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Ensuring a Higher Flight for a Leading Aerospace Company

Ensuring a Higher Flight for a Leading Aerospace Company

Soaring High

The client, one of the leading aerospace companies in the world, has a diverse product range that includes commercial jetliners, military aircraft, satellites, missile defense, launch services and human space flight services. With the objective of gaining competitive advantage, the client wants to launch a super-efficient commercial jetliner that features advanced avionics technologies, lower fuel usage and un-paralleled passenger comfort.

Facing Rough Weather...

The aerospace industry has undergone tremendous structural and economic changes during the past few decades. The commercial aerospace sector has witnessed a reduction in revenue per passenger mile, whereas the costs have continued to move upwards. This has led to an increased focus on technological innovation and cost competitiveness. Companies in the aerospace industry spend billions of dollars every year to ensure that their technology infrastructure remains current and reflects the latest developments in aircraft maintenance technology.

Working on the paradigms of gaining strategic competitive advantage, the client wants to launch a path-breaking commercial jetliner. The jetliner is expected to use 20 percent less fuel when compared to a similar sized aircraft, and generate sizeable revenue gains to the airline operators.

One challenge the client faces is the enhancement of the archaic ground-based systems that are unable to meet the testing needs of this technologically path-breaking aircraft. Some of the legacy applications built incrementally over three decades are already facing the twin challenges of cost-of-sustenance and acute skill shortage. The need to build capability to meet the flight test requirements of an advanced aircraft aggravates the situation.

With the announcement of the launch of a commercial jetliner having state-of-the art technology, an overhaul of the entire flight testing system has become imperative, to meet the business objectives of the airplane program.

After considering various options from both near-term and long-term needs, the client starts looking outside for an Engineering and Technology Partner to help address this issue. After a critical evaluation phase, HCL is selected to re-engineer and re-host the applications, based on the following criteria:

  • Leadership in Aerospace – having executed successfully multiple complex engineering engagements for various Aerospace Majors
  • Breadth of engineering and enterprise IT capabilities to serve customers across the entire Aerospace value chain
  • Strong knowledge base of Aerospace standards, processes and certification aspects
  • The first Indian company to be awarded AS9100 certifications for expertise in tools, processes and methodologies
  • Proven ability to scale up and deliver within very challenging timelines

The Take Off

HCL was roped in as the software development partner for the jetliner program in 2004. Under the multi-year, multi-million dollar software development agreement, HCL agreed to provide software services to the client, as well as its tier-1 systems suppliers, for the jetliner program.

HCL’s engagement started off with a detailed study of the existing system infrastructure and preparation of an execution roadmap for re-engineering the business critical applications. This included identification of an architectural solution – after analyzing alternatives – execution methodology, schedule and the cost of the project. HCL also proposed a Global Delivery model that would leverage its process and technology expertise. In addition, a program office was set up to provide integrated program management of all the varied technology teams. A multi-stage approach was arrived at where the first stage involved re-hosting the applications as is and then building necessary enhancements to meet the flight test needs of the new aircraft.

HCL initially positioned a core team, consisting of domain, technology and business analysts at the client location. This team quickly reviewed existing documentation, underwent knowledge transfer sessions, and collated and validated the functional needs from multiple stakeholders and end users. This knowledge was also augmented by extensive reverse engineering of existing applications to address gaps in requirements and Proof of Concepts to validate the architectural solution and application framework.

Subsequently, the implementation phase involving design and development was kicked off at the offshore location. The domain intensive aerospace work was offshored to its core aerospace team, while the user interface, business-logic, database migration and design and Business Intelligence Reports Generation were to be handled by specialist IT teams and CoEs. The development phase was followed by eleven months of exhaustive testing of the re-hosted application involving teams from both companies.

Reaching New Heights...

Several critical factors were considered while executing the project including:

  • Ensuring that there was effective knowledge transfer of the archaic application from the client side
  • End-user buy-in for the new application as they were used to the archaic application for more than twenty-five years
  • Re-hosting the system within challenging timelines and at the same time providing a framework that would enable further enhancements to meet the testing needs of new aircraft

The re-hosted system entered production, and in appreciation of the role, HCL was subsequently awarded the Next Generation Enhancements contract. Three major releases have been rolled out into production since then, and the re-hosted system robust open-architecture and functionality have been validated on multiple flight test programs.

business intelligence system


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