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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Industry Scan


ADS-B Comments

FAA on Nov. 19 extended the comment period for its Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) proposed rulemaking by 60 days until March 2008, following requests from industry associations.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), issued in October, sets out performance requirements of avionics needed to operate in an ADS-B flight regime. The NPRM proposes that only ADS-B "Out" broadcast capability be required and defers a ruling on ADS-B "In" equipage. Following adoption of a final rule, expected in late 2009, aircraft operators would have until 2020 to equip.

The document provides estimated ADS-B equipment and installation costs ranging from a low of $4,328 for GA aircraft to a high of $463,706 for turboprops. Among organizations requesting an extension of the NPRM comment period were the Air Transport Association, Air Carrier Association of America, Aerospace Industries Association, National Air Carrier Association, Regional Airline Association, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and Cargo Airline Association.

"These petitioners have shown a substantive interest in the proposed rule and good cause for the extension," according to a notice in the Federal Register.

Wiring Rule

FAA in November finalized a rule designed to mitigate conditions that place airliners at risk for wire failures, smoke and fire.

The rule enhances safety requirements for the design, installation and maintenance of electrical wiring in new and existing airplanes. It moves existing rules on wiring into a single section of the regulations, and adds new certification standards to address wire degradation and inadequate design or maintenance.

"We’ve gained enormous knowledge about aircraft wiring issues over the last decade," said FAA Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety Nicholas A. Sabatini. "With this rule, we are ensuring that wiring systems will be properly designed, installed and maintained over the life of the airplane."

Under the rule, manufacturers must complete FAA-approved instructions for new wiring-related maintenance and inspection tasks within 24 months of the effective date for existing airplanes. U.S. scheduled air carriers and foreign airlines operating U.S.-registered aircraft must develop maintenance and inspection programs for wiring based on the manufacturers’ instructions within 39 months of the effective date, and update those programs as needed for subsequent aircraft modifications.

The new maintenance requirements apply to aircraft carrying more than 30 passengers or having a maximum payload of 7,500 pounds or more. The estimated total cost of this final rule is $416 million over 25 years.

MLS Approaches

The European Aviation Safety Agency approved the Airbus A320 family of aircraft for Category IIIb approaches using a microwave landing system (MLS), Airbus said in November.

The first operator, British Airways, will utilize MLS at London’s Heathrow airport with A320s and A321s. The MLS system was a joint development involving Thales, British Airways and national airport and air transport authorities of the United Kingdom and France. Thales manufactured the onboard MLS receiver, hosted in a multi-mode receiver, and the airport’s MLS ground stations at each runway. Aircraft also are equipped with capture and tracking antennae and an avionics software suite.

MLS uses microwave signals that are less susceptible to interference than the current Instrument Landing System (ILS). Cat III b approval allows for precision approach and landing in very low visibility conditions, with the decision height lower than 50 feet.


Cobham Buys S-TEC

Cobham plc, the parent company of Chelton Flight Systems, in November paid $38 million to acquire autopilot manufacturer S-TEC Corp., from Meggitt plc.

Cobham, based in Wimborne, Dorset, U.K., has annual revenue exceeding $2 billion, and employs 10,000 people. The company is organized in six divisions, including antennas, avionics and surveillance and defense electronics. S-TEC, based in Mineral Wells, Texas, employs 180 people.

"S-TEC is an excellent technological and market fit in the development of a Cobham cockpit of avionics," Cobham said.

"OEMs increasingly expect their avionics supplier to provide an autopilot solution, with the market moving toward the inclusion of autopilots in EFIS-type displays, such as Cobham’s, to reduce weight, wiring and integration costs. S-TEC also has a strong presence in the retrofit market which Cobham can leverage, and positions with many OEMs including Adam, Cirrus, Eclipse, Piper and Pilatus."

UAV Radar

NASA is evaluating a L-Band synthetic aperture radar (SAR) for potential use on UAVs to detect and measures small changes in the Earth’s surface caused by volcanoes, earthquakes, landslides and glaciers.

NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif., and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., are participating in the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar (UAVSAR) project. A modified NASA Gulfstream III is carrying the JPL-developed radar in a custom-built pod under the aircraft’s fuselage during its development phase, which continues through 2008. The design of the pod, which is a self-contained package, allows it to be flown on a variety of aircraft, including UAVs, NASA said.

During the flights, the aircraft is using a technique called "repeat pass interferometry," which requires the aircraft to fly each pass as close to the original flight line as possible. For the UAVSAR experiment, two data passes, flown from minutes to months apart, are compared to examine changes in the Earth’s surface. The technique enables the data collected by the SAR to be converted into surface displacement measurements with a sensitivity equal to a fractional part of the radar wavelength.

To ensure the accuracy of the flight paths, a precision autopilot has been installed on the test aircraft. The autopilot uses differential GPS and inertial navigation to repeat the flight path to an accuracy of within 15 feet, NASA said. With the autopilot engaged, the SAR acquires repeat pass data that can measure changes with a resolution measured in millimeters.

The radar pod requires only electrical power from the aircraft. The instrument has its own navigation system, consisting of a high-accuracy inertial navigation and differential GPS unit developed at JPL that provides location to an accuracy of less than three feet. The pod also contains a two-terabyte recorder to store data generated by the radar.

Micro UAV

Micro UAV manufacturer Advanced Aviation Technology (A2Tech), of Italy, participated in an earthquake response exercise, marking the first time a micro UAV was used in such a role, the company said.

During the exercise, conducted in October in Lake Garda, Italy, the UAV demonstrated pilot-in-loop flight in harsh environments and weather conditions, where digital maps were not available and preprogramming of missions was not possible. The micro UAV was piloted using A2Tech’s "RealityVision" Universal Ground Control Cockpit, with stick, throttle and pedals similar to those found in a manned aircraft cockpit.

The flight demonstration included numerous passes over the base camp and surrounding areas that showcased the UAV’s ability to operate in remote locations. The aircraft also demonstrated its streaming imagery transmission capability for disaster relief and assessment missions.

Broadband Partners

Airborne telecommunications provider Aircell, Louisville, Colo., partnered with engineering design and manufacturing firm Formation, of Moorestown, N.J., to incorporate hardware components in the new Aircell broadband system, allowing customers to check e-mail and use the Internet in flight.

Formation has developed two hardware components of the system — the Central Processor Unit (CPU) and the Cabin Wireless Access Point (CWAP). The CWAP provides 802.11a and 802.11b/g radios to be used by passengers with Wi-Fi-enabled devices. A typical commercial aircraft configuration would include one CPU and two CWAPs per plane, in addition to other hardware including air-to-ground modem and antennas, Aircell said.

Aircell will use Formation’s hardware in combination with its air-to-ground technology, which transmits and receives data between the ground and the aircraft at broadband speed. The company will begin testing Formation’s components in 2008 as part of partnerships with American Airlines and Virgin America.

Simulation Software

Microsoft launched a games-based computer software simulation platform for the defense and civil aviation markets designed to make pilot training accessible and affordable to customers worldwide.

Microsoft ESP builds on the company’s "Flight Simulator" franchise, which provides the PC-based simulation program and allows customers to add scenarios including weather conditions, approach patterns, terrain and different aircraft. The system also allows the user to record and review scenarios.

"With over half of today’s work force having grown up playing immersive computer-based games, businesses, governments, trade schools and universities are seeking affordable solutions that enable immersive learning experiences," said Shawn Firminger, Microsoft studio manager. "Microsoft ESP makes it easy and cost-effective for organizations to apply the advantages of games-based technology to serious learning and training endeavors."

Early adopters of the system include Canadian simulator company Adacel, which is using ESP to create a flight training system that integrates air-traffic control commands through a speech interface; and defense contractor SAIC, which is using it to develop a helicopter flight trainer.


B-2 Antenna

Northrop Grumman completed installation, integration and initial flight-testing of the first developmental test units of a new radar antenna developed under the B-2 bomber Radar Modernization Program (RMP).

Northrop Grumman is conducting RMP flight tests on a B-2 based at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The first flight test with developmental test units was completed Oct. 30, and demonstrated substantially improved antenna performance, the company said.

The Active Electronically Scanned Array radar antenna designed by Raytheon allows Northrop Grumman to complete the RMP flight test program, which was interrupted last year by integration issues.

Flight-testing with new antennas will continue through early 2008. Northrop Grumman also will install two production-representative radar antennas in the B-2 test aircraft early next year. These antennas — also produced by Raytheon — will incorporate minor hardware changes unrelated to radar performance.

Wasp Order

AeroVironment, Monrovia, Calif., in November announced a $19.3 million contract from the U.S. Marine Corps for its Battlefield Air Targeting Micro Air Vehicle (BATMAV) systems, each consisting of two Wasp III micro air vehicles, an Advanced Battery Charger, spares and support.

The order followed a successful Marine Corps evaluation of Wasp systems provided by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The Marines are procuring BATMAV systems through the U.S. Air Force BATMAV contract, awarded to AeroVironment in December 2006.

With a wingspan of 29 inches and weighing one pound, Wasp III carries one infrared and two color cameras that transmit streaming video directly to the hand-held ground controller for display on an integrated monitor.

Falco Tests

Galileo Avionica in November said its Falco UAV system completed a series of tests by an unnamed launch customer.

The Falco system, composed of four UAVs, a ground control station, ground data terminal and ground support equipment, was validated after 15 months of trials in Africa, Europe and Asia.

During the tests, the system carried out a surveillance mission, which demonstrated its ability to maintain an operational ceiling of up to 19,685 feet, operate during night missions and collect and control data on a redundant link between the ground control station and the Falco air vehicle, through a jam-resistant transmission in real time.


  • Panasonic Avionics, Lake Forest, Calif., signed a $500 million contract amendment with Dubai-based airline, Emirates, to expand installation of its eX2 in-flight entertainment system on Emirates’ aircraft purchases and upgrades.

  • Northrop Grumman won a $730 million contract with the U.S. Navy to provide up to 514 AN/APG-68 (V) 9 radar systems. The first delivery order is being issued for 30 radar systems for the government of Turkey.

  • Canadian simulator company CAE signed a $51 million contract with Air Asia to manage the airline’s pilot training facility in Kuala Lumpur.

  • Boeing won a $45 million contract from the U.S. Air Force to upgrade avionics software on the B-1B bomber. Boeing upgrades the software every 12 months for the U.S. fleet of 67 B-1Bs.

  • Northrop Grumman received an $18 million contract to develop data links for its LITENING Advanced Targeting pod from the U.S. Air Force Materiel Command’s Aeronautical Systems Center. Northrop Grumman will deliver 201 data links to be fielded on aircraft beginning in September.

  • Honeywell won a $16.2 million contract modification from the U.S. Air Force to supply 199 embedded GPS/INS units for A-10, F-16, UH-60 and CH-47F aircraft.

  • The U.K. Defence Equipment and Support Organization awarded Lockheed Martin a $4.8 million contract to procure additional Desert Hawk III unmanned aircraft systems.

  • L-3 Communications Integrated Systems signed a teaming agreement with GE Aviation for the U.S. Air Force KC-10 Aircraft Extension Program. The modification program includes enhancements to communications, navigation and surveillance systems.

  • Saint-Gobain Flight Structures, located in Ravenna, Ohio, with corporate offices in Wayne, N.J., signed a contract with Spirit AeroSystems, Wichita, Kan., to supply Norton radomes for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The radome is seven feet in diameter and provides a transparent cover for the weather radar and antennas on the aircraft’s nose.

  • Embraer Executive Aircraft selected Alto Aviation, Leominster, Mass., as the baseline in-flight entertainment audio system provider for all Legacy 600 aircraft. Financial terms were not disclosed.

  • Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen and Qatar Airways finalized an agreement for Electronic Flight Bag applications and data for the airline’s Boeing 777 aircraft. Jeppesen also will provide the Royal Amiri Fleet, carrier of the UAE Royal family, with its e-Link system so that charts and data can be accessed electronically by ground-based personnel.

  • Emirates-CAE Flight Training signed a contract with Abu Dhabi-based Prestige Jet to provide business jet pilot training.

  • Rockwell Collins was selected by Boeing to upgrade three AH-Mk1 Apache Field Deployable Simulators and one AH-Mk1 Apache Full Mission Simulator for the Aviation Training International Limited AH-Mk1 Apache training system in the United Kingdom. The upgrades include EPX-5000 image generators, 9-channel large field of view display systems and enhancements of the existing training databases.

  • Lockheed Martin selected a motion tracking system from InterSense, Bedford, Mass., for integration in the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter Pilot Training Program.

Blakey: ‘Remarkable Run’ In Aerospace Expected to Continue

It’s nice to be the bearer of good news.

Former FAA Administrator Marion C. Blakey, in one of her first speeches as president and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), reported record aerospace sales of nearly $200 billion in 2007, driven by double-digit growth in both the civil and military aircraft sectors.

With the latest results, United States aerospace sales have grown for four straight years since a plateau in 2003, and for six of the past seven years, "a remarkable run by anyone’s standards," Blakey said.

Delivering AIA’s year-end review and forecast Dec. 6 in Arlington, Va., Blakey said the growth is expected to continue in 2008 and beyond. "Our figures this year exceeded our most likely forecast, giving me high expectation that the news through 2010 will be equally good," she said.

Blakey came to lead the industry organization last November, less than two months after her five-year term as FAA administrator expired. She succeeded John W. Douglass, a former assistant secretary of the Navy and Air Force brigadier general who stepped down after nine years in the post.

Just in time for Blakey’s arrival, AIA said overall sales in the civil, military, space, missiles and related products sectors increased 8.4 percent over 2006 to $198.8 billion. The association projects 6 percent overall sales growth to $210.6 billion in 2008. But it will be sales of civil aircraft, engines and related parts leading the charge, as military sales are expected to decline slightly.

Aerospace exports rose 8.5 percent to $92.5 billion in 2007. Driven by increased purchases of foreign-made regional aircraft, imports rose by 18 percent to $36 billion. Thus, the industry remained a net export earner of $56.5 billion. This "represents the largest single positive trade balance of any U.S. manufacturing sector," Blakey said.

AIA reported 16 percent growth in sales of the civil aircraft sector, from $46 billion in 2006 to $53.3 billion, including helicopters, engines and related components. That trend will continue in 2008, with estimated growth of 13 percent to $60.3 billion.

There were 4,703 civil aircraft worth $42 billion shipped in 2007, including 443 large transport aircraft, 1,066 helicopters and 3,194 GA aircraft. Those numbers are expected to increase to 4,979 aircraft worth $47.6 billion in 2008.

AIA reported an order backlog of 3,019 commercial transports worth $228 billion as of Sept. 30. Foreign customer orders of 2,214 aircraft represented more than three-quarters of the value. "This obviously reflects the fact that the major U.S. legacy carriers have still not begun placing significant orders to recapitalize their fleets since the post 9-11 downturn," AIA said.

The 3,019-aircraft backlog consisted of 1,796 Boeing 737s, 710 787s, 344 777s, 114 747s and 55 767s.

The overall aerospace backlog of $360 billion increased 19 percent over 2006, representing the third year in a row of large gains, Blakey said.

"This suggests an extremely solid footing for our industry, for at least the next two or three years," she said. "The majority of that backlog is in the civil aviation sector, making the shift over the past few years from past reliance on much harder-to-predict military spending. In fact, today, the backlog is about 63 percent civil, with the rest divided up between space and defense. Just four years ago, when the industry was very early in its recovery from September 11, the backlog was at 34 percent."

Sales of military aircraft, engines, parts and services increased 10 percent in 2007, from $49.8 billion in 2006 to $54.8 billion.

But AIA projects military sales will decline by around 5 percent in 2008, in part due to slips in the U.S. Air Force’s KC-X aerial tanker and Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR-X) helicopter programs. Also, Congress is "being a bit more stringent" in using supplemental budgets to procure equipment.

"Sales to the Defense Department will show modest gains in 2009 from funds already appropriated; although how this Congress will handle FY08 supplementals could affect procurement accounts," AIA said. "Pre-presidential election politics, events in Iraq and new management at DoD will affect the composition and value of defense programs in FY08 and beyond." — Bill Carey

Unmanned Refueling Capability Developed

The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Vehicles Directorate in September completed flight tests of the Automated Aerial Refueling (AAR) program, aimed at developing the capability to refuel UAVs with the existing Air Force tanker fleet.

The "Positions and Pathways" series of flights demonstrated the ability of the AAR system to autonomously execute aerial refueling maneuvers in close formation around a tanker as well as practice break aways, AFRL said. A Learjet, acting as a surrogate unmanned refueling receiver aircraft, used the AAR system to track the tanker’s flight path, position itself in trail formation, fly up to the tanker and adjust to observation, pre-contact and contact refueling positions.

During the tests Sept. 11 and 12, the Learjet was manually flown to the transition point behind a KC-135R tanker from the 107th Air Refueling Wing of the New York Air National Guard. The Learjet then engaged the AAR system, which autonomously flew the Learjet to the observation position on the tanker wing. From there it was directed from a control station to fly to the pre-contact and contact positions after approval by the tanker crew.

AFRL said advances in system integrity, continuity and availability were achieved through improved relative navigation algorithms, control laws and hardware, and validated in flight. "These algorithms provided a new level of accuracy in fused precision global positioning system/inertial navigation system relative positioning," said Jacob Hinchman, AAR program manager.

Among contractors participating in the government/industry program are: Northrop Grumman, relative navigation software, LN-251 integrated inertial/GPS navigation system, and EO/IR position sensing system; Rockwell Collins, ASR-24 GPS Airborne Selective Availability Anti-Spoofing Module receivers and Tactical Targeting Network Technologies data link; Boeing Phantom Works, AAR flight-control computer and station keeping control laws; L-3 Communications, SySense and Illinois Institute of Technology, relative navigation system; General Dynamics, systems engineering and flight-test management; and Coherent Solutions, required navigation performance.

"AAR will benefit UAV operations by increasing combat radius and mission time, reducing response time for time-critical targets, reducing need for forward staging areas, and increasing in-theater presence," AFRL said.

During AAR Phase Two, the team will demonstrate the delivery of fuel to the receiver aircraft. Also, multi-ship and autonomous refueling in a GPS-denied environment will be matured. A second-phase contract award of $90 million was anticipated in March.

Airspace Modernization A Focus Of Avionics Expo 2008

With commercial air travel expanding and a forecast 10,000 new commercial aircraft entering service over the next 10 years, a greater burden is expected on an already strained global airspace system. The result could potentially be more and longer flight delays. At the same time, airlines, looking to extend the profits of 2007 following six years of losses, are struggling to cut operational costs to offset mounting fuel prices.

To prevent these burdens from impeding air travel’s growth, FAA and Eurocontrol are working to establish a modernized, satellite-based airspace system aimed at making flying safer and more efficient. FAA’s Next Generation Air Transportation System, or NextGen, is about to move from the planning stage to a four-year, implementation phase comprising modernization projects worth $4.6 billion. Eurocontrol’s Single European Sky ATM (Air Traffic Management) Research program, or SESAR, is entering a development and evaluation phase. The two agencies also will begin harmonizing their respective programs.

How will this modernized airspace system impact cockpit technology, pilot workload and training, and older aircraft retrofits? And how will manned military aircraft and a growing number of UAVs operate in this new airspace?

With the theme "Avionics for Tomorrow’s Airspace," Avionics Expo 2008, to be held in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, March 5-6, will help answer those questions and more, in addition to highlighting new cockpit technologies and procedures for civil and military aircraft.

These technologies and procedures, including the use of satellite navigation and communications, are designed to allow air-traffic controllers and pilots to share in the responsibility of safely guiding aircraft through all phases of flight.

Setting the tone at the conference, which is co-sponsored by Avionics Magazine, will be keynote speaker Bernard Miaillier, head of the Eurocontrol SESAR and ATM Strategy division. He will outline the agency’s SESAR ATM target concept, designed to meet performance targets for improved operational efficiency set for 2020.

Lead speaker for the second day of the conference will be Mark James Salvin, head of Avionics Engineering, Eurofighter GmbH. He will discuss key design drivers and constraints involving the man/machine interface of the Typhoon, a combat aircraft set to undergo a major upgrade program developed by BAE Systems.

Ronald Stroup, chief system engineer with FAA’s Air Traffic Organization, will lay out his agency’s plans for the NextGen airspace environment. He will stress how aircraft modernization must keep in step with ground and space-based air traffic modernization.

Other speakers will address such technologies as Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B), a cornerstone of the NextGen airspace system. Both Eurocontrol and FAA have been testing ADS-B, and now, in preparation for full implementation, the United States is rolling out ground infrastructure for the technology.

Also presented will be a case study of a low-cost carrier’s commitment and preparation to adopt Required Navigation Performance, another key technology-driven approach to air-traffic management.

Top industry insiders will address performance-based communications, as well as the blending of synthetic and enhanced vision technology. Also, speakers will outline how military aircraft will adapt to operate in this new airspace environment. Likewise, speakers will address the seamless incorporation of unmanned aerial vehicles in the airspace.

A manufacturer of flight management systems (FMS) will address operational issues of the system, the establishment of FMS standards and new FMS capabilities, building on the discussion at Avionics Expo 2007 regarding the shortfalls of the FMS system from a pilot’s perspective.

In addition, airframers Boeing and Airbus will offer their visions of tomorrow’s cockpit technology. Eric Banyan, vice president of F-35 Mission Systems at Lockheed Martin, will provide a detailed view of the cockpit and sensor technologies of the Joint Strike Fighter.

Can these new technologies truly improve operational efficiency and, in the case of combat aircraft, mission effectiveness? The developer of a new software tool will demonstrate how operators can assure optimum advantage from avionics in tomorrow’s aircraft. — David Jensen

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