Mercury Scheduling Systems is to release the "Beta" version of its Magellan airline management system to its launch customers at the end of this month.

The new software allows real-time management of crew scheduling for the first time, claims the company, giving airlines a dynamic picture of their operations.

Magellan is designed to supplant existing systems, including its NOVA or PLATO products, says Graham Whitmarsh, vice-president of sales and marketing of the Vancouver, Canada-based company. The only requirement is that airlines have a network "of some kind" installed so that Magellan can be linked to all the existing databases.

The system allows crew planners to maintain flight plans, construct pairings and publish rosters and has an automatic rule checking facility to ensure pairings and rosters adhere to aviation regulations.

The "biggest single advantage", says Whitmarsh, is that Magellan "-keeps all the data in the databases and simply accesses them as required". This feature makes it the first true real-time system of its kind, believes Whitmarsh, who adds that, through a technique borrowed from US military work on artificial intelligence, known as "blackboarding", Magellan offers predictive features which "-help you manage through the actual day of operations".

For example, on replacing a sick pilot the operator would be warned of the consequent chain of events - pilot misses training, pilot loses currency on type, cost is unacceptable - and suggests alternatives. In this way Magellan also "-supports learning, and allows the decision making quality to increase".

In January Danish company Maersk Data, Mercury's first agent for the product, signed up local airline Sterling European Airlines as its first customer after sister company Maersk Air, which was involved as a launch customer.

The "Beta" version of Magellan 1.0 is being released to launch customers Maersk Air, Sterling and an unnamed US airline.

Source: Flight International