November marks Aviation History Month, and it goes without saying that the airline industry has changed significantly since the days of the Wright brothers.
Big data analytics is one of the technologies fueling the industry’s 21st century transformations. The technology’s impact can be seen in all facets of flight — from engineering and manufacturing to flight planning and air traffic control to customer service.
With that in mind, today we honor the Wrights and the countless other innovators who followed by looking at data’s impact in aviation in some key areas:
Fuel Efficiency — Fuel is the second highest expense for airlines, meaning it’s a critical area to mine for greater efficiencies in the ongoing effort to reduce costs. Embedded sensors can now provide data-backed insights on metrics like wind speeds, ambient temperatures and plane weight. When coupled with operational information like fuel, passenger and cargo loads, this can provide actionable intelligence for improved trip profitability and engender better real-time decision making. If a pilot needs to adjust an aircraft’s altitude to avoid turbulence, for example, data analytics can be used to show the extra fuel burden and associated cost.
Maintenance — Ensuring that all aircraft are properly maintained and flight-ready while minimizing schedule disruption is another area in which airplane-based sensors can help. By providing airlines with a better understanding of fleet performance, these sensors can predict equipment failures before they become a significant issue. For example, Boeing estimates that it saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in service delays and repair costs after data analytics predicted the failure of an integrated drive generator.
Customer Experience — Integrating data across all channels enables airlines to provide a better, more personalized customer journey. As JetBlue’s director of shared development services, Andi Azzolina, explains in the video below, this is something the company has achieved not just among operational employees, but on the aircrafts themselves. By arming crew members with intuitive data access, JetBlue has eliminated many manual data tasks for its in-flight teams, resulting in better crew member engagement across the board and a focus on more value-oriented tasks. Take a look:
Orville and Wilbur Wright could not have imagined the possibilities engendered by their invention, and it’s quite possible that the industry has not yet envisioned all the ways in which data could further transform aviation. We’ll see!
For more on data’s impact on the industry, check out this Forbes article.