Hoping to duplicate the success of in-flight datalink weather services that have exploded in the U.S., Avidyne (Booth No. 563) is introducing an Iridium-based satellite data transceiver that will deliver weather graphics and text to pilots flying in Europe.
The MLX770 datalink unit receives weather graphics, Metars, TAFs, winds and temperatures aloft from aviation weather specialist WSI and delivers the data through the worldwide Iridium satellite network. In addition to providing weather data to aircraft flying over Western Europe, the two-way transceiver will also let pilots send and receive text messages after takeoff. The unit is compatible with Avidyne’s Entegra avionics system and EX500 multifunction display. List price is €7,995 ($12,392).
Weather graphics are sent to the airplane in an area within about 200 nm around the planned route of flight, with updates occurring about once every 15 minutes. Service pricing will vary from around €50 to €80 ($78 to $124) for 10 hours of flying per month, depending on how much data is transmitted, a spokesman said. Avidyne will also offer ground-based radar and lightning detection as “premium” services and plans to add satellite imagery soon. Initial deliveries of the transceiver will start in this year’s fourth quarter.
In the U.S., weather data service providers deliver text and graphics to aircraft using leftover bandwidth of the XM and Sirius satellite radio networks. The benefits of those services are that they are continuously updated for the entire U.S. and, consequently, have lower connection prices. XM’s lowest-tier offering, for example, costs $29 per month for unlimited access. Iridium charges are based on the amount of data that is sent, meaning the more weather information the pilot requests the more the service will cost. Text messages and e-mail sent using the transceiver will be billed separately.
Introduction of the MLX770 is part of a strategy by Avidyne to focus more on the European market, where around 600 Entegra-equipped Cirrus SR20s and SR22s operate. As part of this shift, the U.S. company announced it has opened an international customer support center and OEM sales office in Weissenhorn, Germany. Named Avidyne-Europe, the center will provide customer support services to European customers, distributors and service centers. Avidyne said former OEM salesman Bill Schillhammer will run the facility as director of international sales. The company also said it will continue its relationship with DAC International for aftermarket sales in Europe.