Ontic Signs License with Curtiss-Wright for Data Recording, Data Acquisition and Test Equipment

Ontic has signed a new exclusive license agreement with Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions, the 10th product line partnership, in a long history of partnership between our organizations. This most recent license consists of the PCard and Optical Quick Access Recorders (O/PQAR), Computer Controlled Air Data Test Set (CCADTS-2), and the Digitas and TP91 Air Data Sensor products.

These Curtiss-Wright Penny & Giles branded products are currently manufactured and repaired at Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions’ Christchurch, UK facility.  The product lines will be transitioned into Ontic’s Cheltenham, UK facility in 2022.

“Ontic is pleased to continue our Extended Life Solutions to Curtiss-Wright with the addition of these products,” Gareth Blackbird, chief commercial officer of Ontic, said. “This is our tenth agreement with Curtiss-Wright in a partnership that began in 2004. Ontic’s sole focus is on strategic OEM partners like Curtiss-Wright, providing valuable solutions for the continued support of their mature, legacy, or non-core products and providing lifetime support to the customers”

Ontic’s focus is supported by manufacturing and MRO facilities in Chatsworth, California; Creedmoor, North Carolina; Plainview, New York; Cheltenham, Staverton and Bolton in the United Kingdom and in Singapore.

Ontic possess over 45 years of aerospace product manufacturing and aftermarket support experience.  Ontic provides FAA, CAAS, CAAC, TCCA, DCA, EASA Part 21 and 145 OEM support, including new and serviceable spares and repairs for over 6,500 maturing and legacy aircraft parts. Its portfolio of products, licensed or acquired from major OEMs, such as Honeywell, UTC Aerospace, Safran, Thales and GE Aviation, span all major aircraft systems in both civil and military markets. For more information, please visit www.ontic.com.

SITA Appoints David Lavorel as its New CEO

The SITA Board has announced the appointment of David Lavorel as the company’s new CEO.

David Lavorel

During the past 20 years at SITA, Lavorel has served in a range of senior roles, most recently as CEO of SITA AT AIRPORTS AND BORDERS. He also served as CEO of SITA FOR AIRCRAFT, where he pursued a strategy to extract the full potential of the connected aircraft for SITA’s airline customers. As senior VP Corporate Development and Head of the CEO office, Lavorel’s responsibilities included executing the company’s growth and development plans.

“The air transport industry has been through an incredibly turbulent period. As we look to recovery, digitalization of the industry is a key focus,” Dr. Omar Jefri, SITA Board Chair, said. “David’s experience and knowledge of both the industry and SITA will be instrumental in cementing SITA’s position as a trusted partner, working with our shareholders to shape the future direction of the organization.”  

Adib Charif, SITA Council President, added: “David brings a deep conviction and commitment to delivering SITA’s vision as a vital industry partner. The SITA Council looks forward to working closely with him.”

Lavorel replaces former CEO Barbara Dalibard who has left SITA after five years at the helm.

ACR Electronics Secures Key Contracts

ACR Electronics has secured key contracts with two of the three largest commercial aircraft manufacturers to supply its new distress tracking ARTEX ELT 5000 (DT) with crash survivability.

The supply agreements with the world’s industry leaders establishes the next generation Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) as the preferred solution to support production aircraft in compliance with the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) 2023 Global Aeronautical Distress and Safety System (GADSS) initiative.

The ARTEX ELT 5000 (DT) is offered to the market in combination with SKYTRAC’s Autonomous Distress Tracking (ADT) system as a complete GADSS solution.

“The two contracts secured by ACR Electronics to supply the ARTEX ELT 5000 (DT) to the world’s major aircraft manufacturers are a powerful endorsement for our multi-faceted distress tracking ELT program,” John Nguyen, president of ACR Electronics, said. I”t demonstrates the high confidence in the industry that the development of the next generation ELT 5000 (DT) will future proof aircraft with a state-of-the-art emergency distress signaling and tracking solution. The ability to create a compliant system by combining the ELT-DT and ADT technology of sister brands ARTEX and SKYTRAC means the ACR Group is the only company with a full end-to-end GADSS solution for airframe manufacturers and airline operators.”

Triggered by a potential distress condition from independent aircraft monitoring, the 406 MHz ARTEX ELT 5000 (DT) intelligently activates and will automatically begin transmitting 406 MHz distress messages with the current location in real time while the aircraft is in-flight. The distress tracking provides the precise location of the aircraft to assist the relevant monitoring bodies in order to respond to the alert quickly and effectively using the COSPAS-SARSAT satellite network. Pilots can also trigger the ELT manually from inside the cockpit if necessary. 

The SKYTRAC ADT 5000 solution interfaces with the ARTEX ELT 5000 (DT) to initiate a Distress Tracking transmission relaying high-resolution 4D positions of the aircraft in real-time. 

The new International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) GADSS initiative recommendations are being adopted into regulations by various regulatory bodies, such as EASA. Aircraft manufacturers are required to solve three of the key GADSS Concept of Operations (CONOPs) objectives, including addressing late notification of Search and Rescue (SAR) services when aircraft are in distress, identifying the location of an end of flight aircraft position, ensuring efficient and effective SAR operations, and assisting with Timely Recovery of Flight Data (TRFD) by providing an accurate report of the aircraft’s final position.

The Next Generation Non-Lithium Survival Emergency Locator Transmitter is Launched by ARTEX

ARTEX has launched their latest Non-Lithium Survival (S) Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT).

The ARTEX ELT 4000S, often referred to as a Portable ELT by airlines and commercial aircraft OEMs, is the first survival beacon to offer a cost-effective, lithium-free solution for commercial airliners and transport aircraft across the world.

Introducing next-generation ELT transmitter technology to the market, the 4000S is exempt from FAA Non-Rechargeable Lithium Battery special conditions, offering cost savings to OEMs and operators due to reduced hazmat shipping and a low acquisition and maintenance cost. The on-wing five-year user replaceable alkaline battery system represents further ownership cost savings, ARTEX says.

The buoyant beacon, designed for installation in the main cabin of a commercial aircraft, transmits on 121.5 and 406 MHz and has an integrated GPS (Galileo GNSS) receiver which will acquire aircraft position data. It is water-activated but can also be activated using a manual activation switch. On activation, the ELT’s 406 MHz signal is transmitted to the global Cospas-Sarsat satellite network and routed to the nearest Search and Rescue agency. GPS data embedded within the digital transmission reduces the search radius to 100 meters.

The ELT 4000S has a TSO-approved mounting bracket offering lightweight and multi-axis release for location flexibility for left or right-hand installations. The beacon is compatible with existing ARTEX handheld Ground Service Equipment (GSE) programmers.

A 15-foot lanyard is stowed in the top housing for attachment to a life raft and a foldable antenna suitable for one-handed deployment is secured in a dedicated mounting system. The beacon also has an easy-to-read test system, utilizing green and red LED indicators to indicate a successful self-test or when service is required.

“Harnessing 30 years of ARTEX automatic fixed ELT expertise and based on our proven ELT 4000 system, the development of the ELT 4000S highlights ARTEX’s commitment to respond to the requirements of our customers with innovative solutions,” Marc Medeiros, vice president of ARTEX, said. “The installation of ELT 4000 on many different aircraft has already proved the robustness of a 406 MHz alkaline-powered beacon in the harsh environment of an in-service aircraft. Now, there is a growing confidence and demand in the industry to capitalize on the benefits of alkaline battery systems that we can answer with our ELT 4000S. The ELT 4000S offers major OEM customers and operators a cost-effective, lithium-free solution. The five-year battery life is identical to current lithium-based solutions, but costs far less per unit to purchase and maintain. It is also a very simple retrofit installation with minimal engineering required.” 

ACR Electronics, Inc. designs and manufactures an array of ARTEX ELT’s, battery packs, and ELT accessories. ARTEX ELT’s serve a wide category of aircraft ranging from general aviation to the world’s leading airframe manufacturers, large commercial airlines, and government aircraft.

Aireon, Cirium Forge Data Sharing Partnership

Aireon has entered into a partnership with Cirium, the aviation analytics company, bringing together two data sets for airspace stakeholders.

Under the terms of the agreement, Cirium will gain access to Aireon’s real-time data service product, AireonSTREAM. AireonSTREAM is the world’s first and only global source of ATS grade surveillance data, which will enable Cirium to utilize the most precise and accurate global data available.

Aireon, for its part, will gain access to Cirium’s flight status data, which includes real-time flight information, such as estimated and actual arrival and departure times, aircraft type, delay calculations, as well as Cirium’s airline schedules – the aviation industry’s most comprehensive schedule database.

Cirium will integrate Aireon’s complete, global, real-time flight data with its unique combination of fleet, flight status and airline schedules data. Cirium will use Aireon’s data to bring new levels of data coverage and precision of take-off and landing times that it already provides to the world’s major air travel, aerospace manufacturing and aviation finance organizations.

For Aireon customers, Cirium data will enable Aireon to integrate the best-in-class schedule and status information into the AireonSTREAM, AireonFLOW, and AireonINSIGHTS product lines.

“The partnership with Cirium is an exciting one for the industry,” said Don Thoma, Aireon CEO. “This collaboration, combining two best-in-class data providers, will allow Cirium and Aireon customers to achieve even greater awareness of and insights into the global airspace to allow better, safer and more operationally efficient decisions.”

“Cirium and Aireon share a vision to uncover new ways to upgrade the world aviation industry’s efficiency. To achieve this, organizations need the best data to power solutions and decision making. We are very proud of this partnership which together creates the most complete set of gate-to-gate data available about a flight,” said Jeremy Bowen, CEO of Cirium.

Air Côte d’Ivoire Boosts PaxEx with Moment’s W-IFE Solution

Moment has signed an agreement with Air Côte d’Ivoire to provide a premium cabin experience, relying on the deployment of the portable entertainment system (W-IFE), Flymingo Box. Passengers will now benefit from a digital platform designed to meet their onboard needs and offer maximum comfort.

Since its creation in 2012, Air Côte d’Ivoire is the flag carrier of Ivory Coast, serving the five biggest Ivorian airports, a large number of destinations in West, Central, and South Africa, as well as international ones such as the United States. 

Air Côte d’Ivoire plays a major role in the African airline industry. The airline regularly assesses sector-related issues such as fuel consumption, safety, GSM connectivity and Wi-Fi on board and is known to adopt innovative technologies in order to create added value and strengthen its position as a competitive player. In line with this strategy, the company wants to develop passenger services by offering a quality entertainment solution on all of its flights.

Air Côte d’Ivoire has chosen Moment and its Flymingo Box server, which guarantees smooth access to a wide range of content, including films, music, press, radio, podcasts, digital books and unparalleled streaming speed. Easily installed in the cabin of an aircraft and requiring no intervention from the crew, the Flymingo Box differentiates itself with its ease of use and adaptability. This powerful device allows rapid distribution throughout the cabin of a single-aisle aircraft.

“We are delighted with this partnership with Moment which allows the deployment of a digital entertainment system dedicated to our passengers. We are committed to being a forward-looking airline and Moment supports us in this process” said Laurent Loukou, CEO of Air Côte d’Ivoire. “Among all the entertainment possibilities available on the market, Moment’s solution met the best of our expectations. Offering a broad range of content and services, it can evolve according to our needs to become a genuine point of contact on board. We were also thrilled with Moment uptime and the simplicity of its system both in installation and passenger use. A significant differentiating point”. 

“We are pleased to make our expertise available to Air Côte d’Ivoire and to collaborate with the company to equip its entire fleet with our Flymingo Box solution”, adds Dieudonné Kamaté, Sales Director at Moment. “The Flymingo Box’s deployment model and technology are perfectly suited to the strategy of the company and to its aircraft. As an agile solution, it offers passengers a wide variety of content and allows the company to increase on-board satisfaction and loyalty.”

FLYHT to Purchase Shares of CrossConsense, Adding Strategic Maintenance Capabilities, Expanding European Presence

FLYHT Aerospace Solutions and CrossConsense announced an agreement whereby FLYHT will acquire all of the outstanding shares of CrossConsense. This acquisition is expected to accelerate FLYHT’s strategic roadmap to build out a maintenance capability, and will fulfill the company’s goal to increase its presence in the European and Middle East markets.

CrossConsense develops and markets software to support commercial aviation maintenance management. Products include:
• A predictive maintenance troubleshooting and engineering tool;
• Software to support aircraft maintenance, repair and data migration; and
• Live data dashboards to assist aircraft maintenance teams.

CrossConsense has also constructed a progressive web application plus native apps that offer up-to-date data on an airline’s fleet status. Additionally, CrossConsense offers consulting and support services as well as hosting, database operation and performance monitoring of commercial aircraft maintenance applications.

The acquisition of CrossConsense is designed to further cement and extend a number of FLYHT’s key commercial objectives. Through this transaction, FLYHT will now be able to build a meaningful European presence, within a major aviation hub, as CrossConsense is based in Frankfurt, Germany. Additionally, the transaction is expected to expand FLYHT’s reach into software technical services in support of aircraft maintenance functions. Finally, the transaction is expected to bring new worldwide customers to both companies.

“The integration of our team and capabilities with those of FLYHT’s is expected to meaningfully enhance our capabilities to provide global solutions to our combined customer base of more than 100 airline and cargo customers,” said Udo Stapf, the founder and majority shareholder of CrossConsense. “Under the FLYHT umbrella of products and services, we will be better positioned to service the growing needs of our customers, helping them improve efficiency.”

Bill Tempany, CEO of FLYHT, stated, “Acquiring CrossConsense will expand FLYHT’s product line with predictive maintenance and maintenance system services – two areas that are in high demand by our customers and synergistic with our current offering. The ability to utilize real-time AFIRS data in a maintenance environment is anticipated to provide a substantial impetus to our customers’ Actionable Intelligence. Additionally, the combination is expected to establish a meaningful European presence for our company through which we can further build our global operations.”

Added Tempany, “We welcome the many talented maintenance software specialists at CrossConsense to the FLYHT team. Their extensive knowledge of aircraft maintenance management systems and development expertise in blockchain processes strengthens our knowledge base in areas that are especially aligned with FLYHT’s key ongoing strategic initiatives.”

Transaction Detail

Under terms of the agreement, FLYHT (through its wholly owned German subsidiary formed as part of this transaction) will acquire all of the outstanding securities of CrossConsense. The purchase price was within industry norms for revenue multiples of private companies. This agreement is subject to approval of the German Government and the TSX Venture Exchange and to be effective January 1, 2022, with a transaction close as soon as possible after those approvals are received.

Additionally, Udo Stapf will continue his involvement in the business, with an agreement in place for provision of services over the 18 months following the transaction’s effective date.

FLYHT also announced that Axel Christ from CrossConsense has been appointed managing director of the new organization. During his 15 years at CrossConsense he has made significant contributions, responsible for innovation and technology of the company’s software and services. Christ has been working with Kent Jacobs, president of FLYHT in Calgary, on aligning priorities and goals.

Panasonic Avionics Names VandenBerg As Chief Engineer, Software

Panasonic Avionics Names VandenBerg As Chief Engineer, Software

Panasonic Avionics has appointed Chris VandenBerg as chief engineer (software).

In this role, VandenBerg will be responsible for delivering the company’s highly complex, end-to-end software that redefines how airlines interact with their passengers onboard the aircraft. He will report to CTO Joe Bentley and will lead a team of individuals across Panasonic Avionics’ global footprint. He will also act as the company’s primary technical contact with its customers.

“Our customers are always looking for new ways to deliver an enhanced passenger experience, generate revenue, increase passenger engagement and improve operational efficiencies,” Bentley said. “Robust and reliable software will be the foundation for the kinds of products and solutions that help them achieve their organizational goals. Chris has a wealth of experience in software design and development and is highly knowledgeable in delivering a final production product from its concept phase. I am delighted to welcome him back to Panasonic Avionics where he will again be a major asset to our team.”

VandenBerg has 25 years of experience in software programming, hardware design, and system architecture. He rejoins Panasonic Avionics from Safran Passenger Innovations, where he was technical fellow – head of software architecture from 2019, managing a team of software architects and developers. VandenBerg previously was with Panasonic Avionics for 14 years, having joined as principal software engineer in 2004 and progressed to become CTO, Global Communications in 2016. During this time, he managed engineering teams in the company’s satellite communications division and designed the company’s Global IPTV system, including its first generation of IP back-haul and up-link distributions.

Thales to Create Highest Ever Wi-Fi Hotspot as It Joins Forces with Airbus Perlan Mission II Stratospheric Glider Project

Thales to Create Highest Ever Wi-Fi Hotspot as It Joins Forces with Airbus Perlan Mission II Stratospheric Glider Project

Thales is partnering with Airbus Perlan Mission II, a world record-setting climate and aerospace research project, aiming to fly Thales’ latest mobile satellite communications system, FlytLink, in a zero-emission glider to more than twice the altitude of a commercial airline flight. Through this collaboration, Thales says the world will get a live, front row view of the stratosphere and hear from glider pilots as they soar to the edge of space via FlytLink. The Nevada-based Airbus Perlan Mission II team is planning for a possible return to flight this year in the U.S. and El Calafate, Argentina.

Airbus Perlan Mission II is an initiative of The Perlan Project, a nonprofit, international team of scientists, engineers, and aviators. The group has already set aviation world altitude records in the experimental Perlan 2 glider, which was designed, built and deployed to fly to 90,000 feet without an engine. Originally launched in 2015, the Perlan 2 achieved its highest record-setting flight of above 76,000 feet in 2018. The organization’s mission is to conduct climate, atmospheric and aeronautical research at extreme high altitudes. Applications of their research include informing more accurate climate-change models, innovating fuel-efficient or zero-emission aviation, and even demonstrating the feasibility of using energy-efficient winged aircraft on Mars.

Soaring too high to use ground-based communications, the Perlan 2 glider will be fitted with the FlytLink Thales Iridium Certus- based satellite communications (SATCOM) system. This means that for the first time it will be possible to make a live feed available to STEM students, researchers and aviation enthusiasts around the world while the aircraft is in flight, enabling access to real-time data downloads. FlytLink is the latest generation of Iridium-based satellite communications systems for cockpit and crew operations. Anywhere in the world, whether flying over the poles, the ocean or land, FlytLink offers coverage and connectivity for critical operations. Its resilience, high dependability and low size, weight and power make it adaptable to any aircraft, including gliders such as Perlan.

“We look forward to Perlan 2 carrying the Thales logo as well as one of the company’s most cutting-edge communication solutions to even greater heights,” said Ed Warnock, CEO of The Perlan Project. “By exploring the stratosphere in an airborne research vehicle that creates zero pollution, we hope to unlock discoveries never possible before. Through this exciting partnership with Thales, we also look forward to inspiring new generations of scientists, engineers and pilots in environmentally conscious aviation.”

“We are delighted to support Airbus Perlan Mission II because we believe the project aligns with Thales’ own strategies for future, greener aviation and the environment,” said Marc Duval-Destin, vice president strategy, product policy and innovation for Thales’ flight avionics activities. ”We hope that the live stream will encourage a new generation of young people to consider careers in aerospace, science and engineering.”

When Perlan 2 reaches its next record-breaking target altitude of over 90,000 feet, it will be the highest a winged aircraft has ever flown in level flight. Equipped with cutting edge aviation technology and using spacecraft engineering, its glider wings can fly in less than 3% of normal air density at temperatures of minus 70 degrees Celsius approximating the atmospheric conditions on Mars.

“Our equipment will be in an unpressurized environment,” added Duval-Destin. “So, this is a great opportunity for us to validate the design and performance of our solution in such extremely non-benign conditions.”

ACARS OVER IP SCALABILITY, RELIABILITY AND COST SAVINGS

ACARS OVER IP SCALABILITY, RELIABILITY AND COST SAVINGS

A CARS over IP (AoIP) and broadband connectivity represent an opportunity for aircraft and engine data to shift from traditional ACARS VHF, HF, and safety SATCOM connectivity to more efficient networks, to help preserve the limited bandwidth of traditional networks so they can continue to provide highly reliable communications services for operational- and safety-critical airline information.

AoIP also leverages the advantages of ACARS by exploiting the growing availability and decreasing cost of broadband cellular connectivity on the ground, and IP-capable SATCOM connectivity when airborne. The specific mechanisms vary by aircraft and the type of system used, but in general, standard ACARS 618 messages are encapsulated in IP messages between the aircraft and ground-based message handlers for processing.

Because AoIP uses broadband IP communications, which have a much higher effective throughput than VHF and HF, it is a highly scalable long-term solution. And that’s important, because one particular benefit of AoIP is the ability to offload the growing volume of aircraft operations ACARS information from VHF, HF, and narrow-band safety services SATCOM, which do not have the network performance requirements that dispatch-critical or ATS ACARS applications demand.

This means that airlines that have seen costs spiraling as a result of growing aircraft operations data volume could see cost savings by moving aircraft operations ACARS messages to AoIP, which is often delivered at a flat rate.

Its champions say that segregating the use of AoIP for large aircraft operations ACARS applications and using VHF, safety services SATCOM, and HFDL for airline operational critical ACARS information offers airlines proven VHF and SATCOM safety services connectivity for operational and safety critical ACARS information. In addition, AoIP data can be integrated directly into an airline’s existing ACARS infrastructure with no ground side automation changes.

Airlines have grown to depend on ACARS information to reliably operate and dispatch aircraft. In fact, it can be argued that ACARS has become “dispatch-critical” for airline operations. Airlines will rely on VHF or HF ACARS communications for safe and reliable operations for the foreseeable future, although the need to improve the performance and capacity of traditional ACARS networks will continue as the volume of aircraft operations traffic from next generation aircraft increases.

In a September 2021 white paper on the impact of aircraft information data, Collins Aerospace pointed out that if forecasts become reality, demand will soon outpace VHF and HF capacity, and that in some regions, capacity limitations are already impacting operations. Its analysis of traffic on its ACARS network, GLOBALink, to compare aircraft operations data — in this case the OEM/Engine Digital Flight Data (DFD) application — among aircraft types demonstrates the difference in DFD ACARS volume among older and newer generations of aircraft, with newer generation aircraft generating significantly more DFD data.

Collins Aerospace’s projection of new-generation aircraft growth shows a significant increase in the percentage of new-generation aircraft compared with “legacy” aircraft over the next 15 years, when the new-generation aircraft fleet is projected to grow from 9% to 57% of all operational airline aircraft, as older aircraft are retired. With these aircraft generating significantly more AI ACARS data, there will be continued stress on VHF ACARS capacity without any change.

Ian Galloway
Ian Galloway

Indeed, to examine the stress that the growth of new generation aircraft might put on VHF capacity, Collins conducted an assessment of VHF traffic growth over the next 15 years using the new-generation aircraft growth estimate, considering ACARS growth with and without AoIP for aircraft operations ACARS information.

The assessment shows a potential growth factor of up to 2.4 times that of 2019, pre-COVID levels of VHF-based AI traffic without considering a migration of AI traffic to AoIP. It also shows that AoIP has the capability to preserve VHF capacity for critical airline operations and air traffic services by migrating aircraft operations ACARS applications away from VHF.

“The forecast shows that strong market adoption of AoIP would result in nearly half the VHF ACARS traffic over the next 15 years,” according to Collins. “While we expect VHF traffic will grow slightly as new aircraft are introduced, it could be much less dramatic with the use of AoIP. This would equate to improvements of performance to the datalink network.”

Ian Galloway is head of connected aircraft enablement services at Collins Aerospace, which has offered services since the late ‘70s to enable ACARS messaging to be processed. In the last five years, it has offered the technology to enable ACARS messaging to be sent in IP format.

As Galloway pointed out, ACARS is simply a message protocol, and IP is the communications protocol through which it is transmitted, meaning that ACARS messaging can be transmitted over IP-based channels such as cellular and broadband SATCOM, in addition to existing ACARS networks such as VHF. This essentially allows more value by expanding the networks available for ACARS messaging.

“Indeed, both Boeing and Airbus have been pushing hard for this, and what we’ve seen is significant technology capability leaps in recent technical insertion points. We are seeing a lot of interest because of the new aircraft variant types, and the challenge of managing the volume of generated data from those aircraft is huge, while at the same time protecting the VHF network, which must continue to be able to provide safety critical service. Takeup of ACARS over IP is therefore being driven by the airline industry’s investment strategy in modern aircraft,” Galloway said. “As a communications technology provider, we have seen ACARS over IP grow, and we see it as simply extending an airline and its flight operations department’s capability as it leverages an airline’s investment in connectivity in other areas.”

Collins says the new-generation aircraft fleet is projected to grow from 9% to 57% of all operational airline aircraft, as older aircraft are retired. With these aircraft generating significantly more AI ACARS data, there will be continued stress on VHF ACARS capacity without any change. AoIP has the capability to preserve VHF capacity for critical airline operations and air traffic services by migrating aircraft operations ACARS applications away from VHF. Collins image.
Collins says the new-generation aircraft fleet is projected to grow from 9% to 57% of all operational airline aircraft, as older aircraft are retired. With these aircraft generating significantly more AI ACARS data, there will be continued stress on VHF ACARS capacity without any change. AoIP has the capability to preserve VHF capacity for critical airline operations and air traffic services by migrating aircraft operations ACARS applications away from VHF. Collins image.

Discussing the merits of equipping an aircraft with AoIP, Galloway conceded that the case for equipage is a detailed and complex process for any airline: “It’s a highly complicated argument — anyone can appreciate that putting new avionics on an aircraft needs a business case. The devil is in the details, and depending on what existing avionics you operate, what will ACARS over IP enable, and what will it not enable, will need examining.”

The upside is that AoIP can be a gamechanger in terms of how the technology allows an airline to increase its operational efficiency. Collins sees itself as an avionics supplier and communication services provider whose focus is essentially consultative and highly niche to enable that value to be delivered.

“One thing is for certain — an airline’s flight operations and IT department need to be fully engaged. And while a large airline has the capability to easily understand what the transition will mean and what eventual capability the technology will offer, a smaller airline will almost certainly need many more questions answered and a high level of handholding delivered through a more consultative approach by the supplier,” Galloway said.

From a services perspective, advanced aircraft such as the A320neo and A330neo are equipped with line-fit avionics, which makes the addition of ACARS over IP much less complicated. “Obviously we see a much slower uptake in terms of the aftermarket,” Galloway said. “What we want is for a flight operations department to integrate its traditional ways of working with ACARS over IP. After all, they have built procedures about how data is collected, and all of that has been built around a particular performance profile. So our focus in 2022 will be tweaking and finessing systems as needed so an airline can get the performance it needs. We’ll also be talking to our OEM partners and listening to what they plan to focus on and how we can drive similar standards and protocols. What we would like to make sure of is that ACARS over IP does not fragment and that there continues to be some level of standardization in the use of this technology.”

Murray Skelton is senior director of international sales at Teledyne Controls. For Skelton, the chief value of ACARS over IP is that although ACARS messaging has been around for many years, the use of the IP protocol for ACARS means an airline can start to use networks it could never previously use.

For example, legacy ACARS networks require significant ground infrastructure to provide coverage around the world. As a result, for some operators ACARS coverage can be limited depending on geographical operation. However, with AoIP, ACARS data can be sent over IP networks such as cellular. Skelton said it comes as no surprise that the global cellular radio networks have far greater ground network coverage than the current ACARS services. What’s more, he said, is that the ground cellular networks are scaled to provide voice and data services to millions of devices, and the IP data bandwidths they provide are thousands of times greater than ACARS message bandwidths.

SITA’s Euan Mitchell stressed that the use of operational connected applications, like graphical weather and fuel optimization applications, is rocketing. There are new air traffic control features coming too, like trajectory-based operations. All of this means more capacity and performance are needed.
SITA’s Euan Mitchell stressed that the use of operational connected applications, like graphical weather and fuel optimization applications, is rocketing. There are new air traffic control features coming too, like trajectory-based operations. All of this means more capacity and performance are needed.

“The scalability and capability of IP networks over classic ACARS is such that networks like cellular also remove some of the ACARS usage limitations in terms of cost and message volumes,” he added. “Cellular data tariffs, roaming costs have been reducing for many years as technology refreshes, while IP bandwidth and availability has been growing exponentially. So not only does ACARS over IP increase the availability of the ACARS service, it also greatly reduces the data usage costs and allows more airlines to use it for many more operational tasks.”

AoIP takes advantage of IP security technology such as PKI VPN tunneling to ensure AoIP messages are encrypted end to end, providing a more secure messaging solution, according to Teledyne Controls. Teledyne Controls image.
AoIP takes advantage of IP security technology such as PKI VPN tunneling to ensure AoIP messages are encrypted end to end, providing a more secure messaging solution, according to Teledyne Controls. Teledyne Controls image.

Teledyne has long experience with ACARS, having been one of the original manufacturers of the first ACARS management units. Its cellular WQAR (wireless quick access recorder) equipment, the GroundLink Comm+, is installed on about 70% of the current global passenger aircraft fleet, and this technology can also deliver an ACARS over IP service for GroundLink customers. Teledyne has around 1,000 commercial air transport aircraft today either actively using or installing Ground Datalink, its AoIP over solution on its GroundLink Comm+ system. It also provides an option to use other IP networks for AoIP and AID+ connectivity through the GroundLink, such as Ka and Ku broadband IFE SATCOM, which in combination with cellular provides AoIP in all flight phases, using low-cost high-bandwidth IP networks.

Skelton pointed out that IP technology for ACARS also provides additional advantages over the current ACARS legacy systems. In today’s world, data cybersecurity is rightly a serious concern for all airlines. AoIP takes advantage of IP security technology such as PKI VPN tunneling to ensure that, unlike classic ACARS, all the AoIP messages are encrypted end to end, providing a much more secure messaging solution for aircraft operations.

In 2022, Skelton foresees a huge resurgence in airline interest in AoIP and aircraft IP connectivity in general. Airlines are looking to 2022 to get their operations back to pre-COVID levels, and operational cost reduction will be key as their recovery begins in earnest. In addition to recovery, the airline industry is facing new challenges such as new operational carbon reduction targets. To achieve these targets, airlines will need to focus on operational efficiency, and much of that will require more and better operational data monitoring driven by new connectivity solutions such as AoIP and real-time IP connectivity solutions.

Skelton predicts a very different uptake profile in 2022 for AoIP and aircraft IP connectivity solutions in general: “The 2021 recovery did not come back as expected in terms of traffic growth, although new airline business for Teledyne in the later part of 2021 demonstrated the growing confidence of our customers for a 2022 recovery, indicating that solutions like ACARS over IP are very likely to be a growth market.”

Euan Mitchell is senior product manager at SITA’s AIRCOM Cockpit Services. He sees huge benefits of encapsulating ACARS messages sent over IP networks, and quite a few of SITA’s customers have already gone in this direction or are seriously considering it through trials or through targeted deployments on sub-fleets.

He points out that ACARS as a messaging protocol is deeply embedded into an airline’s operation, touching almost every department of the airline and integrated into many back-office systems and processes that airlines use to run their operations. “This means that while the onboard changes required to implement ACARS over IP need to be carefully considered, from a ground perspective, keeping ACARS as the language an airline is used to speaking means there is little to no ground integration to consider,” Mitchell said. “As a communications service provider, we are able to deliver AoIP messages in exactly the same way to our customers as we do ACARS over VHF or satellite, through the same infrastructure, connectivity and to the same host application on the airline side. The simplicity of this is a big win for the airline.”

He said there are several flavors of AoIP solutions now coming out of the major airframers, and that the early adopters of such solutions did so (and are still doing so) on a retrofit basis. “This means they have had to craft a business case, which makes sense to the purse-string owners within the airline, to perform modification to the aircraft. Depending on the solution, this can in some cases be relatively simple and affordable.”

The successful cases SITA has seen with its customers, according to Mitchell, have been based around several benefits:

In terms of expansion of ground coverage, today most airlines base a lot of the aircraft turnaround processes on ACARS messaging. If an airline is flying to an airport that does not have VHF radio coverage, or is parked at a gate that is blocked from coverage, it has to resort to manual processes, which is painful, Mitchell said, and also inefficient in both time and cost. So connecting the aircraft to terrestrial cellular (3G/4G/5G) generally provides great coverage and enables a consistent ACARS-based turnaround process across the airline’s network.

Mitchell said this expansion of coverage also has benefits to the communications service provider, in that a VHF/VDL radio does not have to necessarily be deployed in airports where it’s not economically viable. “We have a great example of this with our customer Cebu Pacific in the Philippines. They fly to loads of airports where it is just not feasible to deploy a radio station. They deployed ACARS over IP (terrestrial cellular) where there is good coverage in the Philippines; and their aircraft can now connect at all their airports. That’s a big win.”

In terms of higher bandwidth, Mitchell said, “It’s quite amazing what the airline industry and communication service provider community have achieved over the decades, with 2.4 kbps of Very High Frequency radio throughput, and the value this has generated for the industry; but IP networks change the game, they basically put us into a place of almost unlimited capacity.”

This is good for two main reasons, according to Mitchell: First, the airline can now turn on everything. There is almost no limit now to what an airline can decide to offload from the aircraft on the ground, which previously was limited by the physics of the networks being used. The other advantage is cost, with the physics of the networks also dictating the cost of using the networks. “We effectively have to price consumption in a way that does not encourage levels of usage that the network can’t support. Enter IP, and we can move to pretty much unlimited levels of consumption for a fixed price, which supports the airline’s business case,” he said.

Also, AoIP solutions generally are created with security in mind from the beginning, during the design phase, which means they are highly secured, using things like VPN and Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), while adding an IP network into an overall communication ecosystem, or “network of networks,” provides greater resilience in that if one network fails, there exists another chance for the aircraft to connect.

For Mitchell, there is one final benefit: IP networks will help the industry manage growth. “The topic of growth is not something that has really been labored over the past 24 months, but the challenge of managing growth never really left us,” he said. “Modern aircraft consume more than their predecessors, the use of operational connected applications is rocketing (e.g. graphical weather applications and fuel optimization applications), and there are new air traffic control features coming too, like trajectory-based operations. All of this means we need more capacity — and performance — in our networks. And using IP, particularly to move “non-safety” or non-ATC messages off the existing and approved communications networks, is going to benefit the whole community.”

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