Green Is The Color du Jour At Singapore Air Show

Solar Impulse and the Airbus A380, two aircraft with roughly the same wingspan — 80 meters (262 feet) — but little else in common, were recognized at the Singapore Airshow for their present and future contributions to improving the environment.

A day before the official show opening, two seemingly strange bedfellows — the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and developers of Solar Impulse, a planned solar-powered aircraft — signed a partnership agreement at a downtown convention center. The signing was preceded by a 45-minute motivational address by Swiss adventurer Bertrand Piccard, Solar Impulse’s president, dressed for the occasion in fashionable aviator’s apparel.

Piccard, whose grandfather and father set records in balloons and bathyscaphes, was the first to fly a balloon, the Breitling Orbiter 3, on a nonstop, around-the-world flight in 1999, with Bryan Jones. Now he proposes to do the same with Solar Impulse.

The light aircraft’s disproportionately large wingspan is necessary to provide the surface area for a flexible "skin" of photovoltaic cells to convert solar energy into electricity. Under the wings, four pods each will contain an electrical motor, a polymer lithium battery to store energy and a charge/discharge management system. France’s Dassault Aviation, one of several partner companies behind the effort, will advise on energy management, electrical systems, avionics and flight controls.

Solar Impulse, based in Lausanne, Switzerland, is building an initial prototype with a 60-meter wingspan and non-pressurized cockpit to validate selected technologies and computer simulations. The "HB-SIA" prototype is expected to begin test flights this year, and to complete a night flight on stored energy in 2009. A second aircraft with 80-meter wingspan and pressurized cockpit will follow.

IATA’s "institutional" partnership to help promote Solar Impulse, which doesn’t involve financial support, is understandable following the airline association’s 2007 general meeting in Vancouver. Led by Director General and CEO Giovanni Bisignani, who has been outspoken on the topic of the environment, IATA called on the aerospace industry to build a zero-emissions aircraft in the next 50 years.

"In order to achieve this, we have some targets, and we have a very clear strategy — invest in technology," said Bisignani, who joined Piccard in Singapore for the signing ceremony. "… We need a pioneering spirit. Anything is possible, and our partnership with Solar Impulse is important. It proves that our vision is not just words, and we are aligned with men of great vision."

Added Piccard, "Even if aviation now is a very small contributor to the CO2 problem, it should lead the game, it should stay at the head of everything that is technologically possible to improve the quality of life on this planet…. Our goal is to have one pilot fly, day and night, on solar power — zero emissions, zero fuel. Then we will have 42 years to try to go from one pilot to 300 people. The goal of IATA is already possible for one person."

Alternative Fuels

Prominent at the Changi Exhibition Center static display was Airbus’s A380 MSN1 aircraft, with the words "Greener, Cleaner, Quieter, Smarter" painted across the fuselage. On Feb. 1, the A380 MSN4 aircraft completed the first flight by a commercial aircraft using a synthetic liquid fuel processed from gas. The flight between Filton, U.K., and Toulouse, France, kicked off the airframer’s alternative fuel research program, which will study the use of second-generation biofuels. Shell Petroleum provided the low sulfur, gas-to-liquid fuel, which was fed to one of the aircraft’s four Rolls Royce Trent 900 engines.

Airbus also announced it had successfully tested a fuel cell system to power the back-up hydraulic and electric power systems on an A320 owned by the German Aerospace Center. The hydrogen- and oxygen-based fuel cell system, developed by Airbus and Michelin, also was used to operate the ailerons.

The European consortium now claims leadership in "eco-efficiency." The recent demonstrations "show aircraft manufacturers, engine manufacturers, for sure care about the environment," Airbus President and CEO Tom Enders told reporters. "… Rather than regulations, rather than burdens, the key aspect of having more environmentally friendly aircraft is technology."

Airbus’s eco-limelight was shortlived, however. As the air show ended in Singapore, Virgin Atlantic on Feb. 24 staked its claim to being the first airline to use a "renewable" fuel, flying a Boeing 747-400 from London to Amsterdam with a biofuel composed of babassu and coconut oils. The fuel, produced by Imperium Renewables of Seattle, fed one of the aircraft’s GE Aviation CF6 turbofans.

GE said it began testing Imperium biofuels in laboratory component tests, then joined CFM International, its partnership with France’s Snecma, to conduct ground testing of biofuel blends last December in preparation for the Virgin Atlantic flight. — Bill Carey


Tanker Contract Award

The United States Air Force, in a surprise decision, selected the Northrop Grumman KC-45A aerial refueling tanker based on the Airbus A330 as the winner of its KC-X competition, valued at $35 billion or more.

The decision, announced Feb. 29, dealt a blow to Boeing, which had proposed its KC-767 tanker for the Air Force requirement, and now faces the eventual shutdown of its 767 line. An earlier contract awarded to Boeing to lease tankers was withdrawn in 2004 over a procurement scandal.

"Obviously we are very disappointed with this outcome," Boeing said. "We believe that we offered the Air Force the best value and lowest risk tanker for its mission. Our next step is to request and receive a debrief from the Air Force. Once we have reviewed the details behind the award, we will make a decision concerning our possible options, keeping in mind at all times the impact to the warfighter and our nation."

The team of Northrop Grumman and European Aeronautic Defence and Space (EADS), parent company of Airbus, will produce the aircraft. Northrop Grumman plans to build a new assembly plant for the KC-45A in Mobile, Ala. Other major suppliers will be GE Aviation (CF6 engines, flight management systems, thrust reversers), Honeywell, fuel tank manufacturer Sargent Fletcher, Parker, AAR Cargo Systems, Telephonics and Knight Aerospace.

The KC-45 is a derivative of the multi-role tanker already chosen by Australia, the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. The tanker, equipped with a centerline flying boom, two under wing hose and drogue pods, and a fuselage hose and drogue-refueling unit, can refuel multiple aircraft simultaneously, Northrop Grumman said.

The initial contract, valued at $1.5 billion, is for the system design and development of four test aircraft. The contract includes five production options for 64 aircraft at $10.6 billion. The requirement calls for a first phase of 179 aircraft to replace the Air Force’s aging KC-135 Stratotankers. The service has a fleet of about 500 tankers.

"The tanker is the number one procurement priority for us right now," said Air Force Gen. Duncan J. McNabb. "Buying the new KC-45A is a major step forward and another demonstration of our commitment to recapitalizing our Eisenhower-era inventory of these critical national assets."

Athena Acquisition

Rockwell Collins announced in early March it will pay an undisclosed sum to acquire Athena Technologies, a privately held company that develops and provides flight control and navigation systems, primarily for the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) market.

The transaction is expected to be completed in April, subject to regulatory approvals, Rockwell Collins said.

Athena Technologies, founded in 1998 and based in Warrenton, Va., produces the GuideStar line of integrated flight-control and navigation sensors, ranging in weight from 4 ounces to 6 pounds, for military UAVs, target drones, missiles and technology demonstrators (Avionics, October 2007, p. 10).

"Athena Technologies’ proven track record in creating leading navigation and control solutions for UAVs, combined with our existing capabilities, provides Rockwell Collins with exciting, new growth opportunities," stated Clay Jones, Rockwell Collins chairman, president and CEO.

Goodrich Acquisition

Goodrich Corp., Charlotte, N.C., in February announced plans to acquire TEAC Aerospace Holdings. Financial terms were not disclosed. TEAC, based in Monterey Park, Calif., manufactures proprietary airborne mission data, video recording and debrief products for the defense industry, and cabin video systems for commercial airlines. TEAC has been in business for more than 30 years, and in 2007 generated more than $50 million in revenue. The acquisition will provide Goodrich with additional presence in the market for military aircraft data collection.

"TEAC’s extensive installed base of analog systems provides significant retrofit opportunities for their new digital offerings. We are proud to have their advanced proprietary products for fixed-wing information management join Goodrich’s broad portfolio of high tech systems," said Curtis Reusser, segment president, Electronic Systems at Goodrich.

TEAC will become part of Goodrich’s Sensors and Integrated Systems business.

Video Data Link

Lockheed Martin demonstrated a prototype two-way video data link (VDL) for the Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod (ATP) during a U.S. Air Force Sniper users’ conference in Orlando, Fla.

The VDL allows forward deployed forces to receive Sniper’s high-resolution streaming video and upload annotated images directly back to the Sniper pod. Pilots can review uplinked tactical video on their cockpit displays. Sniper’s real-time, full resolution streaming video is provided to forward deployed troops using Rover, a ground receiving station. The VDL is integrated with both the Rover and FalconView, a software application that presents maps and geographically referenced overlays to pilots.

The Sniper pod is integrated on the F-15E, F-16, F-18C/D, A-10A+, A-10C, B-1 and Harrier aircraft. The addition of two-way capability is planned for this year, Lockheed Martin said.

F-22 SAR

Northrop Grumman demonstrated the capability to generate high-resolution, in-flight synthetic aperture radar (SAR) maps using the active electronically scanned array radar being produced for the U.S. Air Force’s F-22 Raptor fighter aircraft, the company said.

The test flights represent the first phase of a planned multi-year contract with Boeing to incorporate SAR capability into the F-22 fleet in support of future air-to-ground requirements.

"The flight tests, onboard a company BAC 1-11 test bed aircraft, have proved that the F-22 fighter’s mission capabilities have expanded to include directly identifying and targeting enemy ground defenses and mobile forces," said Teri Marconi, Northrop Grumman vice president of Combat Avionics Systems.

PicoSAR Order

Selex Sensors and Airborne Systems of the United Kingdom, now operating as Selex Galileo within the Finmeccanica Group, received an order from an undisclosed North European country to supply its PicoSAR airborne ground surveillance radar.

PicoSAR is lightweight Synthetic Aperture Radar for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle that provides high-resolution, stand-off ground mapping and Ground Moving Target Indication in all weather conditions. Delivery is set for this year.

Osprey Minigun

BAE Systems installed a remotely operated minigun aboard a U.S. Air Force CV-22 Osprey in preparation for ground-fire and flight testing, the company said in February. The 7.62mm GAU-2B mini-gun was mounted to the belly of the aircraft. The weapon is designed to provide 360 degrees of sustained suppressive fire throughout the CV-22’s flight envelope. The installation is based on BAE’s Remote Guardian System, a company-funded effort to develop a common airborne defensive capability for the V-22 and other special-mission rotary- and fixed-wing aircraft.

The hardware installation and fit-check, completed in January, followed the company’s recent selection to develop an interim defensive weapon system for the Osprey. The U. S. Special Operations Command, which awarded the contract to integrate and test the weapon mission kit on the CV-22, was conducting ground testing with flight testing to follow.

BAE said it designed the hardware and systems without access to aircraft drawings or solid models, relying in part on its knowledge of the CV-22 as provider of the aircraft’s flight-control system.

Hermes Engine

Israel’s Elbit Systems upgraded the engine of its Hermes 450 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) to provide for heavier payloads, multiple payloads or extended endurance to 33 hours.

The upgrade involved a relatively small change to the existing R902 engine, based on Wankel rotary technology, said Itai A. Toren, Elbit director of UAV programs. The "W," or Wide, version of the engine, shown for the first time at the Singapore Airshow, has a larger combustion chamber than predecessor engines.

An increase of a "few kilograms" in weight resulted in an 18-horsepower improvement to 70 hp, Toren said. Its maximum takeoff weight improved by 100 kilograms to 550 kg. The aircraft on display in Singapore was configured with the El-Op CoMPASS EO/IR/laser turret and Elisra AES-210V electronic signals intelligence suite. The Hermes 450 is used by the Israel Defence Force, and also has been acquired by the Singapore air force.

"We’re not allowed to discuss quantities, but it’s not one" aircraft, Toren said of the Singapore requirement.

The UAV also has been deployed by the United Kingdom as an interim step to acquiring its Watchkeeper UAV. Watchkeeper, a Thales-led program, is based on the Hermes 450B. — Bill Carey

EPX Contracts

The U.S. Navy awarded contracts to teams led by Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman to study its EPX program, a manned airborne intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting aircraft that will replace the service’s EP-3 signals intelligence platform.

The contracts, each worth $1.25 million, are the first step in the Navy’s selection process for the EPX system. Following concept refinement, the Navy will solicit proposals and select contractors for the technology development phase.

The Navy is expected to select one contractor for the system development and demonstration phase in late 2011 or early 2012.

Iraqis Trained

VSE Corp., Arlington, Va., and Westar Aerospace & Defense Group, a subsidiary of QinetiQ North America, were awarded a three-year, $62 million task order to establish a flight training school to support the new Iraqi air force.

VSE is the task leader. Westar is the primary subcontractor and will serve as the team’s lead performer, training selected members of the Iraqi Armed Forces on both fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft. The goal of the program, which began last November, is to train, 50 students per year in rotary-wing and 50 students per year in fixed-wing aircraft.

Fixed-wing training will include classroom instruction and flight simulator training, as well as potential undergraduate-level training in Cessna aircraft. Rotary-wing training will include classroom instruction, flight simulator training, and flight training in Bell Jet Ranger, Huey II and Russian Mi-17 helicopters.

Drone Flight

Composite Engineering, Inc. (CEi), Roseville, Calif., flight tested its newest unmanned aerial target system. The BQM-167X drone accomplished sustained supersonic flight at the U.S. Navy’s Pt. Mugu Test Range on Jan. 31.

The flight was part of a demonstration contract awarded to CEi by the Navy in 2006 for an advanced, high-performance aerial target system capable of very high subsonic, low-altitude performance. The demonstration contract was set to complete by the end of the first quarter 2008.

Designed and manufactured by CEi at its Sacramento, Calif., facility, the aircraft is propelled by a Microturbo turbojet engine and uses an avionics suite manufactured by Microsystems, of Fort Walton Beach, Fla.

M-346 Advanced Trainer Flies To Singapore

Italy’s Alenia Aermacchi showcased its advanced M-346 lead-in fighter trainer at the Singapore Airshow in February.

The flight to Singapore from the company’s Venegono, Italy, facility marked the furthest deployment to date of the M-346, Alenia Aermacchi said. After obtaining the required display authorization from show organizers, the aircraft traveled to Iraklion, Crete; Hurghada, Egypt; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Muscat, Oman; Ahmadabad, India; Calcutta, India; Bangkok, Thailand, and finally Singapore on Feb. 19.

The M-346 is meant to replace Aermacchi’s MB-339 trainer. For student pilots, the advanced trainer represents the linkage to Eurofighter and eventually the fifth-generation Joint Strike Fighter. The Italian air force, which has ordered 15 M-346s, will certify the first production aircraft this spring, said Paolo Chimetto, Alenia Aermacchi flight test and experimental flight-line manager. Operational capability is planned in 2010.

In comparison to other advanced jet trainers, such as BAE Systems’ Hawk, "you can have the best performance, handling capabilities, training capabilities for less cost," said Chimetto, interviewed at the Singapore Airshow static display.

The aircraft on display was fitted with six multifunction displays — three each for student and instructor — Hands on Throttle and Stick (HOTAS) controls and front and back head-up displays. The cockpit avionics and mission computer are provided by Italy’s Galileo Avionica. Honeywell provides the H-764 embedded GPS, laser gyro inertial navigation system, as well as the F124-200 engines.


A380 Lessons

Airbus isn’t gloating over production difficulties with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, recalling its own problems building the A380 superjumbo.

Asked his thoughts on successive delays in the 787 program, Airbus CEO Tom Enders, addressing a Singapore Airshow press briefing Feb. 20, said, "We’ve taken quite a few lessons from our own failure with the A380, (the) missing thorough integration of processes inside Airbus…. It just tells you it’s not a piece of cake developing, industrializing, these aircraft, these high-technology machines."

Meanwhile, Airbus’s answer to the Dreamliner, the A350XWB, is gaining traction toward its planned entry into service in 2013. Enders reported 310 firm orders from 15 customers for the new widebody, including 20 orders from launch customer Singapore Airlines. There are 2,500 people working on the program, including 800 in Toulouse, France.

"We believe, we have every reason to assume, that our supply chain, that our equipment manufacturers can match the ramp-up we and our competitor have ahead of us," Enders said.

In January, France’s Thales was announced as the winning supplier of flight deck avionics for the A350XWB, a contract valued at 2 billion euros over the first 20 years. Other packages were still to be awarded. Honeywell, for example, was bidding on the aircraft’s safety component, offering its Aircraft Environment Surveillance System, integrating weather radar, terrain warning and TCAS/Mode S transponder. — Bill Carey

Northrop GNADIRU

Officials with the Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems division, interviewed at the Singapore Airshow, said its LTN-101E Global Navigation Air Data Inertial Reference Unit (GNADIRU) will be certified on the Airbus A380 in August, marking a commercial first.

The LTN-101E is the first fiber-optic gyro inertial sensor to meet commercial air transport standards, and is "an order of magnitude more reliable" than ring laser gyros, according to the division, based in Woodland Hills, Calif.

The system incorporates Northrop Grumman’s Autonomous Integrity Monitored Extrapolation technology, which compensates for GPS deficiencies, and supports Required Navigation Performance 0.1 accuracy requirements.

Planned for certification on Airbus aircraft, LTN-101E presents competition to Honeywell inertial sensors in the air transport market.

Honeywell ATSAW

Honeywell signed a contract with Airbus to provide an Airborne Traffic Situational Awareness (ATSAW) system for certification on A320 single-aisle and A330/A340 widebody aircraft. The contract, covering both new-build and retrofit aircraft, is valued at up to $14 million over five years.

Airbus initiated the ATSAW program to validate the ability of pilots to receive information on surrounding aircraft as well as ground vehicles on the airport surface. The program is a step toward airborne traffic separation using Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast position reporting.

In a press release issued at the Singapore Airshow, Honeywell said its ATSAW system will provide pilots with more information on surrounding air traffic and allow them to better plan oceanic flight-level changes to reduce fuel burn. The system will provide enhanced visual separation on approach, allowing for higher volumes of landing aircraft.

"Honeywell sees great potential in traffic situational awareness technology to improve safety in the air and on runways, even as congestion increases," said Garrett Mikita, Honeywell president of air transport and regional business.

Avionics Maintenance

Honeywell and Singapore Technologies Aerospace (ST Aerospace) signed a five-year maintenance service agreement for a selected range of Honeywell cockpit avionics and mechanical systems on Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 narrow-body airliners.

The agreement, announced at the Singapore Airshow, was described as the second and most significant collaboration between the two companies. ST Aerospace subsidiary ST Aerospace Systems Pte Ltd. in 2007 was approved as an authorized repair station for Honeywell’s Quantum line of avionics and the RDR-4B weather radar.

"This is the first deal between Honeywell and ST Aerospace on such a program value and scale, and signifies the deepening relationship between the two companies," said Mike Madsen, Honeywell vice president of airlines. "As the original equipment manufacturer, we are able to provide a comprehensive maintenance program with strong technical support and rapid turn times…. Honeywell is pleased to support ST Aerospace as a leading integrated service provider of component support solutions."

EFB Repairs

Singapore Technologies Aerospace said its wholly owned subsidiary, ST Aerospace Systems Pte Ltd. (STA), has been approved by Astronautics Corporation of America as an authorized repair station for all Astronautics’ electronic flight bags.

"With over 150 shipsets of Astronautics EFBs installed, over 300 shipsets of EFB hardware shipped and commitments for an additional 1,000 shipsets, Astronautics Class 3 EFBs now operate in fleets of many airline operators worldwide, including All Nippon Airways, Japan Airlines and Singapore Airlines," said Daniel Wade, Astronautics vice president of business development. "STA Systems will enhance our service capabilities and provide world class, readily available support for our customers."

Rockwell Asia

Rockwell Collins signed contracts with two Asian airlines to provide avionics. Financial terms of the two deals, announced at the Singapore Airshow in February, were not disclosed.

Air China selected Rockwell Collins avionics for 11 Boeing 737-800s leased from GE Commercial Aviation Services. Delivery begins this year and continues through 2010. The avionics suite selected by Air China includes the company’s advanced WXR-2100 MultiScan Hazard Detection System, among other systems.

Indonesian airline AirAsia and AirAsia X, a longhaul, low-cost affiliate, selected Rockwell Collins avionics for their Airbus A320 and A330 aircraft. Under the terms of the agreement, Rockwell Collins will provide maintenance support at a set price per flight hour, the company said.

Etihad ACARS

Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, awarded AviIT, of Dunfermline, U.K., a contract to support all ACARS services across its Airbus and Boeing fleets. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Under terms of the contract, AviIT will standardize ACARS usage across the fleet, implement advanced services such as automated Flight Operations Log transmissions, and integrate ACARS data with engineering fault diagnostic systems, crew planning and fuel planning systems.

AviIT will deploy its Archimedes and Airboard systems. Archimedes is an ACARS message decoder that presents data in easily configurable formats for use by ground staff and engineers. Airboard provides the ability to create and deliver management information via the most suitable media, such as display screens, e-mail and SMS, tailored to different departmental requirements.

Airbus T3CAS

Aviation Communications and Surveillance Systems (ACSS), the Thales and L-3 Communications joint venture, in February announced an agreement with Airbus to certify its T3CAS unit on all Airbus single aisle (A318/319/320/321) and long-range (A330/A340, including A340-500/600) aircraft.

T3CAS combines traffic alert collision avoidance (TCAS) with terrain awareness warning (TAWS) capability and a Mode S transponder. It features a TCAS II, Class A TAWS and Mode S Transponder in a single line-replaceable unit. With the addition of a commercial weather radar, reported to be in the works, France’s Thales will have an integrated surveillance solution similar to what Honeywell provides on the A380 and Rockwell Collins on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

ACSS, based in Phoenix, said the integrated platform for Airbus will offer Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast "In" functionality. The new transponder will be a software update to ACSS transponders currently fitted on Airbus fleets.

ADS-B Europe

Airlines in Europe identified 70 airports across the continent where they think Automatic Dependence Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) could most usefully be deployed, Eurocontrol said in February.

The 17 airlines that participated in Eurocontrol’s ADS-B Pioneer Airlines Project proposed sites where no surveillance-based air traffic control service is available today and where it would be too difficult or too expensive to introduce radar. The list includes sites in Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Sweden, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Norway, Moldova, Romania, Spain and Ukraine.

A number of the sites are located in countries where Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSP) are already participating in the "Cooperative Validation of Surveillance Techniques and Applications of ADS-B," or CRISTAL, trials.

Eurocontrol said it will approach ANSPs at the selected sites to see if implementation is feasible. The agency said it will work with the ANSPs, airport authorities, airlines and industry to implement ADS-B as soon as possible.

Connectivity Catch-Up

United States airlines are lagging behind their European and Asian counterparts in terms of in-flight connectivity, members of a panel said in Washington, D.C., in February.

That disparity between the U.S. and European carriers is likely to become more evident with the implementation of the Open Skies Agreement between the United States and Europe, according to a panel sponsored by satellite communications equipment provider EMS Satcom, based in Ottawa. The panel included representatives from EMS Satcom, JetBlue Airways, Inmarsat, the World Airline Entertainment Association (WAEA) and European in-flight Internet service providers AeroMobile and OnAir.

"In order for U.S. carriers to remain competitive, any in-flight connectivity service must support a global reach," said Paul Domorski, president and CEO of EMS Technologies. "It is not really a question of ‘if’ airlines are going to make mobile communications available to the flying public but ‘when’ and ‘how.’ In-flight connectivity is inevitable. The world is going mobile."

Despite regulatory, economic and social hurdles, airlines and Internet service providers in North America are in a race to bring connectivity to the airliner cabin.

The race is heating up, panelists said, following the 2006 exit of Boeing’s Connexion broadband service, the availability of European airborne services, and the ongoing popularity of personal communications devices such as cell phones and Blackberries.

Connectivity trials are going on with airlines in India, Singapore, China, Australia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, France, Ireland, Spain, Portugal and others.

According to WAEA, the market for in-flight communications and entertainment will increase from $50 million in 2005 to $950 million by 2016. In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission and FAA prohibit passengers from using cell phones in-flight, citing concerns over interference with navigation instruments. As such, picocells — the technology that supports cellular service on an aircraft — are illegal. However, U.S. airlines, such as JetBlue, Continental, Southwest, Alaska Airways, American Airlines and Virgin America, are moving forward on trials, introducing in-flight WiFi for wireless connectivity this year.

Last December, JetBlue, in partnership with LiveTV, Blackberry developer Research in Motion and Internet services provider Yahoo!, said it will provide free in-flight e-mail and text messaging on "Betablue," an Airbus A320 equipped with an onboard wireless network.

"The whole purpose behind Betablue is it’s really a test bed for future innovation…. I think there is just a lot of uncertainty in the industry right now around what it is customers want and is there a business model that works," said Brett Muney, general manager of product development at JetBlue Airways.

In Europe, the landscape is different — picocells are legal and social and regulatory hurdles are less cumbersome, according to the panelists. "Our research and experience around the world point to hugely significant, pent-up demand for use of personal cell phones, not just for text and data but for voice calls, too," said David Coiley, director of marketing and strategic relationships with AeroMobile Ltd. "Passengers want the choice to be able to use their cell phones in the air in the same way that they use them on the ground."

In April 2007, AeroMobile, a joint venture of ARINC and Telenor, launched an evaluation project with Qantas Airways in Australia. Its launch customer, Emirates Airways, would be online soon, Coiley said, with full commercial service, including voice communications, on its widebody fleet. Turkish Airways was also recently announced as an AeroMobile customer.

AeroMobile uses a picocell system that interfaces with the aircraft’s air-to-ground communications, typically a satellite-based system. Once transmitted to the ground, signals are sent to AeroMobile’s ground system and on to the destination mobile phone and telecommunications networks around the world. "We have solved the challenges of safely delivering cellular services on aircraft in an appropriate and responsible way, to the benefit of all passengers," Coiley said.

OnAir, a company 30-percent owned by SITA and 70-percent owned by Airbus, began a six-month in-flight connectivity trial in December with Air France, becoming the first airline to use Mobile OnAir on international flights.

"Airlines from every continent show that passengers are eager to use the handsets for in-flight communication and this will become a worldwide requirement," said Benoit Debains, OnAir CEO. OnAir has Kingfisher Airlines, Shenzhen Airlines, AirAsia, Royal Jordanian and others as customers.

The Mobile OnAir telephony system includes picocell; an onboard channel selector to ensure that mobile phones operate in a mode compliant with certification and regulatory requirements; a server to manage communications centrally, establishing calls with the ground segment over the air-to-ground link; and an air-to-ground modem to allocate resources according to the demands of the server. The system emulates a local GSM network inside the aircraft. Passengers’ mobile phones only emit at minimum power, which does not risk interference with avionics or the ground network, Debains said.

In the end, however, U.S. airlines need to establish a business case to bring connectivity to the cabin, the panel said, noting that even with its relatively fast data rates, Connexion by Boeing failed.

"They could never find a price point where they could get enough revenue to keep the service going," said Gary Hebb, vice president and general manager of EMS Satcom. "The antennas are a tricky part of the business, but they’re not the trickiest part. The trickiest part is actually getting money out of the customers." — Emily Feliz

Topflight FMS

US Airways and Swiss International Air Lines selected the Thales Topflight flight management system for their Airbus fleets.

The system, developed in partnership with GE Aviation, was chosen to equip a total of 418 A320s and 92 A330/A340s.

The Topflight FMS for Airbus features unique software functionalities, including flight planning flexibility (such as multi-revision temporary flight plan capabilities) and an enhanced "What You See Is What You Fly" display system, according to Thales.

Separately, in February, Thales opened an expanded facility in Montreal. The 50,000-square-foot facility has 145 employees and state-of-the-art test bench facilities.

Emirates Charts

Emirates Airline, of Dubai, will use electronic navigation charts from Lufthansa Systems, the companies said in February.

Emirates will use Lido RouteManual, a navigation chart system, beginning this spring. Earlier, the carrier extended the use of Lufthansa Systems’ Lido OC flight planning and dispatch solution for five years. In a first phase, Lido RouteManual paper navigation charts, covering all flight phases from push-back to arrival. The implementation of Lido eRoute Manual electronic charts will start as a Class I solution based on laptop computers. This later will be changed to an integrated Class II system, featuring the complete application including airport charts. A unique feature will be MovingMap, an enroute chart displaying the aircraft’s actual position.

"Our objective is to introduce and maximize the use of digital data onboard the aircraft and progressively phase out the paper document," said Adel Al Redha, Emirates executive vice president of engineering and operations. "This will enhance crew integration in accessing the onboard document and expedite the updates of data to our fleet."

Emirates had already tested Lido eRoute Manual during the Airbus A380 test flights.

SSR Milestone

Eurocontrol said a Lufthansa Boeing 737 flying between Frankfurt and Munich became the first aircraft to be identified without the assignment of a discrete secondary surveillance radar code. During a Jan. 18 flight, the aircraft was identified by having its Mode S transmitted flight identity automatically correlated with flight plan data held by air-traffic control.

The introduction of Mode S flight identity downlink into operational service provides a means to alleviate the shortage of secondary surveillance radar codes, Eurocontrol said.

"Mode S radars are already operational, providing surveillance data of high quality and high target capacity to meet the challenge of the continuing significant increase in air traffic," said John Law, Eurocontrol Mode S program manager. "What we saw… was a good test of the operational systems, as the aircraft was a normal revenue flight and was fully compliant with European mandates for Mode S surveillance."

The flight paves the way for expanded city-pair flights, based on Mode S flight identity, to be inaugurated this year by Germany’s Air Navigation Service Provider, Deutshe Flugsicherung.

‘Paperless’ Tower

A new air-traffic control tower at Denmark’s Copenhagen Airport in December began operations, using a paperless flight-data system developed by Nav Canada.

Naviair, the Danish air navigation service provider, said the intent of the system is to increase airspace capacity over Denmark, and to support the work of coordinating and facilitating operations in European airspace.

The Danish ANSP teamed with Nav Canada to adapt the Canadian-designed Extended Computer Display System (EXCDS), a paperless flight-data system, for the tower. The Danish version of EXCDS is called NITOS, for Naviair Integrated Tower Operating System.

Controllers use touch-sensitive computer screens to monitor aircraft and manage air-traffic flow. The system provides immediate access to key information, reduces communications time between controllers, and improves overall traffic management.

"This system improves efficiency and enhances the quantity and flow of flight data," said Morten Dambæk Naviair director general. "There’s also the added potential to grow capacity in the future."

Copenhagen is the fifth European airport to adapt the technology. NATS, the U.K. ANSP, has implemented the system in four London-area airports, most recently in the new control tower at Heathrow International Airport.

Vehicle Surveillance

United Kingdom air-traffic services provider NATS selected Era Corp., Reston, Va., to provide its squitter beacon, or "Squid," vehicle tracking units for London Gatwick Airport. The Squid beacons will support the airport’s Advanced Surface Movement Guidance and Control System (A-SMGCS), scheduled to be operational in April. Squid uses a 1090 MHz Mode S spontaneous squitter with a unique Mode S transmission. Each unit consists of an electronics unit, an antenna assembly and a composite cover. The system will provide air traffic controllers with situational awareness by transmitting vehicle locations. Era said the units are compliant with Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast transponders.

Virtualization Tech

SYSGO AG, Klein-Winternheim, Germany, in January announced full compliance of its PikeOS ARINC 653 Personality virtualization technology to the ARINC 653 Part 3 standard. The tests were accomplished with verification tools from Skysoft, of Lisbon, Portugal, the result of a cooperation between the companies.

The PikeOS virtualization technology allows multiple applications and operating systems to run concurrently on one hardware platform. In a safety-critical environment, execution time and memory space of each application must be protected from other applications in the system.

ARINC 653, implemented in the PikeOS system software, provides the definition of an APplication EXecutive (APEX) that supports space and time partitioning of applications. "Testing is one of the most crucial factors of software development, especially in the safety-critical area," said Jacques Brygier, SYSGO vice president of marketing.

"Skysoft’s specific ARINC 653 verification tools have helped us to offer our customers a full ARINC 653 Part 3 compliant PikeOS Personality with a maximum of reliability in a very short time."

Data Link Forum

European, North Atlantic Track (NAT) and North American data link programs were reviewed Jan. 29-31 at a meeting of the AEEC Data Link (DLK) Users Forum in San Diego.

Martin Adnams, of Eurocontrol, presented status updates on VDL Mode 2 and the European Link 2000+ and CASCADE programs. Iain Davies, of U.K. NATS, reported on operations of the air-traffic control provider. Norm Dimock, of Nav Canada, summarized NAT and North American projects. Carl Swaney, of MITRE Corp., standing in for FAA’s Greg Anderson described the direction of the DataComm program in the United States, followed by a detailed description of planned services and use cases.

The meeting also reviewed issues related to the retention of "classic" Inmarsat Satcom performance for FANS and received a status update for Multi-Functional Transport Satellite. New broadband capabilities (Iridium, Inmarsat 4 and Ku-band) were also discussed.

The potential for improvement in airline efficiency through 4-D trajectory and continuous descent approaches was examined with an eye to encouraging implementation by more airports. — Roy Oishi

Slovak Surveillance

Era Corp., Reston, Va., in late February said it received type certification of its Multilateration Surveillance System, which is compatible with Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) operations, from the Slovak Republic, based on ICAO Annex 10 and Eurocontrol surveillance standards.

Era also announced its selection by the Deutsche Flugsicherung air-traffic service to provide multilateration surface surveillance for the planned Advanced Surface Movement Guidance and Control System at Hamburg Airport.

The Slovak Republic certification was the result of a six-month process involving laboratory and field testing, in which the system was evaluated against reference surveillance systems such as existing secondary surveillance radar. Test flights were conducted by aircraft equipped with differential GPS.

"Certification, in yet another country, shows the growing global acceptance of not only Era’s technology, but multilateration and ADS-B as next-generation surveillance tools and replacements for secondary surveillance radars," said Russell Hulstrom, vice president and general manager of Era’s ATM Solutions business.


Falcon Satcom

Honeywell will supply its CG-710 Communications Gateway and Multi-Channel Satellite Communications system for the Falcon 900, Falcon 2000 and new Falcon 7X business jets. Deliveries are scheduled with Falcon jets to be delivered later this year.

"Utilizing a proprietary data bus, our CG-710 will eliminate the need for a telephone handset in the cockpit," said Ken Snodgrass, vice president, technical sales, Honeywell Business and General Aviation. "In conjunction with our AV-900 Cockpit Audio Panel, flight crews will be able to make or receive telephone calls using their aircraft headsets instead of a traditional telephone."

OEMs Team

Sagem Avionics, Grand Prairie, Texas, will team with Honeywell on a helicopter retrofit program, combining Sagem’s Integrated Cockpit Display System (ICDS) with Honeywell’s communication, navigation, safety and enhanced surveillance systems.

The combination of systems will offer helicopter operators an integrated cockpit with enhanced surveillance capabilities, the companies said.

The open-architecture Sagem ICDS is compatible with a variety of aircraft components made by Honeywell. The ICDS includes Primary Flight Display, Multi-Function Displays with Engine Monitoring System functions, moving maps, Terrain Obstruction Proximity System and Engine Instrument Caution Advisory System Display.

The ICDS, Automated Flight Control Systems, and combination display/autopilot installations have received Supplemental Type Certificates on aircraft including the Bell 205, 206, 212 and 407, the Eurocopter EC 120 and AS 350, and Robinson R-44 helicopters.

Final Supplemental Type Certification efforts are underway in Sagem’s Gulfstream II and in the twin-engine Rockwell Commander 690.

VLJ Bankruptcy

Very light jet (VLJ) manufacturer Adam Aircraft, Englewood, Colo., filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in February, citing its inability to attract the necessary funding to continue operations.

A few days before the filing, the company said it would cease operations and lay off its 800 employees. "In a difficult but necessary move, Adam Aircraft Industries suspended operations today at its facilities in Colorado. This measure was required due to the inability of the company to come to terms with their lender for funding necessary to maintain business operations," the company said Feb. 11.

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Colorado listed the company’s assets at $1 million to $10 million, with liabilities of $50 million to $100 million. Adam Aircraft was founded in 1998. In January, the company, which manufactured the A500 piston twin and had been developing the A700 VLJ, announced plans to streamline operations. At the time, the company said it planned to earn type certification of the A700 in 2008.

MRJ Suppliers

Tokyo-based Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., named suppliers for avionics and other major parts of the new Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ).

Rockwell Collins will supply the aircraft’s flight control system, working with Nabtesco Corp., of Tokyo. Among other components, Parker Aerospace will supply the hydraulic system; Hamilton Sundstrand Corp., electrical power and air management systems, APU and other systems; and Sumitomo Precision Products Co. Ltd., Hyogo, Japan, the landing gear. Earlier, Mitsubishi chose Pratt & Whitney as an engine supplier. The twin-engine MRJ, slated for delivery as early as 2012, will seat 70 to 90 people. Manufactured of lightweight carbon fiber composite, the aircraft is designed to consume about 20 percent less fuel than rival jets.

Pro Line STC

Rockwell Collins, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, received a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) for its Pro Line 21 Integrated Display System (IDS) on the King Air 200.

The IDS is comprised of three 8-by-10 inch LCDs, a digital weather radar and Integrated Flight Information System, providing electronic charts, approaches, airport diagrams and Notices to Airmen. The system is integrated with the aircraft’s existing autopilot and sensors.

Other STCs owned by Rockwell Collins for the IDS installation include the Falcon 50, Piaggio P-180 and Hawker 800A. Pending STCs included the King Air C90 and Falcon 20, the company said.

Citation Columbus

Cessna Aircraft Co. on Feb. 6 unveiled the Citation Columbus large-cabin, intercontinental business jet at a Washington, D.C., press conference. The new aircraft, Cessna’s largest business jet to date, is expected to debut in 2014.

The Citation Columbus has a target range of 4,000 nautical miles (7,408 kilometers) at Mach.80 carrying eight passengers. Pratt & Whitney Canada will supply its new 8,830 pound-thrust PW810 engine for the twinjet. Cessna said it had reached an agreement in principle with Spirit AeroSystems to produce the fuselage and empennage. Rockwell Collins was selected to supply its Pro Line Fusion avionics suite.

Standard features on the aircraft will include four landscape, 15-inch diagonal LCDs with Synthetic Vision depiction of terrain and obstacles; MultiScan Hazard Detection System weather radar; and dual flight management systems with Wide Area Augmentation System capability, supporting Localizer Precision with Vertical guidance approaches and Required Navigation Performance. A Head-up Guidance System is optional.

Helicopter Satcom

Satcom hardware from SkyTrac, of Kelowna, B.C., Canada, was selected by Slave Lake Helicopters for its mixed fleet of Eurocopter AS350 and EC120 and Bell 206 helicopters.

Slave Lake Helicopters, based in Alberta, is active in tree planting, fire-fighting and oil exploration. The hardware is being fitted to the operator’s AS350 and 206 helicopters by AcroHelipro of Langley, B.C., and to the EC120 by Western Avionics of Calgary, Alberta. SkyTrac’s hardware has been installed on both rotary and fixed-wing aircraft, including aircraft manufactured by AgustaWestland, Eurocopter, Bell, Sikorsky, Beechcraft, de Havilland and LearJet.

SkyTrac also announced a contract with PT Indonesia Air Transport (IAT), which will use its satellite communications services. IAT has begun to equip its fleet of 21 aircraft, including helicopters, jets and turboprops, with SkyTrac’s satellite communication and flight following technology. IAT provides a variety of aviation services to the oil and gas and mining industries in Indonesia and Southeast Asia.

Universal STC

Universal Avionics Systems, Tucson, Ariz., was issued a Part 25 Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) by FAA for its WAAS-enabled flight management systems.

The STC flight was conducted in a Bombardier CL-601-3A. Certification includes Bombardier CL-600, CL-601 AND CL-601-3R’s, Universal said.

Vehicle Tracking

LoJack Corp. and Becker Avionics in February formed a technology licensing agreement to incorporate LoJack’s stolen vehicle tracking software into Becker’s search and rescue radio direction finders for airborne law enforcement.

With the addition of the software, aircraft equipped with Becker radio direction finders will be able to track and recover stolen vehicles equipped with the LoJack transponder, the companies said.

Becker Avionics, Miramar, Fla., said the software will be incorporated into its SAR-DF 517 radio direction finder, which can be used for tracking and surveillance on non-emergency frequencies. The licensing agreement also covers Becker’s RT 500M and RT 300 land and sea direction finders.

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