Published in Air Transport World, July 6, 2017
Republished by permission of Air Transport World

The aviation industry is changing the world by changing the way people travel—making it safer, easier and more enjoyable for people to connect with friends, family and colleagues wherever they are. And it’s going to get even better.

A peek over the horizon suggests that the commercial aviation industry is reimagining an air travel experience that is feature-rich, benefit-focused, and passenger-dedicated.

This reimagined experience was on display recently at the Paris Air Show, where the world’s aviation companies showcase new aircraft and advanced technology that will enable air travel’s next leap forward.

What we need now is a new visual paradigm that explains this progress within the five environments that compose the commercial aviation ecosystem. Because reimagining is exactly what the industry is doing. And the results are going to be thrilling.

Five environments—away, airport, airline, aircraft and airspace—are part of a reimagined commercial aviation system-of-systems; an end-to-end ecosystem that’s driven by connectivity, processors, sensors and smart aviation subsystems that are able to leverage them.

The digital integration of these five environments—and the passenger’s transition between them—will make the coming air travel experience more enjoyable than at any time since China Clippers defined the golden age of flight.

Here’s a closer look at these five environments and how they could work in the near future.

Infographic-An End-to-End Ecosystem

Environment 1: Away
Today, your first interaction with air travel begins when you book your flight and check-in from your laptop or smartphone—wherever you are. In the near future, the check-in process will be automatic. You’ll receive an electronic bag token that will link your bag to you and your destination. Attendants will pick up your luggage the night before your flight, and it will be processed and delivered directly to your aircraft or final destination. And you’ll know when to leave your home and where to park based on your personal preferences and risk profile: How much time do you want at the airport prior to your departure? Do you want to have lunch at the airport and shop before you arrive at your gate? In short, your arrival time will be optimized, and more of the air travel experience will be on your schedule.

Environment 2: Airport
Highly integrated airport systems will make the passenger transit within and between terminals and concourses a stress-free experience. Biometrics, for example, will be integrated throughout the airport. Your biometric token will follow you every step of your journey—like your personal security avatar—and further enable efficient passenger flow and on-time departures and arrivals. Your smartphone will direct you to specific restaurants, shops and events based on personal preferences. And when connecting to another flight, your smartphone will immediately direct you to your gate by the shortest route.

Environment 3: Airline
Today, a highly-reliable, global aviation network seamlessly connects all entities in the aviation ecosystem—flight crews, caterers, baggage handlers, airport systems and more—and ensures that airlines deliver the most convenient routes with the most reliable schedules possible. These interconnections will soon leverage vast amounts of data from the latest generation of smart aircraft. More data and data analytics will lead to improved service and a better passenger experience.

Environment 4: Aircraft
Aircraft boarding and de-boarding will leverage connectivity, processors, and sensors for a more personalized, efficient, and stress-free experience. You’ll access the same entertainment options you do at home from your personal laptop, tablet or smartphone. But no component of the aircraft environment will have a greater impact on air travel than seating and other cabin interior systems. Whether you’re sitting in main cabin, business class or first class, the right balance of leg room, seat width, and available features will top the list of high-touch, high-feel expectations. And your lighting, pillow, blanket, snack and meal preferences will be registered in galley systems and with cabin crew to further enhance your in-flight experience.

Environment 5: Airspace
The global airspace is changing. Connected aircraft will interact with smart systems to facilitate collaborative decision making that optimizes airline economics, the environmental impact of flight operations, and greater numbers of aircraft flying within tighter separations. This optimized ecosystem won’t function as fragmented ground systems, airborne systems, and planning tools. It will be a true system-of-systems with aircraft, flight operations, and air traffic control all acting together seamlessly to move more people with greater safety.

Five commercial aviation environments that create opportunities to drive this industry forward. Commercial aviation is reimagining the air travel experience and each of us will benefit in ways that we can’t yet imagine.

And that’s good news. It’s good to know that one of the most complex parts of an increasingly complex world is on the cusp of being safer, easier and more enjoyable for everyone.

Posted by Rockwell Collins