By Tom Gibbons, chief commercial officer of APiJET, a Seattle-based Smart Aircraft™ airline data service, and president of Aviation Partners 2, which builds on the benefits of blended and split-scimitar winglets to bring new efficiency-enhancing technology to airlines.
The news is out. Press releases announcing APiJET, a joint venture between Aviation Partners and iJet Technologies, and our first full-fleet rollout went out on May 14. We also hosted a five-hour debriefing, demo and field trip for a select group of aviation editors and reporters. It was a big day for us. Hours before we launched, social media channels, and put signage on the doors of our downtown-Seattle offices. APiJET CEO John Schramm and I welcomed reporters and shared how we had come to this day. In John’s previous role as CEO of iJet Technologies, he had built a strong team and a much-needed service that had already found its first customer, Icelandair.
Caption: Myself (standing) and CEO John Schramm (seated) introduced our Smart Aircraft™ data service to Seattle, technology and aviation reporters during APiJET’s Media Day.
Myself (standing) and CEO John Schramm (seated) introduced our Smart Aircraft™ data service to Seattle, technology and aviation reporters during APiJET’s Media Day.

The Path to Diversification and Smart Aircraft™

Aviation Partners founder, Chairman and CEO Joe Clark convinced me to join his team in 2016 and charged me with finding the next big thing that would build on the returns airlines have achieved through the company’s aftermarket advanced winglet technology. That’s no small thing. To date, Aviation Partners Boeing has supplied winglets for more than 6,000 Boeing aircraft worldwide and has another 4,000 split winglets yet to do. Aviation Partners’ blended winglet technology now flies on more than 2,000 business jets. This winglet technology produces measurable benefits on an unheard-of scale for in-service aircraft, modernizing aircraft and upping their performance with superior climb and cruise. It also increases range, saves fuel and protects the environment. Passengers have even been known to request flying on aircraft with our winglets versus without. So, the bar had been set high. After months of due diligence on iJet Technologies, including a solo trip to Reykjavik where I personally met with Icelandair’s team, I became convinced that its real-time data, operations and health-monitoring service offered precisely what airlines need to realize the next big efficiency savings. Not only can the service be uniformly tailored to meet airlines’ specific parameters across fleets of varied ages and aircraft types, airlines own their data. Just as we now have smartphones and smart cars, the path to Smart Aircraft™ was revealing itself.  

Aviation Week & Space Technology Senior Editor Guy Norris explained it well, saying, “…the Smart Aircraft system is designed to be agnostic of aircraft model and applicable to older generations of airliners, as well as current production types. The software-based system incorporates a data-management platform and multiple bespoke aircraft monitoring analytic modules dubbed ‘actors,’ which gather and transmit data on specific systems and parameters.” By finding a way to make aircraft smart, moving data off the aircraft, you can bring the airplane into the airline’s operational efficiency flywheel. Equally important, the system is not subject to certification. Norris quoted Schramm, saying, “It lives externally to the rest of the aircraft, so it receives data and we take action to distribute that data. It is not avionics and it is not embedded.”  

Flight Global Americas Managing Editor Stephen Trimble noted that expectations for APiJET’s business growth are no less ambitious than for Aviation Partners’ blended winglets. For Joe, that means providing the service to 10,000-20,000 aircraft. “It’s all about efficiency with the airlines,” Clark says. “We think they’ll save a lot of fuel with this programme. We think they’ll save in a lot of ways they don’t even know about yet.”

(left to right) Guy Norris, Aviation Week; Stephen Trimble, Flight Global; Joe Clark, Aviation Partners; and Jon Ostrower (front), the Air Current, talk about Aviation Partners and iJet Technologies’ joint venture during APiJET’s Media Day.
Aviation International News Associate Editor Alexa Rexroth emphasized the deployment across Icelandair’s full fleet of Boeing 757-200, 757-300 and 767-300ER aircraft. It’s also being installed on its new 737 MAX. She quoted Icelandair Program Director Gretar Mar Odinsson, “The APiJET solution has delivered value for Icelandair from the first installation. The ability to deliver value across the entire airline is unlike anything in the market today.”
Alexa Rexroth, AIN, speaks with Tom Gibbons during APiJET’s Media Day.

Puget Sound Business Journal Aerospace Writer Andrew McIntosh latched onto Schramm’s likening of Icelandair to the Oakland A’s of airlines, leveraging data analytics for a competitive advantage. General Manager Billy Beane’s use of player data to drive team decisions was popularized by the book (and subsequent movie), “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game.” Other airlines are expressing interest after Icelandair’s successful deployment across its 29-aircraft fleet and its resulting efficiencies. Aviation Partners’ majority ownership in APiJET goes beyond investment to include people and resources that can enable the joint venture to add a few more fleets this year.  

Geekwire Aerospace Editor Alan Boyle quoted Joe Clark, “The airlines know that we don’t get involved in something unless we think it’s really good. … I see the traction happening very quickly.” Clark went on to say that the Smart Aircraft system could cut the cost of operating an airplane by 10 percent or more. He used a real-world example of leaving an auxiliary power unit (APU) on overnight, which not only wastes fuel, but could delay departure for refueling. “You leave the APU on all night in Bogota, Colombia, you don’t want to know about it in eight weeks, you want to know about it in eight minutes,” Clark said. APiJET’s data service relies on software rather than hardware, which means no capital expenditure and quick deployment. The payback can happen after the first month or two, growing to multiples above the per-plane, per-month service cost within the first two years. Boyle quoted John Schramm, saying, “Our whole value proposition is about stacking up marginal improvements on a continuous basis. That’s your killer app: the aggregation of marginal improvements across the company.”

(from top to bottom of frame) Alan Boyle, Geekwire; Stephen Trimble, Flight Global; and Jon Ostrower, The Air Current attended APiJET’s Media Day May 14, 2018.

Avionics magazine Editor-in-Chief Woodrow Bellamy III couldn’t attend our media event, but he interviewed our team the next day. He picked up on the uniqueness of our offering. Our new aircraft software as a service (SasS) can monitor every component and system of an airborne, parked or taxiing aircraft. Bellamy wrote, “APiJET has taken a different approach to aircraft data monitoring, introducing an open architecture software that can run on any onboard hardware server, data in multiple formats and send data over any available internet protocol (IP) communication link. … The modules that APiJET uses send specific onboard aircraft data and alerts about system or component status to applications and analytics already used by an airline and creates a configuration loop through IP links between the air and the ground. It can make multiple independent data delivery decisions in real time as well.”

Watch for More News

We will have a presence at two international shows in June: the Airline & Aerospace MRO and Flight Ops IT Conference in Amsterdam and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Aviation Data Symposium & AI Lab in Berlin. You can keep posted on our activities by following us on Twitter (@APiJET1), Facebook and LinkedIn – and hope you will.