Albuquerque firm converts Indian airline to digital operations

·3 min read

Aug. 3—Albuquerque-based Ultramain Systems Inc. signed a new contract in July to install its electronic software system on all Vistara airline planes, making that carrier the first Indian company to fully adopt paperless operations.

TATA SIA Airlines Ltd., known by the brand name Vistara, will incorporate Ultramain's "Electronic Logbook," or ELB, on its entire 53-plane fleet. That will allow pilots and cabin crews to digitally record all technical issues before, during and after flights for real-time sharing with maintenance workers on the ground.

Vistara and all other Indian airlines still rely on time-consuming, paper-based technical, cabin, journey and fueling logs, which regulators require for every flight. As the first Indian carrier to go digital, final regulatory approval is still pending.

But Vistara is committed to a "digital transformation" of operations, said Vistara Chief Information Officer Vinod Bhat.

"The focus on digital data capture, integration and automation will continue," Bhat said in a statement. "Ultramain ELB will help digitize our aircraft paper logs and improve operational effectiveness."

It's the second ELB installation contract announced by Ultramain since May, when the Scandinavian Airline System agreed to adopt the ELB system on about 180 planes. That reflects a huge uptick in airline demand as the industry rapidly rebounds from the pandemic-induced downturn, said Ultramain Vice President of Product Management John Stone.

"Like everyone, 2020 was a very sparse year for us," Stone told the Journal. "But things picked up again significantly in 2021, and now we have a lot of potential new contracts in the works."

Vistara makes the 13th airline to contract with Ultramain for ELB installation since the company began marketing the system a decade ago, said Ultramain CEO Mark McCausland.

"We're seeing a lot of interest," McCausland told the Journal. "We have two more contracts already negotiated and ready to sign."

The potential market is huge, since most airlines worldwide have been slow to replace paper-based logs with digital systems. That's largely because it's a highly regulated industry that's often resistant to change.

"Regulators like paper for their audits, and companies are cautious, because it's a big transformation to move to digital," McCausland said.

Resistance is particularly strong with new technology, Stone added.

"Many early adopters immediately saw the potential for efficiency improvements and savings, but the 'convince-me' crowd is very big," he said.

Still, a lot more companies are now looking to streamline operations, because the industry workforce declined substantially during the pandemic as employees moved to new jobs and careers, and many opted to retire. And with today's labor shortages, ramping back up is difficult, creating opportunities for companies with innovative technologies like Ultramain.

"Companies can't bring back qualified staff at the rates needed," Stone said. "They need ways to optimize efficiency and reduce overhead and manpower, so demand is ramping up to digitize operations. It's quickly becoming a hot market for electronic software, more so than before the pandemic."

Ultramain employs about 180 people at its 31,000-square-foot headquarters in Albuquerque, and at regional offices in the UK, Ireland, Hong Kong, India and Singapore.