ATM Modernization, Business & GA, Commercial, Military

Editor’s Note: We Explain the Technology

By David Jensen | July 1, 2001
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OUR MISSION WAS TO explain the technology." That is what motivated technical writer Len Buckwalter to launch Avionics Magazine 25 years ago. And that remains the magazine’s mission today.

In this issue, we rather quietly celebrate Avionics Magazine’s silver anniversary with a homespun look at the year the publication began, 1976. It provides a perspective of just how far the avionics industry has come over the past quarter century.

Avionics Magazine has made much progress over the years, as well. In fact, it did not even begin as a magazine, but rather as a six-page newsletter. It assumed a magazine format in 1980.

The publication’s founder (now working on other projects) told me that he conceived the newsletter to help educate engineers and technicians in aviation. However, he admitted that the publication’s coverage soon expanded beyond technical areas to include, for example, the avionics business environment. Indeed, its first cover story as a magazine was about "Weathering the Recession," Buckwalter told me, indicating the economic climate of the early 1980s.

And the content in Avionics Magazine has expanded far beyond the systems in the cockpit. Referring again to his targeted readers, Buckwalter said, "What happened is that we found a lot of avionics technicians were asked to do a lot of other things, like work on the cabin systems and on the digital engine control, so we had to go beyond just navigation and communication."

Buckwalter sold Avionics Magazine in 1987. Now part of a major publishing company, PBI Media LLC, and among a stable of aviation publications, the magazine continues to explain technology. It also continues to expand its coverage and, as in the past, that expansion is due to change in the aviation electronics industry. As you are well aware, satellite communications and navigation combined with miniature, high-speed computer technology have made the aircraft more than a passenger- and cargo-hauling vehicle. The aircraft also has become an airborne communications node within a network that links ground, air and space.

The days of air traffic controllers being the sole managers of air traffic flow and of aircrews following connect-the-dot routes are rapidly coming to a close. So are the days when the passenger remains isolated in the cabin, with no communications link to the outside world. One passenger systems vendor alone recently claimed that by the end of this year, he plans to have an e-mail and Internet service installed in 100 aircraft.

Information from the cockpit, from the cabin and from the ground, soon will flow freely, back and forth, regardless of an aircraft’s position in the world. With such a widespread wealth of information, decision-making can be shared and improved to assure efficiency and safety.

The flying environment is rapidly changing, and it is impacting avionics technology, business, certification, regulation and user operation. The optimum word today is "connectivity." Connectivity of the above-mentioned industry components, working together to advance this new environment. And technological connectivity to make communication, navigation and surveillance integral–in other words, nose-to-tail, gate-to-gate. All of this, we feel, makes explaining the technology more important now than ever.

Avionics Magazine readership has grown; we now include airline officials, air traffic service providers, in-flight entertainment developers, chief engineers and government authorities, as well as avionics technicians and engineers. Our editorial coverage has grown, too, to include air traffic management and services, data processing technology, cabin systems, and flight safety, along with cockpit systems.

Yes, we still explain the technology. But looking at what’s in store over the next 25 years and beyond, we see that simply stated mission much more critical and far reaching.

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