Two decades after its acquisition by Boeing, Jeppesen has been joined in the Boeing Global Services fold by ForeFlight. The latter’s expertise is adding value to Jeppesen’s decades in the navigation business for a new and evolving community of aviation professionals
Business aviation proper arguably emerged during the first half of the 1930s, by which time sustained powered flight was entering its third decade. With the not inconsiderable challenges of becoming and remaining airborne with a useful load overcome, the era’s pilots still faced the fundamental issue of finding their way. Navigation by dead reckoning, using map and stopwatch, ultimately served aviation well, but just five years after Lindbergh completed his solo Atlantic crossing, aviators still relied upon recognisable natural features or, better still, roads and railway lines, to navigate cross-country.
Elrey Borge Jeppesen, born of Danish immigrants in Louisiana, began work as an aerial survey pilot in 1928. He was therefore not only well versed in the problems of aerial navigation when he joined Boeing Air Transport to fly airmail in 1930, but also uniquely equipped to address them. Later a captain with United Airlines, into which Boeing Air Transport was amalgamated in 1931, Jeppesen began creating his own aeronautical charts.
Using a simple notebook, he recorded salient landscape features and terrain heights, and listed detail that would enable him to fly the same route accurately every time. Fellow pilots were quick to recognise the worth of navigational charts made by a pilot for pilots and in 1934 Jeppesen formed a company to produce and sell his charts commercially.
Completing a circle that’s typical of the aviation industry, Boeing purchased Jeppesen in 2000, returning to its fold a concept that began with a company employee almost 70 years previous. Now an important component in the Boeing Global Services portfolio, Jeppesen has continued to deliver on the vision of its founder, moving with and exploiting technologies so that its state-of-the-art charts are still created by pilots for pilots. Then, in 2019, Boeing acquired Foreflight, combining its digital expertise with Jeppesen’s decades of data gathering to create a new ecosystem of navigation and operational products.
Reggie Arsenault, Director, Digital Solutions, Boeing Global Services explains: “The acquisition of Foreflight expanded our portfolio of digital solutions to increase lifecycle value for our customers. Combining ForeFlight’s expertise in mobile, cloud, and e-commerce and software development with the breadth and depth of Boeing’s digital solutions enhances operations for all aviation market segments.
“In the business and general aviation space, our combined expertise in development and global navigation and charting, supported by the unmatched Jeppesen aviation database, allows us to deliver a better customer experience. Feedback from our customers has been very positive, as they recognise the benefit of combining the best practices of industry leaders into a united digital solution set.”
At its most basic, the tie-up enables the full suite of Jeppesen charts to be accessed through ForeFlight’s mobile, electronic flight bag (EFB) apps, adding enhanced flexibility and awareness to a suite of Jeppesen products that today spans navigation, flight and operations planning, and training.
Arsenault says: “Boeing’s portfolio of digital solutions provides operators with choices for optimising their flight operations based on their individual requirements. For example, the Jeppesen JetPlanner solution works best for an operator seeking a way to reduce costs and increase operational efficiency for dispatch staff. It creates fully digital flight plans with optimised routing.
“Alternatively, Jeppesen Operator offers a DIY virtual flight department that takes a one-stop shop approach to consolidating operational support. Customers interested in a more personalised experience can select the FliteSupport Services team to provide 24/7 customised trip planning, dispatch and fuel services, supported by decades of market experience.”
A cursory glance at the range of Jeppesen and ForeFlight products reveals a system of systems. Arsenault confirms: “Boeing’s digital solutions aim to simplify the complex – we make the integration of solutions sets and digital tools easy to use and understand in the operating environment.
“Our design and development focus incorporates intuitive processes based on real-world use of our products and services, and focus groups that include direct customer input. We provide the right information at the right time, delivered through platforms that pilots and operations staff are comfortable using. This helps eliminate unnecessary processes and provide a sharpened focus on the task at hand.”
Similarly, “Many pilots appreciate the continuity of Jeppesen navigation chart delivery through digital means – with the same look and feel of paper charts, but with much greater functionality on screen, including pinch-and-zoom capabilities, the ability to take notes, and filtering, which allows the pilot to display the information that is important to them, eliminating ‘clutter’.”
Without clutter, pilots are better able to focus on the task in hand, with improved situational awareness which, in turn, promotes safety and efficiency. Arsenault describes increased operational efficiency as “…a hallmark benefit that Boeing provides its customers. This includes reducing time spent planning for the flight, flying optimised routes and the analysis of data in the post-flight environment.
“Across all phases of flight, Jeppesen solution sets help customers increase situational awareness through enhanced cockpit solutions and data, reduce fuel consumption based on optimised routes and flight planning, and eliminate redundant processes, which allows the pilot and operations staff to focus on essential tasks. We offer solutions that minimise emissions and ensure compliance with regulatory guidelines, including CORSIA [Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation] and similar oversight. Reducing fuel consumption is a key task that benefits the customer through reduced costs and also positively impacts the environment through reduced emissions.”
Jeppesen also offers extensive training possibilities and while this obviously includes instruction on its own systems, it also facilitates extensive pilot and technician course options, and dispatcher certification training. “Across Boeing, we are dedicated to providing a full spectrum of education and support for the next generation of student pilots and aviation professionals,” Arsenault sys. “This certainly reflects Jeppesen’s heritage in training and educational support, and lays a foundation for student learning today and in the future, on a global scale.
“Our curriculum, courseware and navigation services are available for onsite training with leading providers of higher education and training, including flight schools and universities. We also offer training courses in-house for numerous groups. More specifically, Boeing Learning Solutions provides a powerful and robust learning system for individuals as well as aviation and maintenance training organisations. Our ab-initio learning content, interlinked with an extensive question database, can be used for self-study, ground school and distance learning – or a combination of all three. Programmes currently include EASA-based content for pilots (PPL, IR, CPL, ATPL) and technicians, and FAA-based content for private and commercial pilot training. The solution is scalable for a wide range of operations, including global organisations, and is well suited to remote areas due to its offline functionality.”
The complete extent of what Arsenault calls Boeing’s ‘full spectrum of education and support’ becomes apparent on navigating through the Jeppesen website. With just a few clicks it might be possible for a corporate flight department to begin the process of acquiring a complete suite of operational tools and apps, for a prospective pilot to purchase the course materials to begin a lifelong aviation adventure, or to acquire a $4 microphone accessory. It’s an extraordinary offering not only from Boeing, but also also Jeppesen, a pioneering company that began almost within the giant planemaker and today has completed the circle, delivering data for pilots, created by pilots, just as it always has.