The FAA has validated the capability of Inmarsat SB-S to support air traffic services by providing direct datalink communication between pilots and Air Traffic Control (ATC). The letter of approval highlights the future potential of this ‘first-of-its-kind’ service, stating that SB-S technology “provides diversity and potential for advances of capability that will further maximize operational benefits and ensure safety.” The endorsement follows a recommendation last year from the FAA’s Performance Based Operations Aviation Rulemaking Committee (PARC).
FAA approval follows an extensive live evaluation of SB-S by Hawaiian Airlines and United Airlines, which took place between June 2015 and July 2018 on approximately 25,000 flights and seven aircraft types. Inmarsat partners in the evaluation included Cobham Aerospace Communications, Collins Aerospace, SITAONAIR, ASG and L2.
China’s Shenzhen Airlines is also using SB-S and Inmarsat’s digital airline operations platform has been selected by Airbus as a Light Cockpit Satcom (LCS) line fit solution on its A320 and A330 families.
Combining satellite technology with secure IP connectivity, SB-S is the first global broadband solution for aircraft operational and safety communications, driving digital transformation in the airline industry.
SB-S’s real-time IP connectivity delivers mulitple benefits to airlines. Operational advantages include enhanced fleet and crew management, predictive maintenance, disruption management and aircraft health monitoring via Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) applications, which can significantly reduce flight delays and fuel consumption. Safety benefits include improved communications with ATC, digital data and voice communications, and flight data recorder streaming (also known as Black Box in the CloudTM). Flight plans and arrivals can also be optimised by pinpointing aircraft in four dimensions, known as four dimensional (4D) operations, which include latitude, longitude, altitude and time.
The IP solution provided by Inmarsat’s SB-S is also essential to air traffic modernization programs, such as the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) masterplan and NextGen in the U.S. In addition, Inmarsat’s SB-S powers Iris, a ground-breaking project by Inmarsat and the European Space Agency (ESA) that uses satellite-based datalink communication to enhance and modernize air traffic management over European airspace.
Inmarsat is the only aviation satcom provider authorized to provide aviation safety and operational services globally, including in China and India.
“SB-S sets an unprecedented new standard for aviation operational and safety communications, ensuring the industry can take full advantage of the only IP-based solution available now to meet its existing and future requirements,” says Philip Balaam, president of Inmarsat Aviation. “Receiving the FAA’s final approval is a milestone of huge significance, reinforcing Inmarsat’s global market leadership and validating the potential of SB-S to maximise operational efficiency and assure safety for many years to come.”
The SB-S digital aircraft operations platform is powered by Inmarsat’s advanced global L-band satellite network, which has underpinned safety services for 40 years. Inmarsat is scheduled to launch two additional L-band payloads in 2020 and 2021, further cementing its long-term commitment to offering highly reliable services over this spectrum.