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Thursday, April 1, 2010

Industry Scan

ADS-B Ground Station Roll-Out Progresses Toward September Milestone

Half of the planned radio sites for Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) “essential” services have been built under Segment 1 of the FAA contract, which calls for construction of 330 sites by September.

There were 165 radio sites built at this writing, 90 of them operational, according to ADS-B prime contractor ITT Corp. A typical radio site features one omnidirectional Universal Access Transceiver (UAT) antenna and four sectorized 1090ES antennas, supporting a dual-frequency approach to communicating with aircraft.

Twelve ADS-B stations — nine of which were installed and operational — will be located on offshore oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. Nine terrestrial sites are located around the Gulf.

Some of the platform-based ADS-B stations will be collocated with Automated Weather Observing System (AWOS) installations by All Weather Inc. (AWI), of Sacramento, Calif. AWI is a subcontractor to ITT in providing 35 AWOS systems for surface weather measurements on Gulf oil platforms and for AWOS systems in Alaska. VHF radio terminals to transmit AWOS data are being installed by FAA.

ADS-B essential services consist of Traffic Information Service-Broadcast (TIS-B) and Flight Information Service-Broadcast (FIS-B) transmissions to properly equipped aircraft.

Also under Segment 1 of the contract, ITT will stand up four sites for “critical” services, the presentation of downlinked ADS-B targets on controller displays, supporting radar-like aircraft separations. Two of those sites — the Louisville, Ky., Terminal Radar Approach Control (Tracon) and the Gulf of Mexico, feeding data to the Houston Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) — were declared operational by FAA in October and December, respectively. Operational status of the third site, at the Philadelphia Tracon, was imminent; the fourth site at Juneau, providing data to the Anchorage ARTCC, was due in April.

Under the FAA contract, ITT is expected to provide ADS-B coverage for three types of service volumes: enroute, terminal and surface. Enroute service volumes correspond to the geographic areas managed by ARTCCs in the continental United States; terminal service volumes to Tracons.

Surface service volumes are based at 35 major airports that either have or will receive Airport Surface Detection Equipment, Model X (ASDE-X) surface traffic management systems.

As of September, ITT plans to complete deployment of ADS-B services for 19 enroute service volumes: Jacksonville, Boston, Juneau, South Alaska, Anchorage-Fairbanks, McGrath, Yukon, Nome, Kotzebue-Northern Alaska, Albuquerque, Seattle, Cleveland, New York, Atlanta, Washington, Los Angeles, Chicago, Oakland and Minneapolis. Remaining enroute and terminal service volumes will be provisioned in Segment 2 of the contract.

ITT in January was conducting flight tests for ADS-B service acceptance testing of the Boston ARTCC, which was being provisioned with essential services under Segment 1. An Ohio University-operated Beechcraft King Air based in Portland, Me., was used to fly prearranged flight paths to test the boundaries of the service volume.

The company had established two of three control stations planned for the continental U.S., at Ashburn, Va., and Dallas, and a scaled-down regional station at Anchorage. The control stations receive and process ADS-B targets from the radio sites and data supporting TIS-B and FIS-B broadcasts. The third CONUS station will be located on the West Coast; other regional stations were eyed for Guam, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. — Bill Carey

COMMERICAL

NGIP Released

FAA on March 8 released the 2010 update of its NextGen Implementation Plan (NGIP), laying out the agency’s progress and goals for implementing new operational capabilities in the mid-term of 2012 to 2018.

The NGIP update supports many of the recommendations issued last September by the RTCA NextGen Mid-Term Implementation Task Force, including the sharing surface movement data to support collaborative decision-making among industry stakeholders.

The plan also reiterates the agency’s emphasis on safety and capacity enhancements, particularly in light of increasing air traffic and the introduction of very light jets, unmanned aircraft systems and commercial space flights. Technologies cited include Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B), data communications, performance-based navigation and safety management systems.

According to agency’s latest estimates, NextGen will reduce total flight delays by 2018 by about 21 percent, providing $22 billion in cumulative benefits to the traveling public, aircraft operators and FAA. During this same period, FAA said NextGen efficiencies will save more than 1.4 billion gallons of fuel from air traffic operations alone, cutting carbon emissions by nearly 14 million tons.

“Policy, procedures and systems on the ground and in the flight deck enable the mid-term system,” according to an executive summary. “We make the most of technologies and procedures that are in use today, as we introduce new systems and procedures that will fundamentally change air-traffic automation, surveillance, communications, navigation and the way we manage information.”

FAA acknowledges, however, that achieving success will be challenging. “Undertaking NextGen is extremely complex, in part because systems in various stages of development and maturity are interdependent and will be implemented in a variety of time frames,” FAA said.

“NextGen’s increasing dependency on aircraft-centric capabilities means that we must rely on operators’ willingness to equip. We will not see real performance improvements until operators are properly equipped to reap the benefits of those capabilities.”

Aerospace Forecast

The sluggish economy will put the brakes on growth in the U.S. commercial air industry, according to a FAA forecast released March 9.

FAA’s annual Aerospace Forecast predicts domestic passenger enplanements will increase modestly, by 0.5 percent in 2010, and then grow an average of 2.5 percent per year until 2030. In the short-term, the agency expects to see declines in both domestic and international capacity as carriers respond to the economic downturn. U.S. airlines will reach 1 billion passengers a year by 2023, two years later than earlier forecasted.

At the forecast conference in Washington, FAA and industry executives called for increased emphasis on implementing Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) technologies to improve efficiency and accommodate the increase in traffic. “I believe that this aviation forecast is a major point in a very strong business case for NextGen. If you’re thinking that because the numbers are down, there’s no need for NextGen or airport improvements, I would counter that it is unwise to make long-term decisions with short-term information,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt.

“What excites me most about NextGen is its potential,” said James May, president and CEO of the Air Transport Association. “What concerns me most is when we’re going to implement NextGen. Right now, I don’t think NextGen is the national priority that it needs to be.” —Emily Feliz

AIRE Extended

American and European aviation officials pledged to extend the flight demonstrations conducted under the Atlantic Interoperability Initiative to Reduce Emissions (AIRE) into regular, daily operations. “We will perform new trials in 2010, and the intent there is to move from trials to day-to-day operations,” said Carey J. Fagan, director of International Strategy & Performance with FAA’s Air Traffic Organization.

The latest results of AIRE, an agreement between FAA and the European Commission launched at the Paris Air Show in June 2007, were presented March 9 at the ATC Global conference in Amsterdam.“AIRE is one of the projects from which we expect early benefits or quick wins,” said Daniel Calleja, head of the European Commission Air Transport directorate. “It is very important that we have low-hanging fruit. We cannot rely only on long-term research. We need to show early benefits; we need to show early deliveries.”

Last year in Europe, officials said, 1,152 flight trials took place in five locations, involving 18 industry partners. The trials practiced flight procedures including minimum power taxiing, rolling takeoffs, optimized flight paths and continuous descent approaches.

The Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) Joint Undertaking has issued a call for tenders for additional industry partners to extend European participation in the program.

Patrick Ky, SESAR JU executive director, said one of SESAR’s targets is to reduce the environmental impact of aviation by 10 percent per flight. Demonstrations indicate that reductions of close to 2 percent “could be achieved without any major technological investments,” he said.

“The AIRE initiative, I think, has come at a very timely moment,” Calleja said. “It is a testbed for fuel-saving procedures, to measure their effects. And standard equipment is used, so no major investments are needed. But the experience will pave the way for the innovation coming with SESAR.”

Thien Ngo, AIRE program manager with FAA, said demonstrations in the next year will focus on east-bound flights, gate-to-gate operations and the involvement of air navigation service providers, airports and city pairs.

SJU: Public Funding Eyed For SESAR Deployment

The Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) program will need public money to assist operators in equipping for new capabilities, according to the head of the management organization overseeing the development phase.

The European Commission will propose to the Parliament and Council of the European Union (EU) this year who should manage the SESAR deployment phase, which is scheduled to begin in 2015, and how it should be funded. Airlines are pushing to have the 27-state European government fund a substantial amount of that cost, said Patrick Ky, executive director of the SESAR Joint Undertaking (SJU).

“We think that it will be necessary to have public money used in order to provide incentives for airlines or for Air Navigation Service Providers to equip early for SESAR technologies,” said Ky, speaking March 9 at the ATC Global conference in Amsterdam. “We have already started to lobby to have SESAR on the radar scope of the EU budgetary discussions which are starting now for the budget which will cover the EU operations between 2014 and 2021.”

The SESAR JU is managing SESAR’s development phase, which is now in progress with some 220 of 300 projects initiated. The organization has a budget of €2.1 billion over eight years. The average project lasts four years, Ky said.

“We really launched the technical activities on the third of June of 2009,” he said. “From virtually zero persons working on the program, we’ve arrived today at something like 1,400 people working on SESAR, and we are expecting that by 2011 we will have 3,000 people working on the project. It’s a huge program.”

At this writing, the European Commission and FAA were negotiating a memorandum of cooperation to ensure interoperability of SESAR with the NextGen effort in the United States. This will provide “a legal framework, an institutional framework in which we need to work,” Ky said. “As soon as we have that available, we will work at the technical level between us and FAA.”

The overall cost of SESAR is estimated at €35 billion, with airlines incurring €20 billion to equip or retrofit for new operational capabilities. European militaries will spend another €7 billion and airports and ground services the balance.

“We are currently working on the business case for SESAR for the airlines, trying to show to them that if they invest in new technology, the benefits will be greater than their investment,” Ky said. “... If we find a way to have a funding mechanism which ensures that we can have this investment made, and then the return on investment comes at a later stage, then maybe we’ll have a safe way to implement this. We are currently working on it. It’s not easy.”

Similarly challenging will be bringing multiple European militaries into line with the next-generation operating environment.

“The investment cycle for the military is about 15 to 20 years at a minimum, which means that if we want the military aircraft to be able to fly into the Single European Sky, they need to decide very soon on how they are going to make the necessary changes in the cockpits or in the equipage of the aircraft to make those flights possible,” Ky said. “This is not an easy question, because one of the difficulties that we have in Europe is that we do not have one single interlocutor, we do not have military SESAR.”

Public support of SESAR could be provided through co-funding programs or “innovative” means, such as creating a fund for early equipage, Ky said. He indicated support of an airline industry call to use Europe’s Emission Trading Scheme to help underwrite SESAR, saying “it would be a very good initiative.” —Bill Carey

TCAS Directive

FAA issued an airworthiness directive (AD) March 11 requiring operators of the Airbus A320 family to update software in their traffic collision avoidance systems (TCAS) following two near mid-air collisions.

The directive, effective April 15, requires U.S. operators of the estimated 564 aircraft to upgrade their electronic instrument system software to V60, which introduces modifications to the vertical speed indication to further improve legibility in the case of TCAS Resolution Advisory. The modification consists of a change in the needle color and thickness and an increase in width of the TCAS green band. European regulators adopted the same rule in November 2008.

“One of the Human-Machine Interface (HMI) factors was the lack of visibility of relevant information on the Primary Flight Display. This condition, if not corrected, could result in erroneous interpretation of TCAS Resolution Advisories, leading to an increased risk of mid-air collision,” the AD states.

FAA estimates the modification will cost U.S. operators about $8.3 million, or $14,800 per aircraft.

Maintenance Penalties

FAA in March proposed three civil penalties totaling $787,500 against American Airlines for maintenance violations.

The largest penalty $625,000 is for deferred maintenance of a central air data computer (CADC). According to FAA, American Airlines mechanics in April 2008 diagnosed problems with one of two air-data computers on a McDonnell Douglas MD-82.

“Instead of replacing the computer, mechanics improperly deferred this maintenance under the airline’s DC-9 Minimum Equipment List (MEL) by noting that the auto-throttles were inoperative. The MEL, however, does not allow deferral of an inoperative CADC,” FAA states.

The airline subsequently flew the plane on 10 passenger flights before the computer was replaced, the agency said.

Two other violations relate to an airworthiness directive involving the inspection of rudder components on certain Boeing 757s, and a logbook error following B-check maintenance on a MD-82 that was returned to service. American Airlines was given 30 days from receipt of the civil penalty letter to respond to FAA.

Southwest Software

Teledyne Controls, El Segundo, Calif., will supply its LoadStar Server Enterprise (LSE) software and PMAT 2000 Portable Maintenance Access Terminal to support data distribution and loading across the Southwest Airlines fleet.

Southwest will use the software and 30 PMAT 2000 systems to configure and distribute Loadable Software Parts (LSP) on its Boeing 737s at 26 maintenance locations. The deployment of the system was completed in January.

Teledyne’s LSE software manages electronic LSP distribution and data collection to and from data loaders and airborne servers through airline networks, WiFi and cellular links.

When used with PMAT 2000 systems, LSE distributes LSPs to the PMAT 2000 data loader, which loads them into line replaceable units, while collecting other aircraft data that LSE automatically returns to centralized servers for engineering review and analysis.

PilotView STC

The PilotView CMA-1100 Class 2 electronic flight bag (EFB) from Esterline CMC Electronics was granted a supplemental type certificate (STC) by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) for installation provisions on the Airbus A320.

The STC was developed by aircraft modification and design organization Aeroconseil, of Toulouse, France. The launch customer for the installation is French charter airline Air Mediterranée.

The PilotView CMA-1100 EFB features “FMS-style” line select keys, a high-resolution, fully dimmable display, integrated communication capabilities and DO-160D environmental qualification.

CMC Electronics reports 24 STCs for the PilotView EFB. The system is the standard OEM Class 2 option at Dassault and ATR, and has been selected by Rockwell Collins for the Bombardier Global platform, by Embraer for the E-170/190 program, by Bombardier for the CRJ700/900/1000 and by Boeing for the Next-Generation 737 and BBJ.

BUSINESS/GA

Helicopter TAWS

Garmin in February announced a new Helicopter Terrain Awareness and Warning System (HTAWS) for its GNS 430W/530W series navigators.

The Garmin HTAWS has forward looking terrain avoidance (FLTA) capability with visual and aural advisories to keep pilots advised of hazardous terrain. It incorporates a new five-color terrain scale (red, orange, yellow, green and black), and gives terrain voice alerts when descending below 500 feet.

The system allows the pilot to select multiple callouts, in 100-foot intervals, descending from 500 to 100 feet above ground level. It offers a reduced protection (RP) mode that allows low-level operations with minimal alerting.

Garmin said it has incorporated three new helicopter-specific databases for HTAWS. The obstacle data base adds nearly 30,000 additional low-altitude obstacles. The new terrain database has been enhanced to show higher resolution.

The navigation data base lets operators navigate to 7,000 heliports without having to create user waypoints at those locations.

Also in February, Mid-Continent Instruments, Wichita, Kan., unveiled its MD41-1048 Annunciation Control Unit (ACU) specifically designed for the Garmin HTAWS function.

The MD41-1048 illuminates TAWS caution and warning lights when terrain or an obstacle is detected by the Garmin navigator. The ACU features a button for Reduced Protection Mode (RP Mode), Mute and a Terrain Inhibit switch. It can be mounted horizontally or vertically and is available with 5V or 28V lighting, Mid-Continent said.

An option for Night Vision Goggle compatibility is available.

The Garmin HTAWS is available as an option on newly purchased systems or as a field upgrade for current owners.

Standby Instrument

Thales was selected to provide its Integrated Electronic Standby Instrument (IESI) for Eurocopter’s range of light and medium helicopters, including the EC135, EC145, EC155 and military derivatives, as well as for the EC175, which performed its first flight at the end of 2009. The companies made the announcement Feb. 22 at Heli Expo in Houston.

Combining sensors and display in a single box, the Thales IESI gives pilots the three main elements of information necessary to ensure a manual flight (attitude, altitude and air speed), even when other avionics functions are down. It includes a battery, providing power in the extreme case of complete aircraft electrical failure. The IESI integrates microelectromechanical systems pressure and inertial sensors, an enhanced low-consumption real-time computing capability and LED backlighting display.

UNMANNED SYSTEMS

NanoSAR Payload

Boeing subsidiary Insitu, based in Bingen, Wash., on Feb. 23 announced the availability of NanoSAR, a tactical synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) payload, for its ScanEagle and Integrator unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). The announcement followed four years of development by Insitu and NanoSAR developer, ImSAR LLC of Spanish Fork, Utah.

NanoSAR provides high-resolution imagery that can penetrate adverse weather conditions, battlefield obscurants, camouflage and light foliage. The payload module can be integrated into ScanEagle in the field without changing current ground control station hardware or support equipment. It also will be available as a payload option for Integrator.

MILITARY

HEICO Acquisition

HEICO Corp., of Miami completed its acquisition of dB Control, Fremont, Calif., a manufacturer traveling wave tube amplifiers (TWTA), microwave power modules (MPM) and other high-power devices used in defense and commercial applications, the companies announced Feb. 17. Financial details were not disclosed.

dB Control’s TWTAs and MPMs are used predominantly in radar, electronic warfare, on-board jamming and countermeasure systems in aircraft, ships and detection platforms deployed by U.S. and allied forces. Its products are typically associated with radar-enabled high-power threat detection, avoidance and targeting platforms such as the Predator, Reaper, Fire Scout, Sky Warrior and Global Hawk UAVs. Products are also used on the MH-60 helicopter, B-52, AC-130, MC-130, MC-12 Project Liberty and other aircraft.

“dB Control is a unique company which offers HEICO more participation in a growing part of both U.S. and non-U.S. defense budgets,” said Laurans A. Mendelson, HEICO chairman and CEO.

“In the U.S. Department of Defense Quadrennial Defense Review, the Department of Defense made clear its intention to continue to rely more on high-power radar and electronic warfare systems by dramatically increasing the size of its UAV fleet and by adding to other threat detection capabilities. We believe dB Control’s strong position in these growing markets, combined with its high technology capabilities, should provide for additional growth.”

Mission Computer

BAE Systems is developing the mission computer system for the Indian navy’s P-8I maritime patrol aircraft, a variant of the P-8A Poseidon planned for the U.S. Navy, the company announced March 3.

Developed by a Boeing-led team, the P-8I is designed as a multi-mission aircraft, capable of performing anti-submarine warfare, search and rescue and long-range intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance.

The mission computer system for the P-8I is a flexible and ruggedized processing platform that can be configured to meet input and output, video, voice, and graphics processing needs. BAE will begin deliveries to Boeing in 2011.

MIDS JTRS Certification

The Multifunctional Information Distribution System Joint Tactical Radio System received National Security Agency certification to provide secure distribution of situational awareness and command and control data among aircraft, the JTRS program office announced.

NSA certification is critical for MIDS JTRS operation on the F/A-18 E/F.

Northrop Grumman Completes Bat Test Flights

Northrop Grumman completed a series of test flights of its Bat unmanned aircraft system (UAS), the company announced Feb. 25. Northrop Grumman acquired the Bat product line from Swift Engineering in April 2009, and has since expanded the line’s capabilities.

During recent testing, the 12-foot and 10-foot wingspan Bat were each launched from an AAI Shadow UAS launcher and autonomously operated from a single ground control station before recovery via net. Configured with a 12-foot wingspan, the Bat-12 incorporates a German-made Hirth two-stroke engine driving a low acoustic five-blade propeller.

As a communications relay using Northrop Grumman’s Software Defined Tactical Radio, Bat has also demonstrated its capacity to provide beyond line-of-sight tactical communications relay for ground forces in denied environments, Northrop Grumman said.

The Bat UAS has been integrated and tested with new payloads and systems including a T2 Delta dual payload micro-gimbal from Goodrich’s Cloud Cap Technology, Sentient Vision Systems’ Kestral real-time moving target indicator, and short wave infrared camera from Goodrich.

In February, payload integration and testing was expanded to include the ImSAR NanoSAR-B fused with Cloud Cap’s T2 gimbal in a cursor-on-target acquisition mode.

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