Friday, March 1, 2013
Challenges for FAA’s Airline Safety Regulations Lead
FAA is facing budgetary challenges and industry opposition to provisions of the 2010 Airline Safety and FAA Extension Act, according to a Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General report released in February.
The Airline Safety Act requires FAA to improve commercial airline safety standards by advancing voluntary safety programs, improving pilot rest requirements and providing better processes for carriers to manage safety risks. The act’s passage was prompted by a 2009 crash of Colgan Air flight 3407 that killed 50 people; the crash was caused by the pilot’s incorrect response to critical safety systems, which caused an aerodynamic stall.Among the provisions in the act is a requirement to develop an electronic pilot records database, but the agency faces challenges in retaining and standardizing historical records and transitioning from current requirements, according to the report. The report said FAA is “experiencing lengthy delays and considerable industry opposition” to issuing finalized rules that would lead to the above-mentioned safety improvements.Additionally, FAA has not provided “sufficient” assistance to smaller carriers in implementing the new safety standards. About 12 percent of small carriers have implemented the digital flight data recording programs required by the act, in comparison to more than 90 percent of larger carriers that have flight data recording programs to monitor aircraft performance.“FAA has not provided the level of education, outreach, and guidance needed for air carriers to implement new safety programs, such as mentoring, leadership, and professional development committees,” the report said.Additionally, the agency is behind schedule in issuing a rule requiring pilots to have 1,500 hours of flight training in order to obtain an Airline Transport Pilot certificate. That would be a significant increase over the current requirement of a minimum of 250 hours to obtain a commercial pilot license. - Woodrow Bellamy III
Dreamliner Fire Origin
U.S. safety officials investigating the cause of the Boeing 787 battery fire in Boston earlier this year have narrowed the origin of the fire to one of the lithium ion battery’s eight cells, however the actual cause of the fire is still not yet known, officials said in February.
All 50 in-service Dreamliners worldwide were grounded in mid-January, when FAA issued an emergency airworthiness directive to ground the planes and conduct a safety review following a string of incidents involving the Dreamliner, including a battery fire on a Japan Airlines (JAL) aircraft.
National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Chairman Deborah Hersman said investigators have determined both thermal and mechanical damage pointed to an initiating event in a single cell of the Dreamliner battery from the JAL fire. Examination of the battery shows signs of short circuiting which lead to a thermal runway condition and cascaded to other cells in the battery, resulting in the temperature inside the battery case to exceed 500F.
Additionally, investigators have ruled out any possibility of external short circuiting or mechanical impact damage leading to the battery fire.
“NTSB learned that as part of the risk assessment Boeing conducted during the certification process, it determined that the likelihood of a smoke emission event from a 787 battery would occur less than once in every 10 million flight hours,” NTSB said in a statement.
Hersman noted the two incidents involving the Dreamliner’s lithium ion battery occurred with fewer than 100,000 flight hours logged on the aircraft. “The assumptions used to certify the battery must be reconsidered,” said Hersman.
NTSB will issue an interim factual report on all of its findings this month, though Hersman gave no timetable for a return to service; FAA will make the decision to allow the 787 to return to service.
“Boeing welcomes the progress reported by the NTSB in the 787 investigation, including that the NTSB has identified the origin of the event as having been within the battery. The findings discussed today demonstrated a narrowing of the focus of the investigation to short circuiting observed in the battery, while providing the public with a better understanding of the nature of the investigation,” Boeing said in a statement.
Boeing said it “remains committed to working with the NTSB, FAA and our customers to maintain the high level of safety the traveling public expects and that the air transport system has delivered. We continue to provide support to the investigative groups as they work to further understand these events and as we work to prevent such incidents in the future. The safety of passengers and crew members who fly aboard Boeing airplanes is our highest priority.” Woodrow Bellamy III
Frontier Airlines RNP
Airbus ProSky company Quovadis assisted Frontier Airlines with the completion of requirements for RNP AR 0.3 operations using its fleet of Airbus A320s. FAA granted Frontier Airlines operational approval for RNP with Authorization Required (AR) for public procedures in the United States.
Airbus said Frontier Airlines is the first operator in the United States fitted with Airbus RNP AR 0.3 modification in compliance with the FAA AC-90 101A Approval Guidance for RNP-AR procedures available for applicable airports in the United States. Frontier Airlines will be able to fly RNP procedures, which allow a turn after the Final Approach Point or a missed approach with an RNP values up to 0.3nm.
“The opportunity to collaborate with Frontier Airlines has been invaluable. Assisting them with obtaining FAA RNP AR 0.3 Operational Approval will allow them to fly more predictive, efficient and timely routes into more airports throughout the United States,” said Don-Jacques Ould-Ferhat, COO of Quovadis.
“Frontier is proud to be the first Airbus operator in the United States to accomplish RNAV RNP AR 0.3 modifications and approval under AC 90-101A, particularly in conjunction with the addition of these procedures this month to our hometown Denver International Airport,” said Scott Gould, vice president of Flight Operations at Frontier.
Frontier Airlines will continue working with Quovadis to obtain approval for RNP AR below 0.3 Public Operations in the United States.
IATA Sees Higher Traffic
Global airline passenger traffic increased by 5.3 percent in 2012 compared to 2011, according to a January report from International Air Transportation Association (IATA).
“Growth and high aircraft utilization combined to help airlines deliver an estimated $6.7 billion profit in 2012 despite high fuel prices. But with a net profit margin of just 1 percent the industry is only just keeping its head above water,” said Tony Tyler, CEO of IATA.
IATA said the strongest growth in international passenger traffic in 2012 came from emerging markets such as the Middle East which posted a 15.4 percent increase over 2011 and Latin America which posted an 8.4 percent increase.
ITT Exelis filed a formal protest with FAA over the $331 million datacomm contract awarded to Harris Corp.
The protest, which was filed in November with FAA’s Office of Dispute Resolution for Acquisition (ODRA) for review, asks the agency to review “aspects of the evaluation that warrant further review,” ITT said in a statement. ITT and Lockheed Martin submitted unsuccessful bids for the contract last year.
“We believe ITT Exelis delivered an exceptional technical solution that offered a wide degree of flexibility and cost savings to the government. As in any solicitation there are many evaluation criteria. In this case we believe some aspects of the evaluation warrant further review, leading us to follow due process and request an ODRA review. The decision to protest was not made lightly. Exelis is committed to providing the best value solution to the FAA customer and are optimistic about our prospects for a positive outcome from this protest,” Exelis said in a statement to Avionics Magazine. The company did not provide any further details on the specific aspects that it felt needed further evaluation.
The Data Communications Integrated Services (DCIS) contract, a key part of the NextGen airspace modernization initiative, will replace voice communications with data messages sent between the cockpit and the air traffic control tower with the goal of more efficient pilot-controller communications and more efficient operations. The DCIS contract will provide ground-to-ground and air-to-ground segments of the data communications system, with special attention paid to the interoperability of the data communications services and avionics. It will be rolled out in 2015 in the tower domain and in 2018-2022 for the en route environment.
FAA could provide no details about the protest process or give any timeline for its resolution.
Harris declined to comment on the contract protest. The Harris team includes Thales, GE Aviation and an undisclosed airline partner.
The ITT Exelis-led team includes Airbus, United Airlines, JetBlue Airways, CSC, Rockwell Collins, Raytheon, General Dynamics, Aerospace Engineering, Airtel ATN, Alvarez Group, AT&T, EMS Aviation, NAV CANADA, Northrop Grumman, NEXA Capital Partners, PwC, Selex Communications, Saab Sensis, Crown Consulting, HyperNet Solutions, Lexem Strategy, Tantus and UPS.
➤ Boeing has selected GE Aviation to provide the flight management system for its 737 MAX aircraft.
The flight management system will control the aircraft track to the time of arrival within 10 seconds to any point in the flight plan, GE said.
“Our system is a key part of most airlines’ plan to conduct Required Navigation Performance (RNP) operations, and allows them to realize significant cost savings with lower fuel consumption while benefiting the environment with reduced emissions,” said George Kiefer, vice president of avionics at GE Aviation.
➤ Rockwell Collins has signed a service agreement with Dubai-based Emirates Airline for maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) of Rockwell Collins avionics on Emirates’ fleet. The five-year agreement provides fixed repair costs and guaranteed turnaround times.
Rockwell Collins’ global network of more than 80 locations provides repair and overhaul of avionics equipment for more than 6,000 commercial, business, corporate and military operations, the company said. Additional logistics capabilities include on-board services, service parts, training and simulator systems and services, technical information services and technical services.
➤ Rockwell Collins and Tata Power Strategic Engineering Division, a system integrator in the Indian defense industry, signed teaming agreement as part of their pursuit of the Indian Air Force Software Defined Radio program.
Under the terms of the agreement, Tata Power SED is the prime contractor and Rockwell Collins will provide technology for the team’s software defined radio offering. If selected, the team of Tata and Rockwell Collins plan to perform the majority of the program effort in India, providing faster delivery times, as well as more responsive in-country service and support for the customer.
➤ The U.S. Navy awarded a $9 million contract to Melbourne, Fla.-based Southeast Aerospace (SEA) to provide part kits for an Avionics System Upgrade (ASU) for its T-44 trainer aircraft. SEA expects to complete the work for the part kits by January 2014, and the contract includes two additional option years that would increase the value to $18.2 million.
➤ Esterline CMC Electronics announced two undisclosed international customers have selected its CMA-9000 Flight Management System for their new fleets of Pilatus PC-21 turboprop trainers. The two customers also selected Esterline’s SparrowHawk HUD sub-system and Up Front control panel for the PC-21s.
➤ Honeywell selected the TegoView RFID parts tagging software to expedite its parts tagging process for the aircraft components it supplies to airframers. Tego, developer of TegoView, said the software was developed to expedite the tagging of aircraft parts. Airframe manufacturers require high memory RFID tags so that all users along supply chains and assembly lines have easy access to all relevant information regarding each specific component.
“In an industry where thousands of airplanes each have millions of individual parts, airframe manufacturers and their suppliers need to manage and track an enormous inventory,” said Timothy Butler, president and CEO of Tego.
➤ Chinese airborne equipment supplier Chengdu CAIC Electronics (CAIC) selected Crane Aerospace to provide landing gear indication system upgrades on a fleet of MA60 turboprop aircraft for AVIC Xi’an Aircraft Industry group. Crane will supply proximity sensors and electronic interface modules for the landing gear system.
Embraer Picks Honeywell for E-Jets
Honeywell signed an agreement with Embraer worth $2.8 billion to provide its Primus Epic integrated avionics system for the next generation of E-Jets, scheduled to enter service in 2018.
Embraer will launch the program later this year to begin integrating the Primus Epic into its second generation of E-Jets, the company said. The Primus Epic system features Honeywell’s SmartView flight displays and Interactive Navigation (INAV); it was featured on the first generation of E-Jets and several other major business jet airframes as well.
“We believe that the evolution of the Honeywell Primus Epic, including large landscape displays, will provide flexibility for continuous innovation in the flight deck, while offering a mature system and a smooth transition for pilots between the current and future generation of E-Jets,” said Paulo Caesar Silva, president and CEO of Embraer’s commercial aviation business.