Universal Avionics UniLink Certified on King Air

 - June 1, 2012, 5:20 AM
A flight over mountainous terrain near the Universal Avionics headquarters in Tucson, Ariz., shows off the company’s synthetic vision system on an EFI-890R display.

Universal Avionics has begun deliveries of its UniLink UL-800/UL-801 communications management unit, which provides airborne datalink capability that meets upcoming mandates in European and North Atlantic airspace. The UL800/801 received FAA TSO approval in April, and Universal’s Tucson, Ariz., manufacturing facility is already producing the units to meet market demand. The UniLink UL80X series also received supplemental type certification in the King Air series in early May. Now dealers can use Universal’s certification package data “to assist in their efforts to develop STCs on other aircraft platforms,” according to Universal Avionics.

The datalink capabilities of the UniLink system are needed for Future Air Navigation System (Fans) and controller pilot datalink communications (CPDLC). Fans provides an alternative to HF radio for position reporting, using a datalink system that automatically sends position reports to ATC over satcom, using the lower-cost Iridium network. Fans allows tightening of the North Atlantic Tracks separation standards so more aircraft can occupy that airspace. CPDLC allows pilots and controllers to communicate effectively via datalink and negotiate and approve changes such as step climbs or more efficient routing.

UniLink facilitates messaging between the FMS and the satcom. The UL-801 includes a VHF datalink radio and can thus select whether to communicate via satcom or VHF, whichever is available–depending on aircraft position–and is less expensive. UniLink also offers ADS-C (contract) automatic position reporting, downloading of high-resolution weather graphics, provisions for EuroControl’s Link 2000+ program and output for cockpit voice and flight data recorders (part of the Fans/CPDLC requirements).

Universal Avionics is working with Chicago Jet on the STC for a Fans/CPDLC retrofit in the Falcon 50, and Chicago Jet is installing a similar system in a Falcon 900. The Falcon 50 STC includes Universal’s UL-801 UniLink interfaced with the UNS-1Lw FMS and CVR-120 plus ICG’s ICS-220A Iridium satcom.

The European STC process for installation of the UniLink system in Universal’s Bombardier Challenger 601 (based in Switzerland) has been launched. Aircraft certified before Jan. 1, 2014, and with Fans approval won’t have to comply separately with EuroControl’s Link2000+ program, according to Universal.

For operators that install Fans/CPDLC systems, Universal Avionics has partnered with Air Training International (ATI) to teach customers how to use their new system safely and efficiently. “We viewed ATI’s flexibility to meet the training needs of our customers as a great resource,” said Dan Reida, Universal v-p of sales, marketing and support. “With longstanding experience in international procedures training, ATI’s experts are skilled in providing a tailored curriculum that will be of exceptional benefit to Fans operators.”

The newest Universal Avionics Waas/Sbas FMS software release will be available for installation in the fourth quarter. New features include FlexPerf performance calculations, according to Universal, “with improved accuracy to represent the planned three-dimensional flight profile from takeoff to landing.” FlexPerf takes advantage of the FMS’s processing power to analyze aircraft performance then adjusts performance calculations based on actual flight data. “This learns as it goes,” said Paul Damschen, manager of airworthiness and product management. “It projects real-time data and gives much more accurate fuel projections.” Airlines and fleet operators equipped with Universal Avionics FMSs can use FlexPerf to identify airplanes of similar types that are not performing efficiently. “You can see which aircraft are more efficient and which are problem children,” he said.

Universal Avionics was a pioneer in developing certified synthetic vision systems and builds its own worldwide terrain and obstacle databases. A unique feature on Universal Avionics displays is the 3-D synthetic vision display with exocentric view, as if the viewer is watching the airplane from outside the airplane, what Damschen said is the wingman perspective. The airplane in the exocentric view matches the attitude of the real airplane and includes a trend vector showing where the airplane is going. “It’s unique to our synthetic vision,” he said.

All Universal Avionics products are manufactured at the company’s Tucson, Ariz., headquarters, from populating circuit boards with chips to soldering components, assembling, testing and shipping. “Controlling board assembly allows us to be extremely quick to market,” said Steve Pagnucco, manager of airworthiness and product management. More than five million perfect solder joints per week are produced by the technicians and machines in the manufacturing facility, building a completed circuit board every three minutes and a complete system every 15 minutes, for 30 different product lines. Universal Avionics builds almost 100 percent of its products to order so it doesn’t have to stock inventory waiting to be sold.

Products are tested extensively in the company’s aircraft, including a King Air 90 and 350, Citation VII and the Challenger 601, which is flown all over the world. “That has led to a lot of important input,” Damschen said.

Installations for flight testing and certification programs are done at Universal’s Tucson hangar, which is also a repair station. The company also operates repair stations at the Tucson manufacturing facility and in Wichita.