Pilots capture data on the fly

Pilots capture data on the fly

Navy develops a system that keeps commanders up-to-date on readiness

By Bill Murray

GCN Staff

The Sharp log-in screen ensures that only Navy users with appropriate rights gain entry to the program. Designers solicited ideas for the application from users.

After a 15-month design, development and deployment period, the Navy since February has been using a homegrown program to capture postflight information and readiness information for commanders of the service's 330 squadrons.

The system cost $80,000 to design and develop, said Cmdr. Mark Burgunder, program manager for the Sierra Hotel Aviation Readiness Program in San Diego. The words Sierra and Hotel are Navy code for the letters S and H.

Before SHARP, aviators filled out post-flight data on yellow sheets, and that data was then fed into a mainframe, Burgunder said.

SHARP is good for evaluation, such as reviewing simulators used or ordnance needs for the squadron, he said. 'It's like a point-of-sale solution'' for a retail store, he said.

Door No. 1

Navy aviators still have two points of entry for their data: SHARP and an aviation mainframe application, Burgunder said. 'We would prefer that they use one point of entry,'' he said.

SHARP came together after the Navy type commanders for the Atlantic and Pacific spent $14 million at the end of fiscal 1998 to buy PCs and other year 2000-ready hardware for the squadrons, which gave them proper platforms for SHARP, Burgunder said.

'We had to make it easy to use with minimal training required, or it would have been killed on arrival'' in the fleets, Burgunder said.

SHARP program managers got the fleet involved through an integrated process team, which solicited ideas from users, he said.

'Some of the programs in the Navy are implemented through a top-bottom approach,'' with commanders dictating to the fleet that they use certain programs, said Lt. Chris Williamson, the program's developer. SHARP's approval was different.

'We went to the seamen and the aviators'pilots who have to deal with data on a daily basis'and developed this system,'' he said. 'The brass couldn't help but notice us.

'We didn't build it in a vacuum. We built it on the fly in the fleet. We worked the project on a daily basis because we're pilots and developers.''

They are not only developers but customers, he added, and that gives the service an advantage over contractors. After several months, 'we haven't found any squadrons that didn't want to use it,'' he said.

Using the product has reduced paperwork and labor hours for squadrons, Williamson said.

Securing the data so it couldn't be manipulated after entry was a key challenge for SHARP's developers, Burgunder said. 'The system has to prevent garbage from entering it.'' Data has to be clean, with a single point of entry, he said.

Some squadrons have used the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center's Web site, at www.spawar.navy.mil, to access SHARP. Some remote users have had diskettes containing the program mailed to them, Burgunder said.

One squadron uses PalmPilots from 3Com Corp. of Santa Clara, Calif., in conjunction with SHARP, he said.

SHARP's architects decided to build the program in Visual Basic 5.0 because the Navy has embraced Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 through its Information Technology for the 21st Century initiative, and Microsoft Office is widely used in the service, Williamson said.


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