Aircraft Electronics Association Report: ADS-B and FDM among Top Issues for Operators

 - April 5, 2014, 5:15 AM
L to r: Brian Gordon, Barry LeBlanc, and Denis Schmidt of Sandia Aerospace; Gary Harpster of Duncan Aviation; Paula Derks, president of the Aircraft Electronics Association; and Kent McIntyre of Bevan-Rabell open the annual AEA event last month in Nashville.

At the 57th annual Aircraft Electronics Association (AEA) convention, held in Nashville, Tenn., from March 12 to 15, the AEA announced that 2013 worldwide general aviation avionics sales exceeded $2.4 billion, 6.9 percent higher than the comparable 2012 number. Of the $2.4 billion in sales generated last year, 54 percent were for forward-fit (new aircraft) and 46 percent for retrofit (aftermarket). “There are many signs for our market recovery,” said Paul Derks, AEA president.

During the show, the AEA announced that Michael Kus of Avionics 2000 was selected as 2014 Member of the Year, and Associate Member of the Year was awarded to PS Engineering. The AEA’s Educational Foundation granted individual scholarships valued at more than $125,000 to 22 people.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) made an appearance at this year’s AEA show, not in the form of hardware but in a panel session sponsored by RoboticSkies, a company formed to serve the maintenance needs of the growing drone market. Headed by Brad Hayden, former v-p of marketing at Aspen Avionics, RoboticSkies is fielding a service network for drone operators. Hayden is offering avionics shops the opportunity to sign up as members of the RoboticSkies service network, given that the technical skills for drones are similar to those required for avionics installation and repair. Hayden believes that upcoming FAA drone regulations will include aviation-quality maintenance standards.

“Drones are here to stay,” he said. “They’re too useful to go away. And they can do more than mere commerce; they can help save lives. Drones need the aviation industry, and the aviation industry will show the drone industry how to grow in a regulated environment. The UAV industry would be foolish not to use our services.”

The Jan. 1, 2020 mandate for installation of ADS-B out equipment in U.S.-registered aircraft generated a significant amount of discussion at the show. FAA officials pointed out that of the estimated 157,000 aircraft that need the upgrade, fewer than 3,500 have had the work done as of March 11. Given the time left before the deadline, about 40 aircraft per day need to be upgraded, and the average recently has been about 13 per day. The FAA is trying to make ADS-B installations as easy as possible and pointed out that once a system is either part of a new type-certified aircraft or installed under an amended or supplemental type certificate, then subsequent installations can be done using a field approval.

During ADS-B sessions at the AEA show, FAA officials revealed there have been problems with some installations, as measured by the FAA’s ADS-B Compliance Monitor system. About 754 of the aircraft 2,034 aircraft equipped for 1090ES ADS-B out (for flights above FL180) and 94 of the 1,106 aircraft equipped for 978UAT are sending inaccurate ADS-B out position, velocity and time information to the ADS-B ground infrastructure.

The FAA recommends that after installation, avionics shops flight-test the aircraft then send an email to the FAA’s compliance monitor team to check whether the system is broadcasting properly. If an aircraft is found by the compliance monitors to be out of spec, the team will contact the owner. “We want you to do it right,” said the FAA’s Alex Rodriguez.

The FAA also reported that the continental U.S. ground station network, built under contract by Exelis, is nearly complete, with 614 of the 642 ground stations now operational and nearly filling the gap in the central U.S. Full coverage for Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and Guam will follow. The Air Traffic Organization is adding to its ability to see ADS-B-equipped aircraft: all service delivery points in the system will be completed by year-end, and so far 13 of 24 en route, 53 of 159 terminal and 30 of 44 surface service delivery points are done. There will be three oceanic platforms as well, but these haven’t been deployed yet.

While owners and operators may be waiting to install ADS-B because of the cost or uncertainty about benefits, the FAA has no plans to extend the Jan. 1, 2020 deadline. ADS-B out equipment consists of an approved position source, basically Waas GPS quality, and a broadcasting unit, which is a special transponder. While some countries that have existing ADS-B mandates are allowing systems that comply with DO260A standards (for 1090ES), the U.S. standard is the more stringent DO260B.

Installation of ADS-B out does offer benefits already, because the FAA will allow such aircraft to fly overwater routes over the Gulf of Mexico, and with an expected FAA ATC Eram equipment upgrade at the New York Center, overwater routes will be available soon off the U.S. East Coast. Benefits are also available over Canada’s Hudson Bay area, and in many Asian countries ADS-B is now required in certain areas. “If you operate worldwide, it would behoove you to equip as soon as you can work it in,” said the FAA’s Doug Arbuckle.

ADS-B Bizjet Upgrades

Owners of Bombardier CL-600 series jets will have an option for upgrading their jets, including older ones, to the latest NextGen technology, including Future Air Navigation System (Fans 1/A) controller-pilot datalink communications (CPDLC) and Link 2000+, under a new STC that Comlux America is pursuing. The STC, which will include ADS-B out compliance, will involve adding avionics from Universal Avionics and International Communications Group (ICG) and an L-3 Aviation Recorders cockpit voice recorder.

The 600 through 601-3R Challengers will need to upgrade both FMS units to the Waas LPV Universal Avionics FMS (w series). Also part of the STC is Universal’s UniLink UL-801 communications management unit, which handles datalink messaging over land via VHF and also can deliver textual weather to the cockpit. For over-ocean messaging, the ICG Nextlink ICS120 or 220A Iridium satcom is approved for Fans-over-Iridium communications. And the new L-3 CVR is required because all Fans 1/A CPDLC messaging must be recorded.

Comlux has submitted the STC paperwork to the FAA and is hoping to be able to announce approval this fall, Brooks said. About 400 CL-600-series Challengers will need this modification to keep flying. “Pricing will be attractive,” he added, although Comlux hasn’t provided a specific price breakdown.

Chicago Jet has STC’d Fans 1/A CPDLC on the Falcon 50 and should receive STCs for the Falcon 900 and Gulfstream IV through GV shortly. The company is also developing similar STCs for the Gulfstream G100, GII and GIII and Challenger 600 through 604 series. The Chicago Jet STC also uses the Universal Avionics FMS and UniLink, plus ICG’s Iridium satcom.

“Time is getting shorter,” said Mike Mitera, Chicago Jet director of operations. “There’s so much business in the next six years, it’s going to be good for the industry and good for the economy.” Mitera knows that his company can’t handle all the ADS-B installations that need to be done, and the plan is for Chicago Jet to sell its STCs for a reasonable price to other installers so they don’t have to redo the entire certification process. Chicago Jet sister company Kobev International conducts ADS-B testing and offers flight crew training after installations, and Kobev also works with other companies such as Comlux.

To help meet the demand for ADS-B upgrades, JetTech has received an STC amendment that adds ADS-B capability to Cessna 500-series Citations. The amended STC covers Citation 500s modified by JetTech with Garmin GTN 650 and 750 touchscreen com and navigation systems.

A new benefit of the amended STC is that JetTech can install the GTN 650/750 in Citation 500s Serial Number 1 through 274 that are fitted with Bendix FGS-70 autopilots. Now the JetTech STC covers more than 2,000 Citations, according to the company, and the model numbers include the 500, 501, 550, 551, S550 and 560.

The ADS-B portion of the STC uses Garmin’s GDL 88, a dual-link transceiver that provides ADS-B out on the 1090ES frequency and ADS-B in services such as free datalink weather and traffic information on the 978UAT frequency. Also installed for the ADS-B upgrade is Garmin’s GTX 33ES transponder. The STC adds Garmin’s new GWX 70 radar, GDL 69A Sirius XM WX receiver, GAD 42 remote adapter and GMA 35 audio panels, and antennas. JetTech can add its STC for installation of Garmin G600 glass panels as well.

JetTech has also developed an STC for installation of the GTN 650/750 in CitationJets with serial numbers 0001-0359, and FAA approval is pending.

In partnership with Ultra Electronics Flightline Systems, JetTech announced a digital engine display upgrade for the 500-series Citations. The new system will replace the analog vertical tape gauges in the Citations but plug into existing connectors and use the same mounting fasteners. The display will meet Level B software certification standards and feature field upgradeability, monitoring and recording of all engine parameters, fuel computer functions and reversionary mode, according to JetTech.

FreeFlight Systems announced that it has received FAA STC approval for a DO260B ADS-B out solution for the Sikorsky S-76A/B/C. FreeFlight worked with Peregrine Avionics and DAC International to develop the STC. The ADS-B out solution is a 1090ES system, with a FreeFlight Systems 1201 Waas/GPS and a Trig Avionics TT22 ADS-B rule-compliant mode-S transponder.

FreeFlight’s 1203C Waas GPS integrated with the Rockwell Collins TDR-94/94D transponder received EASA ADS-B out certification in a Falcon 20. The installation was done by Business and Commuter Aircraft of Bron, France.

In Australia, Quality Avionics received CASA ADS-B certification for ADS-B out in a Garmin G1000-equipped Cessna Caravan, using FreeFlight equipment.

Low-cost Satcom

Honeywell BendixKing’s new AeroWave 100 satcom system offers 3G-like data speeds in a system designed for installation in light aircraft, from piston twins to turboprops and light jets. AeroWave is an Inmarsat L-band satcom that offers speeds of 150 to 200 kbps, and its price of $20,000 is about a third of the cost of Honeywell’s Aspire SwiftBroadband satcom (about 400 kbps).

AeroWave is designed to bring satellite communications into the aircraft at a lower cost, so pilots can download weather information to iPads or use the system for texting and emailing and communicating with operations. Passengers will also be able to use AeroWave for most Internet functions except streaming video. Voice-over-IP phone calls can also be made on AeroWave.

A low-gain antenna is key to AeroWave’s low cost and also its limited bandwidth. Larger antennas would be far more expensive and require a larger aircraft. The system is targeting usage primarily over land areas in North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific; larger antennas would be required for over-ocean capability.

BendixKing will offer a monthly airtime subscription for AeroWave purchasers, which will include a specific number of usage hours, and there will be no separate data charges. Additional hours will be billed separately. Pricing wasn’t released at the AEA show, but should be in the hundreds of dollars per month, according to Roger Dykmann, BendixKing director of product management.

The only installation constraint is the need for an engineering sign-off for adding the antenna to a pressurized fuselage. No STC is required to install AeroWave, Dykmann said, because the system is not a major alteration. While AeroWave began shipping around the end of last month, early versions will include a separate integrated high-power/low-noise amplifier diplexer. Later versions will have the amplifier diplexer built into the low-gain antenna, so only the antenna, the 8.8-pound AeroWave transceiver and a small external software configuration module need to be installed in the aircraft. Buyers will also want to purchase a portable router, which plugs into the AeroWave via standard Ethernet cable. A router with built-in Wi-Fi will allow users to connect wirelessly to AeroWave with portable devices.

Supporting Fans/CPDLC

Universal Avionics announced the latest version of the Software Control Number–SCN 31.0–for its UniLink UL-800/801 Communications Management Unit. The UL-800/801 is widely used in upgrades to business jets that fly across the North Atlantic and need to meet Fans 1/A and CPDLC and European Link 2000+ program mandates. These mandates basically amount to airborne text messaging between air traffic controllers and pilots. “That is texting and flying,” said Universal Avionics senior sales manager Robert Randall.

SCN 31.0 supports specific datalink functions that are key to Link 2000+ compliance. “Since Fans 1/A messaging cannot be accommodated in Link 2000+ airspace, SCN 31.0 also features Fans/ATN CPDLC message harmonization,” according to Universal Avionics. “This addresses industry requirements for operational consistency and human factors for all Fans CPDLC and ATN CPDLC messages for operators flying in both continental Europe and oceanic airspace.”

Aircell’s new ST 3400 is targeting the growing Fans/CPDLC market with a single Iridium box that combines voice, narrowband data and cockpit datalink services. The ST 3400 offers up to three voice/narrowband data channels and one dedicated Iridium data channel, according to Aircell. Other features include integrated 802.11b/g/n wireless access point; PBX functionality; compatibility with Aircell’s Gogo OnePhone cabin handset; and the ability to be paired with the Gogo Biz air-to-ground broadband system and Aircell’s Inmarsat SwiftBroadband satcom. The ST 3400 will be available in June, and Aircell plans to announce pricing and availability of Fans capabilities “at a later date.”

Flight Data Monitoring

Kelowna, B.C.-based SkyTrac Systems introduced a new flight data monitoring (FDM) section to SkyWeb to streamline flight monitoring with the use of new graphical charts, reports and replays, not only to simplify data monitoring but also to provide more flight parameters.

SkyWeb’s new FDM allows users to upload flight data downloaded directly from SkyTrac’s ISAT-200A units, which log data internally at a much higher rate than normally transmitted over the air. This allows high-fidelity flight data to be graphed and analyzed, including standard GPS position data, pitch/roll/yaw and data from connected devices (via Arinc 429/717, analog and discrete inputs). SkyWeb users will also be able to view 3-D flight playbacks in Google Earth.

“The emerging FDM market is growing quite rapidly. Our aim is to ensure that our customers are able to keep up while simplifying the process as best we can,” commented SkyTrac president Malachi Nordine. “This new FDM section provides great visuals and charts for quick and easy data interpretation as well as additional tools for enhanced monitoring capabilities.”

DAC International, an avionics sales and distribution company owned by Greenwich AeroGroup, has joined SkyTrac as a regional distributor to expand SkyTrac’s reach throughout Latin America, Oceania and Asia. DAC will distribute SkyTrac’s ISAT-200A transceiver, along with specialized fleet management support services, flight tracking and flight operational quality assurance (FOQA) and FDM services.