Airbus at the Paris Air Show launched Skywise, a broad initiative to use a lot more data in a much more structured way to make its own and airline operations more efficient.

“We are launching an entirely new phase of aviation,” Airbus CEO Tom Enders said. “When we look back at this event in a few years, we will be able to say that this is where we really launched connected aviation,” he added. Having been approached by Silicon Valley-based Palantir Technologies, “we very quickly realized the benefits” of “making much better use of data.”

Skywise is targeted to become a massive platform for data from many sources, including Airbus, aircraft operators and, ultimately, suppliers and the entire supply chain. Airbus believes it will deliver improved fleet reliability, quicker root cause analysis for in-service issues, and better maintenance policies, and even enable the manufacturer to optimize aircraft performance as it learns more about limits of aircraft and feels comfortable about releasing design margin. Aircraft performance will be tracked on an individual basis.

According to digital transformation officer Marc Fontaine, an average of some 25,000 sensors will be installed on aircraft to measure operational parameters. Airbus’ most modern aircraft, the A350, has 250,000 sensors. “We started [Skywise] in our own factories two years ago,” Fontaine said. Data is also being fed back into engineering to enable design changes where needed. The approach has been a massive help to support A350 production ramp-up, according to Airbus Commercial Aircraft president Fabrice Brégier: “The speed to fix issues multiplied by seven out.

“We also wanted to industrialize it for the in-service fleet,” he said. In addition to airline customers, “we are looking at the supply chain as the next step.” Enders said Skywise will also be expanded over time to include defense, space and helicopters. “We will ultimately make a decent profit out of it,” he predicted. “There will be a free part and a charge for part of Skywise.”

Four airlines – Peach Aviation, AirAsia, easyJet and Emirates – have signed up to cooperate with Airbus in Skywise. “We are early adopters and we are thrilled by what we see,” AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes said. “We want to become a technology airline.” Fernandes sees major benefits from analyzing operational commercial and human resources data. “There is a huge opportunity to reduce cost and increase revenues.”

Emirates said broader use of data analytics has improved its own operational reliability by 1% over the past eight months.

Fontaine believes Skywise data analysis will enable Airbus to come near to zero AOG (aircraft on ground) cases because predictive maintenance will put it in a position to optimize aircraft by MSN (manufacturer serial number).

The availability of massive amounts of individualized data could also play a big role for risk assessment in asset management for players involved including lessors, banks, appraisers and insurers, as these constituents can track the individual history of each aircraft.

According to Fontaine, Airbus holding the design authority will ensure end-to-end connectivity and integrity of data.

One important area of data is the cabin – how many times are toilet doors opened, how many times are trolleys taken out, what is the temperature in various zones of the cabin and even around individual seats. But Fontaine believes that Airbus is not infringing on passenger privacy. However, cabin data, and operational data more generally, are key to reducing turnaround times. Airbus says the platform is to be open to new partners and that it hopes it won’t be locked into complex legal issues around data sharing.

Skywise could also be a tool to reduce IT investment spending, Airbus promises.