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Friday, February 1, 2013

Industry Scan

A passenger connects onboard Emirates’ A380
via OnAir’s connectivity system.

OnAir CEO Sees 2013 as a Big Year for In-Flight Connectivity

OnAir, a key service provider in the in-flight connectivity arena, is hoping for a banner year in 2013. Ian Dawkins, CEO, OnAir told Avionics sister publication In-Flight Connectivity Insider 2013 will be the year when in-flight connectivity becomes part of the mainstream for airline and business aviation passengers alike.

“Airlines are starting to roll out these services across their fleet. This year, it will become an entirely natural dynamic to people that if they travel, they can connect to the Internet. That will become a reality around the world in 2013. This will be a trend,” Dawkins said.

“I think the other trend to look out for in 2013 is the move towards GSM services. Because of the explosion of smart phones, you will just be able to connect when you are on the ground. The market is growing very quickly. At the moment, only 20 percent of the world’s aircraft have signed up to connectivity today. Only a very small percentage have got connectivity up and working today,” he said.

OnAir, which counts Emirates Airlines, Singapore Airlines and TAM Airlines among its client, offers its services across a number of different platforms via SwiftBroadband. It works with Thales, for example, and had done a number of deals with them, as well as offering systems on Airbus aircraft.

“We are very agnostic in terms of what we want to do. It is part of our strategy. Everyone talks about how big the pie is. But, you hear less about managing that service. We have done it. Airlines are becoming more aware of the operational side. We are looking at developing a number of applications that will enhance the operational side of the business, and I do see that side of the business. Airlines are going to look at how they can best optimize the passenger service, as well as optimize the operations of the aircraft. We can provide the infrastructure to allow these applications into the aircraft,” says Dawkins.

Additionally, OnAir in September signed an official contract with Inmarsat finalizing the appointment of OnAir as the first Aviation Distribution Partner for Global Xpress (GX) Ka-band network. In preparation for the introduction of Global Xpress, OnAir has already started to secure customers for the launch of the satellite service.

While the company has done a number of high-profile deals in the commercial arena, the company also hopes to make more of an impact in the business aviation market. In December, OnAir announced that its inflight connectivity system is now a linefit option for buyers of Dassault’s Falcon 7X. The first Mobile OnAir and Internet OnAir equipped Falcon 7X will be available for delivery in 2014 and owners may linefit either or both services.

“From a business aviation market perspective, we have a very strong foothold in the higher end of the market. We cover a very broad segment. We are entering into just below that market now with GSM services. We are putting the emphasis on this market on GSM. More and more people are starting to realize the value of GSM,” says Dawkins. “That market will start to go through the change. That will be driven by small lightweight GSM equipment. We have worked with a company to develop that equipment and put it on board. It will be a requirement of all of the commercial airlines to have connectivity. We are about to put out an announcement on the next level of business jets with GSM services. They want to use this as a differentiator in the market as well. This market is starting to change. We are not really in the smaller end of the business jet market.” — Mark Holmes

For more on in-flight connectivity technologies and trends, visit In-Flight Connectivity Insider at www.aviationtoday.com/av/in-flight-connectivity/

COMMERCIAL

Licensing for Wi-Fi

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in December approved new rules to accelerate the deployment of in-flight Wi-Fi on more commercial flights in the United States.

FCC shares regulation of in-flight connectivity with FAA, and has allowed companies to offer the services on an ad hoc basis since 2001.

The newly formed rules will allow airlines to obtain broadband Internet licenses for their aircraft by getting FAA approval as long as they prove the on-board systems do not interfere with aircraft systems. FCC defines in-flight connectivity systems as Earth Stations Aboard Aircraft (ESAA) communicating with Fixed-Satellite Service geostationary-orbit space stations.

“By reducing administrative burdens on both applicants and the commission, the new rules should allow the commission to process ESAA applications up to 50 percent faster,” FCC said in a statement.

The decision comes following increasing pressure on FAA to expand the use of portable electronic devices (PED) on commercial flights. Earlier in December, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) sent a letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta saying she is “prepared to pursue legislative actions” if FAA moves too slowly in updating its policies regulating PEDs.”

Gogo in GX Pact

Gogo and Inmarsat in December signed an agreement that sees Gogo become a value added reseller for Global Xpress (GX) in the air transport market.

The Ka-band network will be provided through a constellation of three satellites and GX is scheduled to deliver full global coverage by late 2014.

“We strongly believe Global Xpress will be the first scalable, global solution optimized for the aero market,” said Michael Small, Gogo’s president and CEO. “With the addition of Inmarsat’s Ka-band service, Gogo has the ability to provide the most complete range of solutions, which enable us to service the full-fleet needs of our current and future airline partners; regardless of aircraft size, mission or location.”

Through GX, Gogo said it will offer improved capacity, global coverage and significant cost advantages to its commercial airline customers. Optimized for mobile users, including the global aero market, GX will deliver download speeds of up to 50 megabits per second, powering in-flight solutions, affording a superior user experience for passengers and crew, according to the companies.

“Gogo is a leader in in-flight connectivity, serving major commercial airlines across the world and we are delighted to have them as value added resellers for Global Xpress,” said Leo Mondale, managing director of Inmarsat GX.

Gogo’s air-to-ground in-flight Wi-Fi system is installed on more than 1,600 commercial aircraft including all domestic mainline Delta Air Lines and nearly all of Delta’s regional jets; all AirTran Airways and Virgin America flights; and select Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Frontier Airlines, United Airlines, and US Airways flights, Gogo said.

Cabin Lighting Market

A research report released in December predicts the global commercial aviation aircraft cabin lighting market will hit $1.25 billion by 2017, boosted by robust demand in the emerging markets.

In its report “Global Commercial Aviation Aircraft Cabin Lighting Market, Forecast & Analysis (2012-2017),” research firm MarketsandMarkets, based in Dallas, said airlines, which are dealing with increasingly higher fuel prices, are looking toward lighter weight cabin interiors to increase fuel efficiency. Coupled with the increase in orders for existing models and new models expected to enter the market the aircraft cabin lighting industry is expected to grow at 5.43 percent during the period of 2012 to 2017. It is expected that the aircraft lighting market in China will witness the highest growth rate. The global commercial aviation aircraft cabin lighting market revenue is expected to grow from $960.8 million in 2012 to $1.25 billion by 2017.

New Thales CEO

Jean-Bernard Lévy

Thales on Dec. 20 appointed Jean-Bernard Lévy as its new chairman and CEO, to replace Luc Vigneron, who resigned in December.

Vigneron resigned “after having acknowledged lack of support of the company’s two main shareholders,” according to a statement from Thales.

France, with a 27 percent stake, and Dassault, with a 26 percent stake, are the two main shareholders in Thales.

Lévy served as CEO at French multimedia company Vivendi for seven years prior to leaving that post in June.

“I have been aware for many years of the passion and the high-level expertise of the men and women who contribute to the group’s numerous successes in many countries around the world. In the global marketplace, Thales has all the strengths needed to play a leading role,” said Levy.

BUSINESS AVIATION

Citation M2 Production

Cessna on Jan. 10 said it has begun the initial production run of its Citation M2 light business jet, with certification on track for second quarter of 2013.

Unit 800 is slated for demonstrator purposes, and is expected to roll off the assembly line this April, the company said. The front and aft cabin assemblies for the light business jet are built at Cessna’s Wichita, Kan., facility and are then transported to Independence for final assembly and delivery.

“The M2 looks to be a fantastic product for the market in the light business jet category,” said Brian Rohloff, business leader for the M2.

The jet features Garmin G3000 avionics systems, including three 14.1-inch LCD primary and multifunction displays and two infrared, touchscreen control panels, and a new cabin design.

Other Cessna aircraft expected to hit the market in 2013 include the Citation X, the Citation Sovereign, the Jet-A fueled Turbo Skylane JT-A and the TTx.

Another Cessna aircraft slated to hit the market in 2013 Grand Caravan EX earned FAA Type Certification in January.

UNMANNED SYSTEMS

Contract for Small UAS

Five companies were selected in December to fulfill the Army’s small UAS contract, worth up to $248 million.

Under terms of the Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract issued Dec. 21, AeroVironment, of Monrovia, Calif., Elbit Systems, Lockheed Martin, Altavian, of Gainesville, Fla., and Innovative Automation Technologies, also of Gainesville, Fla., will be eligible to bid against each other on individual Delivery Orders under the contract.

The contract is a 3 base year contract with 2 one-year options.

Lt. Col. Nickolas Kioutas, product manager for the Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems product office, Unmanned Aircraft Systems project office, PEO Aviation, said the first delivery order award for Puma and Raven spare and repair parts in March 2013, with a completion date of 2017.

NASA Global Hawk

NASA in January was set to fly a Global Hawk research aircraft as high as 65,000 feet altitude over the tropical Pacific Ocean to probe unexplored regions of the upper atmosphere for global warming research.

The first flights of the Airborne Tropical Tropopause Experiment (ATTREX), a multi-year airborne science campaign with a heavily instrumented Global Hawk, were to take off from Edwards Air Force Base in California, NASA said Jan. 8. Six flights were planned between Jan. 16 and March 15.

“The ATTREX payload will provide unprecedented measurements of the tropical tropopause,” said Eric Jensen, ATTREX principal investigator at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. “This is our first opportunity to sample the tropopause region during winter in the northern hemisphere when it is coldest and extremely dry air enters the stratosphere.”

The instruments onboard the aircraft include remote sensors for measuring clouds, trace gases and temperatures above and below the aircraft, as well as instruments to measure water vapor, cloud properties, meteorological conditions, radiation fields and numerous trace gases around the aircraft. Engineering test flights conducted in 2011 ensured the aircraft and instruments operated well at the very cold temperatures encountered at high altitudes in the tropics, which can reach -115F.

CONTRACTS

ViaSat will provide broadband airborne satcom services for a U.S. government customer under a contract award valued at $52 million. The one-year contract is a renewal for services already provided using ViaSat ArcLight technology over a managed private network established in 2009 to support military missions.

ViaSat mobile broadband systems are designed to provide high-speed, beyond line-of-sight communications for media-rich ISR, C2 and other applications. Typical operational data rates range from 1 to 8 Mbps off the aircraft using Ku- and Ka-band satcom links. These systems are flown on more than 300 government aircraft such as the C-130, C-17, U-28, and various King Air models, accumulating more than 500,000 mission hours, the company said.

Northrop Grumman issued a $33 million contract to Telephonics to develop a multimode maritime radar system for the U.S.Navy’s fleet of MQ-8B Fire Scout vertical takeoff and landing UAV.Telephonics will develop a total of nine radar systems, designed to provide the MQ-8B Fire Scout with wide-area search and long-range imaging capability.

The U.S. Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) has awarded a $31.7 million contract to Cobham to provide the AN/ALQ-99 low band transmitter-antenna group (LBT-AG) for EA-6B and EA-18G electronic warfare aircraft. The LBT-AG provides protection for strike aircraft by disrupting enemy radar and communications, Cobham said. Cobham will be providing the low band transmitters for undisclosed foreign military operators, as the contract includes the first installment of a two-part procurement for foreign military sale.

➤ Astronics’ wholly owned subsidiary Luminescent was selected by Embraer Defense and Security to supply exterior lighting system, including navigation, anti-collision, landing, taxi, aerial refueling and formation lights, for the KC-390 Military Transport and Tanker Program. The KC-390 is expected to enter service in 2016.

Accenture and GE Aviation have formed a joint venture company called Taleris, which will provide commercial airline customers with “intelligent operations services focused on improving efficiency by leveraging aircraft performance data, prognostics, recovery and planning optimization solutions that will include assets and capabilities from both Accenture and GE,” the companies said. Taleris leverages GE Aviation’s intelligent operations and ProDAPS predictive analytics technology to analyze data from “tip to tail” sensors for multiple aircraft parts, components and systems and make predictive recommendations to optimize aircraft maintenance and flight operations.

British Airways has selected Honeywell’s Next Generation Flight Management System to increase navigation database capacity on its B747-400 fleet.

Sikorsky Aircraft has contracted Cobham Aerospace Communications to provide its Model 265-005 area microphone preamplifier for the U.S. Marine Corps CH-53K Super Stallion. The Model 265-005 is designed to detect and amplify cockpit signals for routing to voice recorders. U.S. Marine Corps is purchasing 200 CH-53Ks starting in 2018 as part of a replacement program for the CH-53E.

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