-T / T / +T | Comment(s)

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Industry Scan

Commercial

Boeing Restructures

Boeing in December announced a restructuring within its Commercial Airplanes division, combining production and development programs, including the 787 Dreamliner and 747-8, under a new Airplane Programs organization and forming a new Supply Chain Management and Operations organization.

"The steps we are taking today will sharpen our management focus and bring our organizational structure to bear to improve execution in our supply chain, as well as on our development programs," said Scott Carson, Commercial Airplanes president and CEO. "These moves will help drive results through our entire development and production system, deliver value to our customers and enhance our overall competitiveness."

The new Airplane Programs organization is led by Pat Shanahan, 46, the former Missile Defense Systems vice president who was named in October 2007 to head the delayed Dreamliner program. While Shanahan "continues to have direct oversight and accountability" for the 787, Boeing said, Scott Fancher, 50, has been named to Shanahan’s former position of 787 vice president and general manager.

Ray Conner, 53, formerly vice president of sales, was named to head the Supply Chain Management and Operations organization, combining supplier management, fabrication, propulsion systems and quality operations.

... Announces Layoffs

In January, Boeing said it will reduce employment at its Commercial Airplanes business unit by 4,500 positions this year, bringing the workforce to 63,500, roughly the level at the start of 2008. "We are taking prudent actions to make sure Boeing remains well positioned in today’s difficult economic environment," Carson said.

Many of the job reductions will be in overhead functions "and other areas not directly associated with airplane production." Affected employees, mainly in Washington state, were to receive 60-day notices beginning later this month.

Slowed by the eight-week machinists strike, Boeing finished 2008 with 375 aircraft delivered, down 15 percent from 2007. Orders dropped precipitously. Boeing reported 662 net orders, down 53 percent from 1,413 the previous year.

Teledyne Acquisition

Teledyne Technologies, Thousand Oaks, Calif., announced Dec. 26 that it had acquired the assets of Demo Systems LLC, of Moorpark, Calif., for an undisclosed price.

Demo Systems designs and manufactures aircraft data loading equipment, flight line maintenance terminals and data distribution software used by commercial airlines, the U.S. military and aircraft manufacturers. The company supplies the Portable Maintenance Access Terminal (PMAT) for the Boeing 777 series, and reports delivering more than 3,000 Portable Data Loaders to world airlines. It had sales of $7.3 million for the fiscal year that ended Dec. 31, 2007.

Demo Systems in 2000 obtained its first FAA certification of an Airborne Server Unit. It also has completed development of a Network Server Unit for e-mail, cabin management and onboard maintenance applications.

The company will be combined with Teledyne Controls, of El Segundo, Calif, an acquisition that complements Teledyne’s data acquisition, data transfer and flight information management products.

"As aircraft avionics systems, such as electronic flight bags and Aircraft Network Servers, demand more complicated avionics software and data transfer, the addition of Demo Systems will help Teledyne Controls continue to provide hardware and software solutions for improved total aircraft information management," said Robert Mehrabian, Teledyne Technologies chairman, president and CEO.

Data Management

Hungarian low-cost airline Wizz Air placed a "substantial" new order for Teledyne Controls’ Flight Data Interface Management Unit (FDIMU) to install on its Airbus A320 fleet, Teledyne said in December.

Wizz Air already uses the FDIMU on 13 A320s to perform flight data acquisition, aircraft condition monitoring and data recording. The unit will be installed on 70 additional aircraft, with an option for 25 more, Teledyne said.

Marc Weber, Wizz Air head of technical services, said the decision to acquire more units was influenced by the possibility of introducing Teledyne’s Wireless GroundLink Quick Access Recorder (WQAR) in current and future aircraft. Raw data recorded during flight is compressed by the WQAR, encrypted and then transmitted via cellular technology and the Internet to the airline’s or Teledyne’s ground-based data center for processing and analysis.

"Connecting the WQAR to the FDIMU can streamline our flight data monitoring process from initial data acquisition through analysis, which supports quick resolution of aircraft issues," said Weber.

Teledyne said the FDIMU currently is flying on more than 60 percent of Airbus single-aisle and A330/A340 aircraft. Wizz Air also selected Teledyne’s Application Generation Software (AGS) for aircraft condition monitoring.

EMS Acquisition

EMS Technologies signed an agreement to acquire Formation, of Moorestown, N.J., a provider of airborne wireless network products, for $40 million.

EMS said the acquisition is designed to strengthen its airborne connectivity capabilities.

"Acquiring Formation signals EMS’s continued investment in its aero-connectivity strategy to become a more comprehensive solutions provider," said Paul Domorski, EMS Technologies president and CEO. "Our goal is to meet the growing demand for aeronautical communications from airlines and business aircraft owners, as well as governments."

EMS, based in Norcross, Ga., said it plans to retain Formation’s current operations in Moorestown, N.J.

ATR -600 Powered

Avionics integrator Thales on Dec. 17 announced the "power-on" milestone of the next generation ATR 42/72-600 pre-series aircraft.

Thales was selected in 2007 as Tier 1 systems integrator for the new ATR flight deck, and is responsible for integrating systems provided by other suppliers. The five-display glass cockpit is based on an integrated modular avionics (IMA) architecture and Avionics Full Duplex Switched Ethernet (AFDX) communication networks.

Installation of the Thales digital cockpit is expected to provide a 6-to-8 percent reduction in maintenance costs versus analog systems in earlier ATR models ( Avionics, May 2008, page 30).

Thales said it delivered hardware elements of the avionics suite as well as the software needed for the power-on sequence. The first delivery allows Thales and ATR to begin the integration and verification phases in preparation for first flight of the turboprop, scheduled for 2009. The -600 series aircraft will be introduced at the beginning of 2011, according to the announcement.

Iridium Comm

International Communications Group (ICG) in December said its NxtLink ICS-120A and ICS-220A communications devices, providing flight deck voice and data link services over the Iridium satellite network, passed Avionics Qualification Program (AQP) testing by ARINC, gaining approval for use on the latter’s GLOBALink network.

To qualify for sending ACARS and other data link messages over its network, ARINC requires that satcom systems pass AQP test and compliance procedures.

The ICS-120A incorporates a single Iridium transceiver and a Short Burst Data (SBD) modem and provides connections to customary and standard flight deck voice and data systems. The NxtLink ICS-220A is a three-transceiver device with two channels of voice and a SBD modem for data link services.

ICG, Newport News, Va., said both devices offer pre-emption and priority features to permit the flight crew to always access a channel. Both support Future Air Navigation System (FANS) and Controller Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC) as well as ACARS requirements. Both operate with ICG’s new external SIM card and configuration storage module.

AFDX, RTOS Partners

Software engineering firm EmbVUE, of Montreal, said it has teamed with LynuxWorks, San Jose, Calif., to offer its "A-Stack" AFDX solutions for the latter company’s LynxOS-178 real-time operating system (RTOS).

A-Stack is an ARINC 664 subset network stack implemented in software "that is fully certifiable" to RTCA DO-178B Level A for safety-critical avionics. A-Stack supports compliant, profiled and deterministic networks as well as providing AFDX support where that is required, EmbVUE said.

"LynxOS-178 is key to a number of our customers and we recognize how important it is for us to have a really integrated software approach in our market," stated Phil Cole, EmbVUE business development manager. "The objective of teaming with LynuxWorks in this area is to make it easy for our customers to leverage the power of LynxOS-178 in projects that require certifiable AFDX capabilities."

"Requirements to support a complete AFDX software-only solution have been on the increase recently," added Joe Wlad, LynuxWorks director of certification, services and marketing.

"The AFDX offering from EmbVUE compliments our Lynx Certifiable Stack offering, which has been integrated with proprietary AFDX solutions. Now our customers have the option of using an efficient, open, portable and reusable solution for AFDX communication on integrated aircraft platforms."

COTS Platform

Kontron, based in Munich, Germany, and LynuxWorks released an Intel-based, commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) platform for safety-critical, deterministic real-time embedded applications. The platform uses the Kontron PENTXM2 single-board computer running the LynxOS-178 RTOS.

"LynuxWorks and Kontron have created the perfect solution for the new wave of dedicated safety-critical applications built in the Intel environment," said Richard Pugnier, Kontron marketing communications director.

"A growing number of such systems are seeking to exploit the immense base of development expertise and code available in the x86 domain. This solution allows avionics, vehicle electronics and other safety-critical applications to adopt this path while reducing development time, cost and risk."

The Kontron PENTXM2 uses the 1.67 GHz dual-core Xeon, Intel’s advanced low-power x86 technology, combined with the Intel E7520 server-class memory controller hub (MCH). It is available with up to 4GB of DDR2-400 SDRAM.

TTP Standard

SAE International, based in Warrendale, Pa., said its AS-2 Embedded Computing Systems Committee is developing a new aerospace standard to help simplify the design of advanced integrated systems using time-triggered protocol (TTP).

TTP is one of the core technologies for design of open time-triggered architecture (TTA) and generic control system platforms for deterministic, modular, scalable and reusable aerospace systems.

The "TTP Communication Protocol" standard — SAE AS6003 — will protect past and ongoing system design investments and simplify design, system integration and incremental modernization of open aerospace and defense systems and architectures, SAE said.

The AS-2 Embedded Computing Systems Committee, part of SAE’s Avionic Systems Division, addresses all facets of embedded computing systems, including design, maintenance and in-service experience.

Business/GA

Challenger WAAS

FAA certified Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) Localizer Performance with Vertical guidance (LPV) functionality on the Bombardier Challenger 604, equipped with Rockwell Collins’ upgraded Flight Management System (FMS) and GPS-4000S WAAS receiver.

The STC was a joint effort of the FAA Air Traffic Organization’s Technical Operations unit and Rockwell Collins. The LPV solution for FAA’s aircraft is

available for all Challenger 604 operators through Rockwell Collins’ dealers.

"Our work with the FAA to certify a WAAS LPV solution featuring our enhanced FMS and GPS-4000S marks an important step forward in helping more aircraft operators equip their aircraft for near-precision approaches at airports not equipped with ILS," said Greg Irmen, Rockwell Collins vice president and general manager, Business and Regional Systems.

"This solution, which fully integrates the GPS-4000S with the LPV capable FMS in Rockwell Collins Pro Line 4 and Pro Line 21 systems offers simple and intuitive operation."

Transponder TSO

Garmin International in December announced TSO-C166a authorization from FAA for its GTX 330 and GTX 33 transponders with 1090 MHz Extended Squitter (ES) capability.

Garmin claimed to be the first avionics company to receive such authorization for a general aviation transponder, putting GA aircraft on the path toward compliance with FAA’s proposed requirement for Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) equipage.

"Pilots are starting to ask what Extended Squitter technology is and why it’s important," said Gary Kelley, Garmin vice president of marketing. "We are proud to be the first to bring this important, backbone technology to general and business aviation, and are determined to continue innovating products that will offer customers an affordable way to comply with the FAA’s NextGen system requirements."

The 1090 MHz ES builds upon the existing transponder system by transmitting pertinent aircraft information independent of being interrogated. The ES transmissions will automatically provide position, velocity and heading information. Garmin said the upgrade preserves existing GTX 330 and GTX 33 features, including Mode S TIS-A data link reception and traffic, which are displayed on the company’s GNS 430W, GNS 530W and GMX 200 displays.

Garmin said the TSO includes an antenna option — the GTX 330D — that adds antenna diversity to the GTX 330 for improved air-to-air surveillance of TCAS-equipped aircraft flying above the GTX-equipped aircraft.

Garmin, Olathe, Kan., will offer the ES capability as a retrofit for GTX 330 and GTX 33 transponders already in the field. ES transmission will be an optional upgrade on newly purchased GTX 330 and GTX 33 transponders.

ADS-B ‘Out’ Solution

FreeFlight Systems, of Waco, Texas, said it will offer an affordable ADS-B "Out" system combining a 978 MHz data radio with a TSO-certified GPS Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) sensor by the third quarter of 2009. The system is targeted for helicopter and business aircraft fleets and GA pilots.

Under a proposed rulemaking, FAA will mandate that aircraft be equipped for Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) by 2020. The FreeFlight Systems solution will provide WAAS positional accuracy, using the company’s 1201 or 1203 GPS/WAAS sensors and antennas, along with the ability to broadcast aircraft position information over the 978 MHz Universal Access Transceiver frequency (see Avionics, December 2008, page 10).

The solution does not replace the aircraft’s existing transponder and can be installed "with virtually no disruption to current aircraft avionics," says FreeFlight Systems. The design provides an upgrade path for ADS-B "In" and its associated benefits, including Traffic Information Service and Flight Information Service broadcasts, known as TIS-B and FIS-B, respectively.

With a two-year warranty, the ADS-B Out system will be certified and installed under a supplemental type certificate.

The system can benefit operators in the Gulf of Mexico, where FAA is encouraging early adoption of ADS-B by helicopter companies supporting the offshore oil industry, said Robert Schneier, FreeFlight Systems chief operating officer.

"Business and helicopter fleet operators, and general aviation pilots participation in the implementation of ADS-B is critical to the achievement of the FAA’s NextGen goals," Schneier said. "Now, they have an ADS-B solution with superior precision and integrity available to them, one that they can be easily implement without a significant impact to their budgets."

WAAS Certification

CMC Electronics in December announced WAAS certification of its CMA-5024 GPS receiver by FAA and Transport Canada.

The "IntegriFlight" receiver was certified to C145 Beta-3, the most stringent category for WAAS navigation receivers; and to C146 Delta-4, allowing it to provide Precision Approach guidance signals to the aircraft’s autopilot and instrument displays to execute a Localizer Precision with Vertical (LPV) approach.

The CMA-5024 is designed for retrofit and adaptability to either existing or new build aircraft, CMC said. With a predicted mean time between failure of 40,000 hours, it is being offered as solution for a range of aircraft, from helicopters and business jets to airliners.

The receiver provides WAAS and international Space Based Augmentation System (SBAS) navigation capability from departure to non-precision approach that will comply with published Communications, Navigation, Surveillance/Air Traffic Management mandates and growth provisions, CMC said. When coupled with a compatible flight management system or the companion CMA-5025 control panel from Air Data, Saint-Laurent, Quebec, the CMA-5024 will provide LPV approach guidance identical to ILS localizer and glide slope signals.

CMC said the receiver has interfaces conforming to ARINC 743A-4 and supports the new ARINC 743A-5/743B characteristics. As a sensor, it provides high-performance position, velocity, and time supporting ADS-B requirements, primary means navigation, and Required Navigation Performance – Area Navigation (RNP-RNAV) capable flight management systems.

TransDigm Acquisitions

TransDigm Group in December acquired Aircraft Parts Corp. (APC), of Holtsville, N.Y., from GE subsidiary Unison Industries for $68 million, the latest in a string of acquisitions.

APC designs and manufactures starter generators, generator control units and related components for turbine engines. Major applications include the Citation family of business jets, Bombardier Learjets, Dash 8-400 turboprops and Bell and Augusta commercial helicopters.

"APC’s line of proprietary, highly engineered starter generators and generator control units complement TransDigm’s product offering in the commercial aerospace market, and their aftermarket content fits TransDigm’s business strategy," said W. Nicholas Howley, TransDigm Group chairman and CEO.

Last September, TransDigm acquired Unison’s "Slick" product line of magnetos, harnesses and components for piston-powered GA aircraft for $69 million. In May, TransDigm purchased CEF Industries, a manufacturer of actuators, compressors, pumps and related components, for $83 million. The majority of CEF’s revenues were military-related, with the C-130 representing its largest single platform.

In August 2007, TransDigm acquired assets of Bruce Industries, manufacturer of fluorescent aircraft lighting, for $35 million. In February that year, it paid $430 million for Aviation Technologies Inc., of Seattle. Aviation Technologies consisted of two operating units: Avtech, a supplier of flight deck and passenger audio systems, cabin lighting and power-control products; and ADS/Transicoil, a supplier of displays, clocks, brushless motors and related components.

Phenom 100 Ticket

Embraer in December announced FAA type certification of its Phenom 100 very light jet. First deliveries were to begin by the end of the year.

The Phenom 100’s Prodigy Flight Deck is based on the Garmin G1000 integrated avionics suite, with three interchangeable 12-inch displays ( Avionics, July 2008, page 30). The list price of the twinjet, in baseline configuration, is $2.98 million.

The Phenom 100 has a range of 1,160 nautical miles with four occupants.

FAA granted the type certificate based on the certification granted by Brazil’s National Civil Aviation Agency (ANAC) on Dec. 9, the company said. European Aviation Safety Agency certification is expected in the second quarter of 2009.

"We are thrilled to announce that the Phenom 100 is certified by the FAA as planned, confirming all of the exceptional performance characteristics previously approved by ANAC," said Luis Carlos Affonso, Embraer executive vice president, Executive Jets. "U.S. certification validates the jet’s design and its suitability for one of the most important business aviation markets."

Dubai Repair Shop

Hawker Pacific Airservices will open its newest avionics repair and overhaul workshop in Dubai, UAE, early this year, according to Ian D’Arcy, the company’s technical and project manager.

Hawker Pacific’s wholly owned subsidiary, Australian Avionics, based in Cairns, Australia, has so far met all of the company’s Middle Eastern area avionics requirements, said D’Arcy, interviewed at the Dubai Helishow in November.

"But then we saw how much was leaving the region, and it became clear there was a local need, so we decided to bring it back to Dubai," he said. "Nobody else was providing full, dedicated (avionics) repair in the UAE."

The new avionics repair and overhaul shop is housed with other members of the Hawker Pacific Airservices group in Jebel Ali, the large industrial park and Free Trade Zone a few miles outside of Dubai city proper, giving it rapid access to a network of highways and the Jebel Ali seaport. It also will be close to the new Maktoum International Airport, designed to be the world’s largest airport when it opens this year.

Operating under EASA Part 145 approval, the repair facility has roughly 1,500 square feet of space and will open with an avionics manager and three engineers. "The plans are to go to a maximum of eight engineers, although that will depend on future growth," D’Arcy said.

The company will provide repair and overhaul on the "whole avionics spectrum" and on a wide range of brands, to include Honeywell/Bendix King, Garmin, Rockwell Collins, Mid Continent Instruments and emergency locator transmitter provider Artex Aircraft Supplies. Aircraft types include helicopters, general aviation and business jets.

"We’re also looking at [the possibility of] small airliners such as Bombardier and Embraer," D’Arcy said. "We probably will not do larger airliners. They are not being targeted, although we are looking at 737 and A320-size airliners for longer range consideration."

Hawker Pacific Avionics will market itself in India, Turkey, North Africa and the Middle East, "but starting with the immediate area first," D’Arcy said.

The repair and overhaul company primarily will operate on a strict exchange philosophy, with a customer dropping off an avionics component needing repair in exchange for a similar, overhauled or repaired component. The company can, however, provide repair and return service if the customer wants it, D’Arcy said. "Being in Dubai, we can provide same day or next day service in most cases. And we can also do an advance exchange to keep an aircraft from being grounded," he said.

D’Arcy said the company will have mobile installation teams that can provide avionics installation for operators who do not have that capability. — Douglas Nelms

Military

‘TacNet’ Delivered

Rockwell Collins in December said it delivered the first "TacNet" data link to Raytheon for the U.S. Navy Strike Common Weapon Data Link Program.

The Strike Common Weapon Data Link upgrades the Raytheon AGM-154 Joint Stand Off Weapon (JSOW) and Boeing AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile with a data link capability for in-flight target updates.

Raytheon in October 2006 awarded Rockwell Collins an $18 million contract to develop a small form factor data link for the JSOW.

TacNet is a two-way, multi-waveform terminal. It features embedded National Security Agency Type-1 security and anti-jam capabilities, is compliant with the Software Communications Architecture, and is reprogrammable.

"TacNet is a cost-effective, low-risk, integrated data link that will transform weapon effectiveness by providing moving target updates and target reassignment capabilities," said Ron Hornish, Rockwell Collins vice president and general manager of Precision Strike Solutions.

CATBird Testing

Lockheed Martin’s Cooperative Avionics Test Bed (CATBird), a modified Boeing 737, in late November began in-flight integration and verification of the F-35 Lightning II mission systems suite.

The 40th flight of the CATBird, on Nov. 25, was its first configured as a complete classified mission-systems laboratory. All test objectives were met in the 2.4-hour sortie, Lockheed Martin said.

"We were able to transmit using the radar for 23 minutes and selected six different TACAN stations, with data displayed on the F-35 cockpit that resides in the CATBird," said Eric Branyan, Lockheed Martin vice president of F-35 Air System Development. "The results matched our predictions."

Several months of testing were planned to validate avionics in an airborne environment before the first avionics-equipped aircraft, a short takeoff/vertical landing version designated BF-4, flies later this year.

F-16 Autoland

Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School demonstrated the first autonomous landing of an F-16 Fighting Falcon. The demonstration supports development of autonomous control of an Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV), Lockheed Martin said.

Flight test resources were provided by the test pilot school at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., using the F-16 Variable Stability In-flight Simulator Test Aircraft (VISTA). Calspan Corp., of Buffalo, N.Y., provided flight-test safety pilots and testbed support and facilities.

The pilot initiates the autoland sequence during flight. The aircraft is controlled by an onboard computer, which uses algorithms developed by Lockheed Martin to control attitude, glide slope, airspeed, and descent rate via throttle and flight-control inputs until the aircraft comes to a stop on the runway.

Ducommun Acquisition

Ducommun Inc., Carson, Calif., acquired DynaBil Industries, of Coxsackie, N.Y., for $46.5 million. DynaBil is a provider of titanium and aluminum structural components and assemblies for aerospace.

The acquisition, announced in late December, was described as broadening the capabilities of Ducommun as a supplier of aerostructures to commercial and military customers. DynaBil was expected to have $43 million in sales in 2008.

"We intend to pursue larger, value-added assembly contracts as a result of our increased assembly capabilities and customer base," said Joseph C. Berenato, Ducommun chairman and CEO.

DynaBil will become a part of Ducommun AeroStructures (DAS), an existing subsidiary.

Also in December, Ducommun said it was awarded a $102 million contract from Raytheon to manufacture and integrate radar system components used on the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet and the F-15E Radar Modernization Program.

Ducommun will manufacture the radar racks and electro-mechanical enclosures for the APG-79 active electronically scanned array radar used on the Super Hornet and F-15E upgrade. The contract runs through 2020.

The manufacture and sub-system integration work will be performed at Ducommun’s Phoenix facility.

A400M Loadmaster

SYSGO AG, Klein-Winternheim, Germany, was selected by Rheinmetall Defence to participate in the development of the loadmaster workstation designed for the Airbus A400M military transport.

Rheinmetall has system responsibility for the development, manufacture and support of the Loadmaster Control System, consisting of a Loadmaster Workstation, Loadmaster Control Panel, eight Sidewall Lock Panels, a Remote Control Unit for a crane and cargo winches, and an Entrance Area Light Panel.

As part of the Loadmaster Workstation development, SYSGO is supplying its DO-178B certifiable PikeOS real-time operating system (RTOS) and assisting the development team in porting legacy software code initially implemented for a former RTOS.

UAV Datalink

France’s Sagem was selected by the French defense procurement agency DGA to design the datalink system for future UAVs, including line-of-site and satellite links needed for both air vehicle control and the operation of sensors.

Under the contract, named "Lido" after the French acronym for Drone Data Link, Sagem will define data links for tactical, theater and combat UAVs.

Sagem Defense Securite’s Sperwer tactical UAV uses a Ku-band datalink system. Sagem has produced more than 120 Sperwers, a UAV deployed by three countries in Afghanistan.

F-5N Display Unit

Interface Displays & Controls, Oceanside, Calif., in December commenced production deliveries of its new Radar/Navigation Control Display Unit to the U.S. Navy for the F-5N Adversary upgrade.

The Navy Reserve, which operates the single-seat, twin-engine fighter, and the Support and Commercial Derivative Aircraft program, are funding the $6.1 million upgrade, covering 44 systems plus spares.

Interface’s touch-screen, color AMLCD unit will serve as the radar target information display, as well as the bus controller, for Northrop Grumman’s LN-260 fiber optic gyro inertial navigation system, with embedded GPS.

The upgrade is expected to save $20 million in maintenance costs, according to the Naval Air Systems Command.

"The current inertial navigation system was becoming too old and costly to repair so a new system was found," said Jay Bolles, Adversary Integrated Product Team lead.

Southwest Names Boeing As Flight Deck Integrator

Southwest Airlines in December named Boeing as lead integrator for its 737-300 and -700 flight deck upgrade. Boeing will design, install and integrate hardware and software from multiple avionics suppliers, and perform flight-testing and certification.

The 737-300 Classics will receive GE Aviation’s new SDS-6000 large area display suite under a $40 million contract simultaneously announced by GE. Southwest is the launch customer for the display suite, which will be installed in up to 150 aircraft beginning in 2011, GE said. The suite comprises primary flight displays (PFDs), Integrated Standby Instrument System (ISIS) and control panels. The PFDs, designed to mimic the appearance of the 737 Next Generation cockpit, are new 15.4-inch widescreen displays. They feature integral signal and video processing and graphics generation, eliminating the need for a separate symbol generator, GE said. The ISIS is a "single box solution" for standby instrumentation.

The displays will more closely align the 737-300 and 737-700 flight decks, creating commonality, and allowing the 737-300 to operate in the same preferred airspace as the newer 737-700 NGs, Southwest said.

"This upgrade program will enhance safety, situational awareness, and fuel efficiency, and it will allow greater training flexibility due to flight deck commonality," said Chuck Magill, Southwest Airlines vice president of flight operations.

Integrated with a flight management system upgrade awarded to GE in October 2007, the combined system will support Required Navigation Performance (RNP) operations. Southwest has made a fleet-wide commitment to RNP. It plans to invest $175 million over six years to modify 535 737 Classics and NGs, train pilots and apply to FAA for approval to fly more precise arrivals and departures ( Avionics, January 2009, page 27).

"Southwest is pleased to select GE to provide this capability to enable us to operate more efficiently considering today’s air-traffic challenges and economic pressures worldwide," said Mike Van de Ven, Southwest Airlines chief of operations. "This contract is key to the success of Southwest Airlines’ implementation of RNP and their partnership with the FAA to advance NextGen airspace."

The integrated display suite and FMS control the aircraft track to an accuracy of 10 meters and time of arrival to within 10 seconds to any point in the flight plan, GE said, enabling shorter flight paths and idle-thrust descents. The FMS, developed by the former Smiths Aerospace, is manufactured by GE in Grand Rapids, Mich. The integrated system will form the core of a 737 Classic retrofit package available to all operators, GE said.

Organizers Describe Collocation Of AMC, AEEC Annual Meetings

Airline maintenance and engineering delegations will share a hotel and an opening session this year with the collocation of the annual AMC and AEEC conferences organized by ARINC Industry Activities (IA).

The AMC Annual Meeting and the AEEC General Session, co-sponsored by Avionics magazine, will take place March 30 through April 2 at the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis in that city. Northwest Airlines, now a Delta subsidiary, will be host airline for both conferences.

The collocation of the two events represents an ongoing evolution for IA, which serves as the secretariat for these and a third conference — FSEMC, formerly known as the Flight Simulator Engineering and Maintenance Conference. The unit since 2007 has operated under new ownership following the acquisition of ARINC by The Carlyle Group, a Washington, D.C., private equity firm. That same year, the three aviation conferences shed their longer titles for acronyms and transitioned to membership organizations.

At the AMC annual meeting last April in Tulsa, Okla., ARINC Chairman and CEO John M. Belcher pledged that "ARINC and Industry Activities are here to stay" and described IA as "an integral part of our heritage." ( Avionics, June 2008, page 10.)

Overseen by a Steering Group with 11 voting airline representatives, AMC identifies technical solutions to maintenance issues affecting the industry. AEEC, led by an Executive Committee representing airlines as well as airframers and military and general aviation, develops engineering standards and technical solutions for avionics, networks and cabin systems.

The Minneapolis event marks the 60th annual meetings for both AMC, formerly the Avionics Maintenance Conference, and AEEC, the former Airlines Electronic Engineering Committee. In a recent teleconference, principals of the two conferences discussed the thinking behind the collocated meetings.

"Our primary motivation is to get more benefit for the attendees, and more exposure for both aspects of [airline] operations," said Greg Kuehl of UPS, who serves as AEEC chairman. "There are relationships between the specifications and the maintenance sides and there are interdependencies and common concerns.... For attendees in general, it’s more of a one-stop shop. Hopefully, we make their travel and their time more effective and more efficient."

Asked if collocating the two conferences makes sense given the state of the economy and the challenges airlines face, Kuehl said, "Yes it does. Conditions, unfortunately, are making it look more attractive all the time. We all have fewer people and lower budgets. If we can get more benefit for a given person’s time, effort and travel cost, we’re certainly willing to give that a try."

The collocated conferences will take advantage of the synergies that exist between airline engineering and maintenance operations.

"There are certainly overlaps in terms of feeding forward technology," said AEEC organizer Roy Oishi, a member of the ARINC IA staff. "The technology that is being standardized, that will be included on the newer airplanes as they come out of design and build, can help the maintenance community look forward to what they need to train for and be aware of. A good example is fiber optics, where their experience in the past can be helped by some of the standards coming out of AEEC.

"There’s the feed forward as well as the feed back," he added. "Experience in the maintenance shop can help improve the quality of the requirements going into the next generation of specifications."

Organizers said some of the respective AMC and AEEC sessions will be synchronized to better connect the conferences. "The idea was to stagger the sessions so that someone who is a communications expert could attend both meetings and cover communications in both meetings," Kuehl said. "We’re going to try to split them up so that they’re close, so if you’re a comm guy you don’t have the AEEC portion on Monday and the AMC session on Thursday. The main point is efficiency."

The conferences will start with a joint opening session, but will retain their separate discussion tracks and symposia, said Sam Buckwalter, AMC executive secretary. Buckwalter said he and Mike Russo, his AEEC counterpart, "are going to make sure the agendas [don’t conflict]. In the future, maybe we’ll eventually change to having one major conference with breakouts for certain topics. But the first step is to bring the two conferences together in one location. As time goes along, we’re going to adapt to what best suits the industry."

The symposia may be combined for future meetings, Buckwalter said. That option was ruled out for the first year.

This year’s AMC symposia topics will be: "Part 145 Repair Stations Working In A 121 Environment" on March 30; Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) on March 31; and "Enhanced Off-Board Communications for Commercial Aircraft" on April 1. The AEEC symposium was still being planned.

The airline community has been generally receptive to the idea of collocating the conferences, said organizers. More will be known of the response, they said, when the conferences take place.

"From the point of view of the AMC Steering Group and the AEEC Executive Committee, you’ve got more than two dozen airlines, and there is broad concurrence among those airlines that this is the right thing to do," said Oishi. "From the outside we don’t have as much feedback. We will get that at the meeting itself."

For more information on the collocated meetings, see www.aviation-ia.com.

Live chat by BoldChat