Business & GA, Commercial

Industry scan

By Jonathan Ray | December 1, 2012
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IMS: In-Flight Ka-Band Connectivity Installations to Hit 6,000 by 2020

A research report predicts Ka-band connectivity for in-flight applications will hit 6,000 by 2020. According to the latest findings from IMS Research, Ku-band will be the most popular technology at the end of 2015; with Ka-band becoming the market leader by 2020.

Of the predicted 15,300 connected aircraft at the end of 2021, it is projected that 39 percent will utilize Ka-band, compared with 28 percent which employ Ku-band, providing a significant change in the landscape compared to the end of 2016, when Ku-band is forecast to represent 36 percent of all connected aircraft, with just 12 percent offering Ka-band, according to the report. Ku-band is currently supported by Panasonic Avionics, Thales, Row 44 and Gogo, whereas Ka-band has attracted LiveTV, OnAir and, again, Gogo.

“With more aircraft now offering Wi-Fi, passenger awareness is rapidly increasing. Despite the challenges and costs associated with providing Internet connectivity at 36,000ft and 500mph, we’re already seeing passengers expecting a similar service to that which they can experience on the ground in coffee shops, shopping centers and so on that is, fast and free,” said Heath Lockett, aerospace analyst at IMS Research. “Much has been made of the rivalry between companies offering Ku- and Ka-band options, however, there is more than enough room in the industry for both technologies to co-exist. Every airline has a slightly different requirement for their connectivity solution the requirements can even be wildly different across a single airline’s fleet. Those different approaches will ensure that all technology solutions will continue to exist well into the next decade. Who knows, by then the industry buzz may be focused on S-band, or even Q-band.”

According to the report, the market for in-flight connectivity has been most quickly and successfully addressed by Gogo’s air-to-ground (ATG) service in the United States, with the provider now planning to expand the service to Canada after regulators in the country paved the way for expansion. Thanks, in part, to the low-cost and quick installation procedure, Gogo-enabled aircraft will total more than 1,700 at the end of 2012, representing more than 70 percent of all connected aircraft. Such has been the rapid ascent of ATG, the technology is forecast to lead the market, in terms of installed base, until 2015.

However, although Gogo is currently upgrading its network to offer improved bandwidth, it faces tough competition from satellite-based solutions, chiefly because of their ability to offer a global service. Indeed, Gogo will shortly install its first Ku-band product and has also signed up to support Inmarsat’s Ka-band Global Xpress service. L-band technology was the first to see success given its use onboard aircraft for cockpit critical communications. Although L-band is predicted to remain key for cellular communications, and despite advances which have offered greater bandwidth (the latest boosting bandwidth to 700kbps per channel), it is Ku- and Ka-band which are predicted to dominate in the next decade where Wi-Fi connectivity is present.

A separate IMS Research survey, which examined in-flight Wi-Fi usage in the United States, found that on flights lasting longer than one hour, passengers who used a personal electronic device onboard spent, on average, more than 40 percent of their flight time on it.

“Although not all passengers use in-flight Wi-Fi, it is clear that many still brought along and made use of their electronic devices to help pass time onboard. We also found that regardless of whether inflight Wi-Fi is offered or not, the amount of time spent on these devices varies little; as passengers can just prepare enough offline content prior to boarding to help entertainment themselves later on,” said Rose Yin, market analyst at IMS Research. Emily Feliz

OnAir, Honeywell Partner

Honeywell signed a five-year agreement to make OnAir the distributor of Inmarsat’s Global Xpress Ka-band aircraft connectivity services to the business and general aviation community.

OnAir said the Inmarsat Global Xpress Ka-band connectivity will be available to business and general aircraft operators beginning in 2015.

OnAir provides the technology that allows airlines and business jet passengers worldwide mobile connectivity to make calls, browse online and text, just as they would on the ground. OnAir already distributes this technology to commercial airlines.

“By partnering with OnAir, we’ll be able to meet their increasing needs for better connectivity and offer more expanded services so passengers and crew can be better connected, informed and productive,” Carl Esposito, vice president, marketing and product management for Honeywell Aerospace said.

“Today OnAir is the only connectivity supplier providing Global Xpress Ka-band to the entire aviation space, both the commercial and business sectors,” said Ian Dawkins, OnAir CEO. “This contract reflects a revolutionary trend that the passengers are demanding to use their devices in the sky just as they do on the ground. It is essential to be at the forefront of providing the passengers and crew with what they need: in-flight connectivity.”

Bizjet Demand Flat

Honeywell forecast relatively flat growth in business jet deliveries in the next year, with the market still dampened by the sluggish global economy and slower-than-projected demand.

In its highly anticipated forecast released on the eve of the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) conference in Orlando, Fla., the Honeywell Business Aviation Outlook predicted 10,000 new business jet deliveries worth about $250 billion from 2012 to 2022, a 9 percent increase in terms of dollar value from last year’s forecast. The 9 percent comes from pricing increases and a change in expected jet mix toward larger business jet models; the number of aircraft forecasted is roughly the same as last year. The company sees 2012 deliveries of about 680 to 720 business jets, a single-digit increase over levels reported in last year’s forecast.

“Next year’s totals are anticipated to be of similar magnitude, reflecting the protracted nature of the global economy,” said Rob Wilson, president, Honeywell Business and General Aviation. “Over the medium term, a return to historical growth conditions supported by globalization, wealth creating in developing nations and new aircraft development should boost orders and support accelerated growth beginning mid-decade. Despite the economic challenges our industry has been dealing with for the past 40 months, we believe some progress is being made.”

While he said 2011 is expected to be the trough, Wilson added Honeywell does not see the industry returning to pre-recession, 2007 levels in its 2012-2022 forecast period.

In the report, 30 percent of the 1,500 global operators surveyed have planned to purchase a new business jet over the next five years, either as a replacement of an older aircraft or an addition to the fleet. Wilson said the top answers for the motivations to buy a particular aircraft model were more range, larger cabin and newer technology. “The trend toward larger cabin aircraft with ever-increasing range expectation and advanced avionics continues to be reflected in this year’s survey,” Wilson said.

While North America still accounts for more than half of worldwide sales, the report showed robust demand in developing nations, more specifically, Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC). In the BRIC nations, 46 percent of respondents had five-year buying plans. In Latin America, 18 percent of the global demand will be coming from that region, which Wilson attributed to robust economies and a “vibrant installed base” and the age of the installed base.

Asia-Pacific five-year aircraft demand dipped slightly this year, but Wilson said, “it is critical to understand that demand from this part of the world remains well above the world average, and we do not believe the 2012 results represent in any way a change in the region’s fundamental underlying growth drivers to commitment to business aircraft.”

INS for Cessna

Cessna has selected Northrop Grumman to provide hybrid inertial navigation systems as core components of the avionics for its Citation Sovereign business jets.

Northrop Grumman said it will supply the LCR-100 Attitude and Heading Reference System as a standard feature on the Cessna business aircraft.

Cessna said it expects the Citation Sovereign to receive certification in early 2013.

“The selection of Northrop Grumman LITEF to provide navigation systems for select Cessna Citation business jets will contribute to long-term cost savings for Citation operators,” said Eckehardt Keip, managing director for Northrop Grumman LITEF. “Early flight tests have indicated a smooth integration of our systems with the avionics suite and demonstrated the high-performance capabilities of our products.”

Rockwell Collins’ SkyBox

Rockwell Collins unveiled its SkyBox in-flight entertainment and connectivity system at this year’s NBAA event in October. The system allows business jet passengers to take full advantage of an onboard Apple iTunes library to share movies, TV shows and music wirelessly and on demand.

“Skybox extends the capability of your business jet cabin system by integrating Apple’s magic,” said Dave Austin, vice president and general manager, Cabin Systems for Rockwell Collins.

The system has one terabyte of onboard storage capacity, and gives each passenger the ability to play any content stored in the system’s library on up to 10 Apple iOS devices. “Skybox makes it possible for our customers to pick up from where they left off at home or the office when they step on board an aircraft,” said Austin.

Dassault Falcon Jet will be the first manufacturer to offer this capability. Skybox will be available on Falcons equipped with FalconCabin HD+, which currently include the Falcon 7X, Falcon 900LX, and Falcon 2000LX+.

Fusion for AW609

AgustaWestland has selected the Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion avionics suite for its AW609 TitltRotor, marking the first European customer for Pro Line Fusion and the first announced forward-fit application of Rockwell Collins’ touch-control primary flight displays.

“This is a very important win for Rockwell Collins as it demonstrates the extreme flexibility and advanced capabilities of our newest avionics offering, and deepens relationships with our customers,” said Claude Alber, vice president and managing director of Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EuMEA) for Rockwell Collins. “Pro Line Fusion is a perfect fit for the unique, multi-role characteristics of the AW609.”

With Pro Line Fusion, the AW609 will be capable of single-pilot operations under instrument flight rule conditions. The TiltRotor is expected to be certified in 2016. Other features include 14-inch primary flight displays; Traffic Alert Collision Avoidance System and automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast; and MultiScan Threat Detection Weather Radar System.

Precision Landings Study

A team of researchers at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University has received funding for a project to assess the performance of pilots when they land small airplanes at small airports using an approach normally employed at airports with longer runways. The results could help shed light on the feasibility of letting small aircraft use GPS-aided approaches for small airports, according to the university.

In the project, funded by FAA and sponsored by the MITRE Corp., instrument-rated pilots from central Florida will conduct approaches and landings using a Level 6 Cessna flight simulator that can replicate low-visibility conditions. The research, led by Michael Wiggins, professor of aeronautical science, will take place at Embry-Riddle’s campus in Daytona Beach, Fla., beginning next summer.

The purpose of the research is to see if precision approaches normally used to land on longer runways can be used for landing at the shorter and narrower runways found at small airports.

In the study, pilots of small planes will simulate GPS-guided approaches down to the minimum altitude they can fly to in poor visibility and land using various simulated runway and lighting conditions.

EVS on Eclipse 550

Eclipse Aerospace selected Lexavia Integrated Systems, of Gulf Breeze, Fla., to supply the Enhanced Vision system in the Eclipse 550 Jet, scheduled for first delivery in the third quarter 2013.

The Lexavia model chosen, the LFS6000, includes a sensor housing rises a 1.42 inches above the center of the bonnet. It will be configured with a 640 x 480 element sensor array, which uses VOx long wave infrared technology, and a 640 x 480 resolution camera offers 4x electronic zoom. Lexavia’s LFS6000 interfaces with Eclipse 550 EFIS for display on the MFD, and the infrared depiction will be displayed on the MFD in the cockpit.

“Eclipse continues to work relentlessly to build the safest, most cost effective, and easiest to operate aircraft in its class,” said Cary Winter, senior vice president of Engineering and Global Service.

Additionally, Eclipse and its avionics supplier Innovative Solutions & Support (IS&S) said a production order has been placed for an initial 50 ship sets of a 300 ship set contract for the IS&S advanced avionics suite for the production model Eclipse 550. IS&S is the supplier of Primary Flight and Multi-Function Displays as well as the Integrated Flight Management System for the Eclipse Jet.

Thales to Acquire Visionix

Thales signed a definitive agreement to acquire the Helmet Mounted Display (HMD) and motion tracking businesses from Gentex Corp., based in Carbondale, Pa., the companies announced in November. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Called Visionix, the combined group designs, develops and delivers HMD, inertial tracking and sensor fusion technology for defense and aerospace applications, along with others that require precision motion tracking, to customers worldwide. Visionix operates from locations in Aurora, Ill., and Billerica, Mass. Thales said the acquisition of Visionix group will give it the ability to offer highly capable HMD technology amidst rigorous budget constraints within the market.

“This acquisition is a strategic fit that complements Thales’ global portfolio of Helmet Mounted Sight and Display systems for rotary and fixed wing platforms. We will greatly benefit from these innovative and proven Visionix product offerings,” said Michel Mathieu, head of Thales’ Avionics Division.

“This new business dynamic enhances our ability to support warfighters by providing increased situational awareness in tough environments,” said Allan Cameron, president and CEO of Thales USA. “This acquisition will help us to achieve our ambition of growth in the US defense market.”

Visionix will operate as a subsidiary of Thales Communications. The business will maintain both of its existing locations with the current management team remaining in place.

“Visionix is a global provider and partner of choice for industry leading situational awareness products. Merging our HMD and motion tracking business with Thales, a proven leader in the global defense and aerospace markets, will accelerate our ability to develop more market-defining products that fundamentally enhance our customers’ ability to perform their missions,” said Pete Roney, Gentex Executive Vice President and General Manager of Visionix.

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