Business & GA, Commercial

Solid Growth

By David Jensen | January 1, 2000
Send Feedback

Free Flight will impact the avionics market. Airlines want to be ready for Free Flight from day one," states Michel Merluzeau, senior analyst for the research organization Frost & Sullivan, which recently completed a survey of the civil avionics marketplace.

Frost & Sullivan predicts $35 billion to $40 billion will have been spent for avionics in civil aircraft worldwide between 1998 and 2005. Those sales will ride a very solid 2% to 3% industry growth rate, according to the market survey.

Along with Free Flight to boost avionics development and sales are roaring corporate and regional airline markets, new regulations, a solid retrofit market, and an air transport market that, while flattening, must still satisfy a growing demand for air travel.

Technologies to Watch

A major role in Free Flight—and in avionics industry growth, according to the Frost & Sullivan survey—is that of data link communications, which currently enjoys a surge in development. Merluzeau anticipates the use of "more time-critical data link—for emergency altitude changes, runway changes, clearances, etc.—not just routine communications. Data link also will be used [to relay] diagnosed problems while in flight."

Clearly, the aviation industry is gearing up to increased data link utilization. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently awarded ARINC Inc. a five-year contract to support the development of controller-pilot data link communications (CPDLC) in the U.S. national airspace. Similar activity is taking place in Europe with Eurocontrol’s PETAL II trials. At the same time, both U.S.-based ARINC and European telecommunications giant SITA are busy developing comprehensive, worldwide VHF networks for data link service.

Merluzeau cites two reasons for data link’s future prominence: It will relieve both air traffic controller workload and ACARS [Airborne Communications Addressing and Reporting System] capacity.

Claiming airline delays could "reach unacceptable levels," he states that "if data links are not adopted, then saturation [of air traffic control capacity] could become very serious by 2006. Data link will create a seamless information network. It could give a 62% improvement to controller workload.

"Various industry projections show that ACARS capacity will run out by 2002 to 2004," Merluzeau continues. VHF data link (VDL) Mode 2 "will provide a means of handling ACARS congestion, offering better than a tenfold increase in capacity."

Another proposed element for Free Flight to watch is automatic dependence surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B). Significant progress was made last summer during trials conducted by Cargo Airline Association members in the Ohio River Valley, and continued development will take place in Alaska during the FAA-sponsored Capstone Project.

Still, Meruzeau warns, "ADS-B must offer more and cost less before being fully accepted. It must do everything TCAS [traffic alert collision avoidance system] does and more—logically not just traffic conflict, but also conflict resolution."

Nevertheless, Merluzeau claims Frost & Sullivan does see ADS-B’s increased popularity because "airlines are interested in determining climb and descent, employing parallel approaches, and just having greater situation awareness."

More Integration

"In terms of technology," says Mike Smith, president-Honeywell Commercial Aviation Systems, "the two major areas to watch will be continued integration, such as expansion into utilities integration, and man-machine interface, in other words making the job in the cockpit simpler, easy to do."

In concurrence, Jean-Louis Larmor, vice president-marketing at Sextant Canada, foresees the "integration of all on-board electronics into the same kind of architecture. Honeywell is proposing this now," he adds. "Sextant will provide utility integration with our next generation of avionics." The French manufacturer plans to enter this expanded integration by partnering with Auxilec, a producer of power generation.

Rick Salanitri, vice president-engineering for TIMCO, says that in the retrofit market, too, there exists "growing interest in fully integrated systems like Rockwell Collins’ I2S." Also, in the corporate aircraft market, the Frost & Sullivan study predicts the 3% growth in integrated systems in 1999 will reach a 12% rate by 2005.

Along with more integration will come "bigger [cockpit display] screens offering more capability," says Merluzeau. Testimony to this trend lies not only in the increased amount of glass in air transport cockpits, but also on the panel designs of such new bizjets as Bombardier’s Continental, which supports four large Collins displays, and little else.

To assure pilots remain eyes-forward, however, more and more aircraft will no doubt come equipped with head-up displays (HUDs). "I foresee more HUDs on commercial aircraft, particularly in Europe, where weather is often a factor," says Merluzeau.

Officials at UK-based Marconi Avionics Group, which claims a 65% market share of HUDs for military aircraft, believe the commercial market for head-up displays will match, if not exceed the military market. "We expect to deliver 10,000 to 15,000 systems to the civil market over the next seven to 10 years," says Ian Bustin, Marconi’s group press relations manager.

Merluzeau believes HUDS will be installed in smaller aircraft, as well. How small? "The question will be how affordable a HUD can be," he replies.

Other technologies to watch:

  • TCAS—"New regulations in Europe regarding TCAS will create a boost in that market," says Salanitri, referring to a rule that requires all aircraft weighing 33,075 pounds (15,000 kg) or more be TCAS II equipped by the beginning of this year.

  • Fly-by-wire—"We see full fly-by-wire in smaller aircraft, smaller than airliners," says Sextant’s Larmor.

  • RVSM—Expansion of reduced vertical separation airspace, such as in Europe, will necessitate avionics packages for compliance. One example is the teaming of Honeywell and Garrett Aviation Services to develop an RVSM package for Gulfstream operators, and possibly, for smaller bizjets, too.

  • GPWS—Numerous industry sources foresee the continued strong market for ground proximity warning systems.

Aircraft Markets

Obviously linked to the avionics market is airplane sales. In the air transport market, airliner sales are expected to slow down, as the industry has reached the peak of its economic cycle. But the FAA forecasts an impressive 2.9% growth rate per year in regional aircraft sales in the U.S. over the next decade. Boeing predicts the worldwide fleet of regional jets will more than double.

Propelled by a market growth exceeding 6%, the cargo fleet is expected to exceed 3,000 aircraft worldwide by 2018, according to Boeing. Boosting TCAS sales is the fact that Europe’s new rule bases the TCAS requirement on aircraft weight, not passenger load, thus including cargo carriers.

Fractional ownership and growing national economies propel the corporate aircraft boom. AlliedSignal projects total sales of 6,800 aircraft, worth nearly $89 billion over the next 10 years.

For more details visit these Websites: ; ; ; ; ; for Frost & Sullivan, and for TIMCO.

Receive the latest avionics news right to your inbox