Last year on the Blog I described how, by giving Apple iPads to our 4300 pilots, FedEx was able to remove the paper pilot kits from our aircraft. (Story here: http://blog.van.fedex.com/pilot-kit-21st-century )
Making this conversion from paper to digital has led to a reduction of weight carried on our aircraft by many tons, the elimination of huge amounts of paper waste, and has greatly improved information integrity—the knowledge that information is secure and correct—by enabling us to make revisions and updates digitally. This is truly a great success story, but we have no plans to stop there!
Since then, we have actively been pursuing other opportunities to put digital technology in the hands of our flight crews. On June 27 of this year, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved FedEx to use the Jeppesen FliteDeck Pro iPad app for ownship position display for ground operations. The app displays ownship position to the pilots as they navigate on the ground at any one of the more than 375 airports we serve daily. FedEx is the first commercial operator to receive approval to use it. That sounds very cool, but what is “ownship position” and how is this new capability significant?
The ownship position information that the app provides is, essentially, a “where am I now?” system for the pilot when the aircraft is on the ground. At first glance, this app appears to be just like the GPS navigation system you may have in your car. But runways and taxiways are big, complicated, and potentially dangerous places to operate, and each airport has a different layout and often different local rules and procedures. Safe runway and taxiway navigation is made even more challenging during high traffic times, low visibility due to bad weather or darkness, or all of the above. During taxi, pilots must continuously observe airport signs and markings while working with air traffic control and with the systems on their aircraft to maintain situational awareness. Ownship position provides a valuable visual supplement to these tasks.
Traditionally, pilots have navigated the labyrinth of taxiways and runways at each airport using paper charts and maps, much like you’d consult a paper highway map in your car. And, just as modern GPS navigation systems in cars have made navigating highways and city streets easier and safer, this new feature will enable FedEx pilots to navigate more safely and efficiently at each airport using the GPS capabilities of the iPad. Below is an example of how this will work for a flight landing at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Put yourself in the cockpit:
After a safe landing on runway 24R, we must now navigate from Z taxiway all the way to the FedEx Ramp facility located at the far side of the airport. Below is the navigation chart that shows the entire route we will be taxiing. Remember as you look at this map, LAX is one of the largest and busiest airports in the world—a true 24/7 operation—so this will not be easy.
To get to the FedEx ramp, we must safely cross an active runway that is being used for departures (24L), taxi through an area where the control tower has limited visibility, cross another runway being used for departures (25R), and finally cross a third active runway this time being used for arrivals (25L). Every movement and every crossing must be carefully coordinated with Air Traffic Control and the crews onboard the other aircraft. With all that movement going on and all of the information being processed by our crews, anything we can do to reduce their information overload has a direct, positive improvement on runway safety.
Now here is what it looks like with ownship position displayed:
We can clearly see the magenta arrow indicating ownship position, as well as the upcoming runway incursion hot spot (HS2) where the FAA has identified a higher risk of potential errors by pilots or controllers. By providing this information at a simple glance—instead of the old days of flipping pages open and pilots keeping track with their fingers on the page—it is much easier for the pilot to maintain situational awareness during ground operations.
Faster, simpler, real-time-updated information plus reduced clutter equal better communication and situational awareness, and that is a recipe for ever safer operations.
FedEx is committed to doing our part to constantly improve Runway Safety. By leveraging the ownship position technology available through the iPad and Jeppesen’s new functionality, we are putting our pilots in the best position possible to operate safely.