EasyJet Pushes Tablets, Drones on Planes to Trim Costs

EasyJet Plc plans to replace paper charts and manuals with tablets in the cockpits of all its jets by the end of this month as Europe’s second biggest discount carrier seeks to lower fuel costs and reduce delays.

Removing heavy log books and other printed materials from cockpits will reduce EasyJet’s fuel bill by about $500,000 a year, the Luton, England-based airline said today. The carrier is also developing drone technology capable of inspecting planes for damage, which may be introduced as early as next year.

EasyJet is using technology to help trim expenses and eradicate delays and cancellations caused by mechanical failures by 2020, Ian Davies, head of engineering, said at a press conference in Luton today. An overnight delay can cost the carrier as much as 15,000 pounds ($25,455), he said, and each kilogram (2.2 pounds) of paper removed saves about $20,000 in fuel costs each year.

“We want to improve our customer service and get rid of delays and cancellations completely,” Davies said, adding that seven out of every 1,000 departures are affected by a technical issue, with reliability in terms of maintenance standing at 99.3 percent.

Drones could be used to pick up damage caused by a lightning strike, the kind of incident that can require a full day of inspections, the executive said. Besides the drone technology, EasyJet is exploring the use of 3-D glasses, which would make it possible for a remote team to see exactly what a pilot or engineer is seeing.

Paperless Plane

“We have aircraft positioned all around Europe, so actually getting information back is a bit of a challenge,” Brendan McConnellogue, head of base and line maintenance, said. EasyJet operates 220 jets out of 23 bases across the region.

Trials to eradicate the use of paper on board will start “in the coming months,” EasyJet said. Besides Panasonic Corp. Toughpad tablets to replace laptops and printed navigation charts, the airline intends to use e-paper technology developed by Sony Corp. to replace printed forms that cabin crew need to file before or after a flight.

EasyJet also said it’s working on prognostic tools that could detect glitches early enough to avoid delays or cancellations. In the future, engineers would be able to assess problems while a plane is still flying, and have parts available when it lands, EasyJet said.

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