Air Transport World

Aircraft scheduling: dynamite in the desktops. (includes related article on software companies)

In the early days of automation, airlines were the acknowledged technological leaders. Their massive mainframe systems and their advancements of the state of the art were rivaled only by the military.

Now, the power that resided only in mainframes a couple of years ago is on every desktop and PC; technology is progressing so swiftly that even the biggest airlines admit they've fallen behind the knowledge curve. Increasingly, when they want to shift complex applications such as aircraft scheduling off their mainframes, they are calling on the expertise of outside vendors.

Air Canada's experience is typical. "Our culture is mainframe," says John Gradek, manager of schedule design. When the time came for a new real-time system, "we might have been able to build a PC program in-house but it would have been a very slow process. We felt that by going outside, we would get both leading-edge technology and fast response."

Air Canada was using a mainframe program it had bought in the early 1980s and that replaced "snakes and ladders, and line charts drawn with red pencils on huge sheets of paper" with graphic representations on computer terminals. …

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