Aviation has had to contend with challenges in the past one week. First there was the challenge to Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) and then the crash of an ATR 72 and a near collision of two aeroplanes on a runway. Investigations are still ongoing as the industry is busy battling with the various macroeconomic headwinds arising first from the pandemic and then from the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
The human factor continues to be relevant as there are improvements in technology and their subsequent use and deployment. Deploying technology in aviation makes the passenger journey more pleasant and faster and also gives the passenger greater control over the journey. However, the human factor can sometimes leave a sour taste in the mouths of passengers when it goes wrong hence dampening the passenger experience.
The United State’s Federal Aviation Administration is working hard to determine the root cause of the failure in the NOTAM. The Notice to Air Missions ( NOTAM) alerts pilots and airports of real-time hazards. There has been no evidence of a cyber attack. However, thousands of flights were delayed or cancelled as a result.
There are reports that the Federal Aviation Administration’s preliminary investigation points to a “damaged database file” in a key system. There were concerns about safety when the NOTAM went off late on a Tuesday and when it was Wednesday morning, the FAA ordered a nationwide pause on domestic flight departures. Within a few hours the system was fully restored and flights began to resume. A hotline had earlier been opened to address equipment issues, and after flight resumption airports requested travellers to look out for updates with their airlines.
An investigation is reported to be underway by the Federal Aviation Administration after a plane crash between two planes was averted at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. A Boeing 737 plane had been set to take off from the busy airport at around 8:45 p.m. when it was frantically ordered by air controllers to stop after they noticed another plane, operated by another airline, crossing in front of the departing jetliner, it was reported.
The Boeing 737 plane was able to stop safely, with the abrupt halt felt by passengers onboard. A passenger was reported to have said: “I felt the adrenaline and there was total quiet on the plane and then there was relief when the plane came to a stop.”
The flight, which had 145 passengers on board and six crew members, returned to the gate following the incident and customers had to deplane the aircraft. An industry expert speaking on this incident was quoted as saying : “This happens occasionally where there will be a misunderstanding about an air traffic control clearance and somebody will end up having to reject a takeoff.”
While the human factor may be an error or mistake, however, there are cases of deliberate effort to compromise the functioning of a technology system. Here cyber attack comes to mind. No industry or sector seems to be immune from cyberattacks and there are no signs that they are beginning to decline. Hackers target sensitive information such as organisational, client, and financial data, as well as intellectual property (IP) and proprietary functions; and traditional perimeter based security models are no longer sufficient to address the increasing concerns over cybersecurity.
To address the challenge of malicious activity that may compromise data, a zero trust security model is coming forward as a long term solution for organisations. This means that only authorised individuals can gain entry into selected applications. As a result there is no implicit trust granted to an individual as a user just because the individual is behind the firewall of an organisation. Zero trust looks at trust as a vulnerability. On gaining access to a network, users, including attackers, can move laterally and access or exfiltrate data.
There are very many uses of technology that add to a positive passenger experience at the airport from curb to gate. Biometrics help reduce queuing time at the airport and reduce anxiety in the mind of the passenger. Technology allows the passenger to get all the needed information at the airport. This can enable the individual, book a parking space, locate a parked vehicle in the parking lot, and make Food and Beverage requests that can be delivered by a robot while inside the terminal building and even make shopping possible also.
In all these the human factor remains very important and the emphasis in the mind of the airport authority while deploying technology for passenger experience should be seamlessness, predictability and personalisation.
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