MIAMI – Alaska Airlines (AS) and Airspace Intelligence have announced the signing of a multi-year contract for the use of Flyways AI™.

The platform uses artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to assist dispatchers in making flight operations more efficient and sustainable. The application is also capable of optimizing routes and improving the predictability and flow of airline traffic. Alaska is the first airline worldwide to adopt the technology.

Alaska Airlines N60697 Boeing 737MAX9. Photo: Nick Sheeder/Airways

Unique Collaboration

With the collaboration, AI-powered flight surveillance and scheduling technology assist critical decision-making for the first time in US commercial aviation history. The tech gives airline dispatchers more tools to make quick decisions, allowing the airline to design the most efficient and sustainable flight route possible.

Flyways feature machine-learning models and use National Airspace System to anticipate future scenarios. Additionally, it controls exceptions across the network by speed-processing millions of data points with higher precision.

“Flyways AI has transformed how Alaska Airlines approaches route planning and optimization, enabling our highly skilled dispatchers to work even smarter to deliver the safest and most efficient routes to our pilots, saving time and carbon emissions, mitigating congestion, and creating a better experience for our guests,” said Diana Birkett Rakow, vice president of public affairs and sustainability for Alaska Airlines.

He added, “Airspace Intelligence is a true partner in implementing Flyways to deliver results in Alaska’s operating environment for innovation, safety, and sustainability.”

Photo: Alaska Airlines “Our Commitment” livery. Pjoto: Andrew Henderson/Airways

Comments from Airspace and Alaska

“We are so grateful that Alaska is the first airline customer to deploy the Flyways AI platform,” said Phillip Buckendorf, CEO of Airspace Intelligence. “Alaska’s commitment to innovation and partnership these past two years made the organization a perfect fit as a foundational airline and launch partner.”

“Artificial intelligence and machine learning are among the top drivers of technology today and, for the first time, have been applied to the airline flight planning environment,” said Pasha Saleh, flight operations strategy and innovation director for Alaska Airlines. “Alaska’s use of Flyways in just six months, even with significantly depressed flying due to COVID-19, enabled us to save 480,000 gallons of fuel and avoid 4,600 tons of carbon emissions.”

Alaska’s dispatchers used the new AI-powered flight planning within a six-month testing period. The software organizes, supervises, and makes recommendations for rerouting flights to avoid problems like congested airspace and bad weather. As a result, Flyways discovered that 64 percent of mainline flights could be reduced in mileage and fuel consumption. Dispatchers, on the other hand, evaluated and accepted 32% of the Flyways proposals. As a result, Flyways sees the importance of having a to a long-term partnership comitment with AS.

Predictive modeling allows Flyways to “look into the future,” helping inform users how the airspace will evolve as weather and congestion change. When planning a route, Flyways looks at all scheduled and active flights across the U.S., scanning air traffic system-wide, rather than focusing on a single flight. This allows it to avoid air traffic congestion. The Flyways-monitored flight is being routed to a different, less crowded route so that it can arrive on time and avoid weather.

How Does Flyways Work?

This system assesses the operational safety, ATC compliance, and efficiency of scheduled and active flights of an airline autonomously. It provides flight dispatchers with actionable guidance when it finds a better route around turbulence or a more efficient route. Then, the dispatcher decides if the prescribed solution is acceptable and practical. However, following current FAA regulations, the dispatchers always make the final decision.

Instead of concentrating only on single flights, this system scans all scheduled and running flights across the U.S. airspace. It deals more with air traffic similar to the mapping of land traffic applications. In other words, it resembles a dynamic and ever-changing ecosystem of moving objects.

Flight dispatchers at AS are in charge of determining the airline’s flight routes. Weather, turbulence, and traffic volume must all be taken into account by dispatchers.

All of this information is displayed on a dynamic 4D map by Flyways. When the system discovers a more efficient route, it sends actionable recommendations to flight dispatchers, who then deliver the safest and most efficient route to pilots. The dispatcher must decide whether or not to accept and implement the suggested solution.

Featured image: Airspace Intelligence