Innovations in ICT for paperless flights and enhanced passenger experience.
Founded in 2001, Irish aviation software company Flightman has evolved from its origins in consultancy to become a now-leading global provider of “connected aircraft” solutions to airlines. The company’s innovative software captures data from three activities that traditionally have been managed in silos: flight operations, in-flight service, and technical and engineering information. The combined data is then fed into a central repository and used to drive productivity and operational improvements.
“Historically, we started out by dealing with flight operations,” explains Joe McGoldrick, Chief Executive Officer of Flightman. Joe’s previous experience includes high-level positions such as Chief Technology Officer at Airtel-ATN, and his professional profile is typical of Flightman’s senior management and board members – former aviation professionals with a combined experience of over 80 years’ domain knowledge in the industry.
“Initially, we provided consultancy services to airlines, and this gave us an entry point into the business,” says Joe. “Now we focus on product and providing our customers with a holistic view of what is happening on the aircraft. From that, we take business intelligence and enable our customers to streamline and optimise their flight operations.”
Flightman uses technology to automate processes
The company’s products represent an application of emerging technologies that can automate existing processes in the cockpit, cabin and on the ramp, in turn reducing airline operations and maintenance costs. Flightman has won several awards since its foundation, such as the ICT Excellence Award for “Best Example of Mobile Internet Technology”, recognising its technology as state-of-the-art.
The market opportunity for Flightman’s integrated service offering was made possible by a step change in the aviation industry in 2011, when US flights watchdog the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved pilots’ use of tablets in the cockpit.
“This was a major driver for change,” says Joe. “The FAA’s move really opened the door and lowered the hurdles for the use of commercial devices in the cabin.”
With the tablets, pilots were, for the first time, able to quickly and efficiently access reference material without having to sift through reams of paper containing essential data such as weather information, flight paths, manuals, and so on, using commercial off-the-shelf devices.
Global client base
By capitalising on this breakthrough, Flightman has succeeded in establishing a truly global client base, with customers from Europe, the Middle East (Oman, United Arab Emirates), Africa (Kenya, Ethiopia), South America, and the US. The company’s prospects are bright: “Along with our customers in the Middle East and Europe, we’re seeing a lot of interest in our products in North America,” says Joe.
One of the success factors for Flightman’s expansion is the close working relationship it builds with clients. Joe cites the case of Oman Air: “Before we started working with them, all the pilots used to assemble in a briefing room to receive folders containing up to 70 pages of information for their flight, which they then carried around with them in big flight bags.”
“Through the use of pilot-issued tablets, crew can retrieve the required information for the flight and can complete all the information on board. Through the Flightman app, this data is immediately available to staff on the ground,” he explains.
Flightman’s key innovation is to bring the data from different aspects of the flight into one central database and use it to optimise operational efficiencies. Just like cumbersome paperwork for pilots, “cabin crew used to also fill in a lot of paper reports,” says Joe. Now, using Flightman’s integrated software products, ground crews can be immediately alerted to issues in the cabin.
“To take a couple of examples, maybe the smoke detector isn’t working, or the coffee machine is broken – now using our software, these issues can be communicated by the flight crew in real time, and someone will be ready at the next turn around to fix it,” says Joe. By collating passenger data, Flightman’s clients can also provide enhanced passenger service, a key differential in today’s competitive market.
In essence, the Flightman Solutions Suite is an integrated set of “connected aircraft applications” which, together with the ground server, offer a robust and complete solution. The Solutions Suite provides underlying features to support all of the applications and to enable each aircraft to act as a connected node in a fully integrated network. This means that airlines can achieve optimised regulatory compliance, total operational efficiency and enhanced in-cabin passenger service and revenue opportunities by seamlessly connecting and integrating the aircraft within the enterprise IT infrastructure. Flightman continues to develop its product offering and is currently working on several new product developments in response to market demands.
Up to two dozen airlines are using Flightman’s products, and now the venture capital-funded company “is at an inflexion point,” says Joe. On 2 April 2019, it was announced that Ethiopian Airlines had selected Flightman as their EFB provider. What’s more, the company is “in advanced discussions”, according to Joe, with a major US market player.
“This positive response from the market is validating Flightman’s core business goal,” says Joe, “to design, develop and integrate leading-edge technology in the aviation industry worldwide.”