Plus ça Change!

Damarel has delivered aviation IT systems for over 20 years and in that time we’ve seen plenty of changes. The most obvious is that air travel is much more accessible to people than ever before. The commodity approach may have eroded some of the glamour of flying, but the more egalitarian nature is good for airlines, passengers, service suppliers and airports.

GHI anniversary image

The IT to support this rapid growth has delivered a whole host of innovations for passenger services, such as self-service, mobile and automated check-in solutions. This directly affects the passenger processing operations of the ground handling industry. Passengers rightly expect to be informed and in control of their journey, from reservation to destination, with limited landside interaction beyond a bag drop.

On the other side of the business, a look under the hood of IT for ramp operations can also be illuminating. 20 years ago Type B messages dominated aviation communication. Millions of standardised messages raced around the world making sure that data was distributed quickly and accurately. These messages used proprietary networks and special protocols for efficient transmission and the industry was completely reliant on their delivery.

Just how manual the handling of these messages was can be illustrated by Damarel’s first GHA system, deployed in the early 90’s. The brief was very simple – a large operator at London’s Gatwick International Airport was employing shifts of people to tear off messages from a Type B document printer, interpret them and physically re-enter the data into airport systems. This was a manually intensive and expensive way to move digital information between systems.

Damarel’s solution was simple. By emulating a document printer in software we were able to automatically read and interpret the messages to extract all the relevant information. By simulating human operators keying data we could then upload the information to airport systems such as FIDS and apron control. And so FiND – predecessor of the current FiNDnet – was born.

Fast forward 20 years and that simple transcription service has evolved into a fully modular GHA business solution. Installed in over 100 airports, FiNDnet now covers everything from seasonal schedule maintenance through demand planning, turn management, service capture and automated billing. To fit the modern world the system supports a whole range of data exchange methods, including aviation specific protocols such as AIDX, open standards such as XML and even the ubiquitous eMail, SMS and FTP. The range of options has never been bigger and continues to grow.

And the majority of aviation messages? Still Type B. Plus ça change…

1st Published Ground Handling International June 2015, 20th Anniversary issue
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