[Avionics Today 01-13-2014] Late last month Rockwell Collins announced the completed integration of the international trip planning company ARINC Incorporated into its Information Management Services (IMS) business unit. This marks the completion of the largest acquisition in Rockwell Collins history. The $1.4 billion decision to purchase ARINC from the Carlyle Group came in 2013 in face of growing opportunities in the cockpit connectivity market.
“ARINC and Rockwell Collins each have a long and storied history in their respective fields, developing technologies and serving customers in their own unique ways. Both brands are highly regarded, and the services they provide are valuable and desired by customers worldwide,” explained aviation consultant Rolland Vincent of Rolland Vincent Associates, who sees the acquisition as a brilliant move by Rockwell Collins to attract more customers to the flight planning services their company provides. "Business aviation is a nascent industry that is only now beginning to globalize. Rockwell Collins has made a bold move and bet on the future of the industry, and we think a good one,” he added.
The company has been working to absorb and effectively rebrand the unit to deliver flight planning, data and message management, and dispatch services as well as other connectivity services to business operators.
The IMS division of Rockwell Collins, however, didn’t begin with ARINC, according to Adam Evanschwartz, director of business aviation marketing at Rockwell Collins. “You’ve seen with our acquisition of ARINC and ARINCDirect a broad set of moves in the last couple of years and we’ve had other introductions and announcements going back to 2010 when we made our first acquisition in the information management landscape,” he told Avionics Magazine. “We are looking at all kinds of technologies to position ourselves to satisfy what we see as robust and sustainably growing demand for information-enabled aircraft systems and information management solutions; the apps and services that work with those airplane systems.”
Prior to ARINC and ARINCDirect, Rockwell Collins purchased Air Routing, an international trip support service in 2010. One year later, in 2011, the company also acquired Computing Technologies for Aviation for its powerful flight operations management software, Flight Operations Services (FOS). Those companies and the capabilities they brought to the Rockwell Collins portfolio were previously branded under the name Ascend. Now, with the full integration of ARINC, all IMS services have been moved under the ARINCDirect tag, a change revealed last October at the 2014 National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) trade show.
Armed with the previously branded Ascend services under one common platform, the company is looking to deliver the software tools and services that business operators use to manage their flight operations in a single user interface. This aims to simplify the customer experience, but also looks to streamline data and awareness for everyone in the air transport community.
“More importantly than going to one place is all of these tools talk to each other. This means that, for example, in a corporate flight department when a passenger on a business flight makes a new request for a trip in-flight, the dispatcher can see that request and use these tools together to get a preliminary flight plan as well as provide estimated times for that trip back to the passenger while taking into account wind and weather information alongside the specifics of the airplane’s performance,” Evanschwartz explained. All of these capabilities were previously only available through separate tools. “For all of the stakeholders in the flight department, it makes their information simpler to get and more precise,” he added.
This streamlined approach to software, platforms and offerings under the ARINCDirect trademark isn’t the ultimate conclusion for the IMS segment, however. Instead, it’s just the beginning of a larger market move toward what Evanschwartz calls a synchronization of services. This means allowing all stakeholders in the air transport market to access the same view of information, from crews to pilots to dispatchers and maintenance techs. With all involved able to access the same information on the same platform, they’re likely to make faster, more efficient and more informed decisions.
“The next big frontier where I think you’ll see a lot of the industry, including ourselves, really pushing ahead is taking that set of ground-based tools and services and synchronizing the information in there with the airplane as appropriate,” said Evanschwartz.
To this end, Rockwell Collins also introduced at NBAA a technology demonstration surrounding a connection between the ARINCDirect iPad app and the company’s integrated avionics flight deck, the Pro Line Fusion. This connection allows the flight plans to be seamlessly transferred to the flight deck. “That saves a lot of pilot workload because previously they would build the flight plan using the ARINCDirect ground-based tools and then go into the airplane to execute the flight and then retype the whole thing into the avionics,” explained Evanschwartz.
This streamlining approach of companies, offerings and information are all part of a larger plan at Rockwell Collins to position itself at the center of the connected aircraft revolution. And, according to Evanschwartz, with the acquisition complete, those systems will be debuting under the ARINCDirect brand sooner rather than later, in some cases within the next year.
“The technologies, talent, and strategies of the two organizations should provide a fascinating spectrum of business opportunities and innovations that will delight customers,” said Vincent. “We expect to see good things from this acquisition, and strong performance from Rockwell Collins.”