Industry Scan

By Tish Drake | June 1, 2011
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AMC, AEEC Delegates Gather in Memphis, Tenn.

Hundreds of representatives of airlines and avionics vendors gathered in Memphis, Tenn., in April at the AMC Open Forum. Meanwhile, avionics engineers gathered nearby to discuss the next generation of avionics technology and standards at the AEEC General Session.

Organizers of both events stressed the importance of having such forums for an open dialogue and an exchange of ideas. Participants on the AMC side worked through more than 200 agenda items, ranging from discrepancies in maintenance manuals to test equipment price quotes for the A380 to weather radar units. On the AEEC side, participants discussed equipping for FAA’s Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) and Europe’s SESAR and data reliability and security on the increasingly connected aircraft.

FedEx Senior Vice President of Technical Operations Greg Hall kicked off both events, saying the world’s largest cargo carrier is investing in new technologies, including head-up displays and enhanced flight vision systems for all of its over-the-water aircraft, and counter man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS). “If you look at new technology, we have to get off legacy-based systems,” he said.

Aside from the specification discussions for the AEEC and maintenance concerns for the AMC, the two groups also hosted symposiums, designed to highlight and examine industry trends.
NextGen, SESAR

The topics of NextGen and SESAR crept into many of the discussions at AEEC, particularly as the 2020 deadline to equip aircraft for automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) looms. Symposium panelists said that although 2020 is still nine years away, when an airline is faced with equipping hundreds of aircraft, nine years is not that far off.

“[NextGen and SESAR] are of particular interest to our members,” said Chris Allen, outgoing AEEC chairman and senior manager of avionics engineering at Continental Airlines. “We need to know what we’re going to do moving forward, special cases that we’re going to need to write and equipment we’re going to need to put on the aircraft. … The equipage requirements in some cases are unclear and it’s sort of moving, it’s changing.“

For example, Allen said there are questions involving the accuracy of the GPS signal for ADS-B a key component of NextGen and whether wide area augmentation system (WAAS) in the United States or satellite-based augmentation system (SBAS) capabilities will be needed for GPS receivers. These upgrades to multi-mode receivers could be costly for airlines, he said.

“SBAS is only available in certain parts of the world. If we could wait for the next Galileo satellite constellation then we could upgrade our GPS receivers to both that constellation and the U.S. GPS constellation and have worldwide coverage. That’s a much better solution. We don’t want to have to upgrade our GPS receivers two times, once for SBAS and then later on to accommodate another constellation,” Allen said.

Providing reliable and secure data connections for the aircraft, whether for flight critical information in the cockpit, for a passenger’s iPad in the cabin or for a maintenance technician servicing that aircraft on the ground, is also a concern for the industry.

In-flight connectivity brings together seemingly disparate departments within an airline –– avionics engineering and IT –– to outfit the aircraft with the right systems, essentially wiring the aircraft for the same capabilities people have in their offices. Besides the technological issues, there are regulatory hurdles to overcome as well, according to AEEC symposium panelists.

“It sounds like it should be easy to connect an aircraft to the network, but it’s not,” Scott Struminger, vice president of airline technology at FedEx, said during an AEEC symposium. For airlines, it means connecting the aircraft to the company’s internal systems, in addition to the World Wide Web, both on the ground and in the air.

“For pilots, it is a little bit tough to swallow that you bought a $100 million aircraft, but while you’re in the air the iPhone has better weather on it then you can get on an aircraft,” Struminger said.

Despite all the challenges of networking, making those connections is key to the operation of an airline, panelists said. “It’s not hard to sell what the Internet has done for the world. Connectivity to the aircraft is our Internet,” Struminger said. “Once we have that in place we have endless possibilities.” —Emily Feliz


Tibet Airlines RNP
Quovadis, the flight operations services company of Airbus, has been chosen by Tibet Airlines to implement Required Navigation Performance (RNP) procedures for its operations using the Airbus A319.

Tibet Airlines, which will fly to the highest airports in the world including Bangda and Ali, will fly RNP-AR (Authorisation Required) procedures to and from Lhasa, Ali, Bangda, Shigatse and Linzhi.

The airline will operate the RNP network beginning this summer, Quovadis said. Quovadis will provide procedure designs, operational approval support as well as a navigation database validation and “Receiver Autonomous Integrity Monitoring” prediction. In this project, all five Tibetan RNP-AR airports are interconnected by RNP routes, the companies said.

“Flying RNP-AR is very important for Tibet Airlines as we are planning to fly to high-elevation airports located in mountainous areas. We therefore wanted to work with a performance-based navigation consulting company who could not only assist us in PBN, but also support our start of operations and entry-into-service of our A319s,” says Wu Gang, vice president of planning and finance at Tibet Airlines.

Tibet Airlines acquired three Airbus A319s and plans to increase its fleet to 20 aircraft over the next five years.

RNP Procedure in Alaska
GE Aviation’s PBN Services division on May 5 said it had deployed the first public-use Required Navigation Performance (RNP) procedure in Alaska at Deadhorse.

The Deadhorse procedures became available for public use four months after GE submitted documentation to FAA for processing, transmittal and publication. Last August, with the publication of an RNP instrument approach at Bradley International Airport at Windsor Locks, Conn., GE became the first commercial third-party to deploy a public instrument flight procedure in the United States.

“The rapid publication of the Deadhorse RNP procedure illustrates GE’s ability to work with the FAA and to employ advanced technology to deliver airspace modernization benefits today,” said Steve Forte, PBN Services general manager. “GE is ready to utilize its resources to deliver RNP programs that yield both economic and environmental benefits for airline operations in the U.S.”

Deadhorse is located more than 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle and is a staging point for personnel and equipment bound for Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay and North Slope oil operations. The airport has about 190 arrivals per week, including commercial service, air taxi and general aviation operations.

Additionally, GE Aviation on May 10 released its “Highways in the Sky” study, which outlined potential benefits to airlines of flying RNP approaches. The study of the 46 mid-size U.S. airports concluded deployment of RNP instrument arrivals would annually save 12.9 million gallons of jet fuel; $65.6 million; 274.6 million pounds of C02; and 747 days of flight time.

“This is an opportunity to provide tangible benefits to every stakeholder; responsible growth of an essential industry, better asset utilization, lower fuel burn and cost for airlines, greater throughput for airports and [air navigation service providers], fewer delays for passengers, lower emissions and noise for communities and reduced dependence on foreign oil,” said Lorraine Bolsinger, president and CEO of GE Aviation Systems.

Atego Acquires HighRely
Atego, of San Diego, on May 3 said it acquired HighRely, a Phoenix-based provider of engineering systems, services and tools for embedded systems. Financial terms were not disclosed.

“The acquisition of HighRely is all about scale, growth and continuing to deliver on our Work-as-One strategy to enable engineers to easily meet the difficult challenges involved in designing complex, critical systems,” said James B. Gambrell, Atego chairman. “HighRely’s expertise in the aerospace and avionics markets adds considerable breadth and depth to our solutions and services for critical system design and development, reinforcing our position in the market and boosting our potential for growth.”

Atego said HighRely’s expertise specific to the aerospace and avionics, medical equipment, nuclear and transportation industries was key to the acquisition.

“Atego has an enviable reputation for providing robust products and services for complex, critical system and software development,” said Vance Hilderman, president of HighRely. “Our tools and services are the perfect complement to Atego’s highly successful, market-leading solutions portfolio.”

Aircell Video System
American Airlines in May said it will be the first North American airline to test the new in-flight streaming video product from Aircell that will allow passengers to wirelessly stream content such as movies and TV shows from an in-flight library to their personal Wi-Fi-enabled devices during flight.

American, partnering with Aircell, is testing the in-flight video system on two Boeing 767-200s in transcontinental service, and plans to begin customer testing this summer. The airline said its goal is to roll out this product on Wi-Fi-enabled aircraft this fall pending FAA certifications.

“American was the first North American airline to launch in-flight Wi-Fi, and today we again set a new industry standard as the first domestic airline to test in-flight streaming video content,” said Rob Friedman, American’s vice president, marketing. “We know our customers want to be connected on the ground and in the sky, so we are working hard to stay on the leading edge of connectivity through technology enhancements like this.”

In addition, American will expand in-flight Wi-Fi to its narrowbody fleet, including additional MD80s and domestic Boeing 757-200s, completing its Wi-Fi offering on all of its domestic aircraft dedicated to flying within the continental United States. The Wi-Fi expansion will include 93 of American’s domestic 757s used for routes within the continental United States, and up to 50 additional MD80s. Installation will begin this summer and continue through 2012. In addition, American continues to install Wi-Fi service on its entire fleet of 737-800s.

The Aircell system includes three antennas installed outside the aircraft and connects to Aircell’s nationwide mobile broadband network.

ACSS Software Upgrade
ACSS, a L-3 Communications and Thales joint venture, in April received European Technical Standard Order (ETSO) Authorization from EASA for Change 7.1 software for its TCAS 2000 and TCAS II traffic alert and collision avoidance systems. The Change 7.1 enhancement meets EASA’s Notice of Proposed Amendment for TCAS and makes the ACSS equipment compliant with the new C119c standard, ACSS said.

EASA’s expected mandate calls for Change 7.1 software to be installed on all newly built aircraft operating in European airspace by no later than March 2012 and by December 2015 to retrofit existing aircraft. The Change 7.1 upgrade applies to all manufacturers of TCAS II products and delivers two enhancements reversal logic and new aural alerting for Adjust Vertical Speed. Several business jet manufacturers that offer TCAS 2000 as a standard product are in the process of developing Service Bulletins to make the new Change 7.1 software available to their customers.

“Change 7.1 is an important aviation safety enhancement, and we’re making it available to our TCAS 2000 customers as an easy-to-install software upgrade,” said Jean-Michel Clairis-Gauthier, vice president of sales, marketing and customer service for ACSS.

Cockpit Display
WheelTug, of Gibraltar, Spain, signed an agreement with Gables Engineering, of Coral Gables, Fla., to design and manufacture a pilot cockpit panel used to control the WheelTug electronic drive system on Boeing B-737NGs, the companies announced in May.

Gables Engineering will design, test, certify and manufacture the control panel and will work with WheelTug and its partners Resource Group Limited and Newport Aeronautical to integrate and certify the final product.

The WheelTug system uses electric motors installed in the nose landing gear wheels to provide full mobility while on the ground. WheelTug enables aircraft to be electrically driven from the terminal gate to the takeoff runway and, upon landing, from runway exit to the gate.


T-Hawks in Japan
Honeywell in April dispatched four of its T-Hawk Micro Air Vehicles to Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility, providing video, photos and radiation readings of the tsunami and earthquake-damaged site.

Bob Witwer, vice president of advanced technologies, Honeywell Aerospace, told Avionics Magazine the vehicle’s small size and versatile structure make it perfect for this type of mission.

The T-Hawk has been used in a combat role in Afghanistan and Iraq, but this is the first time it has been used in a humanitarian mission, Witwer said, adding the success of this project could open the door to more non-military applications of the T-Hawk. The ducted-fan, vertical takeoff and landing T-Hawk weighs 17 pounds and was originally designed in conjunction with Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, according to Honeywell.

The vehicle, which is sending back video in real-time, is piloted by three Honeywell employees in Japan, Witwer said. The vehicles are also equipped with additional sensors to calculate and record radiation data from the site.

“The T-Hawk has the ability to navigate and it also has the ability to store a pre-programmed flight plan that can guide it in three dimensions. And at the same time, the operator can interact tactically with the vehicle and make it go where it wants,” he said.

Honeywell is contracting with an undisclosed customer on the project in Japan, and Witwer declined to identify what the data will ultimately be used for.

“A T-Hawk literally has the ability to peek into windows and look into doorways. Being able to show structural assessments, doing radiation measures, thermal measurements, that’s the kind of data we were able to provide to the customer,” Witwer said. The T-Hawks have flown about a dozen, 30-minute missions, with more missions planned in the coming weeks, Witwer said.

Athena INS/GPS for UAV
Rockwell Collins’s Athena inertial navigation system and global positioning system (INS/GPS) was selected for the Anka Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAV, developed by Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI).

Under the contract, Rockwell Collins will provide TAI with its Athena 511 integrated INS/GPS and air data sensor suite system. The Athena 511 is a miniaturized system, weighing six pounds and specifically designed for high-performance UAV applications.

“Our systems and expertise will provide TAI and their customers with the most advanced navigation and guidance available for this strategic UAV,” said Claude Alber, vice president and managing director for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Rockwell Collins. “Additionally, because our Athena guidance and navigation system has uniquely surpassed more than 1 million operational flight hours, we’re bringing the highest levels of proven reliability to this program.”

STUAS Milestone
The Small Tactical Unmanned Aircraft (STUAS) Integrator program from Insitu, of Bingen, Wash., completed a system requirements review by the U.S. Navy in February. The company said April 20 the milestone establishes system requirements and determines how those requirements will be validated and tested.

“Our highly dedicated team showed that it can leverage our commercially available model of the Integrator UAS to meet the STUAS schedule,” said Insitu Vice President of Programs and STUAS Program Manager Bill Clark.

The STUAS program was awarded to Insitu for its Integrator UAS in July to provide persistent maritime and land-based tactical intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data collection and dissemination capabilities to the warfighter. Insitu’s partners on the project include Boeing, Harris Corp., Corsair Engineering and Black Ram Engineering Service.

Air Data Acquisition
Aero-Instruments, of Cleveland, in May announced it had acquired the air data product line from SpaceAge Control, of Palmdale, Calif.

SpaceAge Control manufactures air data and sensor systems for a variety of aviation applications, including the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) market.

“This acquisition allows Aero-Instruments to expand our product offerings to include angle of attack, temperature sensors, air data booms, trailing cones and trailing bombs, while entering the flight test equipment market and significantly strengthening our position in the growing UAV market,” said Dan Pappano, president of Aero-Instruments.

Aero-Instruments Air Data Sensors measure air data parameters and provide information for cockpit display and to the flight control and flight management systems.


SVS Flight Test

Rockwell Collins and Bombardier Aerospace conducted a series of flight tests to validate the use of synthetic vision (SV) on a head-up display (HUD) to achieve operational credit for lower landing minima during Special Authorization (SA) CAT I ILS and WAAS LPV (Wide Area Augmentation System Localizer Performance with Vertical guidance) approaches, the companies announced May 10.

The flight tests, performed using a Bombardier Global 5000 test aircraft equipped with a Rockwell Collins Head-up Guidance System (HGS), were used to compare varying combinations of flight guidance symbology with and without SV on both the HUD and the head-down display (HDD) during ILS approaches, according to Rockwell Collins.

Preliminary results indicate ILS tracking accuracy improved 70 percent laterally and 25 percent vertically when SV was displayed on the HUD. Tracking on the HDD with SV also showed improvement when compared with the HDD without SV.

“Our ultimate goal is to achieve operational credit for lower landing minima down to 100 feet, which will result in less rerouting of flights at hundreds of airports when visibility is low,” said Greg Irmen, vice president and general manager, Business and Regional Systems for Rockwell Collins. “While more testing is needed, these initial findings support our philosophy that head-up, eyes-out is the preferred way to fly and the best approach for achieving our objective.”

In order to achieve lower landing minima for WAAS LPV approaches, the company plans to use its MultiScan weather radar to cross-check the vertical solution with respect to the runway. “It is not a matter of if technology will help pilots reach lower decision heights when landing, it’s a matter of when,” said Irmen.

The companies said they will certify synthetic vision on a HUD as part of the Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion avionics system on the Global Vision flight deck this year.

Pro Line Fusion TSO
Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion integrated avionics system received its final FAA Technical Standard Order (TSO), certifying the hardware and software. The company said the TSO sets the stage for Supplemental Type Certification (STC) on Rockwell Collins’ Challenger 601 test aircraft and certification on Bombardier’s Global Express XRS aircraft.

“Now that all the 50 hardware and software TSOs for Pro Line Fusion are approved, we’re focusing on the next major milestone the STC of the full system on our test aircraft,” said Greg Irmen, vice president and general manager, Business and Regional Systems for Rockwell Collins.

The Pro Line Fusion system is in development for the Bombardier Global Express XRS/Bombardier Global 5000; Bombardier Learjet 85; Bombardier CSeries; Embraer Legacy 450/500; Gulfstream G250; and Mitsubishi Regional Jet.


Radio Delivery
Rockwell Collins in April delivered the first of its next-generation ARC-210 airborne radios to the U.S. Navy.

The ARC-210 RT-1939 Gen 5 builds on previous systems by adding software-defined networking capabilities and cryptographic modernization features, according to Rockwell Collins.

“The Gen5 radio is the first airborne radio to provide all armed services with the ability to meet the National Security Agency’s cryptographic modernization initiative,” said Bruce King, vice president and general manager of Communication Products for Rockwell Collins.

Rockwell Collins said the Gen5 radio provides a replacement for existing ARC-210 radios, which are currently installed on more than 180 different platform types worldwide. It features a software-defined Multi-Waveform Architecture, which is an optimized Software Communications Architecture, embedded programmable next-generation crypto and extended frequencies to 941 MHz. The Gen5 radio will provide the Joint Precision Approach and Landing System (JPALS) UHF data link capability and will include future software updates for Tactical Secure Voice (TSV), Integrated Waveform, Combat Net Radio and Soldier Radio Waveform (SRW) capabilities.

“With each generation [of the ARC-210] that’s released we retain all prior generations form, fit, function and all capabilities and we typically have growth beyond that,” Troy Brunk, senior director of Airborne Communications Products, told Avionics Magazine.

Military Pro Line Fusion
Embraer in May selected Rockwell Collins’ Pro Line Fusion avionics suite for its KC-390 military transport aircraft, becoming the first application of the system for a military platform.

The Brazilian Air Force has committed to purchasing 28 KC-390s.

“Embraer’s selection of our integrated avionics system will provide pilots with the most advanced commercial avionics capability, ruggedized to meet military mission requirements,” said Dave Nieuwsma, vice president and general manager of mobility and rotary wing solutions for Rockwell Collins. “Pilots will benefit from the enhanced situational awareness and reduced workload to achieve mission success.”

Standard features on the KC-390 flight deck include: five high-resolution, 15-inch LCDs, Integrated Flight Information Systems with electronic charts and enhanced maps, Flight Management Systems with Wide Area Augmentation System that supports Localizer Performance with Vertical guidance approaches (WAAS/LPV) and Required Navigation Performance (RNP) capabilities, advanced graphical flight planning capability and an Information Management System to manage databases and facilitate wireless interactivity with the ground infrastructure.

Flight tests of the KC-390 with the new avionics are set for 2014 and the aircraft is scheduled to enter service in 2015.


➤ Boeing was awarded a $23.7 million contract from the U.S. Army to perform Initial Production Fielding Support modifications on 49 CH-47F Chinook helicopters at the Boeing Millville Modification Center in New Jersey. The contract period extends the current work of modifying Chinooks at the Millville facility for another year, from May 2011 through April 2012. After the Chinooks are delivered from the production line to the Army, they are flown to Millville, where Boeing structural and electrical employees make specialized avionics and airframe modifications to support new Army requirements. In February 2010, Boeing was awarded the initial Army contract that included modifications for 35 aircraft. Those modifications were completed in May.

➤ Aero Dynamix, of Euless, Texas, was awarded a $12.5 million contract to provide night vision modified avionics for the Army’s AH-64 Apache IFR upgrade project. The project involves modernizing the avionics suite to allow the Apache to operate within controlled airspace during inclement weather.

➤ AeroVironment, of Monrovia, Calif., received a firm-fixed-price contract delivery order valued at $11.5 million for digital Puma All Environment unmanned aircraft systems, initial spares packages and training services. Each Puma system consists of three air vehicles and two ground control systems. The air vehicle carries an integrated electro-optical and an infrared gimbaled video payload. The Puma air vehicle weighs 13 pounds, is battery powered and has a flight endurance of two hours.

➤ Boeing was awarded a $10.4 million contract modification from the U.S. Navy to exercise the option for the procurement of hardware and support associated with the T-45 Required Avionics Modernization Program. This procurement of 30 T-45 retrofit kits will include one additional spare mission display processor and associated engineering support efforts. Upgrades include head down displays, upgraded Pilot’s Display Unit, a Mil-Std-1553 data bus, standby instruments common to other platforms, and government furnished Multi-Function Color Displays and GPS-based navigation system. Work will be performed in St. Louis, Mo., and is expected to be completed in September 2014, according to the Department of Defense.

➤ AAI Test & Training, of Hunt Valley, Md., was awarded $9.7 million to deliver an electronic warfare (EW) radio frequency simulator for the U.S. Air Force’s EW Avionics Integration Support Facility (EWAISF) at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia. The EWAISF facility tests critical components, subsystems and systems for compatibility and performance, as well as evaluates hardware and software interactions in both EW systems and integrated suites.

➤ Rockwell Collins has signed a maintenance agreement with L-3 Communications to provide avionics service and support for the U.S. Air Force Project Liberty Aircraft program. The contract calls for Rockwell Collins to provide maintenance on a total of 37 Air Force MC-12Ws, which are militarized versions of the Hawker Beechcraft Super King Air 350 and feature the Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 Integrated Display System. The system includes three LCDs, weather radar, engine indication system, video capability on the multi-function display and integrated flight information system.

➤ Curtiss-Wright’s Motion Control division renewed its long-term agreement with Boeing, giving Curtiss-Wright exclusive rights to manufacture numerous products for Boeing production airplanes, including the 737 and 767 trailing edge flap actuators, 747-8 leading edge flap actuators, 777 flap position gearboxes, 767 and 777 cargo door actuators, 747-8, 767 and 777 cargo hold smoke detectors and various flight control and pilot control position sensors.

➤ Brazilian airline GOL Transportes Aereos signed a five-year OnPoint services contract for Boeing 737NGs with GE Aviation. The agreement covers repair services and logistics for systems including various avionics, flight management, instruments and hydraulic systems for the B737NG aircraft operated by GOL.

➤ L-3 Electrodynamics, of Rolling Meadows, Ill., received FAA Technical Standard Order authorization for its SRVIVR Cockpit Voice Flight Data Recorder product family. The company said the system is designed to communicate directly with avionics systems, eliminating the need for separate data acquisition units.

➤ L-3 Link Simulation & Training, of Arlington, Texas, was awarded a contract from the Swiss air force to upgrade its F/A-18C Tactical Operational Flight Trainers and associated training system equipment. The hardware and software upgrades will be accomplished in two phases. During phase one, L-3 Link will integrate the aircraft’s 23X(S) operational flight program and simulate the Swiss F/A-18C’s Advanced Targeting Forward-Looking Infrared sensor using L-3’s HD World database generation technology. Phase two will include integrating the trainers with the aircraft’s 25X(S) operational flight program, in addition to simulating the AN/ALR-67(V)3 digital radar warning receiver, solid-state recorder and upgraded multi-function cockpit displays.

➤ Behlman Electronics, of Hauppauge, N.Y., was awarded a follow-on order for the U.S. Air Force to provide its DMCA4000 power supply for the RC-135 Rivet Joint all-weather surveillance aircraft. The additional Behlman DMCA power supplies for the RC-135 are scheduled for delivery later this year.

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