One of the newest names in aerospace is also one of the biggest, but even before Tyco Electronics became TE Connectivity this past March, few in the industry would have guessed that the company provides more aircraft part numbers to the OEMs than any other company in the world. Now, in the age of the “more electric” aircraft, TE Connectivity might also claim the mantle as one of the most technologically dynamic, if not by design, by necessity.
No longer simply a supplier of electronic parts, TE Connectivity has become what the company’s aerospace business development manager, Russ Graves, called a provider of integrated “solutions.” For example, the company offers more “smart” electronics, in which it embeds “intelligence” into the electrical components to aid functionality. Such multi-function capacity means components not only conduct electricity, they also monitor currents, for instance, explained Graves.
Here at the Paris Air Show, TE Connectivity’s Harrisburg, Pennsylvania-based aerospace, defense and marine group represents the company’s interests in “backbone” wiring and electrical interconnect for both power and signal distribution in aircraft. The major supplier of such systems to aircraft OEMs such as Boeing and Airbus as well as sub-tier suppliers such as Honeywell and Rockwell Collins, TE builds the primary means by which virtually all of an aircraft’s electronic components integrate and work in harmony.
“Basically we’re playing to the technical trends that the whole industry is evolving to,” said Graves. “So, [I’m referring to] better use of power consumption on the aircraft, more reliable power. As fuel costs increase, everybody’s looking for weight and size reduction. As they put more electronics on and as they’re putting more sophisticated systems in every area–like sensors or monitoring what’s going on in the aircraft and IFE systems–they’re looking at higher speeds and more bandwidth in terms of the electronics. All that has to happen with improved reliability because aircraft are staying in flight longer that they were designed to do years ago.”
The imperative for more effective power management is further driven by the fact while aircraft may have been designed for a 20-year life, they are increasingly being required to put in 30 years of service.
Such trends and the 1996 crash of TWA Flight 800 have led to more oversight of electrical “interconnects” by aviation authorities, explained Graves, leading to an entirely new certification regime dedicated to an aircraft’s EWIS (electrical wire interconnection system). In effect since late 2007, the new EWIS requirements means OEMs must certify their electrical interconnect system the same way they would an avionics system, for example. TE Connectivity specializes in the supply and integration of the vast range of components that comprise an EWIS–from connectors, to wires, to terminations, said Graves. “We’re actually the company that is probably best positioned to address the EWIS requirements,” he stressed. Although the new regulations don’t apply to the Boeing 787 because the manufacturer applied for the type certificate before the effective date, they do apply to the Airbus A350 and Bombardier C Series.
EWIS aftermarket repair products on display here in Paris accompany a range of what Graves called solution sets that address technology trends such as advanced power management systems, lightning strike protection for aircraft with composite skins, high-speed electrical interconnects and fiber-optics.
“We’ve got a couple of demonstrations on fiber-optics; one would be fiber-optic and electrical conversions,” said Graves. “And then we’re also going to be doing inside-the-box applications. So for the avionics manufacturers, if they are now processing a lot of information, they’re going to higher and higher speeds. We’ve been working with various industry committees and have created some solutions around very high-speed ‘backplane’ solutions that we’re also demonstrating.”