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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Industry Scan

The Aircraft Electronics Association (AEA) released its first ever avionics market report at its annual conference in March, revealing total avionics sales of nearly $6.3 billion in 2012 for the general aviation industry.

AEA said the $6.3 billion figure represents sales data from 19 avionics manufacturers, and includes all aircraft electronic sales, including cockpit upgrades, cabin and software upgrades, components and accessories, hardware, batteries and chargeable product upgrades.

“Never before has there been a true capture of the dollar size of the general aviation electronics market,” said Paula Derks, AEA president, said at the conference in Las Vegas.

The organization plans on expanding the report to a quarterly schedule, and to begin dividing the sales data into categories that include international sales, fixed-wing versus rotorcraft, aircraft categories and subscriptions sales. Currently, the report features only the total combined sales figure for the reporting companies.

The report was compiled by an ad hoc committee formed by AEA featuring representatives from avionics manufacturers throughout the United States. The 19 companies contributing to the report include Accord Technology, Aerosonic Corp., Anodyne, Aspen Avionics, Bendix/King, Cobham, Cool City Avionics, FreeFlight Systems, Garmin, Honeywell, International Communications Group, Jupiter Avionics, Latitude Technologies, Mid-Continent Instruments and Avionics, Rockwell Collins, Sandia Aerospace, Shadin, Trig Avionics and Universal Avionics Systems.

“Not only will this report be useful to our membership in strategic planning and examining market share, but it will be valuable information to promote our industry to the aviation community, investors, and most importantly, when informing our elected officials of the value of the industry to the global economy,” said Derks.

— Woodrow Bellamy III

COMMERCIAL

Thales, Gogo Partnership

Two of the biggest companies in the in-flight connectivity industry, Thales and Gogo, announced a new partnership in April at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Germany. The partnership will combine Thales’ TopConnect in-flight entertainment cabin system with Gogo’s connectivity systems to offer line-fit solutions to carriers worldwide.

Thales should benefit from Gogo’s current solutions which are powered by Inmarsat’s Global Xpress Ka-band satellite service, Ku-satellite and Air-to-Ground (ATG) technologies, according to the companies.

Gogo President and CEO Michael Small said the partnership will help to expand his company’s global footprint as they approach the 2014 launch of GX’s full global coverage for its Ka-band network.

“It brings two best of breed capabilities together and will give airlines exclusive passenger experiences with an economical and global connection. This gives us the benefit of accessing satellite-based connectivity services through Gogo’s reseller agreements with its satellite partners as well as Gogo’s ATG network where available,” said Alan Pellegrini, president and CEO of Thales USA.

Following the partnership announcement with Thales, Gogo announced a $113 million increase to its existing $135 million credit facility arranged by Morgan Stanley and J.P. Morgan in June 2012. The financing will help fund the company’s international expansion plans, as it increasingly looks to offer service for carriers beyond the United States.

 

Connectivity Research

Honeywell and Boeing announced a new technical services agreement Wednesday to research and develop high-speed in-flight wireless connectivity. Under the agreement, the two companies will develop technologies for Boeing aircraft, including the 787, 777, 737 Next-Generation and 747-8.

The joint research team will test and develop hardware, software and potential services that will use GX Ka-band satellites, powered by Inmarsat’s GX Aviation constellation.

 

SafeRoute on US Airways

US Airways received FAA certification for SafeRoute, a set of four flight deck applications developed by ACSS that are compatible with the agency’s NextGen implementation.

SafeRoute will enable the airline’s pilots to use automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) technology for more precise tracking of the position of its aircraft and other airplane traffic, according to ACSS, a joint venture company between Thales and L-3 Communications.

The system also features the following; Interval Management (IM) to provide flight deck spacing commands, In-Trail Procedures (ITP) to allow flight crews to perform altitude changes in non-radar airspace, CDTI Assisted Visual Separation (CAVS) to continue visual approach procedures using the electronic display and Surface Area Movement Management to provide a moving map display of the airport surface in the cockpit.

In a statement, US Airways said it is the first airline to receive certification for all four of these applications. The certification is applicable to the carrier’s fleet of A330 aircraft.

FAA has set a mandate for airlines to equip their aircraft with ADS-B Out capabilities by 2020.

 

Study Sees ATC Savings

According to a new study from the Reason Foundation, FAA could save $1.7 billion initially and up to $1 billion annually by building consolidated air traffic control centers and closing 187 air traffic radar rooms.

The study comes as the agency prepares to close 149 air traffic control towers as part of $637 million in spending cuts required by the sequester. The foundation’s study reports that existing air traffic control operations could be merged into large hubs to guide air traffic across large regions of the U.S.

“Without consolidating airspace and air traffic facilities, NextGen is at risk of becoming merely a very costly upgrade of hardware and software, without the large productivity gains that should constitute a major portion of the business case for this transition,” said Michael Harrison, a co-author of the Reason study.

The three key components of FAA’s shift to the Next Generation air transportation system are performance-based navigation, more precise surveillance of aircraft positions and digital communications over the current voice-based radar communication system.

Reason’s study presents a plan that would consolidate the 20 current en-route centers and 167 Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) facilities into five high-altitude centers, eight integrated control facilities (ICFs) and 38 consolidated TRACONS to manage air traffic for the entire national airspace system (NAS).

The concept of the ICFs is to combine large and small TRACONs and pull airspace away from air traffic towers near the nation’s busiest airports to redefine how that airspace is used by aircraft. Total operating cost savings under this plan would be nearly $1 billion annually, according to the study.

The researchers report that FAA and the Air Traffic Organization (ATO) have begun to move in the direction of ICFs in the northeast, where FAA’s Joint Resource Committee is developing a business case for building the Liberty ICF, which covers the greater New York/New Jersey and Philadelphia airspace resulting from the consolidation of nine existing TRACONs.

The initial cost of building just the Liberty ICF is estimated to be $2.3 billion, and the overall northeast plan would span the airspace from New York to Chicago, at a cost of $5 billion and scheduled completion date of 2023. Reason concludes that if ATO proceeds with a focus on the northeast, combining 45 TRACONs and altering airspace controlled by four centers, it will miss the opportunity to pursue a national consolidation strategy.

The National Air Traffic Controller’s Association is supportive of a consolidation strategy and the implementation of NextGen as a way to modernize the system over the long term, however the group says the recent sequestration budget cuts are impacting the ability to fully implement the satellite-based system.

“Unfortunately, sequestration is hampering these critical efforts. The indiscriminate nature of the cuts means that both current and future operations will be impacted. We continue to urge policy makers to replace these cuts so that efforts to improve, enhance and modernize our national airspace can continue,” NATCA said in an emailed statement.

FAA projects a completion date of 2020 for its completion of its NextGen implementation, saving airlines $24 billion in fuel, delays and other expenses.

 

BUSINESS/GA

Aircell Acquisition

Aircell completed its acquisition of the Airfone business unit of LiveTV, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of JetBlue Airways, the companies announced April 15. The agreement includes LiveTV’s 1 MHz air-to-ground spectrum license, as well as the Airfone in-flight communications service, network infrastructure and back-office operational assets.

“We’re delighted to welcome Airfone customers and dedicated employees to the Aircell family,” said John Wade, Aircell’s executive vice president and general manager.

The Airfone service currently operates on frequencies adjacent to those utilized by Aircell’s Gogo Biz in-flight Internet service in the business aviation market – as well as Gogo in the commercial airline market. To support the ongoing expansion of those services, the Airfone service will be permanently decommissioned on December 31, 2013.

“In-flight communications have become an indispensable part of the business aviation experience. To ensure operators aren’t without needed communications capabilities after the December 31 Airfone service shutdown, customers with MagnaStar units are encouraged to begin planning their transition now,” said Wade.

For more on business jet connectivity, see pg. 16.

 

MILITARY

FACE Partnership

LynuxWorks, of San Jose, Calif., and Twin Oaks Computing, of Castle Rock, Colo., have formed a partnership designed to deliver Twin Oaks Computings’ CoreDX Data Distribution Service (DDS) communication middleware on LynuxWorks’ LynxOS-178 safety-critical embedded real-time operating system (RTOS).

The combined system will support the Future Airborne Capability Environment (FACE). LynuxWorks and Twin Oaks Computing in April demonstrated the CoreDX DDS Shapes Generator running on the DO178B certified LynxOS-178 Operating System at the FACE Air Force Technical Interchange Meeting and Exposition held in Fairborn, Ohio.

 

Connext DDS for KC-390

Real-Time Innovations (RTI), of Sunnyvale, Cailf., was selected by Embraer Defense and Security to provide its ConnextT Data Distribution Service (DDS) for the software development of its KC-390 military transport aircraft mission computer.

Embraer is currently developing the KC-390, a twin-engine military airplane primarily designed to transport cargo and troops and perform aerial refueling. The KC-390 is making use of Connext DDS to increase software development productivity for the KC-390 Mission Computer, according to RTI.

Embraer is using Connext DDS on its multi-processor Mission Computer to integrate software applications running on top of different CPUs and operating systems. The Israeli Air Force is currently using Connext DDS on VxWorks 653 for the IMA of the F-35’s that they are buying from the United States.

CONTRACTS

The U.S. Army issued $13.8 million in incremental funding to AeroVironment for RQ-11B Raven unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

The funding is for continued performance of previous agreement, with a maximum value of $65.8 million. AeroVironement will provide miniature gimbaled payloads and initial spares packages for the 4.5-lb, hand-launched sensor UAS which provides “over the hill” reconnaissance in support of tactical units.

The company recently developed the Mantis suite of gimbaled payloads, which includes a daylight digital camera and an infrared thermal imaging camera for uninterrupted video imagery. Raven systems consist of three aircraft, two ground control stations and spares.

Delivery of the new systems is scheduled through July 25, 2013.

➤ The Rockwell Collins Ascend Aircraft Information Manager (AIM) system, recently certified for the Cessna Citation XLS+, has been installed on its first aircraft. AIM is a secure data transfer system for Pro Line Fusion, Pro Line 21 and Pro Line 4-equipped aircraft.

Duncan Aviation completed the installation on a XLS+ operated by Michigan-based supplier of aviation fuel and services, Avfuel. The system provides flight critical updates for flight management system navigation data, electronic charts, terrain and surface management databases. AIM is part of Rockwell Collins’ Ascend Flight Information Solutions, which allows business jet operators to control flight operations system schedule, international trip support and flight watch dedicated meteorologist services.

➤The U.S. Air Force issued a contract award of more than $71 million to  Northrop Grumman to provide sensors and payload systems upgrades for its fleet of Global Hawk UAS. 

Rockwell Collins has been awarded two contracts to provide service and support on the KC-135 Pacer Compass, Radar and GPS (CRAG) program.

The repair package consists of nearly 4,000 line replaceable units across the fleet of 417 KC-135s. This contract is a one-year base with three one-year options that solely covers the Rockwell Collins Multimode Weather Radar and is a step towards a collaborative, flexible longer-term sustainment solution.

Additionally, Rockwell Collins has been awarded three-year, $4.8 million contract by the U.S. Air Force Air National Guard for service and support of the KC-135 Pacer CRAG program.

 

 

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