More Secure Flight Handling?
Air Routing International, a company that specializes in
corporate flight handling for the business aviation industry, is
implementing an aggressive IT redundancy program to ensure that
critical corporate data, client communications, and productivity
remain intact during events such as natural disasters, network
outages or sabotage.
"Because we're running a 24/7 critical operations for flight
crews, flight departments, and clients we cannot afford to go down
simply because pilots need information to be able to fly safely,"
said John Legh-Page, chief information officer for Air Routing. "If
we cannot get information to them that means delays. A business
trip can be pivotal to the financial health of an entire
corporation. The last thing we want are IT problems.
"We always have a primary and backup for everything that we do
because you can't live in the world today and not have things go
wrong. What we try and do is minimize the impact when things happen
so that nobody feels the pain."
Legh-Page said few companies in the corporate flight handling
industry are as proactive as Air Routing in implementing an IT
redundancy program. "We maintain a completely redundant system both
from a communications and infrastructure standpoint. We basically
have two of everything that runs our operation. We maintain two
different flight planning systems, two different flight planning
vendors so that if one of those vendors is having trouble, we can
run our flight plans with the other."
This year Air Routing opened a backup operation center located
away from its main Houston headquarters that is redundant will have
all the operating systems found at headquarters. "We did this for
offsite hotsite redundancy and a disaster recovery
capability,"Legh-Page said. He explained that following September
11th Air Routing decided that single building redundancy within its
headquarters building wasn't enough. "We needed to have
multiple building redundancy so that in the event of a fire or
something else happening in our building that prohibited our entry,
we would have our data and operational capability available at
Also this year Air Routing instituted an automated fail-over for
Internet connectivity between the two sites so that the websites
that run in the main building will fail-over to the backup
Legh-Page explained that Air Routing's web servers are clustered
and the company hosts over 1,000 custom websites for its clients.
"They are load balanced," he said. "If one server goes down then
the other one takes over and they basically feed off each other as
far as who is busy. The one that is not as busy takes the next
call. It is a round robin type load balancing that always runs.
That keeps the information flowing to the clients who are coming in
across the web. Air Routing's email system also features redundant
exchange servers and redundant mail servers so that if one fails
the other one takes over thus enabling Air Routing to continue to
run its email systems.
Legh-Page said Air Routing uses airline value added networks to
communicate to the airport control towers worldwide and to many of
its agents located at those airports. "We run with three worldwide
carriers AFTN, a direct link to the control towers at the airports;
Airinc, the US based airline value added network for messaging
worldwide; and CITA, the European based airline messaging system
worldwide. Those companies compete head to head for message traffic
and we keep connections with all three. If one is down we can still
communicate via the other to the same locations."
Legh-Page also pointed out that Air Routing uses two carriers
for voice communications with one going out through an underground
fiber connection from its headquarters building and the other going
out through the building roof in a wireless format.
"If the underground fiber connection gets cut along the street
and phone calls come in, they automatically get rerouted to our
wireless connection,"Legh-Page said. "We maintain contact with our
clients either way. It is an automated system so that we are off
line only for a few seconds or a few minutes depending upon what
system goes down."
Legh-Page said that Air Routing loses power in the building and
the lights may flicker once or twice a month and that is to reboot
computers. "Because we have battery backups and generators that are
independent of the building's systems that run our systems, we do
not ever lose power. We don't ever reboot. Our PCs and data center
have run non-stop for the last 10 years without any outages."
Air Routing tests the redundancy systems every month. "We test
our systems on a monthly basis whether we want to or not," said
Legh-Page. He said Air Routing often provides clients and
prospective clients with the company's service level agreement that
explains how Air Routing sets its IT redundancy program.
A tremendous value added advantage Air Routing has is its
association with Air Security International, according to
Legh-Page. "Because we have Air Security International on-site, we
have an insight that our competition doesn't have about what the
possibilities are as far as disasters occurring. With this on-site
capability this security group is always analyzing what is going
on. Then they decide there are risks that we are not willing to
take that would affect our clients and our operations.
While IT redundancy should be commonplace in the flight handling
industry that isn't always the case. Earlier this year another
flight handling company lost its Internet connectivity for a while
when a cable was cut. This meant its clients could not receive data
for several days including email. They could not get to their
websites and were completely isolated. The company had to revert
back to voice and fax for their communications.