Shell Aviation has introduced an upgrade to its SkyPad tablet that connects pilots and apron operators with cloud-based computer systems. The fuel supplier says its improved product enables ‘end-to-end digital integration’ of Shell with its airline customers
Developed in collaboration with software applications specialist SAP, Shell SkyPad was first brought onto the market three years ago.
Recollecting the product’s initial development, Shell Aviation head of operations Thomas de Boer comments: “On the apron, where safety requirements are some of the most stringent in the world, orchestrating seamless operations and safely moving hundreds of refuelling trucks across the globe in close proximity to large aircraft is no easy task. This is particularly the case for our customers, who are inevitably bounded by time: every second saved makes a huge difference to their bottom line.
“That’s why we introduced Shell SkyPad, connecting our operators who provide the fuel on the apron with office staff and customers throughout the fuelling process. First launched in November 2017, our complete and fully integrated solution links the tablet to a cloud-based computer platform, simplifying and speeding up critical aspects of the refuelling process, as well as reducing administration and human error.”
The upgrade to the system, Shell SkyPad Data Exchange, marks the next step in Shell Aviation’s ambitions for “a fully digitised refuelling operation”.
The application has been enhanced with a real-time communications tool that enables instant contact between the apron operator, the pilot and back offices, allowing them to track, update and exchange fuel figures electronically throughout the refuelling process.
This means that aircraft do not need to be on stand for as long as they otherwise would during a refuelling. From the pilot’s initial fuel order to take-off, the exchange between Shell SkyPad and an airline’s own system means that potential issues during critical moments of the fuelling process can be predicted and averted, Shell says.
The transmission of progress milestones throughout the fuelling process delivers “flexibility, transparency and reliability”, the company informs. The airline knows instantly when fuelling has begun and when it finishes, and receives a notification of the final fuel volume after the process is completed. In addition, the pilot does not need to leave the cockpit to speak to the fueller in person.
According to Shell, those airlines that use the new SkyPad Data Exchange can save up to 13 minutes during refuelling, thereby minimising delays in turnaround time and associated costs.
Shell SkyPad Data Exchange is also said to deliver fuel savings by optimising the refuelling process through improved data accuracy, avoiding expenditure on unnecessary fuel.
The new functionality of Shell SkyPad Data Exchange is compatible with a wide range of carriers’ own digital platforms, enabling its integration with airline systems that adhere to the International Air Transport Association’s Fuel Data Standards.
Shell SkyPad is already in use with many of Shell’s airline customers. German flag-carrier Lufthansa is the first customer to integrate the new upgrade into its systems.
Kai Liedtke, head of fuel purchasing at the Frankfurt-headquartered airline group, remarks: “Shell SkyPad Data Exchange, a solution jointly developed between Shell, SAP and Lufthansa, is another important step into fully digitalising and automating the apron.
“The established real-time communication makes the fuelling process significantly safer, faster and more efficient. We strongly believe in the innovative approach of Shell SkyPad Data Exchange and are convinced that this will make a significant difference to the e-fuelling market.”
De Boer tells Airside that, “Collaborating on new innovations and technologies has been a longstanding focus of Shell Aviation. We believe that partnerships can accelerate innovation and our work with SAP and Lufthansa on developing Shell SkyPad Data Exchange is strong testimony to that.”
He recalls the thinking behind the development of SkyPad Data Exchange. “With the aviation industry operating on finely balanced operating margins, our customers are constantly challenged to maximise efficiency and look for innovations that could help improve turnaround times. For us this means continuing to work closely with our customers and innovators across industry to progress the technologies and solutions that will deliver operational excellence.”
Having Shell SkyPad technology distributed around the world enables Shell Aviation to connect to airlines’ systems at any participating airport instantly, after a single integration has been made. This means Shell Aviation can offer a “simple, paperless solution” to its customers, which has added safety benefits during this time when social distancing is paramount to contain Covid-19.
De Boer observes: “With the global aviation industry facing its most significant challenge in history as it starts to recover from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, we’re not content with being simply ‘another supplier’.
“Minimising delays in aircraft turnaround times and errors in data transmission are two aspects that contribute towards profitability,” he continues. “By improving communications between pilots and apron operators, this latest innovation will help to deliver smoother and safer operations for our airline customers, using digital technologies to maximise efficiency and accuracy across the refuelling process.”
Shell Aviation will continue to innovate, de Boer says. “Incorporating digital technologies into the refuelling process is an area where we believe there is huge potential for uncovering greater operational efficiencies. That’s why, in addition to Shell SkyPad, we invested in the only industry-wide, continuous audit of refuelling performance – we call it On Time Performance (OTP) Analytics. This advanced data analytics tool enables us to track every single flight versus schedule and to understand and improve our refuelling performance and adjust where necessary.
“In addition, while most of the industry assesses single-site performance using data analytics at a site level, this is an industry-first solution that tracks fuelling performance across different locations and enables benchmarking and identification of overarching trends to identify efficiency improvement opportunities for our customers. Moreover, OTP Analytics also tracks and records how many flights that arrive late are refuelled by Shell in time to catch up and take off on schedule.”