In-flight Wi-Fi to give Qantas crews real-time data

Airline examining new uses for on-board Internet connections

Qantas has revealed that its flight operations and engineering teams are investigating how they can best leverage in-flight Wi-Fi beyond just offering Internet access to passengers.

The airline announced earlier this year that it would offer free Wi-Fi on its domestic flights via NBN’s satellite broadband service. Qantas is preparing to rollout out Wi-Fi on around 100 of its domestic flights.

Qantas said today that it was looking at the potential for the onboard Internet connections to deliver real-time data to its crew. One example would be allowing pilots to obtain richer, real-time weather information to avoid areas of turbulence and reduce flight time by making better use of tailwinds.

Currently Qantas pilots load weather maps onto iPads before takeoff and use onboard radar to track storms, in addition to receiving updates over radio.

On-board Internet will also potentially allow aircraft performance data to be streamed back to engineers, enabling speedier maintenance once a flight lands.

Another two areas the airline is examining are allowing passengers to receive updated itineraries while in the air if they need to be rebooked due to flight delays and boosting the efficiency of dealing with medical conditions.

On average there are two or three medical flight diversions across Qantas’ network, the airline said. In many cases it would be safe for a flight to continue but the airline will err on the side of caution.

Qantas says it has trialled a Wi-Fi connected device that can scan a passenger’s heart if they have chest pains. Data from the device is sent to a medical officer who can provide a diagnosis and allow the flight to continue if there’s no danger to the passenger.