Expanded NextGen Text Bed Opens in Florida

FAA, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and industry partners on Nov. 7 marked the opening of an expanded Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) Test Bed in Daytona Beach, Fla., designed to provide a forum to test and demonstrate how these technologies will improve efficiency in the airspace.

The Daytona Beach International Airport is home of one of the nation’s three NextGen Test Bed facilities the others are at NASA’s North Texas facility near Dallas and FAA’s Williams J. Hughes Technical Center in Atlantic City, N.J. The expanded 10,000-square-foot Florida facility consists of two primary areas the Integration Suite, funded by industry partners, and the Demonstration Suite, which is funded by FAA. The Integration Suite is used to carry out development, test and integration efforts for the operational capabilities being evaluated at the Ted Bed, including System-Wide Information Management (SWIM), Flight Data Object and Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B). The Demonstration Suite is used to conduct demonstrations of the operational capabilities deployed at the Test Bed.

The Test Bed, which began its work with its industry partners in 2006 as the Integrated Airport Initiative, is envisioned to be a microcosm of the National Airspace System (NAS), where systems communicate in a SWIM-like manner. FAA established the facility as a NextGen Test Bed in 2008 ( Avionics, September 2008, pg. 36). Industry partners on the Test Bed include Saab Sensis, Barco, GE, Lockheed Martin, Harris Corp., Boeing, Mosaic ATM, Frequentis, Jeppesen and Ensco.

“The model is solid and it fosters that innovation and the collaborative spirit,” said Wade Lester, Embry-Riddle’s NextGen Program manager. “You bring those stakeholders here and you show them something that they can see and put their hands on and really understand when they’re done, I think that’s where we’re really helping the FAA reach their objectives.”

Recent operational tests have included Oceanic In-Flight Advisory Tools, Aircraft Arrival Management System, NextGen Network Enabled Weather (NNEW) and 4-D Weather Cube and aircraft access to SWIM. Future tasks include an exchange of flight information for planes crossing the Pacific Ocean, the investigation of commercial integration of unmanned aircraft systems into the NAS and the use of four-dimensional trajectories assigned to aircraft to manage aircraft routes.

“This is a facility that will provide both government and industry the ability to examine proposed systems for NextGen operational improvements in an environment that permits integration with the full rage of NextGen systems and allows evaluation of impacts to operations,” FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said. “It is anticipated that technology and procedures demonstrated at the Florida Test Bed will provide insight into the feasibility, potential benefits and potential costs that then inform whether the concepts should be further pursued for possible implementation.”

Going forward, Lester said the three U.S. Test Beds will work together to communicate and share data between them in a SWIM architecture.

“What we really want to build the Test Bed into is a utility. So company X with a new NextGen widget under their arm can actually come and plug in, so long as they design to those SWIM interfaces, and demonstrate their capability,” Lester said.

As part of the ribbon-cutting on the new facility, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, chaired by Rep. John Mica from Florida, held a field hearing in Daytona Beach, to highlight the partnership between FAA, private sector and academia to modernize the airspace.

“While NextGen has faced challenges, being able to leverage private sector and academic expertise and resources has been a positive step for the NextGen program,” Mica said.

Speakers, including Babbitt, Aerospace Industries Association President and CEO Marion C. Blakey, Gerald L. Dillingham, director, Physical Infrastructure Division, Government Accountability Office, and Alan Caslavka, president of GE Aviation Systems, Avionics, praised the existence of the Test Bed as an example of public-private partnerships advancing NextGen’s implementation. However, speakers said, at the same time, financial are putting the brakes on NextGen. “We believe that the current impediment to accelerating NextGen is not a lack of technology but the inability to develop processes and procedures that will support this technology,” said Pete Bunce, president and CEO of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association. “To do this, FAA must leverage its research resources through both the research, engineering and development budget and the facilities and equipment program.”

Panelists acknowledged that despite President Obama’s pledge to fund Next- Gen, the ongoing budgetary issues at FAA make explaining and showing Next-Gen’s benefits more difficult.

“We know NextGen is a priority of the agency, but we also know the coming budget challenges will make it harder for NextGen to stay on track,” Blakey said. “We all know that when operating budgets get pitted against transformational capabilities, it is usually the operating budgets that win out.” — Emily Feliz


United, Continental’s IFE

United Airlines has abandoned its plan to equip its fleet with the Gogo Internet service, opting instead to outfit its fleet with a Ku-Band satellite connectivity system from Panasonic Avionics, the airline said Nov. 4.

The airline said it expects to install the Panasonic system on Airbus 319s and 320s and Boeing 747s, 757s, 767s, 777s and 787s. Customers will be able to use their wireless devices such as laptops, smartphones and tablets onboard those aircraft to connect with Internet service using the in-flight hotspot. The system will also enable wireless streaming of video content.

In a statement, Gogo, formerly known as Aircell, said it was disappointed with United’s decision, but said it believes its current air-to-ground system is superior to the Ku-Band satellite system.

“We’re also confident that our technology roadmap will allow us to incorporate a full suite of technology solutions … that we believe, will outperform Ku satellite and will allow Gogo to be the only provider able to meet the full-fleet connectivity needs of our airline partners on a cost-effective basis, including regional jets, mainline fleets and international service,” Gogo said.

United Continental Holdings said it will begin installations next year and expects the entire mainline fleet will be equipped with Wi-Fi by 2015. Continental Airlines previously announced plans to install satellite-based Wi-Fi on more than 200 DIRECTV-equipped aircraft beginning in 2012.

“Our customers tell us they value Wi-Fi,” said Jim Compton, United’s executive vice president and chief revenue officer. “As a global carrier, we selected satellite-based Ku-Band technology to enable customers to stay connected on long-haul overseas flights, something no other U.S.-based international carrier currently offers.”

LightSquared Filing

The Coalition to Save Our GPS has filed a motion with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Nov. 8 to prohibit LightSquared from using the upper 10 Mega Hertz (MHz) mobile satellite spectrum for its wireless broadband network, citing concerns about the potential of GPS service interruption.

LightSquared this year was granted a conditional waiver by the FCC to operate in the upper and lower 10 MHz mobile satellite spectrum bands, provided LightSquared could provide its planned operations would not interrupt GPS systems. But following the work of the FCC-directed Technical Working Group earlier this year, LightSquared revised its plans, asking that the interference issue be considered based only on the use of the lower 10 MHz spectrum. FCC determined additional testing was necessary to assess potential GPS interference in lower 10 MHz spectrum. However, LightSquared has said it may need to use the upper band spectrum, possibly as soon as 2015.

“We are asking the FCC to state definitively what many have been saying. The upper 10 [MHz] is not viable and terrestrial operations should not be there,” said Jim Kirkland, vice president and general counsel at Trimble, of Sunnyvale, Calif., said in Nov. 8 conference call with reporters.

FCC is considering whether to approve plans by LightSquared to bring high-speed wireless Internet access to as many as 260 million people. Opponents of LightSquared’s plans, including many in the aviation industry, say the system may disrupt GPS systems for aircraft, boats, tractors and automobiles.

“There is overwhelming technical evidence that LightSquared’s originally proposed operation on the upper and lower band swill product harmful ‘overload’ of GPS receivers by the high powered signals being transmitted in immediately adjacent upper-band spectrum,” according to the filing.

Coalition members say the upper 10 MHz portion of the spectrum should be taken off the table entirely and agreed with the FCC and others in the call for testing and study of the lower 10 MHz band.

“The industry has for months tried to argue that the interference issue was an unsolvable physics problem and that LightSquared should never be allowed to deploy at all. The industry’s assertion has been dramatically laid bare by the private marketplace, which has already produced three viable solutions to the high-precision interference problem in the ‘lower 10,’” Terry Neal, senior vice president, public relations and communications, LightSquared, said in a statement. “Yet despite the fact that LightSquared has already spent upward of $160 million on technology mitigating an interference problem that is not of its making, the prosperous GPS manufacturing industry is demanding that it never have to spend any money on innovation that will allow GPS to exist simultaneously with LightSquared... Today’s filing by the coalition is little more than a land grab designed to reward spectrum squatters who have failed to innovate their technology.”

According to LightSquared, operations in the lower spectrum would require some operators to replace or upgrade their GPS receivers. The coalition said this would be expensive and lengthy development, certification and installation process.

Coalition members say disruptions to the GPS signal, a cornerstone of the FAA’s Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), would be devastating to modernizing the National Airspace System, specifically mentioning Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast, Required Navigation Performance approaches and Wide Area Augmentation System.— Emily Feliz


F-35 Avionics Contract

Harris Corp. was awarded a $32.7 million follow-on production contract from Lockheed Martin to supply avionics infrastructure components for the F-35 Lightning II, the company announced Nov. 4. This Low Rate Initial Production contract brings the total value of the program for Harris to more than $500 million since 2001.

Harris is providing Lockheed Martin with the avionics infrastructure components that house the radar and Integrated Core Processor (ICP) electronics on the F-35. These are installed during F-35 assembly operations in Fort Worth, Texas. Harris also provides power distribution products and fiber-optic network systems that are integrated throughout the aircraft avionics subsystems.

This latest contract covers production of up to 32 additional aircraft. More than 90 low-rate initial production aircraft are under contract to date, and plans call for production of more than 3,000 aircraft over the life of the F-35 program.

The F-35 is a highly lethal, survivable weapon system that will serve as a cornerstone of future defense capability for the United States and its allied partners. It is designed to eventually replace the A-10, the AV-8 Harrier, the F-16 and the F/A-18.

“This follow-on contract reflects the success of our past performance on the F-35 program and our ongoing commitment to meeting its technology leadership and affordability objectives,” said Sheldon Fox, group president, Harris Government Communications Systems. “The infrastructure and electronics we are providing are critical to providing more efficient, affordable and higher-capacity avionics capabilities than ever before.”

For more on the Joint Strike Fighter, see pg. 14.

New Mission Computers

Boeing received a $48 million contract from the U.S. Navy to collaboratively develop a new mission computer for the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler, the company announced Nov. 10.

The Type 4 Advanced Mission Computer (AMC) will replace the current Type 3 on the Super Hornet and Growler aircraft, both of which are manufactured by Boeing. The new hardware will increase aircraft performance, address obsolescence issues and improve image- and mission-processing functions, according to Boeing.

“Warfighters have a lot to gain from this new system because they will be better positioned for future Navy Flightplan capability upgrades,” said Kevin Fogarty, Boeing director of F/A-18 and EA-18G Mission Systems. “This contract results from a tremendous amount of teamwork among our Navy customer, industry partners and Boeing.”

The Flightplan is the U.S. Navy’s technology insertion plan to ensure that the Super Hornet and Growler remain ahead of future threats. The new AMC contract allows for future options. A production contract is expected in 2012.

F-16 Upgrades

The U.S. Air Force will spend $3 billion on a service life extension program (SLEP) for 300 to 350 F-16s due to the expected two-year deployment delay in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), military officials told Congress on Nov. 2.

Lt. Gen. Herbert Carlisle, Air Force deputy chief of staff of operations, plans and requirements, told the House subcommittee said SLEP of the Block 40s will increase the service life from 8,000 hours to 10,000 service hours, extending the fleet until 2030. The upgrades to the fleet, which will include avionics updates and structural airframe repairs, will cost $9.4 million per aircraft.

“We expect some viability out of the F-16 fleet if we are going to spend that much money to SLEP the aircraft,” said Maj. Gen. Jay Lindell, director of global power programs, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force.

Military officials testified they do not know when the F-35 will be operational, but said it will miss its original 2016 deadline.

“We’ve got work to do but [the F-35 is] going to be a great airplane and we have to have it,” Carlisle said.


Navy Demos UAS CCS

The Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) completed a demonstration for its unmanned aircraft Common Control System (CCS) Oct. 26 at Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division in China Lake, Calif., the Navy said Nov. 1.

CCS is a software-only system for fixed, mobile and dismounted hardware ground station configurations. It is intended to address common requirements for current and future unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

During the demonstration, operators used the CCS to control a simulated UAS and associated sensors. The UAS identified and tracked a hostile moving target and sent images of the target to an air controller. The UAS data created a precise coordinate so that a Net-Enabled Weapon (NEW) could strike. The UAS and NEW controller were then used together to perform a battle damage assessment.

CCS intends to use a Government Lead Systems Integrator (LSI) Team that performs CCS product integration and testing prior to delivering the integrated software package to platforms for final integration and test with its vehicles, according to Mike Paul, Navy CCS program manager. It is built on a government-managed open COTS framework, utilizing common services and applications provided by multiple vendors, with unique services and applications provided by the UAS platforms, Paul told Avionics.

The Navy’s CCS, managed by Strike Planning and Execution Systems program office (PMA-281), used a sample of services developed under the Office of Secretary of Defense’s UAS Control Segment architecture for this demonstration. Multiple vendors developed these sample services and the user interface, which were successfully integrated to provide modular capabilities within one software system.

Some of the services used were Blue Force Tracker, Cursor on Target, Sensor Product Archive, Sensor Command and Control, Vehicle Flight Status, Vide Stream Catalog and a Meteorological and Oceanographic weather service. Government-developed Standardization Agreement (STANAG) 4586 service and electro-optical/infrared sensor model services, as well as an independently developed industry presentation layer, were also used in the demonstration.

“The demonstration verified that service-oriented techniques can help create a set of reusable, independently developed, software services for control of unmanned systems,” said Paul. “The flexibility of the CCS framework and the government led integration efforts allows the system to efficiently address similar requirements for unmanned vehicles, yet meet the unique requirements of each vehicle in a highly efficient manner.”

The Navy said the CCS is currently being developed for the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance System and Medium Range Maritime Unmanned Air System and will be available for use with other unmanned vehicles, including air, surface and subsurface, in the future.

“The CCS approach leverages off of the investments and capabilities that exist today to smartly embrace a modular, scalable open architecture for unmanned systems,” said Rear Adm. Bill Shannon, PEO (U&W) program executive officer.

Paul said the next effort is to demonstrate expanded software re-use in the CCS, and to plan an acquisition strategy that will result in a Government Lead System Integrator Team integrating products from multiple vendors, allowing for rapid software development cycles and creating a competitive “best of breed” environment.

UTA Controls UAS

The LONGBOW LLC, a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, said its Unmanned Aerial Systems Tactical Common Data Link Assembly (UTA) recently controlled an unmanned vehicle from an AH-64D Apache Block III attack helicopter, while both were in flight.

During flight tests, the UTA controlled the payload and flight path of a Gray Eagle (MQ-1C) while both the Apache and unmanned aircraft system (UAS) were airborne. This marks the first time an unmanned vehicle has been controlled from the cockpit of an Apache, a significant accomplishment in manned-unmanned teaming, the company said.

“The Apache Block III recently completed dynamic flight testing where the UTA data link system controlled the Gray Eagle UAS, demonstrating full interoperability,” said Lt. Col. Bailey, U.S. Army Apache Block III product manager. “This is a true game-changing capability that the Block III will bring to the warfighter.”

The LONGBOW UTA is a two-way, high-bandwidth data link for Apache aircrews that allows sensor and flight path control of the UAS. UTA-equipped Apaches enable aircrews to exercise control of UAS at long ranges and receive real-time, high-definition streaming video on their multi-function displays. The UTA is fully integrated into the Block III Apache mission computer.

The U.S. Army’s LONGBOW system consists of either a fire control radar or a UTA, a fire-and-forget radar frequency HELLFIRE millimeter wave-guided missile and an all-digital M299 launcher for the AH-64D Apache helicopter. The LONGBOW UTA will be fielded on the Apache Block III aircraft beginning in 2012.


Cobham, Carson Partner

Cobham will partner with Carson Helicopters, based in Perkasie, Pa., to provide an advanced suite of avionics for Sikorsky S-61, S-76 and UH-60 derivative helicopter retrofits, the companies said Nov. 1.

Cobham, based in Mineral Wells, Texas, said its Integrated Systems business unit will supply an integrated flight deck that features large-format synthetic vision flight displays, advanced flight management capability, integrated hazard alerting (terrain, traffic and weather), dual audio/radio control units, dual VHF navigation and communication radios, dual automatic direction finding systems, a distance measuring system, an integrated audio/radio management unit, an aft-cabin audio control system and an optional mission computer and display system.

Other features include geo-referenced hover vector display and a digital engine monitoring and crew alerting system with automatic, context-sensitive checklists for abnormal procedures.

Carson Helicopters provides performance modifications and modernization options for Sikorsky heavy-lift helicopters, including composite main and tail rotors, upgraded engine/transmission options and fuselage stretching/shortening.

“An S-61 with our performance modifications offers the best combination of payload, speed, range and cost of any helicopter in the world,” says Frank Carson, owner of Carson Helicopters. “Adding Cobham’s advanced avionics dramatically reduces pilot workload, increases safety and provides for future growth.”

This avionics suite, which Carson will offer along with other performance modifications, will initially be certified on the Sikorsky S-61, followed by the S-76 and UH-60.


➤ Aerodyne, of Huntsville, Ala., was awarded a $105 million contract with the U.S. Army’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Project Office for technical and engineering support. Aerodyne is a subsidiary of MCR, of McLean, Va.

Under the contract, Aerodyne will perform a suite of integrated program management services, including acquisition management, systems engineering, test and evaluation, and life-cycle logistics support, including fielding, training and sustainment. The five-year contract has a base value of more than $9 million, with five additional options. If all options are exercised, the contract value will exceed $105 million. The work will be performed primarily at the Army’s Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville.

➤ Boeing received a follow-on, $57 million contract from the U.S. Air Force for additional upgrades of the B-1 bomber fleet’s avionics software. Usually, one avionics software block is in development while another is in test and a third is fielded on the fleet of 66 B-1s. This new agreement authorizes Boeing to start work on Sustainment Block 16A, which includes changes to the navigation, weapon delivery, radar, diagnostics, electrical multiplexing, communication/navigation management system software and controls and displays.

➤ The U.S. Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin a $46.8 million in contract options to begin modernizing 29 long-range radars to provide advanced warning and air traffic control surveillance over North America’s airspace.

Under initial options of the Essential Parts Replacement Program contract, Lockheed Martin will complete engineering planning and begin to upgrade 29 geographically disbursed AN/FPS-117 long-range surveillance radars. Expected follow-on contract options will replace and update all the radars’ signal and data processors to current commercial technology standards, cost effectively extending their operational lives thru 2025.

➤ Curtiss-Wright Controls received a contract from Lockheed Martin Aeronautics to provide Vortex Compact Network Storage (CNS) subsystems to the C-130J program. The CNS will be deployed as the Network File Server in the U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command’s MC-130J special mission aircraft and the Air Force Special Operations Command HC-130J personnel recovery aircraft. The initial order is valued at $800,000, with a potential lifetime contract value estimated at $7.5 million, Curtiss-Wright said.

➤ Rockwell Collins selected the VxWorks MILS Real-Time Operating System (RTOS) Platform from Wind River for its SecureOne Processor architecture and SecureOne Guard software program for military tactical systems. According to Wind River, with VxWorks MILS Platform as a technology foundation, SecureOne cross domain technologies ensure that aircraft can securely process, communicate, display and store data at different classification levels, without the need to install physically separate equipment to securely protect classified data. This results in the user having access to unclassified and classified data on the same display.

➤ CAVU Companies, based in West Winfield, N.Y., will provide its EFB-Pro iPhone app for the U.S. Air Force’s C21A fleet. The app produces takeoff and landing performance calculations from the C21A aircraft flight manual and weight and balance for multiple configurations, the company said.

➤ The U.S. Air Force Electronic System Center has selected the Wide Area Multilateration system from Saab Sensis within the Kyrgyz Republic. Saab Sensis is a member of the Raytheon team that won the competitive procurement.

➤ Travel Management Company, based in Elkhart, Ind., is installing Gogo Biz high-speed Internet service on all mid-size aircraft in its fleet of charter aircraft. Installations are already underway and are scheduled for completion in the spring of 2012. The announcement includes 21 firm orders plus options for as many as 30 systems for deployment on additional aircraft.

Travel Management Company owns and operates 50 light and midsize jets, including the industry’s largest privately owned fleet of Hawker 400XPs, along with a growing fleet of Hawker 800/850XPs.

➤ German airline airberlin group selected navAero’s tBagC22 Electronic Flight Bag computer and display hardware system for the A319/320/321, A330, B737-NG and Dash 8 Q400 aircraft operated by airberlin, flyNiki and Belair Airlines.

➤ Saudi Arabian Airlines selected Thales to provide its TopFlight SATCOM system on its new aircraft. Thales TopFlight SATCOM system consists of an ARINC 781 compliant Satellite Data Unit (SDU) and its configuration module (SCM), bringing a breakthrough in SATCOM size and performance. Housed in a single enclosure, the SDU makes it a cost-effective solution equally applicable to short haul and long haul aircraft, as well as regional aircraft.

Aerospace RFID Takes Off

The adoption of radio frequency identification (RFID) systems for flyable components on aircraft is growing, as airframe manufacturers, avionics companies, maintenance professional and operators look to improve management of their assets.

Tim Butler, president and CEO of RFID chip manufacturer Tego, of Waltham, Mass., said he sees the need for a wide range of RFID chip memory sizes to store information including maintenance records, installation dates and other data, for use on a wide range of aerospace components — smaller memory for relatively low-maintenance components like life vests and oxygen tanks and higher memory chips for more dynamic parts like engine parts and avionics systems.

“The aerospace industry is leading the paradigm shift in RFID,” Butler said. “RFID had been thought of as simply a way to replace bar codes, and really it is another way to communicate and what we’re doing is enabling you to communicate with billions and billions of new assets in ways that you never could before. We’re really just at the beginning of understanding what that means.”

The company in October released its TegoChip 2000, a 2 kilobit RFID chip for tagging aircraft parts that require only record birth, record storage and identification. Tego said the TegoChip 2000 is the first RFID chip to fully comply with the Air Transport Association’s (ATA) Spec 2000 “low memory” format. It also meets the AS5678 RFID tagging standard for flyable parts. Tego also manufactures 4- and 8-kilobyte chips to manage larger amounts of data, and sees the need in the future for even higher memory and better performing chips.

“For aerospace, RFID chips can keep a lot of information on that asset itself and have additional functionality on that asset that they couldn’t have before and do it in a much more cost-effective, and a much more highly efficient way,” Butler said. For example, “Rockwell Collins can build a part for an Airbus plane that goes into the United Airlines fleet that gets serviced eight years later somewhere in Malaysia and the actual service information about that part can be on the part and the person who is actually servicing that part can do something valuable with that information, whereas up until now that information doesn’t exist in any sort of centralized place.” This information, Butler said, is available via “cloud computing” applications.

In 2010, Airbus placed a multi-year order to equip its coming A350 XWB with RFID tags on up to 3,000 component parts to support aircraft configuration management, line maintenance, warehouse logistics, payload tracking and life-limited parts monitoring. — Emily Feliz

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