Connectivity

Hawaiian is Bringing Swiftbroadband-Safety to its A321s

By Woodrow Bellamy III  | December 5, 2016


[Avionics Magazine 12-5-2016] After assessing its capabilities during a multi-year FAA-supervised technology evaluation, Hawaiian Airlines is adding Inmarsat’s SwiftBroadband-Safety (SB-S) to its Airbus A321 new engine option (Neo) fleet. Inmarsat announced the selection on Monday, Dec. 5, making it the latest in a series of developments involving SB-S technology recently. 
 
 
Hawaiian Airlines aircraft. Photo: Hawaiian Airlines.
 
SB-S is Inmarsat’s Aircraft Communication, Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) over Internet Protocol (IP) networking technology, which Hawaiian first began flying with in 2015 on its Boeing 767-300 aircraft. Inmarsat has positioned SB-S as representing a paradigm shift in aircraft connectivity, as it permits previous aircraft data transmissions solely done over the aging ACARS network to be done faster and cheaper using IP as a gateway for air-to-ground and aircraft-to-controller data transmissions and messaging.

 
According to an SB-S white paper Inmarsat released in September, the flight deck connectivity service is an evolution of the Inmarsat Classic Aero service. It uses the company’s L-band satellite network for cockpit communications, and spot beam technology over the I-4 constellation to allocate resources to areas where safety-critical information transmissions are need most. 
 
Three specific connection types are provided over SB-S, including character-based ACARS data services for Automatic Dependent Surveillance - Contract (ADS-C) and Controller Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC). ADS-C, CPDLC, real time prison reporting, and flight data streaming along with aircraft performance data downloads can also be provided over the SB-S prioritized IP channel. Thirdly, the regular IP channel can be used as a voice and data communication channel for Airline Administrative Control and Airline Operations Center (AOC) applications. 
 
The onboard hardware that will be used to enable SB-S on Hawaiian’s A321neos will be Cobham Satcom’s Aviator 350D and HGA-7001 High Gain Antennas, which are being line fitted on new A320 family aircraft by Airbus. Avionics Support Group (ASG) will perform installation of the Aviator 350D for Hawaiian. 
 
During an interview with Dan Smith, principal avionics engineer at Hawaiian Airlines, earlier this year regarding the island carrier’s use of SB-S, he referred to the Aviator technology as the equivalent of having a cell phone onboard their airplanes. 
 
“The way to think about the Cobham Aviator is that it is like a 3G cell phone in the sky, that is the perfect analogy. All of the data that we’ll send on SwiftBroadband over the prioritized IP channel is packaged up on the Aviator, sent down to the ground and sent over — in our case ARINC — and unpacked at their station,” said Smith. 
 
According to L2 Aviation President and CEO Mark Lebovitz, Swiftbroadband has been in service for cabin connectivity since the late 2000s. L2 handled the installation of the equipment on Hawaiian’s Boeing 767s for the evaluation of SB-S. 
 
“ACARS over [Swiftbroadband] SBB has been certified in the latter half of 2014 and has been successfully used for AOC and cabin communications. In June 2014, RTCA published DO 262B, Minimum Operational Performance Standard for Avionics Supporting Next-Generation Satellite Systems (NGSS), and FAA issued TSO-C159b, which provides a basis for evaluating NGSS equipment for design approval,” said Lebovitz. 
 

Recently, Inmarsat, Cobham, and Hawaiian Airlines announced that SB-S and Cobham had enabled in-air Electronic Flight bag connectivity for the first time with Hawaiian Airlines. The airline is planning to operate a fleet of 18 Swiftbroadband equipped A321neos by 2020. 

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