Hong Kong’s flagship airline Cathay Pacific unveils energy-efficient digital flight and weather application replacing paper manuals

Danny Lee

Cathay Pacific has unveiled its new digital flight and weather application to enable its pilots to go paperless in the cockpit.

As each of the airline’s 525 daily flights used to carry up to 70kg (154 pounds) of manuals and paperwork per trip, the company estimates the elimination of paper will save 1 million litres (264,000 gallons) of fuel a year, while also reducing carbon emissions.

The interactive platform, called the “Cathay Pacific Flight Folder”, will hand pilots a digital version of preflight briefing notes and material, and tools to monitor flight progress, navigation, fuel logs, weather data and a host of other relevant things – making it easier for them to make decisions before and during a flight.

The platform also includes a digital weather system, called “MyFlightWx”, created by Hong Kong Observatory.

The new digital flight and weather application will help Cathay Pacific to save 1 million litres of fuel a year. Photo: K.Y. Cheng

Many major airlines – including British Airways and Lufthansa – have already scrapped paper manuals for the cockpit. Hong Kong Airlines is also trialling paperless cockpits.

Greg Hughes, chief operations and service delivery officer of Cathay Pacific, said the new app would enable its crews “to undertake challenging roles digitally and more efficiently”.

He said the new app was a part of the company’s wider digital transformation efficiency effort, aimed at cost savings.

Cathay Pacific to scale back its capacity by 1.4 per cent in 2020

All of the 73-year-old group’s passenger and cargo airlines have started using the paperless system, except the newly acquired HK Express, which will transition over to Cathay suppliers and systems over time.

Airlines across the globe are under pressure to do more for the environment in the wake of “flygskam” or flight shaming, started by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, a movement that has won broad appeal around the world.

Cathay now flies one of the most fuel-efficient long-haul passenger aircraft fleets, including 36 Airbus A350s out of a total of more than 230 aircraft.

James Toye, line operations manager of flight operations at Cathay Pacific, said the app made it easier for pilots to search for information than flicking through 200 pages.

He said the elimination of all manuals in the cockpit would translate into a “significant” weight saving.

Cathay gives staff up to US$3,800 in one-off payment in place of bonus

Pilots will also make better in-flight decisions on where to take a shorter routing or when to take advantage of the weather to fly.

Director of the Hong Kong Observatory Shun Chi-ming hailed Cathay’s four-year effort to digitise pilot weather information, describing it as an “excellent example of science, innovation and collaboration”.

Cathay Pacific has also made efforts to report and analyse in-flight turbulence. Its about 70 Boeing 777s send turbulence data to the observatory for analysis, helping pilots to be better aware of bumpier flights ahead.

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