Business & GA, Commercial, Military

Q&A: ARINC’s Advance Into the Business Market

By David Jensen | October 1, 2003
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Just about everybody knows that ARINC helps establish avionics standards and provides services to air transport users. Less well known are the company’s services to business aviation–even though more than 2,000 corporate jets use its global voice and data communications network for daily operations. With more than 4,000 flights under its belt, ARINC also supports reduced vertical separation minimum (RVSM) monitoring services. This past December, the Annapolis, Md.-based firm set out to make itself a brand name in business aviation, consolidating its services–and adding more–under the name of ARINC Direct. Heading up what ARINC hopes will be a "one-stop" business aviation shop is Dave Poltorak, ARINC’s vice president of business aviation services.

A 13-year veteran with ARINC, Poltorak leads more than 70 ARINC Direct employees located in Annapolis, Colorado Springs, Scottsdale, Ariz., San Diego and Miami. His division’s activities range from in-flight communications services, flight planning and flight support to aircraft modifications, upgrades, testing and contract maintenance.

Poltorak formerly was ARINC’s vice president of Aviation Services, responsible for the commercial aviation market. Earlier he had a lead role in expanding ARINC’s air-to-ground communication services into China and Southeast Asia. He was subsequently responsible for managing and directing all of ARINC’s air-to-ground services, including voice and data communications, and for ARINC’s RVSM and related services. Poltorak holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree in electrical engineering from Johns Hopkins University. His office is in Annapolis, where we conducted this interview.

Avionics Magazine: What is ARINC Direct?

Poltorak: ARINC Direct refers to the umbrella of services ARINC provides to business aviation. These encompass almost every need–from flight planning and air traffic services to aircraft maintenance and modification–as well as the only true broadband communication service available to the market. We also provide a full suite of RVSM-related services, which is particularly important, as the date for domestic airspace changes draws closer.

Avionics Magazine: What’s new about ARINC Direct?

Poltorak: What’s new is that customers are starting to realize the important role we play in their daily operations. And our company has focused on providing additional value-added services to the business aviation market–leveraging the presence and support which has always been there.

We’ve been providing data link, voice, RVSM and radio licensing services to business aviation for years. Yet many customers didn’t realize that it’s ARINC that enables data communication between the cockpit and the ground. So we thought ARINC Direct would be an appropriate name for our umbrella of services. By coming to us for service, the middleman is eliminated. At the same time, we were tasked by the company to establish a vision and plan to better serve business aviation.

Avionics Magazine: Does this mean you have stopped using service resellers?

Poltorak: At this time, we’ve made the decision to continue existing business relationships. In providing our value-added services, we’ve created a choice for customers. We will earn their business.

Avionics Magazine: How does the new entity fit into the market?

Poltorak: Business aviation in many ways has been underserved for years. We see a real need for the full suite of services provided by ARINC Direct. We sometimes use the term "one-stop shop" to describe one desired outcome, one in which owners and operators in the business aviation market can make a single call to ARINC and we’ll address their requirements.

We also know that business aviation has its own unique set of requirements, and so we’ve established this business focus and even built new facilities dedicated solely to business aviation. The best example of this is our flight operations center, which we completed earlier this year in Annapolis. We serve only business aviation from this 24/7 facility. Another example is the aircraft services facility we opened earlier this year in Colorado Springs.

Avionics Magazine: How much has the company invested in ARINC Direct?

Poltorak: We’ve been investing for years in the networks used by the 2,000-plus business aircraft using our data link services. Most recently, we’ve invested millions of dollars.

Avionics Magazine: Would you describe the facilities and their equipage?

Poltorak: We’ve made significant investments in the flight operations center in Annapolis and our aircraft services facilities in Colorado Springs. Our flight operations center provides 24/7 support and includes the latest workstations, servers and communications. Customers can access most information over the Web, but we’ve also staffed the Annapolis facility so that our customers can talk to well-trained individuals. All of our flight coordinators have notable experience in aviation, and most have dispatch, pilot and corporate flight department experience.

Our Colorado Springs facilities include a dedicated hangar capable of serving a number of business jets at any one time. We have more than 14,000 square feet of dedicated hangar space there and access to an additional 50,000+ square feet, as required. We’ve also occupied additional space in July in Colorado Springs, where we’ve located our parts department, as well as our instrument and accessory repair and overhaul service. The latter service will be expanded to offer avionics repair and overhaul later this year.

Avionics Magazine: What types of services do you offer? How much does each contribute to revenues?

Poltorak: We provide flight support services, aircraft services, RVSM services–aircraft modifications, monitoring and applications for approval–passenger communications, which includes SKYLink [broadband service], and international recurrent operations training. We’ve found it beneficial for customers to combine and bundle services to deliver the most cost-effective solutions. As a result, we’re not too focused on the contributions from a specific business area but rather the business in total.

In total, ARINC will generate more than $600 million in revenue this year. Our business is growing at a healthy pace and includes most every part of the aviation market. Our roadmap for expanding our Aircraft Services Group does include interiors and completions, which we currently plan to address in 2004.

Avionics Magazine: SKYLink is a new service, isn’t it?

Poltorak: We’re conducting flight tests with two of the largest business jet OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] and will have the service operational in the fourth quarter of this year. We will be working with the OEMs to make SKYLink Broadband a standard option on new aircraft. Of course, we’ll also install this capability on existing aircraft using our Aircraft Services Group. Tests to date have been successful, and the results are extraordinary. In fact, just this afternoon I received an e-mail sent from 49,000 feet above Florida, which included a digital photo and news that the onboard team was browsing the Internet, exchanging files and even completing their time sheets. We are the only provider to offer true broadband communications to the business jet passenger cabin.

Avionics Magazine: Why should companies buy the SKYLink service?

Poltorak: The service truly connects the aircraft cabin to the office environment, the Internet and personal e-mail. This market, in particular, finds that time is precious and this service enables customers to make full use of their time. Customers will be able to conduct business in their aircraft as efficiently as they do in their offices.

The SKYLink high-speed satellite-based service connects the cabin to the ground at speeds equal to or better than that provided by cable modems. To be technical, we can deliver data to the cabin at connection speeds of more than 3 million bits per second. The service simply requires a tail-mounted antenna and a satellite transceiver. We also provide and install the necessary hardware to retrofit existing aircraft. This Ku-band, satellite-based service currently offers coverage in the continental United States; however, future expansion of the system is likely to regions including Latin America, Europe and Asia, where business jet travel is rapidly expanding.

Avionics Magazine: Give us examples of your aircraft services.

Poltorak: Our Aircraft Services Group provides services and engineering capabilities, including: aircraft maintenance and management, routine maintenance and repair, system analysis and engineering, avionics support and integration, and STC [supplemental type certificate] certification.

We have experience performing engineering, certification and modifications for traffic alert collision avoidance systems [TCAS], RVSM, enhanced ground proximity warning systems [EGPWS], emergency locater transmitters [ELTs], flight data recorder systems and flight management systems [FMS].

We also provide aircraft-on-ground [AOG] support from our response center, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. ARINC Direct also can perform work at customers’ facilities if that’s more convenient. We’re one of the few providers capable of completing all required engineering, certification and installation and modification.

In April we augmented our Aircraft Services Group with the addition of an instrument and accessory repair and overhaul capability. Our repair facility is certified for Class 1, 2, 3 and 4 instruments and Class 2 accessories. Capabilities include overhaul, repair and recertification of instruments, accessories and test equipment for general aviation, corporate, regional, military and commercial aircraft. We’ve also expanded our Aircraft Services Group by establishing a maintenance service at the Scottsdale, Ariz., airport. We have a parts department to support our maintenance, integration, and repair and overhaul departments, and it provides parts directly to our customers.

Avionics Magazine: How big is your staff? And what types of professionals do you employ?

Poltorak: We have more than 70 employees dedicated to providing ARINC Direct services. This number includes only those employees on the front line, if you will, and doesn’t include the hundreds that ensure our infrastructure is ready and available for ARINC Direct. The employees dedicated to ARINC Direct include flight coordinators, dispatchers and pilots supporting flight operations, and systems engineers and software developers building, integrating and testing the ARINC Direct services. In addition, we have a staff of licensed aircraft mechanics, avionics and instrumentation repair technicians, and have nearly 20 employees spread across the country to provide same- or next-day RVSM monitoring flights.

Avionics Magazine: Give us examples of your flight support services.

Poltorak: These include flight planning, weather, flight following, air traffic services, cockpit communications and trip planning and ground handling. Customers can access our flight support services by calling our flight coordinators at any time. Services can also be accessed from our secure Internet site. Customers need no special software–just an Internet browser–for complete access. This means pilots, as well as flight departments and fixed-base operators, can use our flight support services 24 hours a day, from virtually anywhere on Earth.

Avionics Magazine: Are training and events part of flight support services?

Poltorak: We offer extensive and comprehensive training for our flight support services. We’re always pleased to host our customers here in Annapolis and, where appropriate, will conduct training at our customer’s facility.

Avionics Magazine: What areas do you plan to include in your training service beyond pilot recurrent training and RVSM training?

Poltorak: At this point in time, we intend to focus on the international recurrent operations, RVSM and flight support services training. We’ll expand as we recognize our customers’ evolving needs and continue to raise the bar to impact their service level.

Avionics Magazine: Where are the ARINC Direct facilities?

Poltorak: Our employees are primarily located in Annapolis and Colorado Springs. In August we added staff at the Scottsdale Air Center at the Scottsdale airport, where we also provide aircraft services, with a primary focus on aircraft maintenance. Our RVSM staff is also located in Miami, Oklahoma City, San Diego and Toronto.

Avionics Magazine: Are any of your products and services offered in conjunction with partners?

Poltorak: We do work closely with other companies to provide services. For example, Air Routing International (ARI) is a partner in flight support services, particularly as it relates to international handling. We also offer international recurrent operations training in conjunction with Assessment Compliance Group (ACG), located here in Annapolis. In the communications area, SES-Americom is an investor and partner in our SKYLink service. SES-Americom provides the satellite service for SKYLink in the Continental United States and has a constellation of satellites covering the globe that will allow SKYLink to expand to meet the growing demand for the service. In the RVSM arena, we work closely with a number of companies, including AeroMech.

Avionics Magazine: You are working in RVSM. Are there other new technologies that you plan to support in the near future, such as controller pilot data link communications (CPDLC) or automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B)?

Poltorak: As a result of our work in the air transport world, we’re already involved in these technologies. The FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] is using ARINC’s next-generation, air-ground data link network to provide CPDLC services in the Miami FIR [flight information region]. Eurocontrol has named ARINC to be the data link service provider for its busy Maastricht Upper Air Center, as part of its LINK 2000+ program. ARINC will deploy a network of VHF Digital Link [VDL, also known as VHF Data Link] Mode 2 ground stations this year to support CPDLC communications above flight level 245 in the skies over Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and northern Germany–some of Europe’s busiest airspace. When the system goes operational, the Maastricht air traffic controllers will be the first in Europe to have the benefit of CPDLC. Our knowledge and understanding of the implementations and technologies should help increase consideration of the needs of business aviation in these arenas.

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