, along with a plan filled with reliable, comfortable fuel stops for a premier private aviation experience.”
“It is the obligation of every operator to deliver a smooth and pleasurable flight experience to its passengers,” concludes Husary. “The only thing that should concern passengers is how enjoyable and stress-free their flight experience is.”
Flight Pro Connect: A comprehensive trip management software solution
Flight Pro International’s new trip management technology emerged when a group of 30-year industry veterans reunited for FPI’s formation in 2020.
Founder Tom Balousek recognized that his original “one-stop shop” VIP services vision could fill a newfound marketplace void, echoing a 1978 vision when he and his partners established Air Routing.
FPI debuted its custom software Flight Pro Connect (FPC) after two years of development. Controlled access, weather, headlines, alerts, schedules, crew/passenger/aircraft document management, and 24/7 FPI communications are a few of many features merged into software that transcends the pain points of similar industry platforms.
“Our goal is to provide an elegant yet simplified client experience that delivers peace-of-mind, ROI and return on experience, critical benefits today, whether looking for trip management, flight planning or hotel and concierge accommodations, no matter where your travels take you in the world,” says Balousek.
Private aviation owners, operators, and clients of all sizes can benefit from the “comprehensive FPI experience” of continued ingenuity, a network of global vendors, the team’s “time in the seat” together, and their user-friendly trip management software: Flight Pro Connect. These combined features streamline all trip management service types under one roof for private aviation companies.