Editor's Note


By | November 1, 2004
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In preparation for the Jan. 20, 2005, deadline for domestic reduced vertical separation minimum (DRVSM), the FAA Tech Center in Atlantic City, N.J., is completing the development of its Aircraft Geometric Height Measurement Element (AGHME). The ground-based system is meant to detect error in the altimetry systems of aircraft approved to fly in RVSM airspace, between 29,000 and 41,000 feet (see story, page 25). FAA has used a prototype for flight tests since June. The final version of AGHME, incorporating enhanced recording software, was to be flight tested, using FAA’s Beech 200 King Air, by October, just prior to the systems’ entry into operation.

"When the final test is done, we will post on the RVSM Web site [www.faa.gov/ats/ato/drvsm/default.asp] that we’re open for business," says Brian Colamosca, manager of the Tech Center’s Separation Standards Group. Operators then can fly their aircraft over the Tech Center site for a test of their onboard altimetry system.

"However, there will be no AGHME routes, as such," says Colamosca. "Operators will file a route as they normally do, but the route must include a straight and level leg at 29,000 to 41,000 feet over the Tech Center. We wanted the testing to be transparent to the air traffic controllers," he explains.

The agency plans five AGHME sites, all to be located at FAA facilities. A site in Wichita, Kan., was scheduled to enter operation this autumn. It will be followed by an AGHME site in Cleveland (in operation by early 2005) and then one in Roanoke, Va. FAA has yet to determine an AGHME site for the southwestern United States.

Nav Canada, too, plans to install two AGHME systems, in Ottawa and in Lethbridge, just south of Calgary. This will be in addition to the comparable but older height-monitoring system installed in Gander, Newfoundland, to monitor North Atlantic traffic. (A similar system to the one in Gander exists in Strumble, Wales; it predates the newer height-monitoring units in Europe, located in Geneva, Switzerland; Linz, Austria; and Nattenheim, Germany.)

AGHME is a passive surveillance system that comprises a constellation of five elements, each including a Mode S receiver and antenna, a GPS receiver and antenna, and internal electronics that stamp the Mode S pulse train’s time of arrival. The elements (one is shown above) are positioned in a diamond shape, 20 miles (32 km) apart. Using multilateration, the AGHME system determines an aircraft’s exact distance from the ground by comparing the times of arrival of the same pulse train at the five elements. Variations will be in nanoseconds, says Colamosca.

If the AGHME system detects an altimetry system error, it will inform FAA Flight Standards, which in turn will contact the operator of the errant aircraft. "We would want to monitor the aircraft again to make sure corrections have been made and the [onboard RVSM] system is working well," says the Tech Center manager. If AGHME detects a pattern of altimetry system errors in an aircraft group (or model), Flight Standards would "contact [FAA’s] Airworthiness people, who may decide to issue an advisory circular." Visit www.faa.gov.

E-10A’s BMC2

The U.S. Air Force has chosen a Northrop Grumman-led team to develop the battle management command and control subsystem for the E-10A aircraft. Northrop’s team was selected after a 15-month competition for the estimated $308-million system design and development phase. Visit www.northropgrumman.com.

RF Countermeasures

The Naval Air Systems Command has awarded ITT Industries Inc., White Plains, N.Y., a $63.7-million contract to produce and deliver integrated defensive electronic countermeasure (IDECM) radio frequency countermeasure systems for F/A-18E/F combat aircraft. Visit www.itt.com.

Cabin Moving Maps

Rockwell Collins has introduced a new line of moving map and in-flight information systems, the Airshow 4200 and 4200i. The 4200 is a distributed video product, while the 4200i is an in-seat interactive product. Thales, General Dynamics and Air New Zealand plan to include the new line in some aircraft and systems. Visit www.rockwellcollins.com.


Nav Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, announced an agreement with FAA to extend the wide area augmentation system (WAAS) into Canada, improving GPS navigation for satellite-based approaches in Canada and the northern part of the continental United States by late 2005. Visit www.navcanada.ca.

Air Caledonia T2CAS

Air Caledonia plans to equip its ATR42 aircraft with the T2CAS combination terrain awareness warning and traffic alert collision avoidance system, made by ACSS. Visit www.acssonline.com.

Voice Anti-Jam

Boeing has tapped EDO Corp. to develop an interference cancellation system (INCANS) to protect voice communications on the U.S. Navy’s EA-18G aircraft, which will replace the EA-6B Prowler as the service’s premier electronic attack platform. INCANS will include EDO’s Cosite Interference Mitigation Subsystem, which the company says permits long-range voice communications in the presence of radiated interference from onboard jamming devices. The development contract is valued at $14 million. Visit www.edocorp.com.

AirFASE Available

Teledyne Controls and Airbus have begun delivering to 23 committed airlines the AirFASE (Flight Analysis and Safety Explorer) system, which the two companies jointly developed. Tested on both Airbus and Boeing aircraft, the flight data monitoring system is designed to assist operators conducting flight operations, safety management and aircraft maintenance programs. It incorporates three-dimensional animation and other functions meant to translate aircraft data into information the operator can use for preventive and/or corrective action. Visit www.teledyne-controls.com.

Network Centric Consortium

Twenty-eight defense and information technology companies have announced the launch of a Network Centric Operations Industry Consortium to develop a common network centric environment and standards improving interoperability between vendor-developed systems. Current members include U.S. and international companies such as BAE Systems, Boeing, Cisco Systems, EADS, Ericsson, Honeywell, IBM, Lockheed Martin, Microsoft, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Rockwell Collins, Thales and Smiths Aerospace.

Maritime Helicopter Package

BAE Systems Avionics Group and Kaman Aerospace Corp. will cooperate in developing an intermediate maritime helicopter package based on Kaman’s SH-2G Super Seasprite and BAE Systems’ mission system and sensor suite. Efforts will focus on NATO interoperable communications and navigation systems and anti-submarine and anti-surface weapons. Visit www.bae-systems.com.

We’re OnAir

The joint company formed by SITA Inc., Airbus and Tenzing to provide in-flight connectivity has selected a name, OnAir. The new entity will provide voice and data cabin connectivity for long- and short-haul fleets, and aims to add mobile telephony via personal cell phones by 2006. Visit www.sita.aero.

Vienna Advancement

The Vienna International Airport in Austria, has been using Sensis Corp.’s multistatic dependent surveillance system for surface surveillance, greatly increasing throughput. The DeWitt, N.Y., company reports that in the first six months of 2004, the airport’s flight movements increased by 14.3 percent, which translates to 1 million more passengers than during the same period in 2003. Visit www.sensis.com.

GLS Certified

Boeing has received FAA and Joint Aviation Authority (JAA) certification for its satellite-based Global Landing System. The system, which has shown a runway centerline accuracy of 3.3 feet (1 m), was demonstrated on a Boeing 737-900 with a Rockwell Collins GLU-925 multimode receiver. The landing system also has proved itself in equatorial regions, where signal consistency has been a concern. Visit www.boeing.com.

FMS Boards

Universal Avionics Systems Corp. (UASC), Tucson, Ariz., announced that it will use the Thales SkyNav GG12W original equipment manufacturer GPS boards in its new flight management system for business jets. The deal requires a $6.39-million UASC commitment to Thales boards over three years. Visit www.uasc.com.

Combat Support

The U.S. Naval Air Systems Command has selected Northrop Grumman to develop and demonstrate an electronic combat support system that covers numerous platforms, as well as all U.S. military branches and several NATO partners. Northrop’s Defensive Systems Division will develop four prototype units of the Agile Rapid Global Combat Support system under its $26.7-million contract. Visit www.northropgrumman.com.

Russian Satcom

Thrane & Thrane became the first satcom company to enter the Russian business jet market. It is installing systems on aircraft operating in the country and is the first manufacturer to receive approval from the Russian Interstate Aviation Committee for a high-speed data system. Visit www.tt.dk.

BizJet Cell Phones

Honeywell plans this year to introduce a system permitting bizjet customers to make in-flight calls from their own cell phones. If the company obtains U.S. government approval by early next year, it may be the first developer to achieve this feat. A number of operators in the United States and abroad want to test the system, says David Gilbert, Honeywell’s business manager for cabin services.

Honeywell’s airborne cell phone system first will support the global GSM standard, expanding to the U.S. CDMA standard, as demand increases. The company tested the technology in its Citation V in August 2004, using Swift64 satcom. But the system can use basic Aero H, as well. Testing showed no interference to ground systems, a key parameter for government approval. (Beyond 20 feet [6 m] from the airplane, the onboard base station was undetectable.) Interference from ground networks is present up to 6,000 feet, limiting calls to higher altitudes. Satcom is used to avoid high-power operations that would interfere with avionics and ground networks.

Honeywell employs an onboard, eight-channel picocell–like a small base station. An onboard gateway then sends the call via satcom to a ground station, which passes it to a ground gateway and out to the cell phone network. Honeywell seeks cell phone partners and targets a $2-per-minute price.

The avionics company and its collaborator, Altobridge, a GSM software specialist, have been working on products since January 2004. Honeywell hopes to extend its reach to the air transport market, but also is talking to "the ARINCs and Telenors of the world," Gilbert says, referring to the teams pursuing similar technology in the air transport sector.

Honeywell will ask for a waiver from current regulations against in-flight cell calls, covering perhaps 1,000 airplanes over a two- to five-year period. "We think that certifying a product for the business market and getting it accepted in the business market probably will be easier from a technical, pricing and certification point of view because of the limited number of airplanes and passengers," Gilbert adds. Visit www.honeywell.com.

Saras Tested

The first Indian homemade civil passenger aircraft, the Saras, has performed its first series of test flights using Barco’s FAA-certified MFD 6.8/1 multifunction displays. Visit www.barco.com.

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