Aviation Communication & Surveillance Systems (ACSS), a joint venture company of L-3 Communications and Thales, is riding a wave of interest in surveillance-type avionics products such as TCAS units and transponders. Key ACSS products that the company is highlighting at the L-3 booth (No. C8132) include The TCAS 3000SP (surveillance processor), which runs the latest TCAS change 7.1 software and the RCZ-852 transponder, which was just certified on Cessna’s Citation Mustang. ACSS also announced that Hawker Beechcraft selected TCAS 3000SP for the Hawker 4000.
Change 7.1 is expected to be required under a mandate by EASA, according to Jean-Michel Clairis-Gauthier, ACSS vice president of sales, marketing and business development, although an announcement about that mandate remains pending. When the mandate is finalized, Clairis-Gauthier expects that change 7.1 will need to be included in newly built aircraft operating in European airspace no later than March 2012 and December 2015 for retrofit installations. The mandate, he said, “should be coming any time.”
The 7.1 upgrade is a software change for the ACSS TCAS 2000 and 3000SP. “It is a significant safety enhancement,” he said. “We have developed the software and it is certified by the FAA and EASA. All ACSS products are compatible.” While the change 7.1 software is approved under an FAA TSO and EASA ETSO, it does need certifying on some aircraft platforms in which ACSS equipment is installed. “In some cases we have certification and a service bulletin,” he said, “and in some cases it is imminent.”
“Our message is that the update is available,” said ACSS spokesman Steve Henden, “so contact your service center or authorized dealer.”
The other key activity at ACSS is the upcoming ADS-B mandate, which hits in Europe earlier than the U.S. In Europe, the mandate for transponders equipped for ADS-B OUT functionality applies to new aircraft in 2015 and retrofits in 2017. The U.S. mandate is not until 2020. “This is a critical big change for our industry,” said Clairis-Gauthier. And once equipped, all these aircraft with ADS-B will enable some interesting new functionality, beyond the basics of the non-radar surveillance that is fundamental to ADS-B. “The initial driver is to simplify the ground infrastructure,” he explained, “to get rid of radar and the cost of maintaining huge radar systems. Once we have that operational, we can do a lot. The sky is the limit, [and capabilities such as] in-trail procedures, merging and spacing, and interval management will improve efficiency.”
Some advanced capabilities like ACSS’s SafeRoute won’t be able to run on TCAS 2000 units, so those would need to be upgrade.
The bottom line is that ADS-B is coming sooner rather than later, and pilots need to begin learning the technology. One way to do so is by visiting companies like ACSS while attending the NBAA show.