OAI aims to respond fast to meet its clients' global travel needs—but time-consuming manual flight planning and monitoring processes restricted its ability to operate in tough weather conditions.
OAI adopted a highly automated flight tracking solution, offering its dispatchers proactive insights into hazards to aviation such as fast-changing, potentially disruptive weather.
Helpsplan economical, compliant and safe routes in fast-changing conditions
Deliversrapid updates on airport congestion for more effective contingency planning
EnablesOAI to operate in conditions that some carriers cannot, boosting competitiveness
Business challenge story
Extreme conditions demand fast insights
“We fly into some unique places and unique situations,” says Jason Keegan, Director, Operations Planning and Flight Dispatch at Omni Air International. “Whether it’s lifting people out of a disaster area like Haiti after the earthquake in 2010 or the tsunami in Japan in 2011, we always try to go the extra mile for our clients. Behind the scenes, it takes hard work and careful planning to fulfill these kinds of requests.”
Unlike scheduled carriers that fly regularly to destinations planned months in advance, OAI’s flight and cabin crews need to be stationed worldwide in places it visits as little as once per year.
Bob Zeng, Director of Operations at Omni Air International, continues: “Crew positioning is vital, as we need to get our people in place on time to operate effectively and support our chartered flights for clients. Because we fly tight schedules on short notice, diverting to avoid hazardous weather conditions can significantly delay our positioning flights, as well as our main chartered operations. As a result, the weather plays a key role in our flight planning process.”
OAI’s diverse client base covers not just tour operators and other airlines, but major corporations, sports teams and government agencies, who often request flights to locations that are well off the beaten path.
Keegan continues: “Clients often ask to fly to airfields for which there is no reliable terminal aerodrome forecast [TAF] data, which used to present a tough challenge. In the past, performing the necessary weather analysis was a time-consuming process that involved manually collating information from up to five separate weather information services.
“To reduce the risk of delays, we were keen to accelerate the planning process. We realized that EWINS [Enhanced Weather Information System] capabilities could provide the accurate, timely information we were looking for, and we set out to find a solution.”
Boosting situational awareness
To enhance its planning processes, OAI selected WSI Fusion from The Weather Company®, an IBM Business. An advanced, proactive flight tracking application, WSI Fusion combines public and commercial weather data with near-real-time flight and airspace data in a single view—helping to support faster, better-informed decision-making.
“One of the things we appreciate most about WSI Fusion is the fact that it augments publicly available data with proprietary information from trusted providers like The Weather Company, as well as satellite radar [SATRAD] data for areas where conventional radar coverage is limited,” Keegan recalls. “Better still, The Weather Company gives us access to licensed meteorologists to create TAFs if local forecasts are unavailable or unreliable. The ability to produce accurate forecasts quickly for any airfield is a great benefit for short-notice operations.”
Today, 18 employees across OAI are using WSI Fusion to support their operational decision-making.
“Our dispatchers rely heavily on WSI Fusion,” says Keegan. “Once an aircraft has blocked out, dispatchers can track it on the ground and in the air. Tracking on the ground is particularly valuable at busy airports. If WSI Fusion warns us that de-icing delays are likely to delay takeoff and cause the crew to exceed their duty limit, we can work quickly to reschedule the flight.”
Zeng adds: “In the air, WSI Fusion delivers proactive alerts for potentially disruptive events. We may need to re-route an aircraft because the weather has deteriorated at the planned destination or airport traffic is causing severe congestion. In these cases, we can see the fuel onboard and available diversion airports at the touch of a button. Fast access to this kind of information enables our people to quickly weigh up the options and make an informed decision rapidly, helping us to minimize delays while maintaining safe operations that comply with our standard operating procedures.”
Throughout the deployment process and beyond, OAI worked closely with The Weather Company to help ensure a smooth transition to the new way of working.
“The Weather Company invested the time and the effort up front to show us how WSI Fusion works, which definitely made it easier to integrate the solution into our operations later in the project,” Keegan comments. “Over a period of several months, we invited our dispatchers to participate in deep-dive training sessions to get them comfortable with the advanced features of WSI Fusion. We are still learning new things, and our work with The Weather Company is helping us to maximize the value of our investment in the solution.”
Taking off when other carriers can’t
With near-real-time insights across its global operations, OAI can fly in conditions that might force other carriers to cancel their flights—helping to improve its ability to serve its clients and drive its competitiveness.
“Today, we can see at a glance where our aircraft are, how much fuel they have onboard and how much further they have to fly to reach their destinations—even in areas where conventional radar coverage is limited,” says Zeng. “By overlaying this information with accurate weather information, we can now answer questions such as: ‘What is the weather like around our aircraft?’, ‘How hazardous is the weather we’re flying towards?’ and: ‘Can my aircraft fly through or around this weather system?’.
“Our ability to answer these questions quickly and accurately makes a big difference to the places we can operate in. In 2010, we were one of the only U.S. charter carriers that continued to operate into Europe throughout the entire eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland. We were also able to view forecast fallout around Fukushima, Japan, which enabled us to operate safely in the aftermath of the nuclear disaster there the following year.”
With reliable TAFs from The Weather Company, OAI can reduce the risk of positioning and charter flight delays, helping it to keep to tight schedules.
“If the variance overtime between an ICAO TAF and a local meteorological report [METAR] is too high, we ask The Weather Company to prepare an EWINS forecast for us,” comments Keegan. “As well as providing us with accurate information, using reports from The Weather Company removes a substantial layer of complexity when planning operations in remote regions.”
OAI is also using WSI Fusion to help reduce the complexity associated with planning flights under FAA OpSpec B043 rules.
“Any fuel we carry in addition to the total trip requirement increases the weight of the aircraft, reduces efficiency and increases the amount of fuel burned—adding to our operational costs,” explains Keegan. “By flying under B043 rules, we can reduce the amount of contingency fuel we need to carry for some routes, which helps us to optimize our fuel spend.
“In the past, performing the necessary planning and reporting for our B043 flights added a substantial amount of manual work. Thanks to automation from WSI Fusion, B043 flight planning is significantly easier, and filing the necessary reports takes less time.”
With WSI Fusion at the heart of its business, OAI is improving its ability to respond quickly when conditions take a turn for the worse.
“We coordinate our worldwide operations from Tulsa, Oklahoma—and severe storms near our headquarters have the potential to cut us off from our crews,” says Zeng. “To mitigate risk, we use WSI Fusion as an early warning system for tornadic activity in the United States. If a tornado comes within seven miles of our headquarters, WSI Fusion often alerts us faster than the National Weather Service. These early warnings help us to kick our business continuity plan into gear faster, and set up our dispatchers in a mobile command center.”
Looking ahead, OAI is planning to automate more of its essential planning and reporting processes—supporting even faster decision-making.
“When we travel through busy hub airports, we’re always attuned to the risk of delays—especially during the winter months,” states Keegan. “Currently, we combine data from a number of different tools to identify how congested an airport is, and whether or not we need to divert to avoid it. In the future, we aim to build an automated ‘traffic light’ reporting solution into WSI Fusion that displays this information to dispatchers instantly.”
He concludes: “To fly in the most remote places and extreme conditions, situational awareness is crucial. With WSI Fusion supporting our global charter operations, we can help keep our clients moving in situations that would force many of our competitors to stay grounded.”
About Omni Air International
Founded in 1993, Omni Air International (OAI) is a charter airline based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Operating under its own 121 certification with worldwide operating authority, OAI uses its global fleet of B777-200ER, B767-300ER, and B767-200ER aircraft to respond fast to its clients’ travel needs.
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The Weather Company, an IBM Business, is the world’s largest private weather enterprise, helping people make informed decisions – and take action – in the face of weather. The company offers the most accurate, personalized and actionable weather data and insights to millions of consumers and thousands of businesses via Weather’s API, its business solutions division, and its own digital products from The Weather Channel (weather.com) and Weather Underground (wunderground.com). The company delivers up to 26 billion forecasts daily. Its products include a top weather app on all major mobile platforms globally; the world’s largest network of personal weather stations; a top-20 U.S. website; the seventh most data-rich site in the world; one of the world’s largest IoT data platforms; and industry-leading business solutions.
Weather Means Business™. The world’s biggest brands in aviation, energy, insurance, media, and government rely on The Weather Company for data, technology platforms and services to help improve decision-making and respond to weather’s impact on business. For more information visit theweathercompany.com and business.weather.com View more client stories or learn more about IBM Analytics