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Saturday, December 1, 2007

Industry Scan

ATO Head Krakowski Vows To Be NextGen ‘Advocate’

The new head of FAA’s Air Traffic Organization (ATO) vowed to be "the strongest, most effective public advocate" for a NextGen modernization program facing long-term funding uncertainty and nearer-term labor problems.

Henry P. "Hank" Krakowski, formerly United Airlines’ vice president of flight operations, took over as ATO chief operating officer in October. He succeeded Russell G. Chew, who had shepherded ATO’s transition to a "performance-based" organization before leaving FAA last February. Robert "Bobby" Sturgell, nominated by President Bush to become FAA administrator, managed ATO on an acting basis in the interim.

ATO is responsible for operating and maintaining the nation’s air-traffic control system. Budgeted at $9.3 billion for fiscal 2008, the organization represents 66 percent of FAA’s $14.1 billion overall budget, and nearly 80 percent of its employees, including some 14,000 air-traffic controllers, 5,000 supervisors and managers, and 6,000 maintenance technicians.

An experienced airline pilot and airframe and powerplant mechanic, Krakowski gave his first major speech as ATO head Oct. 30 at the Air Traffic Control Association (ATCA) meeting in Washington. The keynote address came at both an auspicious and a troubling time for FAA.

On the one hand, the agency plans to increase funding for several NextGen "transformational programs" by 60 percent to $173 million in FY2008. In late August, FAA awarded ITT Corp. an 18-year, $1.86 billion contract, including options, to begin building the infrastructure for Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B), considered a cornerstone of NextGen.

"We talk frequently about new technologies that are being developed, yet in my mind we are not sufficiently discussing the changing role of the pilot, the controller, the aircraft dispatcher and in fact, all the users in the system.... They don’t really know what they’re being asked to support."

On the other hand, the flying public last summer endured the worst air-traffic delays on record due to weather and rampant airport congestion. The union representing most controllers, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, warned a critical staffing shortage looms as controllers retire or leave their jobs in droves, "fueled by outrage" over the lack of a contract. There is "a poisonous and acrimonious labor situation (at FAA) in which morale has never been lower," according to the union.

At this writing, FAA was being funded through a continuing resolution as Congress considered a four-year reauthorization bill. Considerable horse-trading was expected over FAA’s plan to move to a cost-based funding structure, lessening its reliance on the Airport and Airway Trust Fund by requiring aviation stakeholders to pay the cost of air-traffic control service. "Perhaps the greatest challenge is the need for durable, sustained political will. It is always about the money," Krakowski said. "We need a secure, sustainable, durable funding stream. But so far Congress has opted only to give us a continuing resolution, and that could spell trouble for NextGen."

Krakowski and other speakers at the ATCA conference cited a disconnect with the NextGen effort. "NextGen is fairly vague," observed Richard Marchi, senior advisor with Airports Council International-North America. "We talk about ‘network-enabled operations,’ or ‘super-density operations.’ We need to get down to a high level of detail on an airport-to-airport basis."

Marchi said FAA also must do a better job explaining the environmental benefits of NextGen to the larger public. He was at a loss to explain why "years of effort" haven’t mitigated opposition to airport expansions. "I don’t think we understand the psychology of why people object," he said.

Krakowski had similar observations. "In addition to the threat of insufficient near-term funding," he said, "I have a concern that the aviation community at large and the traveling public do not have a clear picture of what NextGen means. We talk frequently about new technologies... that are being developed, yet in my mind we are not sufficiently discussing the changing role of the pilot, the controller, the aircraft dispatcher and in fact, all the users in the system or those who are being affected by it. I know this by talking to these very constituencies over the last few weeks. They don’t really know what they’re being asked to support."

While aviation contributes just 2 percent to global carbon dioxide emissions, according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, concern over noise and emissions bolsters the case for NextGen, Krakowski said.

"As this global concern grows, it will be important to have a system that provides value for every drop of aviation fuel used," he said. "It will be no longer permissible to sit 10, 15, 20 minutes with your engines running, waiting for a voice clearance to taxi, or experiencing taxi-outs of an hour or more. With increasing fuel prices, the airline profitability is affected, and such waste represents an inefficiency that is not in the global interest."

Krakowski said "intense political compromise" was behind a modernization effort that will yield six parallel runways, new taxiways, new terminal construction and new airspace design at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport by 2016. That experience "may be directive" for congested airports in New York and elsewhere, he said.

NextGen developers must "clearly and passionately articulate the capabilities, benefits and operational change that will be required," for the system to realize its promise, he said.

"We may very well have a narrow window to implement NextGen," Krakowski said. "... I intend to be the strongest, most effective public advocate for NextGen that I can be, and I assure you that the framework will exist for effective and successful program integration." — Bill Carey


Sturgell Nominated

Robert A. "Bobby" Sturgell in October was nominated by President Bush to a five-year term as FAA administrator. Formerly deputy administrator, Sturgell became acting head of the agency following the departure of Marion C. Blakey in mid-September.

The nomination must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. A source with the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee said a hearing on the nomination had not been scheduled and would take place after Thanksgiving at the earliest.

Sturgell, 48, served as Blakey’s senior policy adviser when she headed the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Prior to joining NTSB, he was a flight operations supervisor and line pilot for United Airlines, flying Boeing 757s and 767s on domestic and international flights. A naval aviator, he flew the F-14, F-18, F-16 and A-4 aircraft and served as an instructor at the Navy Fighter Weapons School.

Sturgell is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and the University of Virginia School of Law. He has practiced aviation law at the Washington, D.C., firm Shaw Pittman.

"As a former fighter pilot with over three decades of aviation experience, Bobby Sturgell has worked tirelessly as deputy FAA administrator to fight congestion and modernize our aviation system while preserving the safest period in aviation on record," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters, announcing the nomination.

Industry reaction to the nomination was mixed. The Air Transport Association, representing airlines, said Sturgell’s "distinguished and varied background, in both civil and military matters, uniquely equip him to serve as FAA administrator."

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association, exclusive bargaining agent for the nation’s controllers, opposed the nomination, saying Sturgell has been "an integral part of the systematic demise of controller staffing and abysmal labor-management relations." Controllers have been working under FAA-imposed work rules and conditions since September 2006.


Airbus Delivers First A380

Airbus handed over the first A380 Superjumbo to Singapore Airlines in an Oct. 15 ceremony in Toulouse, France.

The first delivery was 18 months behind schedule due to production problems.

"This delivery really marks the beginning of a new chapter for the aviation industry and we feel honored to be the ones opening this new chapter," said Chew Choon Seng, Singapore Airlines CEO.

"This is a landmark day for all those who worked so hard over the years to make it happen. It is also a tribute to all the engineers and workers who developed the A380, as well as all our customers who selected this magnificent and highly efficient jetliner. We appreciate the confidence they have shown in Airbus and for staying with us through troubled times," said Airbus President and CEO Thomas Enders.

Singapore Airlines currently operates five A340-500s and has 19 A380, 20 A350 and 19 A330-300 aircraft on order. The first A380 began scheduled service Oct. 28.

As of October, Airbus reported 165 firm orders and 24 commitments for the A380 from 17 airlines. Emirates airline of Dubai, UAE, and Australia’s Qantas Airways were expecting first A380 deliveries in the third quarter of 2008. They have ordered 55 and 20 aircraft, respectively.

SWIM Alliance

A group of aerospace companies led by Lockheed Martin, and including Boeing and Harris Corp., formed an alliance to help advance FAA’s System Wide Information Management (SWIM) initiative. The alliance was announced at the Air Traffic Control Association annual meeting in Washington, D.C., in late October.

SWIM, under development by FAA, is a network-centric system that will integrate NextGen technologies, managing surveillance, weather and flight data and National Airspace System (NAS) status information for system users.

The alliance said its focus is to build a net-centric NAS based on a service-oriented architecture to facilitate data sharing. A service-oriented architecture allows different systems to communicate with each other without being hard-wired together. By connecting disparate, proprietary systems, the group says it will improve safety, reduce risk and enhance decision-making and operational efficiencies.

"As SWIM will define the integration infrastructure tying NAS applications together, the SWIM Alliance is bringing together industry best practices to define information sharing and net-centric operations across aircraft, airline and FAA systems," said Kevin Brown, Boeing vice president and general manager of Advanced Air Traffic Management.

ADS-B China

Unsuccessful in its bid to participate in the roll-out of Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) service in the United States, transceiver supplier Sensis Corp. is making inroads in other countries, including China, where it will help with the first formal ADS-B trial.

In late October, Sensis, Syracuse, N.Y., announced its selection by the Civil Aviation Administration of China to deploy 1090 MHz ADS-B coverage at Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport and Jiuzhai Huanglong Airport, both in central China. A second phase of the contract calls for Sensis, partnered with China’s Aviation Data Communications Corp., to assist in the analysis of a nationwide roll-out.

"It’s a small trial contract, but it positions us," said Ken Tollstam, Sensis vice president of Air Traffic Systems. "We’re at the front end, and I’m comfortable (we will) get our fair share, maybe better," of a future nationwide deployment.

The selection by China’s civil aviation authority and recent developments involving the Sensis multilateration surveillance system, including a high-profile contract to provide multilateration at Dubai World Central International Airport, lessened the sting of losing FAA’s contract award for ADS-B. Sensis was part of a Lockheed Martin team competing against teams headed by Raytheon and ITT Corp. In August, FAA named ITT the winner of the 18-year, $1.86 billion contract, including options. ITT’s partner, Thales North America, will supply nearly 1,600 transceivers under the contract.

Interviewed at the Air Traffic Control Association meeting in Washington, D.C., in October, Tollstam played down the loss. "We were an arm’s length vendor; Sensis had less than 8 percent of the work scope" for the Lockheed Martin bid, he said. Still, the disappointment was evident.

However, Sensis believes it has the largest, current installed base of ADS-B and ADS-B-compatible multilateration units, with more than 1,000 units providing surveillance in Europe, Asia and North America. Among its competitors are Thales, Era Corp., Selex, Siemens and QinetiQ.

Sensis provided ground-based Universal Access Transceivers for the Alaska Capstone program, one of the building blocks of the nationwide U.S. roll-out. This year, Sensis was selected by Nav Canada to provide ADS-B coverage in the Hudson Bay region and multilateration surveillance in Vancouver Harbor and Fort St. John’s — favorably positioning the company for an eventual, nationwide roll-out in Canada estimated at 500 to 700 ground stations.

"Our understanding from Nav Canada is they’re on a path for national deployment, probably in the next five years," said Antonio Lo Brutto, general manager of Sensis Air Traffic Systems.

Sensis competed against Thales, Era and Selex for the China trial. While it did not offer the lowest-cost solution, "we made the case that we’re more than just a box provider," but also a partner experienced in ADS-B deployment, Tollstam said.

The possibility of generating increased revenue from navigation charges is "a huge consideration" for Chinese aviation authorities in launching ADS-B, Tollstam said. Currently, international carriers overflying western China are spaced procedurally due to the lack of positive surveillance, he said. With that surveillance in place, more airlines and aircraft can take advantage of these routes at favorable altitudes. — Bill Carey

ADS-B Europe

Six additional operators joined Eurocontrol’s Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) "Pioneer Airlines Project," designed to help airlines obtain airworthiness approval for their existing ADS-B equipment.

Air France, Air Mediterranee, Air One, Turkish Airlines, United Airlines and automaker Volkswagen joined the project, launched last year as part of Eurocontrol’s CASCADE program.

The six companies join 11 others that became part of the project in 2006. In total, more than 400 aircraft are now involved, generating more than 500,000 ADS-B certified flights per year in European airspace, Eurocontrol said.

The aircraft are providing certified surveillance data that will allow air navigation service providers to bring their ADS-B ground stations on line by late 2008 or early 2009. The project covers Airbus, ATR, Boeing and Dassault aircraft types.

Q400 Troubles

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) was contemplating an emergency airworthiness directive for the Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 turboprop following three accidents in seven weeks involving the aircraft’s landing gear.

Those accidents, in each case involving Scandinavian Airlines aircraft, led SAS to pull its fleet of 27 Q400s from service permanently, a decision announced in late October. "The Dash 8 Q400 has given rise to repeated quality-related problems.... [T]here is a risk that use of the Dash 8 Q400 could eventually damage the SAS brand," said SAS Deputy CEO John Dueholm.

In a statement Oct. 29, EASA, based in Cologne, Germany, said it was "concerned" over the latest accident "and the possible relation" with earlier Q400 accidents. The agency called for "an immediate crisis meeting" with Bombardier and Canadian authorities.

Bombardier issued a statement Nov. 3 saying findings of the Danish Accident Investigation Board relating to the third accident, Oct. 27 at Copenhagen’s Kastrup airport, "clearly support Bombardier’s position that the Q400 is a safe and reliable aircraft." The aircraft crash-landed when its landing gear collapsed; Danish investigators said the cause was a rubber ring stuck inside the gear, the Associated Press reported.

"We have unwavering confidence in the Q400 aircraft and we stand by our product," said Steven Ridolfi, president of Bombardier Regional Aircraft. "We are concerned about the impact negative comments might have had on Bombardier and the Q400 turboprop’s reputation, and we will do all that is necessary to protect our brand, and by association, the reputation of our Q400 aircraft customers."

Final assembly of the 78-passenger regional airliner is performed at Bombardier’s Downsview plant in Toronto. The landing gear supplied by Goodrich Corp. of Charlotte, N.C.

EU 7th Framework

The European Union this year awarded $309 million for aeronautical research under its Seventh Framework for Research Programs, emphasizing projects to make aviation greener, safer, more efficient and more secure.

The Seventh Framework is the EU’s paradigm for research funding between 2007 and 2013. The program will make available nearly $3 billion for aeronautics research during that period.

Half of the aeronautical research funding awarded this year will go to four large projects; the other half will be divided between 26 collaborative research projects and six "coordination and support actions." The first projects are slated to begin in January.

The four major projects are:

  • SCARLETT: A group led by Thales was awarded $32.8 million to develop new and advanced modular avionics platforms for a range of aircraft types.

  • MAAXIMUS: A consortium of 58 partners, including Airbus, received $57 million to improve the composition and design of fuselages in order to cut assembly time by half and reduce structural weight by 10 percent, thereby reducing emissions.

  • HIRF SE: A consortium of 44 partners that aims to create simulators to test the reaction of new aircraft to electromagnetic interference received $25.7 million.

  • DREAM: The Validation of Radical Engine Architecture System, a 47-partner project led by Rolls Royce, received $35.6 million to develop new engine concepts based on open contra-rotating rotors. The target is to cut CO2 emissions by 7 percent and noise by 3 decibels.

"Research holds the key to many of the challenges we face in today’s world, including how to make transport safe, greener, quieter and more efficient," said EU Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik. "The projects selected from the latest round of proposals all address one or other of these vital issues."

Guardian Milestone

Northrop Grumman in October said its Guardian Counter-Man Portable Air Defense System (C-MANPADS), installed on nine wide-body aircraft in revenue service, achieved 12,000 operational hours over 2,500 flights.

The Guardian pod started flying on nine FedEx DC-10s last January. Northrop Grumman also has FAA supplemental type certification to install the system on Boeing 747 and MD-11 aircraft, said Jack Pledger, the company’s director of infrared countermeasures business development.

Funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the C-MANPADS program is scheduled to conclude next March.

Northrop Grumman embarked on Phase III of the program in August 2006. All contract production and hardware delivery requirements were completed.

Guardian defends against the threat of shoulder-fired missiles (Avionics, July 2007, p. 26). Once the system detects a missile launch, it directs a laser that disrupts the missile’s guidance system.

Northrop Grumman said it completed an earlier flight-test program that included the use of a ground-based electronic missile surrogate to simulate a missile launch toward aircraft during takeoff and landing.

On the FedEx revenue flights, Northrop Grumman was gathering data on whether the system integrates well in a commercial environment, how it contributes to aircraft drag and what the fuel penalty is.

"There is some fuel penalty, but it currently is too small to identify," Pledger said.

ICAO Definition

FAA said Oct. 1 it will use the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) definition of a runway incursion, effective immediately, as a way to help pinpoint common causes for these incidents.

ICAO defines a runway incursion as any unauthorized intrusion onto a runway, regardless of whether or not an aircraft presents a potential conflict. FAA had defined an incident involving an aircraft in potential conflict, such as an unauthorized aircraft crossing an empty runway, as a "surface incident" and not a runway incursion.

The FAA classification of the most serious runway incursions, Categories A and B, remained unchanged. The total number of Category A and B incursions fell from 53 in fiscal 2001 to 31 in FY2006. A and B incursions were on track for another drop in FY2007, with 24 recorded through Sept. 9.

The use of the ICAO definition means that some incidents formerly classified as surface incidents will now be classified as C or D category runway incursions, which are low-risk incidents with ample time and/or distance to avoid a collision.

The result will inevitably mean the number of "runway incursions" will increase. ICAO developed its definition, adopted in November 2005, with FAA assistance. Before that, countries around the world used at least 20 different definitions for a runway incursion.

FAA also touted the progress after 60 days of its call to reduce runway incursions, following a series of incidents.

"When it comes to runway safety, you can’t afford to overlook anything," said Acting Administrator Robert A. Sturgell. "From the runways themselves to the signage, to the pilots, the controllers — even the people who are driving the trucks around the operations area — they all need to be included."

Ametek Buys MRO

Ametek, Inc., Paoli, Pa., paid $74 million to acquire the repair and overhaul (R&O) division of U.K.-based Umeco plc. The transaction was completed Nov.1.

Umeco R&O, with estimated annual sales of $57 million, provides maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services for electrical and electronic equipment, fluid power devices, hydraulic components, actuation systems, landing gear, and wheels and brakes from multiple locations in the U.K. and in Toulouse, France.

"Umeco R&O provides us with a strong presence in the European MRO market, greatly expanding the range of products and airframe platforms that we are now able to support," said Frank S. Hermance, Ametek chairman and CEO.

Multi-Crew License

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), in conjunction with national licensing authorities, the airline industry and professional pilot groups, has reassessed certain license criteria, particularly in terms of new pilot recruitment, and has introduced the Multi-Crew Pilot License (MPL).

The new license recognizes two realities. First, flying hours, sometimes described as "simply boring holes in the sky to accumulate time," are not always a useful yardstick of experience and, secondly, traditional training is inadequate preparation for the operation of advanced technology aircraft.

The 46-week MPL syllabus aims to qualify previous non-pilots as co-pilots of new airliners, in a training regimen that places key emphasis on advanced systems understanding and operation, high-altitude turbine flight, crew coordination and related duties.

While elementary flying training is included, solo flying can be limited to as little as 10 hours, purely to give the student confidence.

The balance of the 240 training hours required to obtain the MPL are devoted to dual instruction on increasingly demanding airline operating procedures.

In early 2008, the first MPL graduates will join two Chinese airlines as co-pilots, and this trickle can be expected to slowly turn into a flood, creating unprecedented demands on simulator manufacturers and pilot training establishments.

Boeing estimates 90,000 new pilots will be required in the Asia Pacific region by 2024. –– David Underwood

Call For Papers

The International Institute of Connector & Interconnection Technology (www.iicit.org) invites abstracts for papers to be given at its 39th Symposium and Expo, May 12-13, 2008 in Naperville, Ill.

An industry standard short course and product demonstration descriptions also are being solicited.

Papers are being sought for the following sections: PCB Interconnect developments; cable, wire and cordage performance; optical interconnect technology; and cable-mounted connectors.

Abstracts of about 200 words are due Dec. 15, 2007, and should be e-mailed to Dale.Reed@Emerson.com, or faxed with cover page to (847) 739-0301.

Southwest FMS

GE Aviation won a contract from Southwest Airlines to upgrade flight management systems on 200 of the airline’s Boeing 737s to support Required Navigation Performance (RNP) operations.

"Our system is a key part of our customer’s plans to conduct Required Navigation Performance operations, and allows them to realize significant cost savings with lowered fuel consumption, while simultaneously benefiting the environment with reduced emissions," said John Ferrie, GE Aviation president of systems.

Financial terms of the contract were not disclosed. Deliveries will take place in 2008 and 2009.


Unmanned Safety

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) entered a new era of oversight in October by ruling on the probable cause of a UAV accident and issuing a series of safety recommendations.

While the reasons for the crash were not unexpected, NTSB’s numerous recommendations growing out of the accident investigation could have far-reaching effects on how unmanned aerial systems are built and operated and how pilot training and qualifications are established.

The ruling stemmed from an April 25, 2006 accident in which a $6.5 million Predator B UAV searching for illegal immigrants for U.S. Customs and Border Protection crashed within 100 yards of a house near Nogales, Ariz. The Predator is manufactured by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) of San Diego.

The safety board issued 22 recommendations to address what NTSB Chairman Mark V. Rosenker said were "a wide range of safety issues involving the civilian use of unmanned aircraft."

Among those recommendations: GA-ASI should modify the unmanned aircraft system (UAS) to ensure that inadvertent engine shutdowns do not occur; modify the UAS to provide adequate visual and aural indications of safety-critical faults; and optimize the ability to recover the mission data link. In the absence of data-link recovery, the aircraft should be capable of proceeding to a safe zone for crash landing.

Others recommendations included requiring all conversations between UAV pilots and air-traffic control be recorded; establishing a documented maintenance and inspection program; training pilots in emergency procedures; and requiring the UAV be modified so its transponder continues to provide beacon code and altitude information to air-traffic control even if an engine shuts down in flight. — Ramon Lopez

Fatalities Drop

FAA said the number of fatal general aviation accidents in fiscal 2007 — 314 — was less than the goal of no more than 331 fatal accidents the agency had established. Fatalities in GA accidents declined from 676 in FY2006 to 564 in FY2007.

"This record is due to a dedicated commitment to safety by everyone in general aviation," said FAA Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety Nicholas A. Sabatini. "In particular, manufacturers are providing sophisticated technology like GPS and glass cockpits — and the training to go with them — and the FAA is vigorously encouraging adoption of these safety enhancements."

WAAS Expansion

GPS Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) coverage was expanded to thousands of general aviation airports throughout North America in September, FAA said.

The expansion integrated nine new international Wide Area Reference Stations into the network. New stations in Canada are located in Goose Bay, Gander, Winnipeg, and Iqualuit. Stations in Mexico are in based in Mexico City, Puerto Vallarta, Merida, Tapachula and San Jose del Cabo.

FAA said the expansion provides more locations where vertically guided approach procedures based on WAAS can be developed and used. The agency already has published more than 900 LPV, or Localizer Performance with Vertical Guidance, approaches throughout the United States.

More than 18,000 aircraft currently are equipped to fly LPV approach procedures, FAA said.

GA Satcom

The aviation market is a relatively small but booming segment for Iridium Satellite LLC, which strives to be the cockpit satcom provider of choice, according to its CEO.

In the five years since Iridium, based in Bethesda, Md., entered the aviation market, "we’ve basically become the standard for general aviation," said Matt Desch, chairman and CEO.

Particularly in the helicopter segment, Iridium has been successful because of the low weight and profile of antennas needed for its system, Desch told Avionics at the National Business Aviation Association conference in September.

In October, the company announced that four North American air ambulance and medical transportation fleets had switched to Iridium for mobile satellite communications. Air medical organizations in other countries, including Germany, Japan and Luxembourg, also use the Iridium system.

The privately held company, which emerged from bankruptcy in 2000, operates 66 low-earth orbiting satellites, providing mobile communications for the aviation, maritime, government, transportation, oil and gas and other markets.

The system does not have the bandwidth to provide the high-speed data rates required for broadband applications, Desch said, because Iridium chooses to focus on providing cost-effective, reliable service.

"The sweet spot in the cockpit The ACARS data rate is 2,400 bits per second, so actually we can do that really well. For air-traffic control instructions, flight planning information, you don’t need broadband for that," he said.

"If you do want to surf the Internet, that’s really done by another system. We’re not really good for that; we’re really more the low-cost data link connection to the cockpit.... We really dominate the cockpit. That’s our strategy." –– Emily Feliz

Firefighting UAS

In response to a request from the California Office of Emergency Services and the National Interagency Fire Center, NASA deployed its Ikhana unmanned aircraft system (UAS) to assist with firefighting efforts in southern California in October.

The Ikhana, a Predator B modified for civil research missions, was launched from its base at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The vehicle carried the Autonomous Modular Scanner, a thermal-infrared imaging system developed at NASA’s Ames Research Center.

The system is capable of peering through heavy smoke and darkness to see hot spots, flames and temperature differences, processing the imagery on board and then transmitting the information in near real-time to fire incident commanders.

Images are transmitted through a communications satellite to NASA Ames, where they are combined with Google Earth maps and transmitted to the interagency fire center in Boise, Idaho. The images are then made available to incident commanders in the field.

Eclipse Record

Very Light Jet manufacturer Eclipse Aviation, Albuquerque, N.M., said its Eclipse 500 set a National Aeronautic Association (NAA) speed record for jet aircraft weighing 10,000 pounds or less.

The Eclipse 500 beat the existing NAA record Oct. 7, flying from New York (Westchester) to Atlanta (Peachtree-Dekalb), in one hour, 55 minutes and eight seconds, for an average speed of 393.32 miles per hour.

The previous title holder, a Cessna Citation Mustang, set the record on Sept. 22, flying the same route in two hours, 23 minutes and 44 seconds, averaging 318.87 miles per hour.

Hawker STC

Landmark Aviation received FAA supplemental type certification (STC) to install the Rockwell Collins Integrated Flight Information System (IFIS) on the Hawker 800XP/850XP.

Rockwell Collins’ IFIS offers pilots access to electronic charts, airport diagrams, Notice to Airmen bulletins, standard instrument departures and standard terminal arrival routes. IFIS can be installed as a single or dual system with optional XM weather sensor, which adds graphical or satellite weather, winds and other strategy information.

Work will be performed at Landmark Aviation’s maintenance, repair and overhaul facilities at Augusta, Ga., Los Angeles, Springfield, Ill., and Houston.


Gunship Display

CMC Electronics’ "TacView" Portable Mission Display was selected by the U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command for its AC-130 Gunship aircraft.

TacView displays will be offered in a dual installation that will provide "paperless" cockpit operations, including aircraft data and procedures manuals and interactive electronic charts, using the U.S. Air Force FalconView mission planning system.

TacView consists of a rugged, self-contained, Night Vision Imaging System-compatible smart display and companion power supply/interface module. TacView also provides Electronic Flight Bag functionality for military aircraft.

F-15E Radar

Boeing selected Raytheon to provide an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar for the U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle fighter.

The Air Force plans to develop and incorporate the AESA radar under the F-15E Radar Modernization Program (RMP). Boeing said its selection anticipated a System Design and Development (SDD) contract in 2008.

During the SDD phase, Raytheon would produce AESA radar test units and support Boeing’s efforts to integrate the AESA radar into the F-15E weapon system. The integration activity would place at Boeing facilities in St. Louis prior to entering developmental and initial operational test and evaluation flight programs.

The RMP would replace the aircraft’s APG-70 radar with an AESA radar, improving radar reliability, maintainability and performance, while reducing support costs. AESA radar also would improve detection and tracking of enemy targets when integrated with the F-15E weapons system.

C-130 Milestones

In November, Boeing said it achieved several developmental milestones on its C-130 Avionics Modernization Program.

The company said it flew the C-130 AMP aircraft in October for the first time following a series of engineering improvements, which consisted of converting analog signals to digital signals and enhancing the aircraft’s heads-up display capabilities.

Boeing performed the work in San Antonio, and the aircraft has since returned to the U.S. Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

Boeing also flew the second C-130 AMP aircraft in September using the newly installed "Core Complete 1" software, which provides a fully functional flight management system. Core Complete 1 is the second of three major software builds that are under way.

The next phase, Core Complete 2.2, is scheduled for installation early next year. The program was to receive its next aircraft, a C-130 (H3) from the West Virginia Air National Guard, in November.

B-52 Jammer

Boeing and Northrop Grumman partnered to develop a new airborne electronic attack capability for the U.S. Air Force’s venerable B-52H Stratofortress long-range multirole bomber, built by Boeing in the 1960s.

The companies say the proposed B-52H Core Component Jammer (CCJ) will provide long-range radar jamming, making in-theater air support safer and more effective. At this writing, the Air Force was examining its airborne electronic attack needs, and had not issued a request for proposals.

"With Boeing’s platform knowledge and aircraft integration expertise and Northrop’s electronic attack system integration background, we stand ready to provide the best value to the Air Force," said Scot Oathout, Boeing director of B-52 Programs.

"We are going to build on the existing relationship our companies have on the U.S. Navy’s EA-18G Growler and our four decades of developing and delivering electronic attack systems," said Pat McMahon, Northrop Grumman vice president of Electronic Support & Attack Solutions.

Should the CCJ system be selected, modification work will be performed at Boeing’s Support Systems facility in Wichita, Kan., and at Northrop Grumman’s Bethpage, N.Y., facility.


  • Vision Systems International, a joint venture of Rockwell Collins and Elbit Systems, signed a series of new contracts valued at more than $60 million. Boeing awarded VSI a contract for the delivery of 300 additional Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing Systems (JHMCS). Under the agreement, VSI will provide JHMCS hardware, including spares and technical support for Full Rate Production, Lot 4. Additional contracts will satisfy U.S. government requirements for F-15, F-16, F/A-18E/F aircraft as well as foreign military sales.

  • DRS Technologies, based in Parsippany, N.J., received orders totaling $48 million from the U.S. Army to continue electro-optical design and engineering, manufacture, spare parts and field support of the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior Mast Mounted Sight. Work is performed at the DRS Sensors & Targeting Systems Optronics Unit in Melbourne and Palm Bay, Fla.

  • Northrop Grumman was awarded two contracts from the U.S. Air Force’s Warner Robins Air Logistics Center to provide radars and logistical support for the Air National Guard. The contract value for the radar systems is $13.5 million, while the contract for continued logistical support is worth $6.6 million. The company said the AN/APN-241 navigation and weather radars enhance safety for the C-130H and C-130J tactical airlift aircraft. Deliveries are expected to be complete by 2009.

  • McDonnell Douglas won an $11.2 million order from the U.S. Navy to upgrade 210 AN/APG-79 Active Electronically Scanned Array radars to the B configuration. The work, covering 114 retrofits and 96 production upgrades, is expected to be completed in 2011.

  • MU-DEL Electronics, Manassas, Va., won a $9.8 million contract from FAA to supply VHF and UHF Receiver Multicouplers. The contract has a five-year option, which if exercised brings the potential value to $21 million.

  • Honeywell Technology Solutions, based in Columbia, Md., won an $8.3 million contract modification from the U.S. Navy to provide engineering and logistics services in support of the Light Airborne Multi-Purpose System MKIII AN/SRQ-4 data link. Work will be performed in Lexington Park, Md., and St. Inigoes, Md., and is expected to be completed in 2008.

  • LaBarge, based in St. Louis, received a $2.2 million contract from Northrop Grumman to produce an electronic chassis used in the fire-control radar of the F-16. The AN/APG-68 radar provides multiple modes, including long-range, all-aspect detection and tracking, simultaneous multiple target tracking and high-resolution ground mapping.

  • The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory awarded a $1.6 million contract to the Bend, Ore.-based division of Microsemi Corp. to develop components for lighter, more efficient avionics, radar and communications systems. Under the contract, the division, which is known as the Microsemi Power Products Group, will help develop technology to make silicon carbide semiconductor components for radio frequency power conversion equipment.

  • RADA Electronic Industries of Israel received a $720,000 order to deliver various avionics units for UAV application to an unnamed customer. Additional production orders are expected to be received from the same customer during the next three years valued at $1 million.

  • BCF Designs, of Cirencester, U.K., won a U.S. Army National Guard contract to provide aerospace fuel test equipment. The contract calls for BCF to provide databus testers, fuel test sets and cable test sets for National Guard units in Utah and California. Financial terms of the contract were not disclosed.

  • Enea, of Stockholm, said Lockheed Martin U.K. selected its Polyhedra database management system for use in the Merlin Capability Sustainment Program. Financial terms were not disclosed.


  • The display provider was misidentified in the October 2007 article, "Hawkeye’s Long Vision." The following paragraph (Page 30) should have read: "The E-2C has a 1970s era cockpit with round analog gages and tape displays. The D model will have a glass cockpit from Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems featuring 17-inch multifunction displays for the pilots that can be configured to preference."

  • A statement contained in the September 2007 article, "Cockpit Comebacks" (Page 53) regarding the time required to retrofit displays, was not accurate in the case of Innovative Solutions & Support (IS&S). "Installations of IS&S’s displays in B757 and B767 aircraft can be accomplished in three days, inclusive of the FPDS and installation kit," the company said.

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