Unlocking the value of aircraft data

Published: 30 Oct 2017


Airlines now generate huge volumes of information about their fleets, passengers and operations, but often struggle to make optimum use of this asset; Pierre-Yves Benain and SITAOnAir hope to change that.

How did you get into the aviation industry?

Aviation has been a fascination. Getting my visual flight rules pilot’s licence – I fly a small, singleengined aircraft – was a big ambition and has inevitably stoked my passion. When I joined SITA from Siemens, the world of aviation technology opened up to me, and I was enthusiastic to use my data communications expertise in this rapidly evolving area. Everything I learned as a pilot and an academic feeds my work for SITAOnAir, from the vocabulary and attention to regulations, to operational practicalities.

Tell us about your career so far.

My first job was as a lieutenant in Saint-Cyr, the French army academy, teaching electronics as an officer. From there I went to Siemens in Munich for six years. In 1994 I was headhunted to join SITA, which sought people with my experience of network and service management. Today, I am head of SITAOnAir’s e-Aircraft portfolio line, overseeing our newly launched e-Aircraft DataCapture product – akin to a “virtual black box”, which has been adopted by Air France for its Airbus A320 fleet – and developing a connected data management service for maintenance providers and OEMs in partnership with the industry. I also teach strategy part-time to MBA students at the International University in Geneva.

What have been the highlights?

In my time at SITA and OnAir, I have taken on a wealth of responsibilities and been privileged to consult and lead on a variety of research and development projects for which I have received several commendations. Among them was launching a new platform at SITA’s then Equant operation (now known as Orange Business Services) and building the application performance portfolio suite.

What is SITAOnAir?

We are the air travel industry’s trusted connected aircraft service specialist; aviation is in our DNA. Our industry-backed heritage, 100% focus on aviation and our digital-data expertise are unrivalled. We work with the air transport community to support its digital transformation, unlock the true value of aircraft data, grow return on investment, and enhance passenger experience, operational efficiency and airline safety.

What does your job involve?

Data management and transformation systems are becoming increasingly integral in aviation, which keeps my day-to-day role very interesting. Presently, I am looking to expand my team to work exclusively in this area, exploring and developing our ambitions for helping the industry harness the power of data.

What are the major challenges facing your industry?

The industry is grappling with a two-sided challenge in aviation data management. Airlines often take a siloed approach to systems purchasing, with cabin, cockpit or maintenance investments around aircraft being made in isolation. In aircraft manufacturing, there is a broad market of fragmented, isolated product and service propositions, and OEMs attempting to master the complete IT value chain. Combined, this constrains airlines’ aircraft digitisation choices and development – the very antithesis of digital progress. We’re engaging enthusiastically with airlines and OEMs to develop an integrated response to the value chain, supporting more constructive dialogues around secure, seamless and sensitive data-sharing.

How do you see the industry evolving over the next decade?

We believe our open-platform approach, built out of common capabilities, best practices, and our position as a neutral player in the industry, is the way to solve the airline industry’s big aircraft-data headache. This is our message to the industry: we need to see a widespread willingness to share data among systems – across OEMs, maintenance firms, airframers and airlines – for everyone’s benefit. This is the key to enabling both sides to get what they need to improve their operations – for the good of the whole industry.

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