John Bell, vice chairman of the IT Committee, calls himself a recreational technologist, but his contributions are making a difference in the way we work. He volunteered for the initial EFB working group at Delta and has been involved in the IT committee for five years. Ultimately, he thinks a pilot’s perspective in the creation and development of technology is crucial.
When tablet technology was introduced in the cockpit, John knew it could do more. “I wanted to know how to get to Mumbai from New York – the flight path. That’s where it all started. I found a way to extract that information from a Delta flight plan into Google Earth.” That was five years ago, and it has progressed since then.
“My programming capabilities are sophomore level at best, but I know what I want and I can tinker with it until I get it where it needs to be. I probably gained as much knowledge while doing this project as I had going into it.” Many features of the digital flight plan developed that way. While flying across the Atlantic, John decided he wanted to find a way to input an OFF time and generate segment times automatically.
Other pilots noticed his tools in the cockpit, so John created a website to share the digital flight plan. He reached out to the Company with the flight plan, and they are now in the final stages of testing before offering it to pilots on their EFBs. Delta made a significant investment to take John’s excellent work and ideas and bring them to a production application capable of handling over 3,500 flights per day.
John thinks there is more potential for development, and he hopes that his flight plan can serve as an initial template that will eventually be eclipsed by a custom application. In the meantime, his goal is to provide pilots with an easier way to find information and reference the flight plan. “I hope it makes a good experiment to see what works and what doesn’t so that knowledge can be applied when Delta creates a more professional version of this tool.”
He knows that this is just the first step in enhancing the way we use available technology. “The big picture is that we’re trying to find innovative methods to improve the way we do our jobs as Delta pilots. More improvements are on the horizon, and getting pilots involved will ensure that we get the tools and technology that will best serve our needs.