As the “Industrial Internet” and The Internet of Things (IOT) go beyond the buzz-words of the board room, aerospace manufacturers and industrial leaders have started to implement some of the latest technology to make their manufacturing processes more efficient with reduced errors, deliver products to market more rapidly and finally leverage big data within their own organization. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are both mediums at which the industries are looking at to make work instructions easier and training more adaptive; these applications can provide “green” talent with contemporary tools and improve the production process. Augmented and Virtual Reality experiences have been created for the entertainment and gaming industries and for various marketing and brand awareness campaigns, nonetheless they still a way to go to influence the aerospace community.
So, with early adoption and various use cases testing the productivity gains within the enterprise, how has Augmented Reality impacted the aerospace shop floor, and what technologies are necessary for its adoption to accelerate?
Industry giants like Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Applied Materials have invested in the development of both AR hardware and software solutions and have side projects and secretive labs dabbling with head-mounted wearables, light projections, telepresence or remote assist and SDKs to improve costs, time of task and error reductions on the shop-floor. The good news is that AR hardware and software are improving at a tremendous rate with the help of these use cases and investments. The capability of smart-glasses, smartphones and tablets are making astonishing strides in computational, graphical and sensory power with clearer, higher resolution displays and improvements to battery life enabling easier ways to consume and create AR and VR content. Some limiting factors that developers are dealing with is the amount of available memory and battery power on portable devices. Network latency also requires careful consideration when system architecture dictates whether this content should be stored on the device or a remote content server.
The future of Augmented Reality (AR) in the Enterprise however is a bit clearer today as the result of the recent DMDII/AREA Requirements Workshop in Chicago. At first glance, the two-day event promised to be a worthwhile exchange among parties with shared interests. On one side was the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII), which had invested considerable time and effort into creating a detailed set of requirements for enterprise AR with the assistance of American industry heavyweights Lockheed Martin, Procter & Gamble, and Caterpillar. On the other side was the AREA, the organization leading global efforts to drive adoption of AR in the enterprise. The AREA is to take over responsibility for the requirements document and its future.
But when the parties gathered in Chicago in the beginning of March, the event proved to be more significant than anyone could have expected. Here’s why:
Today, leading organizations around the globe are making major commitments to the process of business transformation. The goal of the reshaping effort is to minimize risk, and achieve greater efficiency, profitability and agility – all vital ingredients for original equipment manufacturers (OEM) in a number of verticals. Engineering Services Outsourcing (ESO) is an end-to-end solution and a strong business case can be built to an outsourcing partner with the expertise, experience, technology and customer focus to deliver benchmark capabilities based on industry’s best practices. Major aspects have channelized a new trend in ESO; the sheer diversity of engineering services, the outlook that most outsourcing will turn toward an engineering Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO) offering and the pressing need for cost control in yet to be stabilized global markets that are still running on budget austerity efforts.
Many of the largest OEMs in North America and Western Europe have considered ESO as an extension of their engineering organization. According to data collected in 2014, India-based providers have accounted for nearly a quarter of the overall engineering services market, which is worth approximately $80 billion a year. The Indian ESO industry has been made up of Global Engineering Centers (GECs) and engineering services providers (ESPs). Half of the top research and development (R&D) spenders operate in India through these GECs.
Recent advances in sensor technology, wireless communications, distributed computing and big-data capabilities are enabling the Internet of Things (IoT) to rapidly transform the technology landscape. IT and embedded electronics are permeating the product and service engineering process, and consumers’ expectations and requirements are increasing just as rapidly. Organizations in all industries must now deal with a profusion of data and devices. This new challenge is creating unique opportunities for ESO providers to create intelligent engineering applications to customize and monitor the entire product experience; ideas like the connected car, real-time and continuous healthcare and remote monitoring of smart homes.
Engineering and designers are creating products that capture their own usage data and establish a continuous feedback loop. This way they can make their products more intelligent, and OEMs can increasingly deliver their products as-a-service and use software applications to define the customer experience and product evolution. Companies typically outsource their engineering and design when they have sporadic engineering needs, need to load balance the work and may have trouble getting to those important projects. Manufacturers reasons to outsource are: (1) They can’t justify having their own engineering team for every design project, (2) they have an internal team with capability and capacity but need to manage spiking demand or they require specialized expertise.
ESO will be characterized by the “integration of manufacturing” as a required field of expertise. As the industrial internet becomes more secure, industrial automation, robotics and 3D printing will enable a new dynamic and a new knowledge and talent base. As an example with GE Aviation and Honeywell, the resource landscape is changing. Half of their workforce consists of Chemical / Electronic / Mechanical engineers, the other half are software engineers. This integration requires a newly defined skill set and expertise consistent to with the digital approach to manufacturing.
A wave of engineering services should present itself in two phases in the coming years:
Managed, Shared or BPO Services contracts will move away from the traditional engagement models to demand more value and tighter service integration including pricing aligned with client business metrics, stringent service-level agreements and key performance indicators. This way the business model will shift toward greater sharing of risk and reward between the customer and the service provider.
There seems to be a universal agreement in recent years that the worldwide eLearning market will show fast growth in the coming years. The worldwide market for Self-Paced eLearning practices reached $35.6 billion at the end of 2011 and the annual worldwide growth rate was nearly 7.9 % (Ambient Insights 2016) since then. Self-Paced eLearning is education in which learners study at their own pace with no fixed starting date in common with other students enrolled in the program. However, there’s certainly a fixed overall completion timeframe. Therefore, employees whether in front office or on the shop floor, not only do they have the devices to consume training in real time, but it’s accessed at the time of need. With the proliferation of easy-to-use, easy-to-publish content authoring and learning platforms linked with a number of mobile applications and the fact that everyone has a device (BYOD - Bring Your Own Device) the learner can be engaged quickly and efficiently. With these various tools and a properly deployed eLearning strategy, an organization can:
The aircraft MRO industry is going mobile – or at least, taking steps to implementing tablets and smartphones for maintenance and training application. Most of the mobile usage in commercial aerospace has been centered in the cockpit. However, many MRO (Maintenance and Repair Organizations) managers are taking steps to adding handheld tablets or phones to an aircraft technician’s toolbox. “Selecting the right device depends specific use-cases and user context.” (Sven Heitsch, Head of Strategy and Technology Information Management at Lufthansa Technik, Aviation Week, Sept 2014). The decision to link mobile devices to back office learning management systems or enterprise resource planning software is also on the rise, but organizations are still cautious due to cultural and integrational challenges. Many conditions apply when deploying new mobile enterprise tools. When developing use cases on the shop or manufacturing floor, the device’s screen size and readability could be a consideration; using these devices to view complex, work instructions or learning content may be impractical in certain locations or environments. Nonetheless, as these tools are evaluated, they have shown to accelerate the learning process and increase productivity across the board.
No industry is immune to the impact of mobile devices and almost any business can take advantages of their capabilities. Obviously, industries where employees are naturally mobile are more affected by the rise of smartphones and tablets. In particular, we see mobile devices impacting the MRO shop floor keeping aircraft technicians “ship-side” and reducing errors and increasing productivity. Cloud computing and SaaS applications are increasingly important in these business applications and these devices are considered mission-critical technology in most aerospace use-cases.
Types of E-Learning
There are many types of eLearning tools and are synonymous with web-based training, distance learning and online training, and just about everyone is familiar with these terms. This type of training allows flexibility, access to colleagues and SMEs and an emphasis on learner-centered content. Here are a few commonly used tools:
As the “Industrial Internet” and The Internet of Things (IOT) go beyond the buzz-words of the board room and technologies start being deployed within industry, aerospace manufacturers and industrial leaders have started to implement some of the latest technology to make their manufacturing processes more efficient, reduce errors on the shop floor, deliver products to market more rapidly and to finally leverage that big data within their own organization. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are both mediums at which the industries are looking at to make work instructions easier and training more adaptive, provide green talent with contemporary tools and improve the production process. Augmented and Virtual Reality experiences have been created for the entertainment and gaming industries and for various marketing and brand awareness campaigns, however both have still a way to go to influence the mass market. So, with early adoption and various use cases testing the productivity gains of industry, how has Augmented Reality impacted the aerospace shop floor and what technologies are necessary for its adoption to accelerate?
Industry giants like Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Applied Materials have invested in the development of both AR hardware and software solutions and have side projects and secretive labs dabbling with head-mounted wearables, light projections, telepresence or remote assist and SDKs to improve costs, time of task and error reductions on the shop-floor. The good news is that AR hardware and software are improving at a tremendous rate with the help of these use cases and investments. The capability of smart-glasses, smartphones and tablets are making astonishing strides in computational, graphical and sensory power with clearer, higher resolution displays and improvements to battery life enabling easier ways to consume and create AR and VR content. Some limiting factors that developers are dealing with is the amount of available memory on portable devices to store digital objects and content. Network latency also requires careful consideration when system architecture dictates whether this content should be stored on the device or a remote content server.
Aerospace manufacturers have adopted many form factors of AR on the factory floor. One of the first aerospace applications of augmented reality is the Heads-Up Display (HUD) used by fighter pilots; it provided a digital overlay on an artificial horizon with a variety of useful information like airspeed, engine gauges and power usage. Augmented Reality allows the user to see the real-world with virtual objects superimposed upon or composited with the real world. Today’s mobile devices have all the necessary components to enable location-based augmented reality packed into one device: a camera, a screen, GPS capabilities, accelerometers, gyroscopic sensors and even a compass. However, let’s take a look at all the form factors in play throughout the aerospace community.
What are aerospace’s commercial intentions with Augmented Reality?
As mentioned earlier, some of the technical trends of IoT, the expanding video game market, as well as a variety of support technologies will improve and enhance AR systems and the overall experience. IoT will have a wide-ranging influence in the areas of information analysis, automation and control for all aerospace companies. It will be useful for information and analysis functions that:
Aerospace Use Cases
There are many use cases for Augmented Reality in the aerospace industry as it has had a long history with the technology:
Form Factor: iPad AR
In 2008, Paul Davies, a research and development engineer at Boeing began working with Boeing Technical Fellow, Anthony Majoros. Up until today, they’ve used commercially-available technologies such as Total immersion’s D’Fusion platform to demonstrate how technicians repairing and building wing assemblies could perform complex tasks with AR running on tablets. The AR group was 30% faster and 90% more accurate on their first try. By, their second try, errors had been reduced to virtually zero. Technicians who had never been on the wing before had become experts. Davies, as a result of his findings, explained that there are building blocks of AR, two of which still need some work:
(Also in Nov 2014, APX Labs announced that its Skylight software platform for smart glasses had been selected by Boeing to evaluate wearable technologies to improve manufacturing efficiencies in manual assembly tasks.)
Company: Lockheed Martin
Form Factors: Smart Glasses (Epson Moverio)
Until recently, Lockheed Martin needed a team of technicians with years of training to wrench on sophisticated aircraft like the F-35. Now, on the advanced factory floor, engineers are using augmented reality glasses and educational software that provides real-time visuals during an aircraft’s complex assembly. Lockheed Martin is collaborating with NGRAIN on a trail in which employees are wearing the $700 EPSON Moverio BT-transparent glasses with front-facing cameras using motion and depth sensors to assist while installing brake components for example. Divisions within Airbus have also been experimenting with AR for over a decade. They were studying how Augmented Reality could assist with assembly and service tasks but judged too immature to implement into production environments for reasons like:
Company: Lufthansa Technik
Form Factors: Mobile Projection
Lufthansa Technik has now introduced a laser-based AR system for supporting installation in the VIP & Special Mission Aircraft Services business unit as part of the “Projection-Based Installation Support” project. The mobile projection system can be positioned and aligned flexibly in the aircraft fuselage in line with the respective installation situation. The installation template is projected onto the work environment for the relevant structural employee in line with the employee’s current job card. This template corresponds to the component contours selected in the virtual 3D model, which are projected onto the structure in the correct position and therefore act as a positioning and alignment aid for the component that is being installed. With no interruptions or other interactions, the employee can install the component with high precision and significantly more efficiently than using conventional alignment tools.
The technical implementation of the laser projection system was demonstrated in the first completed project phase both on a mock-up of the training workshop and in practice on three complete layovers – a result of the excellent inter-disciplinary cooperation between engineering, dock and IT. Not only was the precision significantly increased when installing primary structural connections (T-Rails), but the level of work required was reduced by almost 50 percent. Lufthansa Technik is currently testing additional applications of projection-based Augmented Reality, for example in the form of foiling and painting templates. The use of future digital assistance systems for other departments is also being examined at present for use in a larger-scale innovation project. The preparations for the project are already underway.
General Aviation and Commercial Aircraft - Illegal Usage
By Gates L. Scott, PilotMag 2008
In 2005, it was estimated that the global trade of illegal drugs topped over $400 billion dollars. Some say this totals the amount spent on food in the same period of time. Drug trafficking is the most widespread and lucrative organized crime operation in the United States. Illegal drug sales make up for over 40% of the organized crime activity in the country and in 2006, the estimated street value of cocaine seized by the United States Coast Guard was estimated at $3.1 billion dollars; over 238,000 pounds of cocaine. America’s hunger for cocaine and other illegal drugs drives the demand. Over 75% of cocaine distributed primarily from South American countries like Colombia, Brazil, and Venezuela ends up on the streets of the United States. However, the South American domination in cultivation, processing and distribution has been lessened by drug interdiction programs of the Drug Enforcement Agency, the National Guard, the United States Coast Guard, Civil Air Patrol and South American government’s imposition of severe restrictions on the importation of chemicals essential to cocaine processing and by the destruction of various facilities and processing sites throughout the region, as well as intensified law enforcement measures have made a great impact on trafficking operations. However, organized crime groups involved in drug trafficking share a “core/support” configuration found to be common to all organized crime groups and considering the demand and profits, it still is one of our country’s biggest problems. General and business aviation play a significant role in both the transportation of illegal drugs as well a aircraft ownership, acquisition and registration. The Federal Aviation Administration works in unison with many different services to combat illegal activities that include aviation, however the problem may be solved at a more local level with the general and business aviation communities insisting and participating on watch-dog programs. Drug smuggling aircraft and pilots walk through local, fixed-based operators everyday. The community should pay more attention.
It is estimated that Colombian trafficking organization currently export over 65% of processed cocaine on private aircraft. The remaining percentage is shipped on ocean vessels or smuggled through commercial airline carriers. Cocaine is ordinarily smuggled from South America to the United States for various organizations or groups by American citizens acting as mercenary pilots. Pilots that assist in transportation are normally ex-military, commercial and private pilots, and in some cases unlicensed pilots. The speed and mobility of air transport have made it a quite efficient and evasive mode of shipment among drug smugglers. Many groups have built clandestine airstrips either near their processing centers or along coastlines to permit fast, direct export. It is said that there are over 150 clandestine airstrips and three international airports on Colombia’s north coast to facilitate smuggling activities. Also, transshipments locations that include the Dominican Republic, Cuba, the Bahamas have been used with increased regularity for shipment drops and repackaging.
Individual pilots that are contracted or recruited for this type of smuggling are generally responsible for purchasing and or leasing transportation vehicles and flight crews. Due to the accessibility to aircraft for sale through such publication as Trade-a-Plane and Controller, pilots are able to find a host of different aircraft for the job. Also, pilots are able to acquire aircraft through many government auctions of seized property that allow traffickers options to repurchase aircraft that they were previously forced to forfeit. As traffickers attempt to move as much product as possible to the widest range of destination in the United States, aircraft that is selected for smuggling generally represent the ultimate balance between cargo capacity, useful load and range. The most popular drug smuggling aircraft to reach this balance are your conventional light-twin engine airplanes, such as the Piper Aztec, Piper Navajo, and Cessna 400 series. Helicopters have always been a useful aircraft for smugglers offering confined areas and remote locations for various off-loading operations.
In June of 2006, United States and Canadian authorities had arrested more than 40 people, seized roughly 4 tons of marijuana, 805 pounds of cocaine, 3 aircraft and $1.5 million in cash over a two year investigation as smugglers exploited terrain at the border within national forest or public land boundaries to make air drops after lots of pressure was put at points of entry. Peter Ostrovsky, Immigrations and Custom Enforcement Special Agent said using these air drops, referring to footage of a Bell Jet Ranger helicopter swooping in before dawn to a remote opening in the Okanogan National Forest and releasing drugs to a waiting pick up truck, are a “new frontier” in the war on drugs.
With the introduction of turbine prop aircraft that boast longer range and fuel efficiencies, the category is also becoming more popular for long, ferrying flights. Most of these aircraft can transport at least of ton of cocaine a range of over 1,800 miles and stay airborne for many hours. Larger aircraft as the DC-3 and even aircraft like the Grumman Albatross are very common on shuttle flights to and from transshipment points, however speed and efficiency are necessity in the trade. Therefore, Lear jets and other business type aircraft are becoming the mode of choice, today.
In order to maximize range and capability, planes are often outfitted with auxiliary fuel systems and additional tanks. Fuel systems that are attached to the outside body of the aircraft or the wing must be inspected by the FAA each time the outfitted aircraft prepared for flight. However, in smaller aircraft that require additional fuel requirements, the practice is to install a collapsible rubber fuel cell or “bladder” which is placed in the plane’s fuselage. Once the fuel is used it is simply thrown away. The space occupied by the fuel bladder on a trip to South America makes room for cocaine transport on the return journey. Bladders are under all circumstances, prohibited by Federal Law.
Antiquated, yet affective, specialized electronic equipment is being used in drug smuggling aircraft to monitor law enforcement surveillance efforts as well secure communications within their organizations. Most devices are readily available in the United States and despite their expense trafficking organization will fund the cost of any equipment that facilitates ease in their operation. Devices that are used commonly are state of the art radio equipment, communication scramblers, cell phones and encrypting devices used to prevent law enforcement interception. The radio scrambler will attach to an aircraft avionics system and scramble the radio frequency with a variety of different codes. Only someone with a receiver coded to the particular scrambler frequency can decipher the transmitted message and the message is intelligible to other receivers. The speed with which a digital message is transmitted precludes radio tracking at least by traditional triangulation. So, traffickers can send and receive coded messages without being detected. Avoiding law enforcement is also reliant on specialized devices that include radar altimeters, beacon-interrogating digital radio, position tracking equipment and long range navigation instruments. Strap on night vision goggles can intensify available light by a factor of 50,000 and greatly increase the smugglers vision at night, traveling without beacons or strobes. Various agencies in drug interdiction efforts have very sophisticated systems that include Forward Looking Infrared systems, synthetic aperture radar and real-time video downlinks available for surveillance that is making these transport flight more and more difficult for pilots to fly undetected. Nonetheless, despite these agencies efforts, advancements are made on both sides of the equation that thwart capture and interdiction. With a large amount of the nation’s budget continuing to fund the Global War on Terror, money for upgraded systems, aircraft and other needs to fight the war on drugs has continually diminished.
The effort to thwart drug trafficking is becoming a sophisticated and costly proposition. General aviation and commercial aviation are playing extremely large roles in the problem. As demand remains high in the United States for illegal drugs, a problem exists not only among the aviation community but amongst international governments across the globe. There are hundreds of pilots that participate and perpetuate the problem and coerced to lauder money, fly drug smuggling missions, and diminish the efforts of internation agencies to stem the flow of drugs.
On April 1, 2008, CNN reported a story of a senior Vietnam pilot Quoc Viet Lai, accused by the Australian Crime Commission of taking bribes to smuggle almost $ 4 million of drug money out of the country in previous trips dating back to 2005. Using his privileged airline pilot status to bypass customs, he would pick up suitcases of cash in Melbourne and Sydney and carry them onto planes back to Vietnam. Quoc Viet Lai appeared in court on April 1st and was charged with 40 counts of money laundering. Lai is the second international pilot from Vietnam’s government-owned carrier to be arrested by the commission.
As part of a large investigation by a collection of theorists and journalists, a report on April 11, 2008 by Narco News, substantiated by records obtained from the Federal Aviation Administration, offered significant evidence to the connection of two or more planes carrying shipments of cocaine lead directly back the United States government. A Gulfstream II jet recently crashed in the Yucatan Peninsula carrying over 4 tons of cocaine on September 24th of last year, the owners of which were Clyde O’Conner and Greg Smith, both from Florida. Recent ownership changes just two weeks prior to the ill-fated flight have opened up a Pandora’s Box of suspicion. The Gulfstream II (tail number N987SA) has been presumably linked to rendition flights by the CIA according to investigation conducted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and other related testimonies of government operatives. In a pleading filed as part of a wrongful termination case brought before the United States Merit Systems Protection Board in 2004, Baruch Vega, a CIA asset and a foreign, counterintelligence informant, filed a lawsuit September of last year in the United States Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C. claiming the American government owes him back pay for his work that helped capture 114 Colombian drug smuggling targets. In his pleadings, he claims that between 1997 and 2000 Greg Smith listed on the bill of sale with O’Connor for the Gulfstream II was brought in by the FBI to pilot some 25 to 30 flights between Florida and Latin America as part of a United States sanctioned operation targeting Colombian narco-trafficking. Vega was a major asset for the DEA, the CIA and the FBI.
In what some say to be a connected incident, on April of 2006, a DC-9 (N900SA) aircraft flying out of St Petersburg International Airport bound for Venezuala and registered to a Skyway Aircraft partner Frederic Geffon’s Royal Sons Inc, a company also based in St. Petersburg was caught in Mexico carrying 5.5 tons of cocaine. These two aircraft are now part of an ongoing investigation in a magnanimous aviation deal which sold 50 American-registered aircraft to the Sinaloa Cartel. According to an indictment released over the holidays by Mexico’s Attorney General, Pedro Alfonso Alatorre, already indicted as the cartel’s chief financier, purchased the DC-9 airliner, the Gulfstream II business jet and 48 other planes not yet identified for the Sinaloa Cartel with laundered money, using a company that he controls that own currency exchanges at major airports in Mexico. Two American-registered planes with clear ties to the U.S. Government busted 18 months apart carrying multi tons of cocaine, both flying from St. Petersburg Airport; now that is something to think about.
On February 5, 2008, Howard Altman of the Tampa Tribune reported a story about a twin-propeller Cessna Conquest II also sold by the St. Petersburg company, Skyways Aircraft in August 2006 is now part of an international investigation, confirmed by the Tampa Tribune’s review of FBI and FAA records. As part of a “complex international money laudering scheme” to buy aircraft for drug smuggling, the aircraft was used for cocaine transportation from Venezuala to Africa, according to an affidavit by FBI agent Micheal Hoenigman. Larry Peters, the current owner of Skyways Aircraft, an aircraft broker, instructed his lawyer, Hunter Chamberlin, to take calls from the Tribune and said, “He (Larry) doesn’t know anything” about the airplane being used for drug smuggling. “This is a guy who has a small company, Whatever happens to these airplanes after Mr. Peters sells them, they enter the stream of commerce and the last Larry Peters will see of the airplane.” It turns out that Larry Peters also had connections to the former owner of the Gulfstream II that crashed in the Yucatan Peninsula, Joao Malago. Malago is a business partner of Peters in Atlantic Alcohol, a St. Petersburg company that imports ethanol from Brazil. Both deny any connection to drug smuggling.
In August of 2000, Panamanian officials working on behalf of the United States Customs seized a $1.5 million Bell Helicopter. Several years earlier the Panamanian government seized over $335,000 cash from a Bell Helicopter bank account in the United States. Alleged connection to the Black Market Peso Exchange, government officials said that highly unusual business transactions were taking place involving the sale of a Bell Helicopter. U.S. Custom agents working undercover became aware of the helicopter as they posed as money brokers working on a 2-year probe of a drug-money, laundering ring in Mobile, Alabama. The undercover agents would deposit cash into fictitious bank accounts and await instructions from their Colombian contacts on where to send the money. Oddly enough, the agents received instruction to make five wire transfers totaling $335,000 into the same Bell Helicopter bank account according to the seizure affidavit. The money was a partial payment for the helicopter. As the investigation continued, in 1998 a representative for well-known, emerald mine owner, Victor Carranza, who coincidently has been linked to the drug trade and the right wing parliamentary groups in Colombia, had approached a Bell Helicopter sales agent in Colombia to discuss an acquisition. To raise even more suspicion, this un-named representative, investigators learned had been indicted in the United States for drug trafficking in 1990. The Panamanian company used to purchase the helicopter was a front for Carranza and had been also previously linked to drug smuggling. Bell Helicopter quickly responded that it had no knowledge that the money used to purchase the helicopter was drug money. Between June and September 1998, Bell received 26 payments totaling $1,029,000 which were also credited towards the purchase of the defendants helicopter. All of these payments came from US individuals and companies not connected to Carranza or his company. This is a very unusual way to pay the bill. The United States government used the additional evidence to seize the helicopter in August of 2000 saying that the entire sale was paid for using the black peso system. It is also strange to add that the same time Bell Helicopter was negogiating the sale with Carranza and his representative, the company was lobbying Congress to earn a contract for Plan Colombia, a $1.3 billion aid package that the United States government just approved to help Colombia fight narcotics trafficking. The deal included 42 refurbished Huey II s for a price of over $130 million.
Least we not forget the careers of Berrimen Adler Seal or Jack Devoe. Both accomplished aviators in their own right, but caught up in the trade. Barry Seal, who enlisted in the Civil Air Patrol as a kid, the very organization that today flies reconnaissance and spotting missions for drug interdiction efforts, became the youngest 747 captain working for Howard Hughes at TWA Airlines and was recruited as a drug trafficking pilot by a personal friend who worked for the Ochoa drug smuggling organization. After he was caught in 1972 smuggling plastic explosives into Cuba in a DC-3, he lost his job at TWA and became one of the most notorious drug smugglers in the United States. Initially, Seal flew a number of planes out of Louisiana direct to South America, one of which a vintage Vietnam C-123 military transport (incidentally, listed for sale in a local, general aviation periodical) capable of holding multiple tons of packaged cocaine. Colombian officials would receive brides to open Colombian airspace of $25,000 per flight for a “window” to conduct Seal’s smuggling flights . He maintained many aircraft cementing his Deep South smuggling operation. He had identical Cheiftan Navajos with Panther conversions, two Piper Senecas, and two of the C-123 twin engine military transports, at that time restricted aircraft as they were deemed weapons of war. The business was run like a covert operation as Seal gained respect and relations with the Colombian cartels. “The narcotics cartels I associated with was as professional as any Fortune 500 company” , Seal said in a President’s commission, revealing some of his tricks. Putatively, Seal became a snitch for the DEA and offered to break the Medellin cartel due to the fact that every major cartel was talking and working with Seal. After many hair raising flights and crashes into remote jungles, it is estimated that Seal brought in over $3 billion to $5 billion worth of drugs into the United States. He was embraced by then Vice President George Bush, former CIA Director, as an undercover operative after many convictions and indictments that should have sealed his fate. Seal wouldn’t stop there. With the United States government in his back pocket, he decided to use his undercover drug interdiction work to cover arms smuggling for the Contra operation in Central and South America in violation of United States foreign policy and in return was allowed to smuggle what he wanted back in his then home base of Mena, Arkansas. His planes were in plain view at the Mena Airport for all aviators and airport officials to see with some kept under strict security. His wild dealing caught up with him however when he was gunned down in his white Cadillac in downtown Baton Rouge by five Colombian gunmen after his illegal dealings finally caught up with him.
Jack Devoe, the owner of Devoe Airlines based in Miami operating a commuter airline to smaller cities in Florida in the 80’s and yet another renegade in aviation, drug smuggling. The business was a front for a Colombian drug trafficking operation. Devoe employed 8 to 10 commercial pilots and was involved in over 100 trafficking flights, carrying over 7,000 pounds of cocaine from South America to the United States in just under a five year period. There typical mode of transport was mid-size turbo prop aircraft. Their routes to South America would take them through the Windward Passage to official Colombian airports. In at least one instance, cocaine was openly loaded onto smuggling aircraft at Riohacha airport. In the early 1980’s Devoe shifted landings to clandestine airstrips maintained by the cartels themselves. Their routes back to the States extended over Venezuela/Colombian border, over Haiti and to the Bahamian base on Little Derby Island. There, cocaine was sealed into wing fuel tanks of a smaller aircraft and flown directly to the Florida coast. Devoe sent “cover-flight” aircraft ahead of smuggling aircraft to monitor DEA and Custom Service patrols by radio. These planes of course didn’t carry any drugs and were a great decoy pursuit airplanes. Once in the United States, Devoe’s strategy for clearing customs would be to “…act normally and file a flight plan, come in and land, and let them inspect the airplane…Custom inspectors were far less interested in a lengthly examination of my plane if I came in on a Sunday afternoon in the middle of televised football game. If the Dolphins were playing, that was even better.”
Content management for technical publications, in-flight training, safety management and maintenance oversight can certainly add stress to your operations, maintenance and training departments. With various FAA, EASA or voluntary enterprise scrutiny on fleet operations and training as well as the nuance of required safety management systems for commercial operators, multi-channel and multi-device publishing is not only a need, it’s a must. With tools like Framemaker 12, Abobe Experience Manager, PTC Arbortext, open source SaaS, or other off-the-shelf products, aviation enterprise have plenty of choices to deliver content to multiple users, formats and screens and publish to popular output formats like EPUB 3, KF8, MOBI, WebHelp, CHM, HTML 5 and XML. Various departments can manage content effectively through customized user interfaces for easier navigation and better viewing, configure icons and organizational tools customized to the operator’s workflow, and so on. Technical writers, instructors and A&P mechanics have limitless options to create, manage and distribute content throughout their internal and external networks. Furthermore, both DITA and S1000D have matured to global standards and no longer need the same customization as in years past.
There are also a host of web-based, learning management systems or open-source tools to comprehensively manage curriculum and training content to meet both enterprise, FAA, and EASA requirements. These providers seek to simplify recurrent training requirements, safety and operational protocols and internal compliance issues as well. The problem in large aviation enterprise is not whether you’re working in technical publications or field operations training. The problem is that these various departments have become siloed, act autonomously and don’t have a single source of truth with respect to the “enterprise” content value chain. On the the hand, the problem for a smaller operator or ground handler, for instance, is that they may not have the resources for all of these departments and are still governed under the same regulatory compliance.
With all the compliance scrutiny and the plethora of products and solutions currently available in the market place, aviation enterprise may in fact have too many options to choose from to effectively create, manage and distribute enterprise content. Take safety management for instance; if SMS is required across the aviation industry, future compliance mandates released by the FAA and EASA would certainly impact business functions whether the organization is a PART 91, 121, or 135 or otherwise. Mandates such as Continuous Analysis, Internal Evaluation programs and Safety Oversight could be daunting. Most aviation companies (both operators and ground handlers) struggle to streamline training and operational, safety procedures to meet even today’s voluntary efforts. However, as safety management transforms itself from a recommended best practices to a required business process, aviation enterprise will have to take a hard look at how to implement not only these best practices, but a specific set of guidelines for training, evaluation and oversight. In order to monitor its effectiveness in this case, aviation enterprise will have to completely rethink how they create a comprehensive training program and distribute it to their internal and external networks.
As operators all over the world look to improve their profit-margins, seek cost cutting measures and eliminate the inefficient paper-based or legacy-system based practices, they yearn for an integrated solution to successfully meet not only safety and compliance requirements, but cost effective ways to create and manage all of this enterprise content. And, as all of you working in these environments know, this isn’t an easy task given the limitations of legacy or enterprise software. Even company culture and the endless content/document/learning management products on the market can present integration, implementation and ROI concerns to aviation enterprise management.
So, how can an aviation enterprise streamline the creation of content, manage it to meet compliance and enterprise goals and see clear to a simplified solution?
Create a customized, open-architecture environment that is vendor or software agnostic to accomplish your content management needs.
With content creation in mind, you can create one interface or platform that integrates your preferred, document management tools, learning management tools, CAD software or other preferred or currently used tools in an open-architecture environment tied directly to your enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. This open architecture will condense the business process into one, functioning tool transparent to the entire enterprise for evaluation, analytics and most importantly compliance. Why run time-sensitive reports from 10 or 12 different tools when you can garner that information from metadata and other sources in one fail swoop? Easier said than done, right?
When faced with thousands, or sometimes millions of pages of data to support operations or manufacturing processes, compliance requirements and even the needs of a complex supply chain, it can be difficult getting this information to the right place. However it’s not impossible with bespoke engineering, customized to your specific needs. (Least we not forget that over the past decades, enterprise have evolved from printing documents to word processing to desktop publishing in a relatively short amount of time.) Antiquated legacy or enterprise software will continue to be replaced with a more flexible ways to create and manage data. Gone are the days of feeling “locked-in”. Therefore, through inexpensive software-as-a-solution (SaaS) engineering, aviation enterprise can easily implement this open architecture environment within a 45-60 day process, can garner immediate analytics and reporting that highlights ROI concerns, and simplifies the path to publishing no matter the size of the enterprise.
Enterprise adoption of SaaS (software-as-a-Service) continues to be a hot trend, even though “on-premise” software still represents the vast majority used in organizations today. However, it’s expected that global enterprises will increasingly update their procedures and be more serious about adopting SaaS solutions for content creation and management. The “cloud” has been adopted by aviation organizations to some degree by 90% through the end 2014. With the use of cloud computing, companies have reported saving considerable time and money by reducing and managing expensive, IT initiatives. Organizations across many industries are benefitting from converting their legacy content to structured, modular content that can be repurposed. Aviation enterprise with even limited budgets and small staffs can embark on a better way to create and manage content.
So, what’s stopping you?
Let’s take a boat to Bermuda, let’s take a plane to St. Paul….That song pops up every time I hear about companies who’ve adapted quickly to the complex and dynamic ways to manage, store and distribute content; from creation to consumption. As fast as a speeding jet, enterprise in multiple verticals have more options, tools and platforms in which to improve their efficiencies across many departments. Other smaller enterprise however may not be utilizing, to their fullest extent, their current tools or may be hamstrung by budgets or resources to harness the available technologies that simplify the process of efficient, content management. Aviation enterprise has forced itself to understand how to leverage all the corporate content, logos, graphics and technical publications crowding file cabinets, an FTP site, mobile devices or some random laptop and manage them in one, centralized location.
Content storage methods have certainly evolved, and it’s been repeated time and time again that “cloud computing” has opened up many windows for complex filing sharing in an open-architecture environment. This loosens the noose of many an off-the-shelf, enterprise software offerings that’ve have many companies on the lock down. Content storage is a no-brainer and shouldn’t be any more complicated than an easy, user interface to store enterprise assets and content. So, why not create a Digital Asset Repository (DAR or DAM) that’s yours and only yours; not a repository that requires your document or content to be saved in a proprietary format or one that’s closed to custom integration or specific language barriers. It could be custom built to manage and access digital assets and metadata allocated information and allow for more defined usages and integrations that meet your specific needs and no one else’s. Since mobility and augmented consumption are a significant catalyst for the empowerment of today’s asset management tools, a customized DAR will ease the distribution no matter what the format or the recipient’s device.
As structured and corporate content management and distribution needs increase, legacy content can be converted into structured, modular content, repurposed for multiple usage and maintained much more cost effectively in a customized DAR. This then creates transparencies to your internal or external network, multiple departments, each and every customer or employee. Any enterprise managing a large fleet of aircraft, parts lists, operational documents, technical publications, compliance-sensitive manuals, learning management content for your current SMS program or even your company’s graphic standards and marketing assets, a customized DAR simply reduces waste, materials, resources and personnel costs across the entire enterprise. It improves supply chain communications and expedites compliance. And, your workflow becomes more visible and accessible to the entire enterprise.
Gates L. Scott
Gates L. Scott is a Senior Land Executive with World Fuel Services developing new markets and delivery fuel management solutions through the Front Range of Colorado and beyond. A former Certified Flight Instructor and commercial helicopter pilot and aviation enthusiast, he loves anything that flies!
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