AeroVironment’s Puma unmanned system

First Commercial UAS Type Certificates

Describing it as a “giant leap for unmanned-kind” FAA in late July issued a restricted category type certificates to two unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) manufacturers, a milestone that will lead to the first approved commercial UAS operations later this year.

FAA called the certifications, which were given to Insitu’s Scan Eagle X200 and AeroVironment’s Puma, “an important step toward the FAA’s goal of integrating UAS into the nation’s airspace.” Until now, it was not possible to operate an UAS in the national airspace for commercial operations. Although a potential user could obtain an experimental airworthiness certificate, the certificate specifically excluded the use of an unmanned aircraft system for commercial operations.

According to FAA, a major energy company plans to fly the ScanEagle off the Alaska coast in international waters. Plans for the initial ship-launched flights include surveys of ocean ice floes and migrating whales in Arctic oil exploration areas. The 13-pound Puma is expected to support emergency response crews for oil spill monitoring and wildlife surveillance over the Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Circle.

“This certificate represents an aviation milestone that could not have happened without the FAA’s vision and leadership,” said Tim Conver, AeroVironment chairman and CEO. “Aerial observation missions can now be safely accomplished in hazardous Arctic locations, which will reduce the risk of manned aviation in an efficient, cost-effective and environmentally friendly manner. We believe initial operations in the Arctic can lead to long-term broad adoption for similar applications elsewhere in the United States and throughout the world.”

Rockwell Collins Buys ARINC

Rockwell Collins will pay $1.39 billion to acquire ARINC from the Carlyle Group, the companies announced Aug. 11.

Kelly Ortberg, who was named president and CEO of Rockwell Collins earlier in August, said the acquisition “accelerates our strategy to develop comprehensive information management solutions by building on our existing information-enabled products and systems and ARINC’s ground–based networks and services to further expand our opportunities beyond the aircraft.”

When completed, the acquisition will shift the balance of Rockwell Collins’ business to about 54 percent commercial and 46 percent government.

“ARINC’s strong customer base, high customer retention rates and subscription business model will help the company achieve accelerated growth and benefit from greater earnings consistency throughout the commercial aviation business cycle,” added Ortberg.

ViaSat FCC License

ViaSat received blanket license radio station authorization for Ka-Band aeronautical earth stations, which provides regulatory approval for airborne Ka-Band service across the United States.

The license will permit the operation of ViaSat Mantarray, low-profile airborne antenna on the Ka-Band satellite fleet of ViaSat-1, WildBlue-1 and Anik-F2. With the regulatory approval, ViaSat said it is looking toward a launch of the Ka-Band service this fall aboard JetBlue Airways aircraft, along with “one other major airline. There are about 400 aircraft under contract to receive the service.

“This is the first license of its kind in the world,” said Mark Dankberg, ViaSat chairman and CEO.

Dankberg said the service will give passengers access to an “unprecedented amount of bandwidth,” which should allow much higher speeds for in-flight connectivity on commercial flights.

Biofuel for Hawaii Flights

An agreement signed in July could allow Alaska Airlines to begin using sustainable biofuel for its Hawaii flights as soon as 2018, the airline said.

Alaska Airlines signed an agreement with Hawai`i BioEnergy to purchase biofuel for its fleet. Founded in 2006, Hawai`i BioEnergy is a consortium of three of Hawaii’s largest landowners and three venture capital companies who plan to use locally grown feedstocks to produce biofuels.

Alaska Airlines is Hawai`i BioEnergy’s second customer, and the first airline to sign a contract. Hawaiian Electric Co. previously announced it had agreed to purchase 10 million gallons of fuel a year from Hawai`i BioEnergy for power generation to the state, pending approval by the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission. Hawai`i BioEnergy will ramp up production of the sustainable fuels within five years of regulatory approval, allowing Alaska Airlines to begin procuring sustainable jet fuel for its Hawaii flights possibly as soon as 2018.

The feedstock for the biofuel is anticipated to be woody biomass-based and will be consistent with the sustainability criteria established by the Roundtable for Sustainable Biofuels, an international multi-stakeholder initiative concerned with ensuring the sustainability of biomass production and processing.

In 2011, Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air were the first domestic airlines to fly multiple passenger flights powered by a biofuel blend.

NGJ Contract Protest

BAE Systems, who led a team that lost a bid to Raytheon for the Navy’s Next Generation Jammer (NGJ) Technology Development contract in July, has filed a formal protest with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review the contract.

Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) on July 8 awarded Raytheon a $279.4 million, 22-month technology development (TD) contract for NGJ, which is designed to replace the aging ALQ-99 jammer aboard the land- and carrier-based Boeing EA-18G Growler electronic-attack aircraft. Raytheon beat out bids from BAE Systems and an ITT Exelis-Northrop Grumman team.

“BAE Systems has filed a protest with the U.S. Government Accountability Office challenging the U.S. Navy’s decision to award the Next Generation Jammer Technology Development contract to Raytheon,” BAE said in a statement to Avionics Magazine. “The solution we put forward would provide the U.S. Navy with an affordable and effective way to significantly enhance current capabilities and protect our aircraft, ships and armed forces. We protested the award based on concerns with the Navy’s evaluation of our offering.”

The protest is not a surprise as BAE Systems indicated after the contract was awarded that it was “considering all of our options.”

“Raytheon is confident in the superior technical and programmatic design of its NGJ offering. The company remains ready to partner with the Navy to deliver this critical national security capability in a timely and cost efficient manner,” Raytheon said in a statement.

All GAO protests must be resolved within 100 calendar days of when filed. In this case, BAE filed its initial protest on July 18. As a result, if the case goes forward to a decision on the merits, that decision must be issued not later than Oct. 28.

Northrop Grumman said it does not intend to file a protest to the contract.

EVS II, HUD II Approved

Gulfstream’s Enhanced Vision System (EVS) II and Head-Up Display (HUD) II for the G280 has been certified by FAA, the airframe manufacturer said. The FAA certification means the enhanced flight vision system, which has been integrated with Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion avionics and HUD II, provides operational credit. G280 aircraft equipped with the systems can land in weather conditions that would be prohibitive for non-equipped aircraft.

“The addition of EVS II/HUD II as an option for the G280 enhances the PlaneView280 flight deck, already the most advanced in its class,” said Dan Nale, senior vice president, Programs, Engineering and Test, Gulfstream. “EVS and HUD work together to dramatically increase a pilot’s situational awareness at night and during low-visibility conditions. The end result is improved safety in nearly any weather.”

EVS II captures actual, real-time images of an aircraft’s surroundings using an infrared camera mounted in the nose. The HUD II uses a LCD to project images onto a transparent combiner in the pilot’s forward field of view, and integrates the images with flight guidance information.

EVS II/HUD II is now available as an option on new G280s and as a retrofit on in-service aircraft. The systems are a standard feature on Gulfstream’s in-production large-cabin aircraft, the G650, G550 and G450. EVS II with a Head-Down Display is available as an option on the in-production, mid-cabin G150.

EVS II earned FAA approval in late 2007.


➤ The Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) has awarded a $775 million contract to Northrop Grumman to go forward with full-rate production on Lot 1 of its E-2D Advanced Hawkeye. Under the contract, Northrop will produce five E-2Ds for Lot 1. NAVAIR expects to begin operating the E-2D by 2015.

➤ Curtiss Wright Controls announced a $21 million contract from Irkut Corp. to supply the flight data recording system for Irkut’s MC-21 narrow body passenger jet. The company’s avionics division will supply the ISSKOR data recorder system, which integrates flight data acquisition, monitoring, processing and recording into one system. ISSKOR features dual imaging flight recorders, an integrated cockpit control unit, cockpit area camera and an integrated flight data acquisition unit.

➤ Northrop Grumman will provide the Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) for U.S. Air Force and Taiwan F-16 fighter jets, after winning a competition by Lockheed Martin looking to prolong the life of F-16 legacy aircraft with a radar upgrade program.

SABR is a multifunction active electronically scanned array radar, which was designed for fifth generation jets and to be retrofitted to the fourth generation F-16s. The radar is also scalable for integration into other aircraft.

➤ Rockwell Collins’ TTR-2100 Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) received FAA certification. The traffic computer, which enables NextGen traffic surveillance, is now available for new and existing Boeing aircraft, with Airbus and Bombardier platforms to follow, Rockwell Collins said.

TTR-2100 is part of a broader Rockwell Collins TCAS product line refresh that began with the Integrated Surveillance System (ISS-2100), which combines weather radar, TCAS, transponder and terrain awareness into one system for the Boeing 787. The advent of the ISS-2100 was followed by the certification of an integrated TCAS and transponder (TSS-4100) for business and regional aircraft. Rockwell Collins expects TTR-4100 to be certified for more aircraft types later this year.

➤ Rockwell Collins has secured a one-year contract to begin developing new software analysis tools for verifying the safety of avionics systems on future commercial aircraft. NASA is looking to evaluate the safety of the increasing complexity of avionics systems, as airspace users prepare to equip their aircraft for NextGen requirements.

“Complex avionics systems can literally have billions of modes and states,” said John Borghese, vice president of the Rockwell Collins Advanced Technology Center. “By incorporating formal mathematical verification also known as Formal Methods we can detect and remove software bugs and security vulnerabilities early in the development process when it’s less costly to correct errors.”

➤ Canadian maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) provider Vector Aerospace is partnering with L-3 Vertex Aerospace on a FAA supplemental type certificate (STC) program involving a cockpit voice and flight data recorder (CVFDR) for the Eurocopter AS332 Super Puma. The STC allows Vector and L-3 Vertex, based at Whiting Field in Milton, Fla., to install the CVFDR in the AS332 series. The companies received the FAA approval in July and have already equipped four AS332Ls with recorders.

➤ The U.S. Air Force has selected L-3 Link to provide training for its Predator Mission Aircrew Training System (PMATS) program, through a recompete contract. Under the new contract, L-3 will provide training for Air Force MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper operators. Within the PMATS units, Predator and Reaper crews will gain mission qualification using L-3’s simulation system which features an actual ground control station and degraded video feeds.

Currently the Air Force has 26 PMATS devices throughout the United States, and the contract includes options for L-3 to build more than 50 additional PMATS devices.

➤ Englewood, Colo.-based Air Methods has purchased 150 Vision 1000 flight data monitoring (FDM) devices from Appareo Systems of Fargo, N.D. Vision 1000 comes with Appareo’s aircraft logging and event recording for training and safety, which is a FDM and flight operations quality assurance system that collects and analyzes flight information. The units are intended for Air Methods’ fleet of Eurocopter AS350s, EC130s and Bell 407s. Air Methods has spent more than $100 million on safety initiatives since 2006.

➤ Eurocopter has obtained an FAA supplemental type certificate to equip the EC130 T2 with Garmin’s G500H flight display system. Blue Hawaiian Helicopters is the launch operator for the program, with Eurocopter recently delivering a pair of T2s that will join the company’s fleet of EC130 B4s and AS350s. Blue Hawaiian, the first operator of the EC130 B4 back in 2001, has additional EC130 T2s on order. H-TAWS, synthetic vision and other situational awareness tools are available with the G500H suite.

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