Continental Airlines in late December took delivery of a 737-800 fitted with Boeing’s new Sky Interior, becoming the first North American carrier to receive the improved cabin.
Boeing said the Dec. 29 flight completed 13 deliveries of the new 737 interior to the first five launch customers. The first delivery in October was made to low-fare carrier flydubai. Other launch customers are Malaysia Airlines, Jetairfly and Norwegian Air Shuttle.
The Sky Interior is a more open cabin with sculpted sidewalls, larger overhead stowage bins and B/E Aerospace LED cabin interior lighting system. Other features are improved ventilation and noise reduction, new touch-screen flight attendant panels and controls, “intuitive placement of switches and call buttons” and improved sound quality from new speakers in each passenger row.
The LED cabin lighting system reduces overall aircraft weight and power consumption and features adjustable lighting with full spectrum color capability.
Before entering scheduled service, the Continental aircraft, painted in the livery of United Airlines, will be flown to Continental’s maintenance facility in Orlando and fitted with winglets for improved fuel efficiency.
As part of its strategy to continuously improve the 737, Boeing said another United Airlines 737-800 in mid-November began certification of aerodynamic and engine modifications that will result in a 2 percent improvement in fuel efficiency. One percent of the savings will come from reducing air-flow resistance. The aircraft’s upper and lower anti-collision lights are being changed from round to teardrop shape, and wheel-well fairings are being re-contoured to smooth air flow near the main landing gear, among other changes.
Engine manufacturer CFM is introducing the CFM56-7BE engine enhancement program to coincide with the airframe changes. Low- and high-pressure turbine modifications will result in a 1 percent reduction in fuel consumption. In addition, Boeing is optimizing the engine’s primary nozzle and plug.
The performance improvement package will be phased into production in mid-2011 through early 2012.
TCAS Software Fix
Citing reports of aircraft tracking “anomalies,” FAA has proposed an airworthiness directive (AD) that would require software upgrades of TCAS units manufactured by Aviation Communication & Surveillance Systems (ACSS) and installed on an estimated 9,000 U.S.-registered aircraft.
According to a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) published Dec. 27 in the Federal Register, the proposed AD “results from reports of anomalies with TCAS units during a flight test over a high-density airport. The TCAS units dropped several reduced surveillance aircraft tracks because of interference limiting.”
The agency further explained, “When the TCAS unit interrogated aircraft in a high-density airport area, some of the targets disappeared from the cockpit display or were not recognized. One occurrence of dropped tracks occurred for 30 to 40 seconds of a 90-minute flight segment. This condition, if not corrected, could lead to possible loss of separation of air traffic and possible mid-air collision.”
FAA estimates the proposed AD would affect 9,000 aircraft, costing operators $27 million or up to $3,040 per aircraft. FAA is accepting comments on the NPRM until Feb. 11.
ACSS spokesman Steve Henden said customers were informed of the TCAS issue more than six months ago, and service bulletins are in place. It is expected the FAA will allow 48 months for compliance. An alternate means of compliance, Henden said, would be to upgrade to Change 7.1 software, which remedies the anomaly and meets European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) Notice of Proposed Amendment 2010-03 for the introduction of Change 7.1 software.
“We have been working with FAA since we informed them of an anomaly that occurred during a specific ACSS flight test scenario in the summer of 2009,” Henden told Avionics. “ACSS is committed to aviation safety, and we will continue to support FAA on this matter. The performance and integrity of our products is of the utmost importance.”
Row 44 Inc., Westlake Village, Calif., received European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) certification to equip European-based aircraft with its broadband connectivity platform.
The EASA supplemental type certificate covers Boeing 737-700, 800 and 900 series airframes.
“EASA approval marks another major milestone for Row 44, clearing the final hurdle for us to offer our in-flight broadband connectivity platform on another continent,” said Howard Lefkowitz, Row 44 chief commercial officer.
“Planes equipped with (the system) will soon be flying all across Europe with a full menu of in-flight broadband services — Internet, video, e-commerce, games and more. We will be pioneering a whole new flying experience for passengers throughout Europe.”
Max-Viz, Inc., of Portland and One Sky Aviation, based in Anchorage, Alaska, in December announced FAA supplemental type certifications (STC) enabling installation of the Max-Viz EVS-1500 enhanced vision system (EVS) on the Eurocopter EC-135 and Agusta A-109 helicopters.
Announced Dec. 15 was the All Models List (AML) addition of the EC-135 to STC SR02362AK. The STC supports installation of the dual optical zoom infrared EVS system on legacy and aftermarket helicopters. The EVS-1500 already is available on the EC-135 through the Eurocopter Deutschland factory in Donauworth, Germany.
The companies Dec. 3 announced the award of STC SR02377AK for installation of the EVS-1500 on Agusta A-109 series helicopters.
“We have received more requests for the A-109 series helicopter for EVS than just about any other grouping of aircraft combined,” said Bob Yerex, Max-Viz vice president of sales. “We are already available as a TC (type certificate) directly through the factory on both the A-109 and AW-139, but the requests for our EVS-1500 sensor on the legacy and aftermarket platforms have led us to the development of this new STC with One Sky Aviation.”
Airbus on Jan. 4 christened a new subsidiary, Airbus ProSky, intended to develop and support air traffic management (ATM) systems in Europe, the United States and “further afield.”
The unveiling of the subsidiary followed a Dec. 15 announcement by Airbus that it had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with ATM authorities in China to cooperate on the introduction of ATM technologies and best practices in that country.
Airbus ProSky is described as a “channel” through which Airbus will interact with ATM initiatives of the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) program in Europe and NextGen effort in the U.S. “The new company will help accelerate and support the process of their implementation, and link them together by capitalizing on the technological, operational and commercial synergies,” Airbus stated.
The subsidiary is led by Eric Stefanello, Airbus senior vice president of ATM and president of Airbus ProSky, and Marc Hamy, vice president of SESAR and NextGen Deployment. Hamy formerly was chief of staff to French Transport Minister Dominique Bussereau and before that, CEO of DSNA, the French Air Navigation Services provider, from December 2005.
“With Airbus ProSky we are harnessing the competencies both within Airbus and also from the wider EADS group, to help transform ATM services across the European Union, the U.S. and other countries globally,” Stefanello said. “We are complementing the existing skills and business of ATM manufacturers and ANSPs by partnering with key industry players to deliver a global ATM approach, and bring operational, commercial and environmental benefits to the airline industry.”
According to the MoU signed by Airbus and the Air Traffic Management Bureau (ATMB) of China’s Civil Aviation Administration, Airbus will assist ATMB with implementation of ATM technologies and best practices. Specifically, it will support ATMB in 16 potential areas of cooperation, including R&D, concept and technology validation, support to deployment, airspace design and training. As the first step, five projects will be implemented for the 2010-2012 period.
Airbus also will act as a coordinator of extended expertise from companies including Quovadis, an Airbus subsidiary; Cassidian, an EADS company; and German ANSP Deutsche Flugsicherung.
Indra, of Spain, will implement air traffic management systems at the Xian and Chengdu control centers in China, which coordinate the upper airspace of eight Chinese provinces for the Air Traffic Management Bureau of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC).
Two contracts totaling €19 million ($24.5 million) were awarded through international tender, with completion scheduled in 2012, Indra said. The Madrid-based company described the center start-ups as one of the largest air-traffic control projects in the Asia-Pacific region.
The system installed at the Chengdu facility will manage the upper airspace of the country’s Southwest, which includes Yunnan, Tibet, Chongqing and Guizhou, in addition to the Sichuan province with Chengdu as its capital. Indra will equip the center with its automation air traffic management system with more than 80 controller working positions, including a simulator for training.
In Xian, Indra will implement its automation system with 70 controller working positions for the control of upper airspace and control tower. It also will be equipped with a simulation system and verification and testing system. The systems will support air traffic management in the Shaanxi region, where Xian is located, and neighboring provinces.
The two contracts were awarded following the announcement in 2010 of the implementation of radar surveillance systems in different locations of China. Indra said its systems will cover 60 percent of the country’s airspace, 50 main airports and 80 percent of aircraft movements.
Boeing, IBM Research
Boeing and IBM in December said they completed a pilot research project designed to show how aviation authorities from multiple organizations can have more timely, consistent and complete information to resolve fast-changing or unpredictable events. The project demonstrated advances in software can accelerate and orchestrate the flow of information from sensors and networks on a nationwide scale, the companies said.
The Boeing-IBM team applied “Responsive, Reliable and Real-Time” (R3) Messaging, which can help ensure that complex data gathered from distributed sensors — located on aircraft, radar and other ground locations — arrives at a specific time and in a sequence. Additional software can then correlate and analyze the information efficiently.
“R3 Messaging exploits novel techniques to discover routing paths and schedule message deliveries with remarkable dependability,” said IBM researcher Hui Lei, who managed the project team. “It is quite useful for moving critical and time-sensitive information between the physical and digital worlds. By integrating those two spheres, it makes it easier to make better and smarter decisions.”
The project was part of IBM Research’s First-of-a-Kind Program, which leveraged internal research and development performed by Boeing Research & Technology’s Advanced Air Traffic Management group. The IBM program pairs researchers with clients to explore how emerging technologies can solve real-world business problems.
“R3 messaging is directly applicable to the work we do in aviation information management,” said Paul Comitz, Boeing Advanced ATM chief architect, System-Wide Information Management. “It provides capabilities that we need.”
North Sea WAM
Sensis Corp. in mid-December said its Wide Area Multilateration (WAM) deployment in the North Sea off the coast of Scotland is certified for air traffic control by the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority.
The Sensis multilateration system uses multiple low-maintenance, non-rotating sensors to triangulate aircraft location based on transponder signals, providing air traffic controllers with precise aircraft position and identification information, regardless of weather conditions.
Controllers for air navigation services provider NATS are using WAM surveillance to enhance the safety of air-traffic operations within the North Sea oil patch by employing the same standards and procedures as a traditional radar system. Each year, more than 25,000 helicopter flights carry passengers between Aberdeen Airport and oil and gas operations using airspace that is inaccessible to shore-based radars.
NATS Services selected Sensis WAM to cover 25,000 square miles of the North Sea, using multilateration sensors placed on 16 oil platforms. The system is capable of tracking flights using Mode S, Mode A/C or ADS-B. The surveillance application is the first fully certified WAM system to provide ATC services for flights in an off-shore oil platform environment, Sensis said.
Lockheed Martin said Jan. 3 it had completed a series of tests to demonstrate flight characteristics of the U.S. Navy’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet while carrying the Joint Air-to-Ground Missile (JAGM).
The flying qualities test series consisted of six flights from Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Md., between Oct. 5 and Nov. 2, 2010 with a total flying time of 11.2 hours. The aircraft flew at altitudes ranging from 5,000 feet to 35,000 feet and at speeds approaching Mach 1.0. During the test flights, crews collected vibration, acoustic and shock data in these environments with no anomalies or problems, Lockheed Martin said.
The JAGM test articles were six instrumented measurement vehicles (IMV) equivalent in weight, size and dimension to tactical JAGM rounds and outfitted with resistive temperature devices, acoustic sensors and accelerometers to measure flight environments experienced by the launchers and the missiles. Three IMVs were loaded on each of two Navy fixed-wing triple-rail launchers designed and manufactured by Lockheed Martin and Marvin Engineering, of Inglewood, Calif., to carry JAGM on the F/A-18E/F.
Initial operational capability of JAGM (Avionics, November 2009, Page 22) on the AH-64D, AH-1Z and F/A-18E/F platforms is scheduled for 2016. IOC for the MH-60R helicopter and Extended Range Multi Purpose UAS is 2017.
Esterline Corp., Bellevue, Wash., on Jan. 3 announced the $120 million acquisition of Eclipse Electronic Systems, of Richardson, Texas, a supplier of signals intelligence (SIGINT) and communications intelligence receiver hardware to the airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) market.
Eclipse’s products incorporate open-architecture software/firmware configurable designs, and are deployed on a range of U.S. and foreign military manned aircraft. Eclipse products also are deployed on unmanned platforms, including the Global Hawk and General Atomics Reaper and Predator.
Brad Lawrence, Esterline CEO, said Eclipse is a “true technology leader with a significant presence on the majority of airborne SIGINT platforms.”
“Eclipse aligns well with our other communications businesses in secure on-board communications,” Lawrence said, adding a combination of continued organic growth and further potential acquisitions “will enable Esterline to develop a broader position in this important and growing market.”
Israel’s Elbit Systems Ltd., announced Dec. 31 it had acquired the Brazilian companies, Ares Aeroespecial e Defesa S.A. and Periscopio Equipamentos Optronicos S.A. The acquisition involved “a series of transactions totaling tens of millions Brazilian Reals,” Elbit said.
Ares and Periscopio supply defense electronics to the Brazilian military and other customers in South America. The two companies, located in the vicinity of Rio de Janeiro, have about 70 employees.
According to its website, Ares was founded in 2003 by the merger of Periscopio and Eletro Mecanica Atlantide. The company “has recently developed for the Air Force a new rocket similar to the Mk 66 (2.75-inch rocket motor) called the EMA 66 BD Br and is in the final stage of development of three high-technology projects for the Brazilian Navy.”
Periscopio was founded in 1975, and has developed a military and civil product line for precision approach path indicators to airports and heliports.
Longbow LLC, the joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, marked the delivery of the 400th Apache Longbow Fire Control Radar (FCR) at a ceremony Dec. 16 in Orlando, Fla.
The millimeter-wave radar, contained in a doughnut-shaped radome, is fielded on U.S. Army AH-64D Apache helicopters and with eight international customers. It provides target detection, location, classification and prioritization. Integrated with the AGM-114L Longbow Hellfire missile, it enables automatic, multi-target engagement in all weather conditions and through battlefield obscurants.
The U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command awarded the first Longbow FCR production contract in 1995. The radar has been in full-rate production since 1996, with the first unit equipped in 1998.
Work is performed at Lockheed Martin facilities in Orlando and Ocala, Fla., and at Northrop Grumman facilities in Baltimore. Delivery of an additional 25 systems under contract will be completed in 2012.
AeroVironment, based in Monrovia, Calif., received a $46 million order under an existing contract with the U.S. Army for 123 new RQ-11B Raven unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and digital retrofit kits for the Army and Marine Corps.
The Raven system and retrofit order represents the remainder of $121 million in funds appropriated for RQ-11B Raven system procurement in the 2010 Defense Appropriations Act, which was signed into law in December 2009.