Connectivity, including onboard Wi-Fi, satellite connectivity solutions, in-flight mobile phone use and personal electronic device use, is ruled by geography, airport infrastructure, airline models and regulatory and economic frameworks, according to experts. We will take a look at the status of these drivers to learn where the industry is, how it drives growth in the market and what is next for connectivity within the aviation industry.
Dukane Seacom has been selected by Boeing to supply their DK-406-DT Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) to support the new Global Aeronautical Distress & Safety System (GADSS) regulations that go into effect in January 2023. The DK-406-DT is the latest in the AeroELTTM family of products designed and manufactured by Dukane Seacom in their Sarasota, FL. world headquarters.
Dukane Seacom’s AeroELTTM product family consist of integrated ELT solutions designed and tested to the current and future requirements for worldwide ELT operations. With focus on safety and high reliability, the AeroELTTM product family provides improvements in automatic triggering as well as meeting DO-227A compliance for containment of a lithium battery thermal runaway event. They utilize multi-axis MEMS technology to automatically detect impact, improving trigger reliability over traditional “G-Switch” triggers. A self-contained GNSS receiver further enhances the ability of search and rescue to quickly locate an aircraft in distress worldwide.
The newest addition to the product family, the DK-406-DT, is capable of being triggered in-flight to alert Search and Rescue of an emergency prior to an accident. Dukane Seacom’s ELT-DT provides highly configurable interfaces to ensure compatibility with a large range of aircraft types and avionics systems. A specialized battery and power management system allow the DK-406-DT to operate in temperatures down to -40°C, providing a complete Class 1 compliant ELT solution. The DK-406-DT combines the features of a Distress Tracking and Automatic Fixed (AF) ELT, allowing customers to meet requirements for their aircraft to contain a fixed ELT and GADSS compliance with a single transmitter that is fully-compliant with current and Second Generation Beacon (SGB) requirements.
“Dukane Seacom is delighted to have been chosen by Boeing for this important new safety system for their commercial aircraft.” said Anish Patel, president of Dukane Seacom. “Their selection supports the technical excellence that Dukane Seacom brings to aircraft safety systems and reinforces the capabilities of our ELT product family.”
Dukane Seacom designs and manufactures ELTs for the Air Transport and Business & Regional aircraft market. In addition to the DK-406-AF product line, Dukane Seacom has produced more than 5,000 private-labeled Automatic Fixed, Survival, and Portable ELTs with installations across the aviation market.
French long-haul airline Corsair is offering members of its loyalty program, Le Club Corsair, flying aboard the airline’s new Airbus A330neo fleet, a highly personalized internet connectivity package based on their tier of loyalty program and class of travel, with SITA’s Internet ONAIR. This allows passengers to access the internet and pay in one click.
By linking the passenger list to the Wi-Fi system onboard, passengers will only need to provide their last name and their seat number to access the internet. Once passengers have enrolled, they will be offered a customized price plan, giving them more choice. Payment, where required, can be made through multiple methods including major credit cards and Apple Pay.
SITA says this personalized service will enhance the overall passenger experience by making the selection of their connectivity plan faster and more efficient without having to follow multiple steps, encouraging more passengers to make use of the service.
A 2020 SITA Passenger IT Insights study showed that more than two-thirds of all passengers opt to use their own device onboard to stay connected or access entertainment. To deliver this experience, airlines require fast, uninterrupted connectivity across the journey. With SITA’s Internet ONAIR, passengers will experience the same uninterrupted connectivity at 30’000 feet as they do at home.
Pascal de Izaguirre, CEO of Corsair, said: “Today Wi-Fi is a core element of the overall passenger experience onboard our fleet of flagship Airbus A330neo aircraft. With most of our customers bringing their own devices onboard, they expect access to fast, uninterrupted connectivity. In the few weeks since we have put the new aircraft into service, we have already seen strong take up of the Wi-Fi offering provided by SITA.”
SITA’s Internet ONAIR will be available across all five of Corsair’s A330neos as they are introduced into the fleet over the coming months, with the second aircraft coming online this month.
“COVID-19 has accelerated a trend to passengers using their own devices onboard, enabling an increasingly touchless cabin,” Sébastien Fabre, CEO of SITA FOR AIRCRAFT, said. “With that comes a greater demand for reliable connectivity. We are therefore pleased to support Corsair in bringing this experience to their passengers for the first time.”
As most operators using CPDLC in the U.S. are now familiar with, the initial implementation of U.S. Domestic En Route CPDLC demonstrated that certain avionics versions and configurations had a lower than expected transmission success rate. These were primarily on Business and General Aviation aircraft. As a result, the FAA decided to temporarily exclude these aircraft types from participating in U.S. Domestic En Route CPDLC services until necessary validations and corrective actions are accomplished.
The FAA is working with L3Harris Technologies, Communications Service Providers (CSP) and the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to identify and resolve these avionics compatibility issues that are preventing the systems from attaining the desired performance. Business and General Aviation aircraft with avionics platforms shown to meet operational acceptability can participate in the CPDLC En Route trial.
Can I participate in the trial?
Only the Business and General Aviation aircraft types with avionics configurations shown in figure 1, are eligible to participate in the CPDLC En Route trials. Operators with aircraft on this list that desire to participate must sign up first. The current US Domestic En Route CPDLC Avionics Trial guide published on the L3Harris Data Comm site contains the table in figure 1 and instructions on how to fill out and submit the registration form.
Operators that plan to participate in the En Route trials must ensure that block 18 of the filed flight plan contains the proper codes showing En Route capability. Aircraft without route loading issues must file the DAT code (FANSE) to support a full UM80 loadable route when applicable. Aircraft that have known issues loading a route clearance with a STAR must file the DAT code (FANSER); for these aircraft, the assigned STAR will be appended as free text in the uplink message.
What if I am not eligible for the En Route trial?
Operators of aircraft types not listed or registered for the trial, must file as NOT eligible for En Route CPDLC by removing the block 18 DAT codes (FANSE or FANSER). The FAA has reported operators not registered for the trial are still attempting to log on to KUSA while airborne, or that the aircraft is filed as En Route CPDLC eligible. The FAA has recently re-emphasized the FDC NOTAM shown in figure 2.
Also, a last reminder: CPDLC DCL operations are independent of, and not impacted by the En Route trials and operators are encouraged to take advantage of it wherever it is available.
FLYHT Aerospace Solutions announced a multi-year contract with U.S. charter operator Waltzing Matilda Aviation for its new scheduled air carrier branded, Connect Airlines.
Under the terms of the five-year agreement, FLYHT will install AFIRS and Actionable Intelligence (“AI”) services on Connect Airlines’ entire fleet of DHC-8-Q400 turboprop aircraft. FLYHT’s Actionable Intelligence solution includes voice and text communications, engine and airframe exceedances, situational display as well as automatic movement messages in the initial installation. Future AI services are expected to include fuel management, turn and airport apron operations, integrated flight plan and emissions tracking, as well as features currently under development with other AI launch customers. The initial installs will commence within 45 days and will be part of the certification of the new airline brand. The contract is expected to generate revenue of approximately $1.0 million to FLYHT, provided that all services are delivered over the 5-year term of the agreement.
“We are excited to begin a new relationship with Waltzing Matilda for their new brand, Connect Airlines,” Bill Tempany, CEO of FLYHT, said. “As a provider of critical infrastructure for communications and operational insights for Connect Airlines, we are committed to providing the products and services needed to support their launch and subsequent business growth for years to come. It is also great to be part of the unfolding recovery of aviation in North America.”
David Marcontell, COO of Connect Airlines, said, “After an exhaustive review of alternatives, we chose FLYHT because it provided our flight crew and operations team the technology, data, and analytics to operate a highly efficient and reliable airline, right out of the box. We look forward to a long and mutually beneficial relationship with FLYHT as we connect our guests to family, friends and colleagues with the highest standards of air transportation service and reliability.”
Connect Airlines, a new airline commencing operations in October 2021, will offer convenient service ideal for the day-tripping US business traveler direct into Toronto’s downtown Billy Bishop airport.
FLYHT Aerospace Solutions announced that Ms. Nina Jonsson, a 30-year global airline industry veteran, has agreed to serve as chairman of the Board of FLYHT. Ms. Jonsson brought the airline customer’s perspective to the forefront when she joined FLYHT’s board of directors in 2019, and in her new role, will continue to help guide the Company as the industry recovers from the pandemic and refocuses on the future.
Ms. Jonsson has held leadership roles at major operators in the U.S. and Europe, including most recently at Air France-KLM, United Airlines, US Airways and global industrial aviation services provider Bristow Group. She is currently active as a consultant to the global airline industry’s C-suite as Senior Advisor with Plane View Partners, and serves on the board of directors at Icelandair and the advisory boards of Waltzing Matilda Aviation and Genesis Park Acquisition Corporation.
“I am very proud of the superbly capable, innovative, nimble and customer-focused team at FLYHT,” said Nina, “As a pioneer and independent provider in the live-streaming aircraft data space for the past two decades, FLYHT is uniquely positioned to help airline customers achieve cost-savings, greater operational efficiencies, and enhanced safety with its Actionable Intelligence solutions. As chairman, I’m looking forward to continuing to work with Bill and the entire FLYHT team to promote the Company’s services across the airline industry and to help it grow into the major player it deserves to be.”
Barry Eccleston, outgoing Chairman of FLYHT, stated, “I have known Nina for years and recruited her to the board because of her knowledge and passion for the industry she has been part of for three decades. As I stated at FLYHT’s recent AGM, I am confident that the Company is being left in good hands to capitalize on the recovery of the industry we all love.”
Bill Tempany, Interim CEO of FLYHT, stated, “Getting to know Nina over the last two years, I am confident that her leadership style, industry knowledge and contacts, and passion for the business, will help drive FLYHT in ways we have never experienced before. I am looking forward to working with Nina to take our Company to new heights and provide a rewarding place for our employees and shareholders. We have a new vigor in the business, and under Nina’s stewardship, will take advantage of turning our strong products into industry transforming solutions.”
Delta says it is not wavering in its commitment to innovation, even during the pandemic. The airline’s latest collaboration with Apple and AT&T brings forward a the goal improved connectivity. They say it will be “built upon technology and rooted in humanity.” Beginning late this summer, all Delta flight attendants will be equipped with the powerful and capable iPhone 12, paired with AT&T’s cutting-edge 5G network.
“Our flight attendants are the finest professionals taking to the skies day in and day out, so when we were looking for outstanding products that meet the Delta standard, Apple and AT&T were top of mind,” said Allison Ausband, S.V.P. – In-Flight Service. “This relationship is a step toward the future of a more connected and human onboard experience.”
Equipped with many enhancements, Delta says iPhone 12 with SkyPro will open the door to features that can transform the everyday job of Delta’s flight attendants, both on and off the aircraft. For example, the Apple-designed A14 Bionic — the fastest chip in a smartphone — can deliver a seamless augmented reality (AR) experience to empower flight attendants with in-the-moment information to assist with:
Training: With policies frequently shifting due to the pandemic, flight attendant training and information is more critical than ever. With AT&T 5G on the ground and iPhone 12 in-hand, flight attendants will have increasing access to immersive training including videos, photos and AR on the go, just about everywhere.
Catering: A paper-based process today, flight attendants will soon have up to the minute digital catering inventory and be able to quickly locate items without opening a single door, using the camera on iPhone 12 and augmented reality to visualize where items are stowed.
As accelerating vaccination rates drive renewed demand for travel and human connection, Delta is prepared to embrace our customers once again with an experience even better than the one they knew before the pandemic.
Delta Air Lines and Sabre announced a global distribution agreement that will evolve their long-standing partnership on May 3, 2021. The airline hopes it will drive change in the travel industry through commercial and technological innovation. The new, value-based, multi-year distribution agreement represents a model that creates value for the entire travel ecosystem, including travel agencies and travelers.
“Our vision is to shift the mindset of the entire ecosystem toward modern retailing, selling customers what they want, where they want it and how they want it across all channels,” said Delta’s Jeff Lobl, managing director – Global Distribution. “We are grateful to Sabre for their innovative and pioneering spirit in taking this journey with Delta and establishing a new and exciting path forward for third-party distribution.”
Aligning the interests of the global travel marketplace, the companies expect the innovative distribution agreement to transform the way travel partners do business – ensuring Sabre-connected travel buyers continue to have access to Delta’s content globally and enabling Delta to continue to extend its reach with Sabre’s valuable network of global travel buyers.
Delta says its “omni-channel, customer-centric approach invests across all channels to build experiences and capabilities to provide consumers with an elevated shopping experience in their preferred channel.” This new approach to retail will create value for all stakeholders in the ecosystem by enhancing traveler experiences and offering customer choice.
“Sabre is on a journey to create a new marketplace for personalized travel. Technology innovation combined with collaborative partnerships are key to realizing our vision,” said Wade Jones, chief product officer for Sabre Travel Solutions. “This new agreement is one example of that partnership philosophy, and our innovation to transform our storefront experience reinforces this by ensuring Delta and Sabre’s mutual customers can shop with confidence and see the value of the offerings available to them.”
The New Airline Storefront, developed by Sabre in collaboration with Delta, CWT and other thought-leading partners, is now fully available in Sabre Red 360 and provides digital “shelves” that better organize an airline’s offerings in a side-by-side display to enhance the traveler’s shopping experience – driving value for both sellers and buyers across the travel ecosystem.
“Sabre’s new airline storefront and rich content makes it easier to understand new airline product offerings and simplifies the purchasing decision. CWT is a strong supporter of a collaborative approach to address an improved user experience for our counselors; equating to a better trip planning experience for the traveler,” said Erik Magnuson, VP – Product Management, Mobility & Payments for CWT. “We see the storefront as another big step in providing the best value and personalization our customers demand.”
Rita Visser, director – Global Travel Sourcing & GPO for Oracle, added, “We are excited about this agreement and expect the underlying innovation to simplify the booking process and significantly improve the experience for our travelers.”
This continued focus on innovation demonstrates advancements in Delta’s strategy across all channels, building experiences and capabilities that provide consumers with an elevated shopping experience in their preferred channel of choice.
“Both our new GDS approach with Sabre and their transformative new storefront are two important steps forward in evolving the retail shopping experience for travelers while creating value for all stakeholders across the ecosystem,” said Lobl. “By focusing on value, travelers will benefit from greater choice and visibility to all product offerings while corporations will benefit from their travelers being more comfortable in their preferred booking channel and within their travel policies.”
Harbour Industries, a Marmon | Berkshire Hathaway company announced they have achieved qualification to MIL-DTL-25038/3 from the US Department of Defense, Defense Logistics Agency. With a continuous operating temperature rating up to 260 C, AeroPOWER Firezone M25038/3 wire and cable are high-temp solutions for harsh environments such as aircraft engines.
Harbour’s QPL includes gauge sizes 22 through 12, with color code options per the MIL-DTL-25038 slant sheet. These flight critical cables meet or exceed the industry standards for weight and space as well as remaining fire resistant for fifteen minutes at 2000 F.
“We are pleased to add this key Mil-Spec approval. Harbour Industries continues to be a trusted source for aerospace wire and cable. With this latest QPL we can now support critical firezone applications,” said Robert Canny, president.
Harwell, UK-based Helix Technologies, developer of antennas for GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite Systems), announced it has completed a significant investment round led by the UK Innovation and Science Seed Fund (UKI2S), managed by Midven, supported by Helix’s existing shareholders and incoming private investors. The funding round is geared at rapid growth as.
Helix commences manufacture of its precision GNSS antennas Following successful participation in Wayra’s Intelligent Mobility program and venture capital investor Seraphim’s Space Camp in 2020, Helix has generated strong industry and investor networks, and anticipates accelerated growth in 2021 and beyond.
Helix says the funding round will enable to strengthen its engineering team, build its IP portfolio and launch its first commercial antenna products in mid-2021. It will also provide the foundation from which Helix can raise further investment to start scale-up to mass production.
“We’re delighted to have the Midven team and the UKI2S fund onboard as an investor in Helix. We are now able to confidently demonstrate our technology to lead customers in defense, aerospace and automotive sectors, and anticipate moving forward into production of our super-accurate GNSS antennas,” said James Lewis, CEO of Helix.
“We believe this is an important strategic investment for the UK which will unlock safe, autonomous mobility,” Andy Muir, director at Midven, added. “Helix’s location at our partner Harwell Campus, home to the Harwell Space Cluster, is perfect to aid their growth.”
These are transformational times for the aerospace connections industry – the people who make connectors, interconnects, wiring, cables and everything else associated with integrating aircraft systems. Trends such as alternative propulsion systems, the never-ending pressure to build aircraft equipment that is smaller and lighter, and increasing data throughput demands for avionics and other onboard systems are confronting this industry with new and unique challenges.
The Alternative Propulsion Trend
The development of eVTOLs (electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing) helicopters and other electrically-powered aircraft is captivating the aerospace connections industry.
“Propulsion electrification within aviation is a really exciting trend,” said Jim Carothers, product manager with W. L. Gore & Associates, an aerospace wire and cable manufacturer whose products are being used in NASA’s Perseverance Rover on Mars. “But it’s not only propulsion that is going electric: Capabilities that are historically associated with hydraulics and mechanics are transitioning to electric sources. This is driving a need for a whole new wave of interconnects to be able to support those capabilities.”
“There’s obviously a big push to truly electric aircraft,” agreed Jeff Behlendorf, director of Product Management with Carlisle Interconnect Technologies (CarlisleIT), a manufacturer of high-performance cables (including fiber optics) and wire. “This includes cabling and products that can handle much higher voltages, which is a technical challenge at high altitudes and low pressures. We have to deal with corona effects and arc tracking in that environment that don’t necessarily occur on the ground.”
Corona effects and arc tracking are just two of the issues affecting electric aircraft that have to be dealt with. The safe management of high voltage connections between storage batteries and aircraft engines is another challenge to be tackled. So is the impact that these high voltage pathways may have on aircraft low voltage systems while aloft.
That’s not all. “We have to consider options such as using plated copper versus aluminum due to weight considerations,” said Robert Moore, global specialist and principal engineer with TE Connectivity, a designer/builder of connectivity and sensor products for harsh environments. “We also have to think about the insulation systems for these high voltage wires at the temperatures and altitudes planned for eVTOL flight.”
“As well, we have to make sure that we are using materials that meet the stringent requirements of smoke toxicity and flammability for the aerospace market,” Moore added. “We can’t use the same materials that one would find in an automobile or in a house, because something goes wrong in an aircraft, it has to be able to descend from altitude safely in response, and the passengers/crew have to be able to see where the exits are when it lands.”
“Really, the biggest challenge is dealing with high voltage,” concluded Michael Traskos. He is president and CEO of Lectromec, a company focussed on the assessment and certification of aircraft wiring systems. “This requirement is being driven by ‘Green initiatives’ aimed at reducing aircraft pollution by going electric. It is certainly the biggest trend affecting the aerospace connections industry today.”
Smaller, Lighter, Tougher
The restricted space within airframes, plus the fact that every extra ounce of equipment cuts payload capacity and uses more fuel, is why connections manufacturers have always been under pressure to cut the size and weight of their products. Meanwhile, the fact that aircraft environments encompass wide ranges of temperatures and air pressures means that connections equipment has to be rugged and durable as well.
“We’re always working on reducing ‘SWaP’, which stands for Size, Weight and Power,” said Matt McAlonis, an engineering fellow (Aerospace) with TE Connectivity. “After all, if you consider a ‘hot’ market like space, it costs about $10,000 per pound to launch something.”
Granted, the per pound cost is lower in atmospheric flight, but it is still enough to motivate companies like TE Connectivity to investigate new and better ways to reduce SWaP. This why the company is exploring ‘Generative Design’, where a proposed piece of connective equipment is ‘SWaP-optimized’ using 3D modelling software before manufacturing ever occurs.
“We call these scanned items ‘organic shapes’,” McAlonis said. “Sometimes those organic shapes have to be 3D-printed, because they’re so different than the traditional shapes produced using machines.”
There are other ways available to reduce SWaP. Consider the case of Compulink Cable Assemblies (a division of kSARIA), a build-to-print contract manufacturer specializing in cable assembly and harnesses for the military environment. According to Brian Mahoney, the company’s vice president Marketing, “we have seen an increase in our military customer base incorporating molded strain reliefs into their tactical applications. This is because molded strain reliefs can often reduce cost, size, and provide for better environmental sealing over traditional offerings.”
Overall, “the connections industry is moving towards higher density, smaller footprints offering space and weight savings,” Mahoney observed. “In addition, we are starting to see end users position towards custom-manufactured cables to better meet their next higher assembly application requirements and to reduce size, weight and to improve manufacturability.”
Balancing Swap and Safety
The quest to reduce SWaP is the connections industry’s Holy Grail. “If you can have a nice full light wiring system, then it’s a huge win,” said Traskos. “Yet at the same time, light wiring can run counter to what’s necessary to ensure a safe wiring system. For instance, high voltage electrical systems need to have thicker insulation to prevent any sort of degradation during those long-term full-power exposures – even though this adds weight.”
At W. L. Gore & Associates, the goal is to hit all these marks without compromise. “We can help those systems reduce SWaP by delivering interconnections that are very small and very flexible, in temperature and environmentally resistant packages,” Carothers said.
Nevertheless, the need to provide aircraft with redundant critical systems limits how much SWaP can be imposed on them – and vice versa. “With redundancy comes extra weight,” said McAlonis. “And if you try to supply triple redundancy in a critical system, you end up with a diminishing return: You may be safe, but now you’re too heavy to fly your mission. As a result, you have to be willing to take calculated risks in order to balance reduced SWaP with a degree of redundancy. That’s just the reality of the situation.”
The Trend for More Data Throughput
Today’s aircraft have become ‘flying data farms’ with substantial amounts of information flowing between their digitally-controlled components. Add the need to share this data with ground-based Flight Operations, and the demand for high data throughout is on the rise. This demand is only heightened when one factors in onboard broadband communications for crew and passengers alike.
Responding to the trend for more data throughput is a top priority for connections manufacturers. As a result, “you’ll see companies like CarlisleIT spending a lot of time on advanced connectivity solutions that are focussed on getting more data around and on-and-off the airplane,” said Behlendorf. “Supporting broadband communications with Flight Operations and on behalf of the crew/passengers requires higher speed backbones onboard that use 10-100 Gbps data lines.”
High data demands are common on the newest aircraft in service, but they are also turning up on older models as owners bring them up to modern standards. “These data-driven systems help pilots and their crews make better-informed decisions while in flight,” Carothers said. This is why connections that can support high data throughput are becoming a must for aircraft of all ages.
Copper and Fiber Optics
Traditionally, connections manufacturers have provisioned data carriage using copper wires. However, the large capacity demands of modern integrated aircraft are convincing many manufacturers to move to fiber optic cabling systems. Basically, they are applying ground-based fiber optic designs that support multi-gigabit IP networks to fulfill similar needs in the air.
“We are seeing a trend in both military and commercial aerospace where OEMs are migrating away from heavy copper cables used in data communication applications and replacing them with light weight fiber optic solutions,” said Paul Jortberg. He is executive vice president of Business Development at kSARIA, a designer/manufacturer/integrator of aerospace fiber optic and electrical interconnect solutions.
This migration is being driven by Next Gen radar technology and other bandwidth-intensive applications, Jortberg explained. “We are also seeing a shift to high density fiber optic connectors in aerospace applications and a shift to fiber optic flex circuits in a wide variety of backplane applications,” he said. “Fiber Optic Flex Circuits provide for high density routing of fiber optic channels on a flexible substrate for backplanes and systems that require high density optical interconnects.”
Jortberg’s distinction about fiber optics being used for bandwidth-intensive applications is noteworthy, because different aircraft have different levels of data throughput requirements. This is why there is still room for copper in some onboard environments, and why connections manufacturers are maintaining capabilities in both technologies.
At CarlisleIT, “whether we select copper or fiber depends on what the customer needs,” said Behlendorf. “Either way, we’re supporting them with very high-density interconnect solutions that allow people to push that data around the aircraft.”
The Connectors Companies Mentioned in This Article
Known as ‘CarlisleIT’, Carlisle Interconnect Technologies designs, builds, tests, certifies and delivers interconnect solutions for customers in the Aerospace, Military, Space, Test and Measurement, Industrial and Medical Technology markets.
According to the company, the following products are aimed at the aerospace connections market:
Tufflite Aluminum-TLA: This is an extremely light and flexible power feeder option that feature aluminum conductors, with weight reductions up to 60 percent compared to other options.
Octax 10 Gbps Ethernet Interconnect System: Available in multiple form factors, these connectors are designed for reliable performance and termination in extreme, rugged environments.
Gigabit-10HP: These Ethernet cables (in Bonded-Pairs and X-Web) ensure reliable 10 Gigabit performance up to 500 MHz at distances of up to 90 meters in the most extreme routing, applications, and environments.
LITEflight Fiber Optic Cable: These cables are specifically designed to provide maximum performance and durability in the demanding conditions found in aerospace, military, industrial, and other harsh environments.
Compulink Cable Assemblies is a build-to-print contract manufacturer that focuses on cable assembly and harnesses for military clients. The company’s connections product line includes coax, RF, MIL-C-38999 and custom molded cable assemblies for virtually any application.
Compulink has been providing cable and harness assemblies to the medical, transportation and military marketplaces since 1984. They are used in aerospace in-flight applications, plus military communications and computing, medical mannequins, and mine detection equipment.
kSARIA is a designer, manufacturer and installation services provider of mission critical fiber optic and electrical interconnect solutions for the defense and aerospace industries
kSARIA has recently introduced the OptiFLEX line of Fiber Optic Flex Circuits that provide high density routing of fiber optic channels on flexible substrates, for backplanes and systems that require high density optical interconnects. The company’s Fiber Optic Flex Circuits provide a manageable method of routing fiber from interface to interface.
Whether using individual Single mode or Multimode fibers, kSARIA’s computer-aided systems can manufacture the circuits in any routing matrix, size or shape. The company continues to enhance its product line by offering substrates with different materials, which are optimized for customers applications.
Lectromec is a laboratory and engineering firm that provides full life cycle support for wire system component testing and system engineering. The company works with aerospace companies, foreign and domestic militaries, and governments to address their electrical wiring interconnect system (EWIS) testing and risk assessment needs. Lectromec’s services include lab testing to assess component performance, EWIS certification support, and risk assessment of both new and aged platforms.
In line with the move to electric aircraft propulsion, Lectromec can now test aircraft connection systems and components with high-frequency high-voltage power, including measurements up to 5kV (kilovolts) and 4kHz to determine the long-term voltage endurance of EWIS components.
TE Connectivity provides electronic interconnect solutions for the commercial and military aerospace industry from the initial stages of aircraft design to aftermarket support. The company offers component design to customers as well as low cost, turn-key finished assemblies.
They employ sophisticated computer modelling of the magnetic, thermal, mechanical and electrical parameters of a design to ensure optimum performance.
Among the company’s aerospace connections products are the following:
Single Pair Ethernet (SPE) Cable: This is a Raychem Single Pair Ethernet (SPE) cable, which provides faster data rates in a smaller, lighter solution. The SPE cable is designed to be durable and versatile to operate in harsh environments applications such as commercial and military aerospace, defense, electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, and space.
MULTIGIG Connector: The MULTIGIG RT 3 is TE Connectivity’s fastest rugged backplane connector. It supports speeds of 32+Gb/s, making them among the fastest rugged backplane connectors for embedded computing or VPX systems currently on the market.
COPALUM Lite Sealed Terminals and Splices: TE Connectivity’s new COPALUM Lite sealed terminals and splices offers up to 60 percent in weight savings versus copper terminal alternatives.
Times Microwave Systems designs and manufactures high performance coaxial cables, connectors and cable assemblies for aerospace, military, telecommunications, industrial RF and microwave applications. Their products include high-performance flexible, semiflexible and rigid coaxial cable assemblies, connectors and delay lines for applications requiring phase stability, phase tracking and the lowest possible attenuation at microwave frequencies in the most hostile environments.
Some of Times’ more innovative products include Zero dB cable assemblies that exhibit no loss by utilization of a miniature amplifier built into the assembly, blind mate antenna systems, and silicon dioxide (SiO2) cable assemblies. Commercial wireless products for telecommunications applications include flexible 50 Ohm LMR® cables, connectors and assemblies as well as SilverLine® test cables and Times-Protect® RF surge and lightning protection products.
W. L. Gore & Associates is an aerospace wire and cable manufacturer. It uses proprietary technologies based on the polymer polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) to create products for aerospace cabling, medical implants; fabric laminates; and cable, filtration, sealant, membrane, venting and fiber technologies for a wide range of industries.
Everyone is Seeking Solutions
Addressing the trends listed above is Top Priority for connections manufacturers and their customers in aircraft production, maintenance/upgrades, and ownership/operations.
According to Carrie Obedzinski, Business Development manager at Times Microwave Systems, it is their customers who are demanding solutions to a range of connections-related issues. “They’re trying to drive costs out of their business,” she said. “They’re looking to improve production efficiencies. At the same time, they want to reduce their inventories while speeding up their operations. For instance, repair facilities often only have overnights to do equipment replacements, which is why they want connections solutions that are fast and efficient to install.”
At Times Microwave Systems, their big challenge is to produce connections solutions that specifically address customers’ needs. “This is why we have a team that’s dedicated to actually calling on these customers and trying to gather that information from the customers as to what they’re really looking for and defining those parameters,” Obedzinski said. “We listen to their input to determine how do we can make our products better and package them as complete solutions that can be assembled quickly in the field.”
Over at Carlisle Interconnect Technologies, the company is developing new connection architectures to carry the high voltages demanded by electric propulsion systems. This is no easy task: “The truth is a lot of these advanced constructions are new to us,” said Behlendorf. “So we are struggling with newer insulation technologies to provide electrical isolation for these high voltage products from other low voltage systems within the aircraft.” Arcing is a particular problem with carbon composite aircraft, which don’t provide the degree of electrical isolation that aluminum airframes do. Without proper isolation, high voltage lines can end up arcing with the carbon composite airframe.
As always, reducing SWaP remains paramount. “There’s a lot of push to carry the power without adding pounds to the plane,” he said. “That’s driving us to explore alternate materials and metals for the conductors themselves. As a result, a lot of multilayer-plated conductors are being incorporated into products today. We’re also looking at new jacketing materials to control the arcing and maintain isolation of those high voltage systems, again without adding a ton of pounds onto the plane.”
Fortunately, there is a way for the aerospace connections industry to gain insight into solving high voltage issues, namely by looking at how other industries have learned to move high voltage electricity in a safe and consistent fashion. “The electrical utility industry has been dealing with tens to hundreds of thousands of volts safely for an extended period of time,” said Traskos. “So there’s a lot that can be learned from them in this regard. We need to find out how they have solved these problems, using the kinds of materials that work best in an aircraft environment.”
An Ever-Changing Marketplace
The trends influencing aerospace connections manufacturers are keeping them in a state of constant change. There is no time to rest on their laurels: Aerospace customers need connections technology that works with electric propulsion; moves data easily; resists high voltage; and is smaller, lighter, and tougher than ever before.
Looking ahead, it seems likely that the pace of progress will only increase, as OEMs advance into new propulsion systems such as hydrogen, develop autonomous/self-flying aircraft, and continue to incorporate novel materials that are lighter and stronger than aluminum into their products.
That the aerospace connections industry will find creative ways to address these changes is unquestioned. It is the specific ways in which they will do this, that remain to be seen.