Flight Management System for the A380
Airbus has tapped Honeywell to provide the flight management system (FMS) for the super jumbo A380 carrier. Honeywell’s strategic win could generate $200 million in revenue over a 15-year period, including sales of spares, data base updates, support and other aftermarket activity. The new A380 FMS builds upon the company’s Pegasus FMS system, already certified on the A340 and A330, the A320 series and on Boeing’s 757, 767 and MD-90 aircraft. Honeywell plans to more than double central processor speed and memory capacity, compared with Pegasus. The navigation data base, alone, could be two to four times larger than that of the predecessor system. The A380 FMS interface–featuring pop-up menus and more graphical presentations–also will increase demand on computing resources. Factors such as quality, reliability, dispatch and maintainability were key in the Airbus selection, Honeywell says. The company is shooting for a meantime between failure (MTBF) number of 35,000 hours–an order of magnitude more than in the past, officials say.
The system also will interface with Airbus’ new high-speed Ethernet bus. Initial certification is expected in late 2005, followed by initial deliveries in 2006. Visit www.honeywell.com.
ARINC Touts Broadband
ARINC recently announced a satellite-based, in-flight, broadband communications system that promises to provide bidirectional, "true broadband" data rates. It will enable services such as live television, e-mail and Internet access to aircraft passengers and crews, says ARINC. The company has teamed with Tenzing, Astrium and Airbus to support Airbus’ In-Flight Information Services (AFIS). ARINC and Tenzing are working on a plan whereby Tenzing could use the ARINC technology to upgrade to broadband. ARINC hopes to equip up to 1,000 air transport and business aviation aircraft, starting with corporate fleets in the third quarter of 2002. ARINC also notes military interest in the concept. Demonstrations could take place in the second quarter of ’02.
The envisioned system ultimately could provide data services of up to 10 megabits/sec (Mbits/sec) from satellite to aircraft and up to 2 Mbits/sec from aircraft to satellite. ARINC received an experimental, three-year license from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in October 2001 in order to prove, over the continental U.S., that its services won’t interfere with Ku-band Fixed Satellite Service (FSS). ARINC now could provide 5-Mbit/sec services up and 0.5 Mbits/sec down. The services would share Ku-band spectrum with FSS on a secondary basis.
According to ARINC, today’s airborne broadband services typically are broadband only from the ground via satellite to the aircraft. Developing a broadband return link–from the aircraft to the satellite and down to the ground–has been more difficult because of the need to maintain tight contact with the satellite and reduce the power radiated to adjacent spacecraft. ARINC has developed an antenna aperture that suppresses sidelobe energy. Second, ARINC has attained more accurate Ku-band satellite tracking to maintain contact. New electronics designs, moreover, will allow energy to be precisely controlled from the ground, ARINC says. Visit www.arinc.com.
L-3 Communications plans to acquire the Raytheon division, Aircraft Integration Systems (AIS), for $1.1 billion in cash, an acquisition that is expected to close by March 31, 2002. AIS provides intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) products that give ground-based and airborne forces real-time, three-dimensional views of the battlefield, enhancing situational awareness and understanding of enemy tactics and positions. The AIS Division’s signals intelligence (SigInt) systems collect, decode and analyze signal traffic from command centers, communication nodes and air defense assets in real time, according to L-3. The Raytheon unit has offices in Greenville and Waco, Texas; Lexington, Ky.; and Avalon, Australia. Its customers include the U.S. armed services and government agencies as well as those of U.S. allies.
AIS is L-3’s largest acquisition to date and complements the New York-based company’s existing line of secure communications and electronic products. Aircraft Integration Systems has equipped more than 15,000 aircraft of more than 125 types, says L-3 Chairman Frank Lanza. The unit also provides ISR, air-ground surveillance and airborne early warning and control solutions via business jet platforms, such as the airborne standoff radar (ASTOR) air-ground surveillance system for the Royal Air Force. Visit www.L-3.com.
Boeing "Connex" VIP Planes
Boeing will update the mission communications system of up to four government VIP airplanes with satellite-based, broadband "Connexion by Boeing" service under an up to $112-million contract. C-32As, of which there are four, are customized B757-200s that transport the U.S. vice president, cabinet members and other top officials worldwide. The two-way, 256-kilobit/sec, Internet and data service work is slated for completion by September of 2003. Connexion service so far has been installed on 11 airplanes, including bizjets and government-owned or -operated transports, Boeing says. The Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is managing the contract. Visit www.boeing.com.
Northrop Grumman, Diversified
Northrop Grumman has made a "strategic transformation" from an aircraft company to a multifaceted firm involved in commercial and defense electronics, information technology, systems integration and shipbuilding. That was the message Northrop Grumman officials reported at a press conference in Washington in mid-January. The company recently released its year-end results for fiscal year 2001.
Northrop Grumman’s diversity derives in large part from its acquisition last year of Litton Corp.’s advanced electronics component and shipbuilding business. Litton’s advanced electronics component area generated some $1.6 billion in sales for Northrop Grumman’s Navigation Systems Division. Navigation Systems–led by Bill Allison, vice president and general manager–is the newest division within Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems, says Bob Iorizzo, corporate vice president and president of Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems.
Comparing his company five years ago with the present, Iorizzo reported that Electronic Systems doubled the number of its employees, from 11,600 in 1996 to 23,000 in 2001–"about the same number as in the Reagan years," he added, referring to the 1980s, when defense spending soared. Sales, too, have more than doubled in five years, from $2.3 billion to $4.7 billion, according the company’s year-end results. Electronic Systems now enjoys participation in 300 programs (as opposed to 168 in 1996) and has 7,000 active contracts, more than double the number in 1996.
Iorizzo noted Northrop Grumman’s success in airborne radars, which is part of the company’s Aerospace Systems Division. Much of that success rests in the selection of Northrop Grumman radars for the U.S. Air Force’s two prime combat aircraft programs, the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Combat avionics represents a $1.2-billion business for Northrop Grumman. In addition to radars, the company foresees near-term growth in infrared countermeasures, systems for unmanned air vehicles, and C4ISR (command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance).
Though it represents a relatively small part of Northrop Grumman’s business, the air traffic management sector holds a Federal Aviation Administration contract to deliver 134 ASR-9 airport surveillance radars, and has delivered its newer ASR-12 radar to non-U.S. customers. Northrop Grumman also produces air traffic control communications switching.
"We have a diverse product mix and platform mix–from underseas to outer space," Iorizzo concluded. Electronic Systems represents 34 percent of Northrop Grumman’s business, a significant jump from the 11 percent it represented in 1993, when the firm was still primarily an aircraft company. Visit. www.northgrum.com.
A Eurocopter EC135 equipped with an experimental fiber optic primary flight control system completed its first test flight Jan. 28. The fly-by-light helicopter, known as the active control technology demonstrator/flying helicopter simulator, took off from Eurocopter Deutschland GmbH’s Ottobrunn facility near Munich. (Eurocopter is a unit of EADS, the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co.) The project is funded by Eurocopter Deutschland, Liebherr, the German Defense Ministry and the German Aerospace and Test Center. Fly-by-light, if perfected, would surpass fly-by-wire because of its immunity to electromagnetic interference, lighter weight and broader transmission spectrum. Optical flight control systems also would enhance helicopter controllability and stability in windy conditions. Visit www.eads.net.
Air Force Trainer Awarded
The U.S. Air Force recently awarded Raytheon Aircraft, Wichita, Kan., a $193-million, one-year contract to produce at least 40 new, entry-level T-6A Texan II trainers. Under the Joint Primary Aircraft Training System (JPATS) program, the Air Force and Navy will replace their respective T-37B and T-34C aircraft. Four one-year options to the basic contract, if exercised, could bring the award’s value to about $1.2 billion.
The joint program is ground-breaking in that both services will use identical planes and there will be only one syllabus, says Lt. Col. Ronald Joseph, chief of the JPATS Division in the Flying Training Systems Program Office at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. Key features include modern avionics, a zero-altitude/zero-air speed ejection seat, pressurization and an onboard oxygen generation system. A total of 782 aircraft are to be fielded.
The T-6A sports a glass cockpit, which allows more in-flight backup, Joseph says. "If I lost an ADI or one of the MFDs [multifunction displays], I could regenerate that on another display." Commercial off-the-shelf (COTS), digital avionics systems are provided by Honeywell and Smiths Aerospace–late ’80s and early ’90s technology. The program has a goal of 2.5 maintenance hours per flight hour, about one-half the current statistic. Digital avionics will have a lot to do with that performance, Joseph says. The Air Force also says operating costs will shrink dramatically for the T-6A, compared to the T-37. The service forecasts that, fully fielded, its fleet of 454 T-6As will cost $79.3 million less to operate per year than the current fleet.
But it’s the total system that makes the program unique. Computer-based courseware is graphics-intensive. And the aircraft simulator’s computer-generated scenes use geographical data based on the areas over which students will actually fly. The program office so far has noticed an approximately 25 percent reduction–based on a small sample of initial students—of the time required for trainees to be ready to solo. That is down from 16 hours to 12 hours.
VDL-2 Makes First Revenue Flight
American Airlines recently operated the first scheduled, revenue flight using ARINC’s VHF digital link Mode 2 (VDL-2). The new Boeing 757-200–the first production airplane built with VDL-2 as standard equipment–maintained the link throughout the flight from Tulsa, Okla., to New York. VDL-2 promises to carry an order of magnitude greater message volume than today’s aircraft communications addressing and reporting system (ACARS) data link. ARINC has completed VHF network upgrades at 25 ground stations, including Dallas-Fort Worth, Chicago, Denver, Atlanta, Washington-Dulles and Houston International. Visit www.arinc.com.
ADS-B in Australia
Thales ATM will upgrade the Australian Advanced Air Traffic System (TAAATS) to allow it to receive, process and display automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) information transmitted by properly equipped airplanes. Under a contract with Airservices Australia, Thales will update the Brisbane area control center (ACC), Melbourne test and evaluation platform and the existing simulator to integrate ADS-B as an additional source of air traffic control (ATC) surveillance data. Controllers will be able to view ADS-B traffic information, together with flight plan, radar and ADS/CPDLC (controller pilot data link communications) data. The idea is to provide Airservices Australia an operational configuration allowing users to assess ADS-B benefits and to develop supporting procedures and training. Visit www.thalesatm.com.
Swanwick Center On Line
The UK’s Swanwick air traffic control (ATC) center began managing airspace over southern England and Wales in late January, according to contractor Lockheed Martin Air Traffic Management, which took responsibility for the project in 1996. Since that time, the company claims, the project has met all schedule and budget milestones. Supporting 360 air traffic controllers, the Swanwick system tracks 6,000 flights daily. The startup follows Lockheed’s November 2001 deployment of a new radar data processing and display system at the National Air Traffic Services’ (NATS) Scottish Center in Prestwick, Scotland. Visit www.lockheedmartin.com/atm.
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University has ordered an air traffic control, 180-degree, tower simulator from Australia-based Adacel. It is scheduled to be operational at the school’s new College of Aviation complex in Daytona Beach, Fla., in May 2002.
The new simulator will use Adacel’s MaxSim 3.0 software with voice recognition. It also will include two airport-specific data bases, a weather information display, radar interface and a supervisor/pseudo-pilot interface. The new simulator joins 30 radar training positions and voice communications systems, also produced by Adacel. Visit www.embryriddle.edu and www.adacel.co.uk.