FAA Returns to Work

Thousands of FAA employees and contractors returned to work Aug. 8 following a two-week partial agency shutdown after the expiration of the agency’s latest funding measure.

Congress failed to pass a new funding measure on July 22, furloughing 4,000 employees and 70,000 construction workers, and halting hundreds of airport improvement projects. On Aug. 5, the Senate approved, and President Obama signed, a temporary measure funding the agency through Sept. 16.

Industry officials urged lawmakers to approve a long-term funding measure for FAA to avoid another partial shutdown. The agency has been operating since 2007 without a permanent funding framework, instead operating under a series on funding extensions.

“We’re relieved Congress has extended FAA’s operations,” said Marion C. Blakey, Aerospace Industries Association president and CEO. “We urge them [Congress] to take advantage of this spirit of compromise to pass a full reauthorization bill when Congress returns in September.”

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are divided on the bill’s length, funding for rural airports and labor provisions.

“It’s vital that the House and Senate leaderships and respective communities, in the next several weeks, work to ensure the end of a [four-and-a-half] year delay in passing a long-term FAA bill so there will be no need for a 22nd extension,” Rep. John L. Mica (R-Fla.) said.

During the furlough, FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt admitted to reporters a prolonged shutdown could set back the agency’s Next Generation Air Transportation System.

The two-week furlough resulted in more than $380 million in lost tax revenue from airline tickets for the government, according to industry estimates.

The temporary funding bill signed on Aug. 5 does not include provisions for back pay, but bipartisan legislation introduced Aug. 9 would grant the secretary of transportation the authority to pay the salaries and related benefits of those furloughed FAA employees out of the Aviation Trust Fund.


Controllers in Cockpit

FAA in August re-established its Flight Deck Training program, allowing air traffic controllers to ride in aircraft cockpits with commercial pilots in order to give them a greater understanding of pilots’ experience and workload.

The Flight Deck Training program replaces a previous program called Familiarization Training, which was suspended in 2001. FAA said it has worked with the Transportation Security Administration and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association to develop the new program.

Controllers will be limited to two training trips per calendar year, and controllers will not be allowed to fly to the same airport on consecutive flights.

“This program gives our new generation of air traffic controllers a chance to see and hear what the pilot is experiencing so they know exactly what is happening on the other end of the microphone,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. “As a pilot, I think this important training will give controllers a richer picture of the airspace system.”

The agency said the Flight Deck Training is being introduced as a pilot program that FAA will evaluate and monitor during the next six months.


Curtiss-Wright Buys ACRA

Curtiss-Wright in July announced plans to pay $61 million to acquire ACRA Control, Ltd., of Dublin, Ireland, a supplier of data acquisition systems and networks, data recorders and telemetry ground stations for both defense and commercial aerospace markets.

The business will operate within Curtiss-Wright’s Motion Control segment.

“ACRA’s proprietary data acquisition technologies significantly broaden Curtiss-Wright’s electronics and avionics portfolio and establishes us as a ‘best-of-breed’ supplier in the worldwide aircraft test and instrumentation market,” said Martin R. Benante, chairman and CEO of Curtiss-Wright. “As a leading global airborne data acquisition system provider, ACRA serves a diverse and expanding customer base of the world’s leading fixed- and rotor-wing aircraft manufacturers. This expertise and experience provides Curtiss-Wright penetration into the global aircraft test and instrumentation market.”

ACRA’s product families include modular data acquisition, solid-state recorders, Ethernet switches/networking, wireless data transmission, telemetry ground stations and ground station analysis software.

“The combination of ACRA’s customizable modular products, engineering expertise and advanced technologies, along with Curtiss-Wright’s current data recording and avionics solutions enables us to provide aerospace and defense customers with a fully integrated system featuring enhanced data acquisition capabilities, airborne Ethernet data transmission and synchronization and wireless download of data to ground stations,” Curtiss-Wright said.


EMS Aspire System

Vancouver, British Columbia-based Anderson Air has selected the Aspire 200 LG airborne communications system from EMS Aviation for its Cessna Sovereign. Anderson Air operates the aircraft for a Canadian company.

The Aspire 200 system includes a CNX 200 Network Accelerator and is designed to deliver voice and data connectivity to owners and operators of small- and medium-sized business aircraft. Features of the Aspire system include standard wiring configuration and interfaces that support either Iridium or Inmarsat components. EMS said the system can be upgraded by exchanging the Aspire CSU Iridium (voice and low-speed data) transceiver for the Inmarsat HDU (voice and high-speed data) transceiver, and also by adding a higher gain Inmarsat antenna. Aspire’s Inmarsat system data rates run from up to 200 kbps with a low-gain antenna, to 330 kbps with an intermediate-gain antenna and 432 kbps with a high-gain antenna.

“Connectivity has become an essential part of our flight operations, and passengers expect to be able to make a call and have Internet access while in-flight,” said David Anderson, Anderson Air general manager. “In this particular case, the company flies regularly to South America and Europe, and needs voice and data contact during the long flights. We selected the Aspire solution because it fits our own and our customer’s requirements and it also offers an easy upgrade path to even greater bandwidth if needed.”

“Interest in our Aspire product line from aircraft operators, OEMs and our dealer network continues to ramp-up,” said John Jarrell, vice president and general manager, EMS Aviation.


➤ The U.S. Air Force awarded Rockwell Collins a $160 million contract to provide systems integration and avionics for the KC-10 Communication, Navigation, Surveillance/Air Traffic Management Cockpit Modernization Program. Under the terms of the contract, Rockwell Collins will provide the flight management system, displays, data link communications and surveillance capabilities for the aerial refueling tanker.

➤ The U.S. Air Force awarded Northrop Grumman a $65 million contract to provide tactical situational awareness to airlift aircrews. Under the contract, Northrop Grumman will provide the Air Force Air Mobility Command with 58 Mobility Air Forces Dynamic Re-tasking Capability (MAF DRC) Urgent Operational Need systems, including spares, before June 30, 2012. The systems will be installed in 28 C-130Js and 24 C-17s. The contract also includes two years of training and payload support at four integration sites in the United States and three overseas locations. The MAF DRC system includes a secure line-of-sight and beyond line-of-sight datalink; display systems for the pilot and co-pilot; a processor/server for command and control of the radios and displays; and presentation and recording of the existing host aircraft navigational system data.

➤ Curtiss-Wright Controls received a $9 million contract from Thales U.K. to supply Boeing with the Tactical Data Unit and Data Transfer Unit for use in the Avionics Suite supplied for the U.K. Ministry of Defence Project Julius Chinook Upgrade. The initial contract began in late 2009 and runs through 2013. The Curtiss-Wright hardware includes a ruggedized processing engine and high-integrity 3-D OpenGL graphics system that will host Mission Planning and Moving Map software from Thales within a secure computing environment.

➤ TTTech, of Austria, was selected by BAE Systems to provide commercial off-the-shelf products, based on the Time-Triggered Protocol (TTP), for flight computers in Embraer’s fly-by-wire system, designed for Legacy 450 and 500. TTP is standardized as SAE AS6003 “TTP Communication Protocol.” With its capability to support up to 25 Mbit/s per channel, it offers substantially higher bandwidth compared with CAN, Mil-Std-1553 and ARINC 429, according to TTTech. The fly-by-wire electronic flight controls, supplied by Parker Aerospace, include aileron, elevator and rudder actuators; remote electronic units; and a flight control computer. The flight control computer is being developed by BAE Systems.

➤ The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) placed a $5 million order with Innovative Solutions & Support (IS&S), of Exton, Pa., for the system integration and cockpit avionics upgrade of its B737-400 Classics. IS&S said the initial order for retrofit of two B737-400s will provide NNSA full CNS/ATM capabilities. The system includes enhanced FMS, TCAS, EGPWS, NexRad, SatCom and ADS-B capabilities.

➤ ITT Corp. has been selected by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) to provide its flight operations data feed for noise monitoring and flight tracking systems in the Washington, D.C., area at Dulles International and Reagan National airports. ITT said the flight tracking data feed will improve noise event correlation and operational assignment for both airports and their surrounding communities. ITT is contracted to provide the data feed to MWAA for one year with the option to renew for two additional years. The information is derived from ITT’s Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast network. ITT’s flight operations data feed provides operational information that can be used to optimize the business operations of customers such as airlines and airport operators, ITT said.


Mary Ottman is deputy product director for airspace integration concepts at the Product Office for Airspace Integration, part of the Army’s Program Executive Office for Aviation. She was incorrectly identified in the August issue of Avionics Magazine.

Receive the latest avionics news right to your inbox