3019. Microsoft Excel Applications for Airliner Weight & Balance


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Tom Farncombe: 3019. Microsoft Excel Applications for Airliner Weight & Balance. 2000.



Spreadsheet applications can provide many software solutions to the weight and balance engineering processes of an airline. It is possible to couple individual applications to evolve larger and more comprehensive software solutions without the need for extensive programming knowledge or experience. Individual tasks within the Qantas Airways weights engineering department were gradually migrated to spreadsheets, leading to the beginnings of simple applications such as weighing result calculation and weight growth surveillance. It became apparent that there was duplication of data stored within individual applications that could be minimized by linking individual spreadsheets to common data files. The core data for each aircraft type was written into spreadsheet files, formatted to replicate the IATA AHMSO report, the document used by IATA member airlines as a standard for the transmission of base weight and balance data between airline I.T. departments. From these files, other spreadsheets were programmed to receive core data for manipulation into other specific tasks such as the production of charts and operational weight certificates.
With all core data stored in a structured format, development tasks were simplified as specific tables could be easily located and identified. Mini applications were developed to enable access to files, by adding additional menus to the spreadsheet application environment. Visual Basic interfaces were developed to assist the user in finding and opening specific spreadsheets by following on-screen prompts such as ?Enter Aircraft Type…? and ?Enter Aircraft Registration…? Date checking functionality was also built into the environment to address expiry dates of operational documentation such as weight certificates, which are issued for a defined time period. Prompts were designed to draw the user to certain data when an expiry date was close.
Refining the existing spreadsheets was an ongoing process and with the introduction of a new Mainframe Departure Control System, a requirement emerged to develop a testing environment to facilitate regulatory approval of the new system. With the knowledge gained from working inside the Departure Control System, and an understanding of the limitations of spreadsheet capabilities, a full working model of a departure control system was evolved. The working model was then improved to a level of reliability suitable for release into the live load control environment itself. Other small applications were also investigated to determine the benefit of developing small applications to run in parallel to the Departure Control System.
This paper discusses three projects undertaken using spreadsheet applications for I. T. solutions.


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