AIA: Sluggish Economy, Defense Cuts to Hit Aerospace Industry

Despite a sluggish overall economy and major cuts looming in the defense sector, the U.S. aerospace industry saw its eighth straight year of growth in 2011, with annual sales of $218 billion, according to the Aerospace Industries Association’s (AIA) year-end forecast and review. However, 2012 is expected to bring changes.

The forecast, issued on Dec. 14, projected civil aircraft sales of $49.7 billion in 2011, an increase of 3.2 percent. For 2012 and beyond, AIA sees sales growing 3.4 percent a year during the 2011-2012. However, cuts to the U.S. defense budget, economic uncertainity and the budgetary questions in Washington will stymie growth in the coming years, according to the report. Rising commercial aircraft sales (up 7.5 percent year-over-year through September 2011) could offset the downward pressure from cuts in U.S defense spending and may spur the commercial aviation sector to increase capital spending on new equipment, according to the report.

“Annual sales are going to be up across the board in 2011,” AIA President and CEO Marion Blakey told a Washington, D.C., audience. “But in 2012 we expect things to begin to change.”

The forecast for military spending looks less rosy, according to the report. U.S. military sales increased 6.7 percent in 2011, with sales estimated at $66.51 billion. “While 2011 was a strong year for military aircraft, domestic purchases are expected to decline in the coming years due to federal deficit reduction measures,” AIA said.

The sluggish global economy and the uncertainty created by the current budget process in Washington are hitting the aerospace industry, the association said. “We need a resolution,” Blakey said. “Our only option for 2012 is to keep fighting. That means new rallies, more outreach and ongoing efforts to educate policymakers and stakeholders across the country about the disastrous consequences of gutting the U.S. defense and aerospace industry.”

Orders for civil aircraft are seen jumping 23 percent to $107 billion in 2011, boosted by the aging U.S. regional fleet, growing demand for fuel efficient aircraft and the introduction of new aircraft. The order book hit a recent high of $224 billion in 2007. (The low was just $23 billion in 2009.) In 2011, the U.S. aerospace industry contributed $87 billion in export sales to the U.S. economy, up 12 percent, after falling during the two previous years. The industry’s positive trade balance of $57.4 billion is the largest trade surplus of any manufacturing industry, according to AIA.

Additionally, growing demand for air travel in the coming years will boost interest in new aircraft. By 2029, the world’s airlines will take delivery of 29,000 commercial aircraft with a total value of $3.2 trillion, according to the report.


Babbitt Resigns

FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt resigned on Dec. 6, following an arrest in Fairfax, Va., for drunk driving.

FAA Deputy Administration Michael Huerta will serve as interim administrator. According to some reports, Huerta will likely remain in the post until next year, with President Obama seeking to avoid a possible nomination fight before the Nov. 6 presidential election. In his role as deputy administrator, Huerta was overseeing FAA’s multi-billion dollar NextGen air traffic control modernization program.

“Serving as FAA Administrator has been an absolute honor and the highlight of my professional career. But I am unwilling to let anything cast a shadow on the outstanding work done 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by my colleagues at the FAA,” Babbitt said in a statement on Dec. 6.

Huerta, who was confirmed as deputy administrator in 2010, in recent months was tapped by Babbitt to be the head of the newly created NextGen office with FAA.

Previously, he served as managing director of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City and president of the Transportation Solutions Group at Affiliated Computer Services.

“We are a very large, very complex operating organization and we have a big technological challenge in front of us. That’s my background, implementing large technology systems for transportation organizations,” Huerta told Avionics Magazine last year.

The resignation of Babbitt comes at a critical time for NextGen as the agency faces a budget crunch and technology implementation roadblocks for the NextGen modernization project.

ARC: No ADS-B In Mandate

There is not a positive business case for commercial or general aviation operators to equip their aircraft for automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) In applications, according to a report from the ADS-B Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC).

The ARC on Nov. 17 submitted a list of recommendations to the FAA, including no ADS-B In equipage mandate, incentive voluntary ADS-B In equipage and the continuation of ADS-B In demonstration projects. U.S. operators are required to equip their aircraft for ADS-B Out by 2020.

“While many ADS-B In applications show significant promise, additional developments and analysis are required before operators can justify investment or implementation decisions,” according to the report.

Additionally, the ARC recommended FAA develop an integrated communications, navigation and surveillance (CNS) roadmap to help industry “better understanding future capabilities benefits and investments.” The roadmap should include a phased transition path to what will be available in 15 to 20 years; the avionics integration required for the different systems; known plans for mandating avionics equipment; bundled avionics upgrades with a goal that operators only have to upgrade every five to seven years; and appropriate benefit-cost justification for each phase.

“The ARC finds the FAA should develop clearly defined regulations, certifications and detailed specification for the ADS-B In applications to provide acceptable levels of uncertainty and risk,” according to the report.

The ADS-B In ARC was formed in 2010 to recommend a plan for incorporating ADS-B In.

NextGen-SESAR Report

FAA is generally working with its European counterparts to modernize the airspace, but needs to do a better job of disseminating information about the interoperability of FAA’s NextGen system and Europe’s Single European Sky Air Traffic Management Research (SESAR) program, according to a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released in November.

Specifically, the report suggests FAA provide more information about a March 2011 memorandum of cooperation (MOC) establishing a formal collaborative structure for NextGen and SESAR between FAA and European Union. The MOC defines roles and responsibilities, leverages resources and provides monitoring and evaluating results. Some U.S. and European stakeholders are skeptical these benefits will ever be realized.

“With the 2011 MOC’s signing, FAA has an opportunity to include in its public documents the details of the MOC’s structure for collaboration and governance. Such information could reduce skepticism on both sides of the Atlantic about realizing the future benefits of NextGen and SESAR, and in turn, reduce airlines’ hesitancy to equip with NextGen’s advanced technologies,” according to the report.

Space-Based ADS-B

FAA is looking for vendors to provide the space surveillance capability for automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) in oceanic and remote mountainous regions starting in 2018.

FAA issued a market survey Nov. 22, looking to augment the ground-based portion of ADS-B.

“As part of FAA’s ADS-B NextGen program, the Surveillance and Broadcast Services Office is considering enhancing ADS-B service to include surveillance in oceanic and remote mountainous airspace and other airspace as required currently outside the detection limits of land-based surveillance equipment (non-radar airspace), thereby increasing safety and efficiency and reducing separation minima,” according to the notice.

Air China Trials Gogo

Gogo reached an agreement to provide a trial of its wireless in-flight entertainment equipment on Air China, the company said in November. The first live trial on a commercial flight was conducted Nov. 15 on a Boeing 737 en route from Beijing to Chengdu. Live trials are expected to continue through the first quarter of 2012.

“We are excited to bring Gogo’s wireless in-flight entertainment system to Air China and look forward to working with them on providing affordable entertainment options to their passengers,” said Michael Small, Gogo’s president and CEO. “As the first international air carrier to offer Gogo’s in-flight entertainment equipment, this represents a significant milestone for Gogo and for Air China.”

In November, Air China became the first airline to obtain an in-flight Wi-Fi service license from the General Administration of Civil Aviation.

“Gogo has a proven track record of providing wireless solutions to the aviation industry and currently is the only company to have a wireless IFE solution in market and available to consumers,” said Zhang Yang, Air China assistant president. “We look forward to working with them as we become the first Chinese air carrier to leverage their equipment to bring a wireless entertainment option to our passengers.”


Flight Tests on CONECT

Boeing completed flight testing needed for the B-52 Combat Network Communications Technology (CONECT) program to receive low rate initial production (LRIP) authorization from the U.S. Air Force, the company said in December. The flight test program was conducted at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., by Boeing and the Air Force.

“Completion of the LRIP flight test phase means CONECT is ready to be reviewed by our customer for initial production authorization,” said Scot Oathout, B-52 program director. “CONECT increases B-52 operational effectiveness by providing improved mission flexibility, increased situational awareness and new network-centric capabilities. In addition, CONECT paves the way for easier integration of future upgrades.”

Milestone C authorization for low-rate initial production is expected in mid-2012.

The CONECT modification provides the ability to change a mission, as well as change the target of a weapon, while the B-52 is in flight. The system provides increased situational awareness for B-52 crews by adding several communication data links and full-color LCD displays with real-time intelligence feeds overlaid on moving maps, according to Boeing. CONECT also enables future B-52 improvements with its onboard, high-speed network.

Astronics Buys Ballard

Astronics Corp., based in East Aurora, N.Y., paid $24 million to acquire privately held Ballard Technology, an Everett, Wash.-based manufacturer of avionics interface systems for defense and commercial aerospace applications, the company announced late November.

An additional purchase consideration of up to $5.5 million may be paid by Astronics if Ballard achieves certain revenue growth targets during each of the next five years, according to Astronics.

Founded in 1986, Ballard is projecting 2011 annual revenue of about $11 million, achieving a compound annual growth rate during the previous three years of more than 20 percent. The company’s product line includes commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) avionics databus interfaces and embedded computers. Its products cover all industry-standard protocols including Mil-Std-1553, ARINC 429/708/717/664, AFDX, Ethernet, CSDB, serial, discrete and others.

Astronics manufactures lighting, electrical power and automated test systems for the global aerospace and defense industries. In October, the company was selected to supply illuminated instrument panels for the Cessna’s Citation M2, Citation TEN and Corvalis TTX aircraft as well as exterior lighting for the Citation M2 and Citation TEN. Other recent contract announcements include providing equipment for the Nextant 400, HondaJet, Piper Aircraft, Hawker Beechcraft, the U.S. Air Force and Iberia Airlines.

“The acquisition of Ballard advances our strategy to develop and maintain positions of technical leadership while diversifying the products and technologies we currently offer to our targeted aerospace and defense customers. Like us, Ballard provides highly engineered products and has built a brand based on quality, service and innovative designs. We believe that the business has solid growth potential and our capabilities will complement their efforts. In addition, Ballard is a solidly profitable business. Our acquisition price is roughly six times projected 2011 income before tax, and we expect the acquisition to be accretive in 2012,” said Peter J. Gundermann, president and CEO of Astronics.


Fire Scout Sensor Data

A Northrop Grumman-built Fire Scout unmanned helicopter transmitted sensor data to a cockpit display of a Navy MH-60 helicopter during an exercise earlier this year, the company said in December.

Northrop Grumman said the demonstration, which took place Oct. 25 near Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Md., paves the way for improving the speed at which field commanders can make informed decisions during military operations.

“Fire Scout complements the Navy’s manned helicopters by effectively extending the range and area of ship-based intelligence gathering operations,” said George Vardoulakis, vice president for tactical unmanned systems for Northrop Grumman’s Aerospace Systems sector.

Until now, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data gathered by Fire Scout has been sent to its host ship for further dissemination. During the demonstration, crew members aboard a nearby U.S. Coast Guard boat also viewed Fire Scout’s sensor data in real time using a remote terminal.

Fire Scout features a modular architecture that accommodates a variety of electro-optical, infrared and communications payloads. These payloads provide ground- and ship-based commanders with high levels of situational awareness and precision targeting support.

Sagem Patroller Tests

Sagem said Dec. 1 that its Patroller long-endurance surveillance UAS completed a series of flight tests in France.

The tests, which took place at the Istres air force base in southern France from Sept. 19 to Oct. 21, qualified the aircraft’s in-flight performance, including automated landings at a steep glide slope; integrated a new data link for taxiing, and a new, higher-performance imaging chain for target identification; and qualified new flight control functions supporting degraded operating modes, as well as automated touchdowns in case of actuator or propulsion system failure.

Additionally, the redundant avionics suite also received authorization from French authorities to overfly densely populated zones in controlled airspace. The Patroller was also operated over the Mediterranean Sea to test operational maritime and coastal surveillance scenarios.

Sagem said it will be able to deliver a complete, fully operational Patroller system within 12 to 18 months.

Patroller is a medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) UAS in the 1-ton class, based on an EASA-certified aircraft. It capitalizes on technologies already developed by Sagem for the Sperwer Mk.II tactical drone, and field experience in Afghanistan. Patroller features a modular design, allowing it to carry different pod-mounted payloads, and offers flight endurance of 20 to more than 30 hours, at a maximum altitude of 25,000 feet.


➤ The U.S. Army awarded Northrop Grumman two contractor logistics support contract modifications totaling $91.2 million for the MQ-5B Hunter program.

The cost-plus-fixed-fee interoperability engineering change proposal and the tactical common data link (TCDL) RESET programs both have a period of performance of 12 months. The TCDL technology serves as a foundation of establishing interoperability among different U.S. Department of Defense air vehicles and ground stations. The MQ-5B Hunter, which is currently deployed supporting contingency operations in Southwest Asia, is providing the U.S. Army with intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and communications relay.

➤ Elbit Systems of America was awarded a five-year, $38.5 million Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity contract by the Defense Logistics Agency-Ogden for Reliability and Maintainability Electronic Module Assemblies for all U.S. Air Force Block 30 and Block 50 F-16 Wide Angle Conventional Head-Up Displays.

➤ Lockheed Martin received two contracts totaling $30.6 million from the Naval Surface Warfare Center for the Target Sight System (TSS), the fire control system for the U.S. Marine Corps’ AH-1Z Cobra attack helicopter.

These contracts will provide spare units and parts as well as program support for the AH-1Z fleet. The Naval Surface Warfare Center awarded the initial TSS production contract in March 2008 and follow-on production contracts in June 2010 and September 2011. Lockheed Martin delivered the first TSS in June 2009, and recently began early delivery of follow-on production units. Production is expected to continue through 2018. TSS is produced at facilities in Ocala and Orlando, Fla.

➤ Cobham’s HGA-7001 SATCOM high gain antenna subsystem has been selected by Virgin Atlantic for the airline’s Boeing 747 cabin upgrade program to commence in 2012. Virgin Atlantic will retrofit seven of its Boeing 747 aircraft with the Cobham antenna, which will enable Inmarsat SwiftBroadband connectivity in the cockpit and cabin. Cobham’s antenna sub-system will be retrofitted to the fleet of seven Boeing 747-400s through an independent Supplemental Type Certificate.

➤ ERA, based in theCzech Republic, was awarded the contract to supply its Advanced Surface Movement Guidance and Control System (A-SMGCS) system to Heydar Aliyev international airport in Azerbaijan. ERA will deliver a system consisting of an Air Traffic Control system fed by both surface movement radar and MSS by ERA mulitalteration.

➤ Northrop Grumman has been awarded an $8 million, four-year extension by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) to the existing support contract for the LITENING AT system, used as the RAAF’s Target Designation System for F/A-18 Hornet aircraft (HTDS).

Northrop Grumman’s LITENING AT system is a self-contained, multisensor weapon-aiming system that enables fighter pilots to detect, identify, track and designate targets for highly accurate delivery of both conventional and precision-guided weapons.

➤ U.K. airline Monarch Airlines selected Goodrich’s SmartDisplay Electronic Flight Bags (EFB) for its Airbus A300s, A320s, A321s and A330s. Monarch has completed initial installation of the system on an A321 and conducted a successful two-month in-service demonstration period. SmartDisplay EFBs will be rolled-out across the airlines’ remaining Airbus fleet with planned retrofit completion by the second quarter 2012. Goodrich’s Sensors and Integrated Systems team in Burnsville, Minn., is producing the systems and performing integration activities.

➤ Boeing on Nov. 28 received a U.S. Navy contract to provide the first major upgrades for the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) fleet of eight F/A-18D Hornets. The contract covers design, development and installation of retrofit kits that will provide enhanced navigation, targeting and situational awareness. The program includes GPS improvements; a moving-map cockpit display; Identification Friend or Foe Interrogation capabilities; the Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System; and maintenance and air crew training for these systems.

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