Boeing 787 Dreamliner is ‘truly an e-Enabled aircraft’

Artist's impression of a TUI Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
Artist’s impression of a TUI Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

The worldwide Boeing 787 fleet is now averaging more than 400 revenue departures each day. It is also one of the most technology-advanced aircraft in the skies.

Speaking at the recent AEEC conference in London, Matt Bull, 787 Deputy Fleet Chief at Boeing, said that when they started the design in early 2000 the company wanted to connect aviation with the technology age.

“We worked on providing better connectivity to the aircraft and making sure that the data the aircraft was generating were able to provide actionable information,” Bull said.

“We focused on three paths – flight line and ground operations, aircraft and maintenance and engineering.”

Bull added that the amount of software on the 787 has grown exponentially over other aircraft.

“Aircraft health management and integrated maintenance helps troubleshoot problems and integrate day-to-day operations through that interface,” Bull said.

“We also spent a lot of time with our airline operators to make sure the aircraft integrated with what they required. This ultimately took 12-14 months with each operator.”

Neil Shah, IT business partner, TUI Travel, said that the company has 13 Dreamliners on order and nine in revenue service – six in UK and the rest in Europe.

“We had to work out how we were going to do four different deployments. There was also a massive culture change, to get engineering to talk to IT.

“There was no expertise in the world on aircraft e-enabled systems – we had to teach ourselves,” said Shah.

“There were also upfront investment costs and it was challenging to prove and demonstrate the IT return on investment. The e-enabled systems we are putting in place are still being upgraded on a regular basis.

“A key learning experience was to organise our infrastructure and environments early. We also had to test, test and test again to make sure that when the aircraft was delivered we were ready.

“But even then, we were still correcting software the night before the aircraft entered service.”

But what next for TUI?

“We want to connect our mobile maintenance workforce to minimise downtime. And we want to connect our aircraft,” Shah said.

Boeing’s Matt Bull asked “how e-enabled do you want your aircraft to be?”. The options are many and varied.

“Most operators are implementing the minimum number of features and then adding new features over time. An implemented MRO system on an airline is complex. The airline needs to outline and define its strategy,” Bull said.

Neil Shah concluded: “We are still looking at what other data we could take off the 787 – we are currently only taking a fraction of what is available.”

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