Embedded Avionics

United to Evaluate SwiftBroadband on Boeing 767s

Captain is starting increasing thrust to take off. Departure is during sunset. Photo: Cobham Satcom.

Captain starts increasing thrust to take off. Departure is during sunset. Photo: Cobham Satcom.

United Airlines is ready to start evaluating the use of SwiftBroadband Safety (SB-S) on four of its Boeing 767s. The Chicago-based carrier is looking to evaluate the use of SB-S on its aircraft flying North Atlantic transoceanic routes.

SB-S is Inmarsat's next generation Internet Protocol (IP)-based safety communications system, developed specifically for aircraft cockpit data and voice communications. In recent years, Inmarsat has added new distribution partners, achieved line fit selection across Airbus A320 and A330 cockpits, and has integrated the service into Hawaiian Airlines aircraft.

In a September 2016 white paper, Inmarsat released future roadmap and performance details about SB-S, noting that the service uses spot beam technology within its I4 satellite network to “dynamically allocate resources to the areas where it is most needed.” It is capable of enabling cockpit data communications speeds of up to 432 kbps, and is designed to support data volumes on modern aircraft, such as the Airbus A350 which produces up to 4 gb of data per flying hour, and the Boeing 787, which is capable of producing up to 500 gb of data per flight.

The onboard piece that enables the use of SB-S for cockpit communications is Cobham Satcom’s Aviator 300D satellite communications system. The Aviator 300D is a a class 7 SBB terminal with the addition of an ACARS gateway, and the software installed on the Aviator 300 system has been configured to convert the ACARS messages to IP data and vice versa. It is a similar gateway for ACARS service, complete end to end ACARS over IP link, with a ground gateway as well.

Cobham first earned a supplemental type certificate (STC) for the Aviator 300D on Boeing 767s in 2015. United is the latest carrier to announce that it will launch an evaluation of the Aviator 300D, after Shenzhen Airlines launched an evaluation of the technology on its Airbus A320 aircraft in April.

According to Cobham, United will install the Aviator 300D on its Boeing 767s later this year, under the Aviator 300D STC developed by L2 Aviation.

“United is excited about installing and using this powerful new communications capability as we expect to see it enhancing our operational efficiency, especially in places like the North Atlantic,” said Chuck Stewart, chief technical pilot for United Airlines.

Receive the latest avionics news right to your inbox