How Will a New Real Time Operating System Improve US Army Helicopters?

November 25th, 2020   •   Comments Off on How Will a New Real Time Operating System Improve US Army Helicopters?   
How Will a New Real Time Operating System Improve US Army Helicopters?

Army rotary-wing aircraft like the CH-47 Chinook, AH-64 Apache, and UH-60 Black Hawk are getting a new real-time operating system (RTOS). (Photo courtesy of Northrop Grumman)

U.S. Army rotary-wing aircraft like the CH-47 Chinook, AH-64 Apache, and UH-60 Black Hawk are getting a new real-time operating system (RTOS). The Army has selected Green Hills Software INTEGRITY-178 Time-Variant Unified Multi-Processing (tuMP) RTOS for its Improved Data Modem (IDM-401) program.

The INTEGRITY-178 tuMP RTOS can run more applications than previous software because it is DO-178C DAL A compliant and able to utilize all of its processor cores, not just a single core, according to a Nov. 12 press release. DO-178C DAL A is a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved airworthiness certification for aircraft software.

“In order to run applications on multiple processor cores simultaneously, any safety-critical system needs to show that the execution of an application running on one core cannot affect the operation of execution of another application running on a different core,” Richard Jaenicke, director of marketing for safety and security-critical products at Green Hills Software, told Avionics International. “One of the biggest challenges to that happens when an application tries to access a shared resource, such as system memory, when a second application has that resource already in use.”

The resource contention that is caused by two applications attempting to access the same resource can result in safety issues and have an impact on application execution time, Jaenicke said.

“We have seen cases where the execution time can take up to 7 times longer with an interfering application running on just one other core, and up to 12 times longer with two interfering cores,” Jaenicke said.

The IDM functions as an Internet controller and gateway to the tactical Internet and fire support Internet for Army aviation platforms. It is also capable of connecting U.S. military aviation systems to ground platforms and facilitates situational awareness, sensor, and command and control data.

“As the integrated C2 and situational awareness (SA) solution, the IDM hosts Force Battle Command Brigade and Below-Air (FBCB2-Air) and processes Air Force Applications Program Development (AFAPD), Variable Message Format (VMF), and Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System (AFATDS) messages,” Jaenicke said.

The AFATDS is a fire support C2 system used by the Army and Marine Corps that provides planning, coordinating, controlling, and executing fires and effects, according to Raytheon, the company that manufactures the AFATDS. The AFATDS also uses sensors and situational data to prioritize targets and perform attack analysis.

The IDM-401 program supports open systems architecture (OSA) like Future Airborne Capability Environment (FACE) and is used to connect multiple radios and rapidly transfer data on rotary-wing aircraft, according to the release.

“The software upgrade with the INTEGRITY-178 tuMP RTOS enables a certified, open system, multicore processing operating environment,” Jaenicke said. “With that upgrade, the IDM-401 can host multiple, simultaneous safety-critical applications of mixed safety criticality. Potential applications for the additional processor cores may include increased interoperability, mission command, radio control, Aviation Survivability Equipment (ASE) training, and weather.”

 

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EASA Publishes Boeing 737 MAX Proposed Airworthiness Directive with RNP-AR, Stick Shaker Provisions

November 25th, 2020   •   Comments Off on EASA Publishes Boeing 737 MAX Proposed Airworthiness Directive with RNP-AR, Stick Shaker Provisions   
EASA Publishes Boeing 737 MAX Proposed Airworthiness Directive with RNP-AR, Stick Shaker Provisions

EASA is expected to issue a final airworthiness directive and return to service approval for the grounded Boeing 737 MAX fleet to European airspace operations in January. (Norwegian)

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) on Nov. 24 published its proposed airworthiness directive (AD) with software and wiring modifications that would allow Boeing’s 737 MAX to return to passenger-carrying service in Europe.

EASA’s proposed AD includes a 28-day comment period and follows the guidelines featured in the Nov. 18 publishing of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) AD along with two key differences from the U.S.-based agency’s version. 737 MAX aircraft have been grounded both by EASA and by individual European Union state civil aviation authorities – who will also need to individually approve the aircraft’s return to service in some cases – since Mar. 12, 2019, following separate Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air accidents that had a total loss of 346 passengers and flight onboard.

As part of its participation in the Joint Operational Evaluation Board (JOEB), EASA’s proposed AD is nearly a replica of the FAA’s directive, with two exceptions. Pilots are permitted by EASA “explicitly” to intervene and stop a “stick shaker from continuing to vibrate once it has been erroneously activated by the system to prevent this distracting the crew,” the agency writes in the AD.

Airlines operating EASA-registered MAX aircraft will also be prohibited from using the aircraft’s autopilot on high-precision Required Navigation Performance – Authorization Required (RNP AR) approaches. RNP AR is an advanced Performance Based Navigation (PBN) approach procedure that requires prior authorization from a civil aviation authority. It enables an aircraft to fly a predetermined path between waypoints by placing an aircraft’s airport approach on a curved, precise path where the descent and positioning are constantly augmented by satellite-based navigation signals.

In the AD, EASA officials said they included this provision “in order to eliminate the identified risk after a single failure of an AOA sensor during some RNP-AR approaches.”

“We did our own test flights and completed these in September. EASA has carried out an independent, objective assessment of the proposed design changes to the aircraft which take account of the entire flight control system and the human interface between the pilot and the machine,” a representative for EASA told Avionics International in an emailed statement.

Throughout the proposed 19-page AD, EASA also highlights where certain provisions correspond to the FAA’s AD and those that include changes. One of the return to flight operations requirements for European carriers includes software installation verifications and testing, implementation of a new flight manual with minimum equipment list changes, and an angle of attack (AoA) sensor system test.

There is also a requirement for an operational readiness flight and a requirement for airlines operating “Group 2” aircraft to install colored cap buttons on the circuit breakers of the stall warning system stick shaker.

In the directive, 737 MAX aircraft operated by European airlines are separated into two groups. “Group 1” includes those aircraft identified by line number in a June 12 Boeing service bulletin while “Group 2” includes all others not identified in that bulletin.

Some of the airlines operating the MAX in Europe include Air Italy, Icelandair, Norwegian, and LOT Polish Airlines, among others. Boeing’s total outstanding 737 MAX order backlog currently stands at 3,365 aircraft.

A preliminary safety directive with a 28-day comment period has also been published by EASA alongside the AD. Non-European airlines that are holders of EASA third-country operator (TCO) authorization are to abide by the guidelines featured in the separate safety directive, according to the agency.

“EASA’s review of the 737 MAX began with the MCAS but went far beyond,” EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky said in a Nov. 24 press release.

“We took a decision early on to review the entire flight control system and gradually broadened our assessment to include all aspects of design which could influence how the flight controls operated,” he added. “This led, for example, to a deeper study of the wiring installation, which resulted in a change that is now also mandated in the Proposed Airworthiness Directive. We also pushed the aircraft to its limits during flight tests, assessed the behavior of the aircraft in failure scenarios, and could confirm that the aircraft is stable and has no tendency to pitch-up even without the MCAS.”

 

 

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10 Drone Companies Receive Airworthiness Criteria from FAA

November 25th, 2020   •   Comments Off on 10 Drone Companies Receive Airworthiness Criteria from FAA   
10 Drone Companies Receive Airworthiness Criteria from FAA

Amazon package delivery

Amazon package delivery

Ten unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) received airworthiness criteria for certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the next step towards integrating small UAS into the national airspace.

Ten unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) received airworthiness criteria for certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the next step towards integrating small UAS into the national airspace, according to a Nov. 23 press release.

The UAS given special class aircraft criteria for airworthiness certification are all electric, range from five to 89 pounds, and include fixed-wing and rotorcraft. The 10 applicants recognized by the FAA include 3D Robotics, Airobotics, Amazon, Flirtey, Flytrex, Matternet, Percepto, Telegrid, Wingcopter, and Zipline.

“The development of airworthy, durable, and reliable unmanned aircraft is a crucial step forward for this innovative sector,” Dr. Michael C. Romanowski, director of Aircraft Certification Service Policy and Innovation, said in a press statement. “Type certification will help increase both public and regulatory confidence in drone technology as operations become more advanced.”

The criteria released by the FAA for UAS is unlike traditional type certification because it certifies the system by looking at performance and risk calibration, Chris Anderson, CEO of 3D Robotics, told Avionics International.

“What it really means is rather than certifying every nut and bolt and component, let’s just treat the system as a system and say look if you say the system does X, prove it does X, build up enough statistical power over thousands of flights that we’re confident that it really does X, then we don’t really care what’s inside it,” Anderson said. “Drones are essentially using off the shelf parts and you can’t control the entire supply chain the way an aerospace company would and so what it allows us to do is to sort of treat these vehicles like what they really are which is consumer electronic devices that update very quickly and innovate very quickly.”

Anderson said this will allow UAS manufacturers to operate on a smartphone innovation cycle instead of the traditional aviation certification timeframe which can take years. This will allow new versions of a UAS to come out without having to re-certify it every time.

“Basically, drones operate on a kind of a smartphone-like innovation cycle. So, every six months a new version comes out and they have a lifespan of about two to three years. It’s very different from traditional aviation and what that says for performance-based is, hey you know if you need to switch out your nuts and bolts and change one motor for another as long as it’s not a critical part, go for it. You don’t have to re-certify. And that allows us to basically be the drone companies that we really are, which is fast and innovative without a huge regulatory burden.”

The released criteria are just the next step in certification and do not indicate that these companies have achieved airworthiness certification by the FAA. The public has 30 days to comment on the applicant’s criteria and then the FAA will publish a final draft of the airworthiness criteria. The applicants will then prove they meet requirements before being certified.

Anderson worked with the FAA on the criteria and ran the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) process that goes alongside these requirements.

“The way regulations work is that the government says what they want and then they turn to industry to say how to achieve it,” Anderson said. “So, in this case, the FAA gave the performances they want, and they turn to ASTM to define how to do the tests necessary to satisfy that.”

The airworthiness criteria released by the FAA include general requirements like a concept of operations; design and construction requirements such as control stations, software, and cyber security; operating limitations and information like flight manuals and instructions for continued airworthiness; and testing requirements such as durability and reliability.

Anderson said this step in the process is about recognizing that the process has started and that companies have defined the designs of their unmanned aircraft. While 3D Robotics and other companies have already completed demonstrations, some will need to complete those before moving to the production certificate.

“It’s one thing to certify that a vehicle is airworthy, it is another thing to certify that all your vehicles are airworthy,” Anderson said. “A production certificate is where we all are, most of us are, right now and that hopefully will be done with that by Q1 but only then can we actually start to take advantage of the permissions afforded by type certification and that’s when it gets exciting, that’s when we can do the stuff we really care about.”

The things these companies will be able to do once getting a production certificate include beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations and night flying. Anderson said, most importantly, they can start looking at the pilot to aircraft ratio.

“It’s crazy, I’ve been in this industry now for almost 13 years and we still haven’t achieved drones,” Anderson said. “We haven’t really achieved autonomy. It is still one operator on the ground and a vehicle in the air and guys might as well be flying it for all the efficiencies we’ve achieved. It’s only once you can amplify or extend human abilities to one operator and 10s or hundreds of thousands of vehicles operating autonomously that’s when you achieve the vision that we’ve all had in mind for drones all along.”

Anderson said 3D Robotics has a one pilot to 20 UAS ratio in its plan.

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What’s Trending in Aerospace – November 22, 2020

November 23rd, 2020   •   Comments Off on What’s Trending in Aerospace – November 22, 2020   
What’s Trending in Aerospace – November 22, 2020

Check out the Nov. 22 edition of What’s Trending in Aerospace, where editors and contributors for Avionics International bring you some of the latest headlines happening across the global aerospace industry.

Commercial

Southwest Airlines CEO Sends Letter to Passengers on 737 MAX Return to Service

Southwest airlines CEO Gary Kelly sent a letter to passengers discussing the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft’s return to passenger carrying service. (Southwest Airlines)

Southwest Airlines is estimating that the Boeing 737 MAX, which was approved by the FAA to return to passenger carrying service on Nov. 18, will re-enter its flight operational fleet by the second quarter of 2021.

The Texas-based carrier’s CEO Gary Kelly published a letter to passengers about its return to service, explaining the next steps.

“Southwest is in receipt of the FAA’s directive regarding flight control software updates and additional Pilot training related to the MAX, and we are ready to meet each requirement. There is much work to be done before our MAX aircraft will resume service, which we estimate will likely take place no sooner than the second quarter of 2021,” Kelly said.

Before returning the aircraft to service, every Southwest pilot will complete additional required flight training in one of their nine 737 MAX simulators and will complete additional FAA-required computer-based training covering MAX procedures, according to Southwest Airlines. Southwest will also require active pilots to re-take their original 737 MAX computer-based differences training.

Additionally, Southwest will conduct multiple readiness flights on each of the 34 MAX aircraft in their fleet according to Kelly.

“At Southwest, we only operate Boeing 737s, and our Pilots are highly trained and experienced at flying the aircraft. In fact, before the 737 MAX was grounded, Southwest Pilots flew almost 40,000 flights on the aircraft, which is more than 89,000 flight hours. Now, we’ll approach returning the MAX to service with the same commitment to training that we’ve employed for almost 50 years coupled with an uncompromising and unwavering commitment to Safety,” Kelley said.

Check out a video from Southwest’s VP of air operations, Alan Kasher, with more information about pilot training that must occur prior to the 737 MAX returning to service.

Swedish Optimization Service for Greener Aviation

AVTECH Sweden is offering a new optimization service that they say can save hundreds of tons of fuel per month with little investment. AVTECH’s services optimize flight paths and upload small amounts of data to onboard equipment, according to a Nov. 18 press release.

“By optimizing the different phases of a flight, we can easily avoid unnecessary use of the engines, which means fuel savings,” Stig Patey, Norwegian airline pilot and project manager, said in a press statement. “Just by flying smarter, we have counted an average fuel saving of 22 kg per flight in the descent phase and about 1.6 % in the cruise phase.”

Norwegian Airlines has used AVTECH’s services to optimize the climb, cruise, and descent phases for aircraft, according to the release.

“The savings we have achieved is good business for us and good news for the environment”, Patey said in the release. “The best thing is that we did not have to invest in any new onboard equipment to achieve the reductions, since all calculations are delivered as a service individually to all aircraft.”

 

Military

Is Switzerland Getting F-35s?

Eilson AFB, Alaska received its first two F-35A Lightning IIs on Apr. 21 (United States Air Force Photo)

Lockheed Martin submitted a proposal to the Swiss government for an F-35 package that includes 40 F-35A aircraft, a sustainment solution with autonomy requirements, and a training program, according to a Nov. 19 press release.

“We are confident that our F-35 offer is the best and most affordable solution for the Swiss NFA competition,” Greg Ulmer, F-35 Program vice president and general manager, said in a press statement. “We are offering the only 5th generation fighter at the cost of 4th generation aircraft while offering Switzerland an aircraft that will protect Swiss sovereignty for decades to come.”

Included in the package is the option to have Lockheed Martin assemble four aircraft in Switzerland to give their Air Force an understanding of the airframe and a six-month spares package to make sure they can conduct autonomous operations. The agreement would use the F-35 Global Support Solution.

 

US Navy MH-60R Gets New Submarine Detection Sensor

Lockheed Martin will be integrating Magnetic Anomaly Detection-Extended Role (MAD-XR) systems on six Navy MH-60R helicopters as part of a new subcontract announced with CAE. The integration will give the MH-60R the ability to detect submarines and could be used for navigation in a GPS-denied environment, CAE told Avionics International.

The integration will be completed by Lockheed Martin under phase one of the contract by 2023.

“Over the past several years we have conducted several trials with the U.S. Navy to confirm the capabilities of the MAD-XR system on the MH-60R helicopter,” Thomas M. Kane, director of naval helicopter programs at Lockheed Martin, said in a press statement. “Adding this to the MH-60R’s sensor suite will further advance the capabilities of the world’s most advanced anti-submarine warfare helicopter.”

The integration will give the MH-60R the ability to detect submarines and could be used for navigation in a GPS-denied environment. (CAE)

The MAD-XR is mounted on the tail area of the aircraft and can sense changes in the Earth’s magnetic field by using highly sensitive magnetometers. It can detect anomalies up to 1,200 meters and then provides the submarine location in lateral and vertical separation at the closest point of approach, according to CAE.

“The integration of our MAD-XR system on the U.S. Navy’s MH-60R helicopter is testament to its powerful magnetic detection abilities,” Daniel Gelston, group president of defense and security at CAE, said in a press statement. “The MAD-XR system can provide defense forces with enhanced capabilities for operational missions such as submarine detection and search and rescue.”

The MAD-XR is a smaller version of the CAE AIMS AN/ASQ 508 MAD system with reduced size and weight but the same capabilities. The MAD-XR weighs about 2.25 kilograms compared to the 27 kilograms AN/ASQ 508A and can generate 30W of continuous power. Because of its small size and weight, the MAD-XR can be used on small aircraft and unmanned aerial systems (UAS).

While this contract only integrates the MAD-XR system on six MH-60R helicopters, there is a plan to integrate the system on more of the U.S. Navy fleet as well as with partner nations like Australia, a representative from CAE said.

Connectivity

Viasat Buys Eutelsat’s Share of Euro Broadband Infrastructure

Viasat is making moves to strengthen its European position in the broadband market. The satellite operator announced Thursday it is purchasing the remaining 51 percent share of Euro Broadband Infrastructure(EBI), the wholesale broadband services business created in partnership with Eutelsat Communications in 2016. EBI operates the KA SAT satellite and provides fixed and mobile broadband services on a wholesale basis in the European and Mediterranean markets.

Viasat is requiring the remaining 51 percent for $166 million (140 million euro). The transaction may be adjusted up or down by $24 million (20 million euro) two years after closing depending on performance metrics.

Viasat said this wholesale business will add to its retail broadband in select European countries, and its In-Flight Connectivity (IFC) service in Europe, providing a foundation for growth ahead of the launch of the ViaSat-3 global constellation. The second ViaSat-3 class satellite, which will cover Europe, Middle East and Africa, is targeted for launch in 2022.

Check out the full article as first published in Via Satellite, a sister publication to Avionics International.

Skytrac Partners With Scandinavian Avionics

(Scandanavian Avionics)

Skytrac Systems is partnering with Scandinavian Avionics, the company recently revealed. The partnership’s goal is to increase market share for Skytrac’s broadband and midband satcom terminals. The new terminals aim to provide operators with increased capabilities and bandwidth up to 704 kbps.

Scandinavian Avionics provides turn-key avionics solutions for civil and military aircraft, Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), as well as Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO) and Supplemental Type Certificates (STC) support. This partnership will enable Skytrac to explore segments such as unmanned, military, helicopters, and business aviation.

“We’re very interested to explore the SDL-350 and ISAT-200A-08 SATCOM systems,” said Michael Truelsen, CEO of Scandinavian Avionics. “We believe there is a strong market for Iridium Certus to compete with the legacy satellite systems, and we have great expectations for Iridium Certus from our customers as well. In general the entire product range within Skytrac’s portfolio fits very well with our current capabilities and offerings, and we share the mindset of Skytrac; providing solutions, rather than products for our customers.”

In September, Iridium added Skytrac to its Certus 9810 transceiver manufacturing network.

Unmanned

XTI Aircraft and VerdeGo Aero Partner for TriFan 200 Program

XTI Aircraft Company and VerdeGo Aero are partnering to develop an autonomous vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft, the XTI TriFan 200. (XTI Aircraft via Twitter)

XTI Aircraft Company and VerdeGo Aero are partnering to develop an autonomous vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft, the XTI TriFan 200. The TriFan 200 will have a payload of 500lbs and range of 200 nautical miles, according to a Nov. 19 press release.

According to the release, the XTI TriFan 200 will be used in logistic operations enabling cargo delivery in congested urban areas. It can also be used in remote locations for longer-range transportation or military logistics missions.

“The TriFan 200 aircraft will open up a significant new market for XTI to address the needs of cargo and logistics operators globally,” Robert LaBelle, CEO of XTI Aircraft, said in a press statement. “We are excited to be partnered with VerdeGo to leverage their experience with hybrid powertrains combined with our experience from the TriFan 600 program to create an efficient, economical, profitable VTOL aircraft for fleet operators worldwide.”

The XTI TriFan 200 will use VerdeGo’s 180KW generator and high-power battery pack which will allow it to reduce emissions and fuel burn by 35 percent, according to the release. This will also make the aircraft more profitable by reducing operating costs by 40 percent compared to conventional turbine powertrains, according to the release.

“XTI’s TriFan 200 is an outstanding application for VerdeGo’s hybrid powertrain systems and we are excited to support XTI as an early customer,” Eric Bartsch, CEO and Co-founder of VerdeGo Aero, said in a press statement. “XTI’s goals to provide its customers with reliable, high-performance cargo aircraft are ideally matched with the efficiency and low operating cost of VerdeGo’s diesel hybrid powertrains.”

Business & GA

Business and GA Aircraft Shipping and Billings Report Shows Decline in Almost All Categories

The General Aviation Manufacturers Association published its third quarter shippings and billings data this week. (GAMA)

Turboprop, business jet, and helicopter deliveries have declined in the first nine months of 2020 from 2019 but piston airplane deliveries have increased slightly according to the new General Aviation Manufacturers Associate (GAMA) report on general aviation aircraft shipments and billings.

“While the industry has shown its resilience, it will likely once again face stiff headwinds from the resurgent pandemic, especially given that many European countries have once again gone into lockdown without a common pan-European policy enabling general and business aviation travel across national borders,” GAMA President and CEO Pete Bunce said in a press statement. “Despite these significant challenges, it continues to be our dedicated workforce that enables our industry to persevere through the recovery process.”

Total airplane shipping decreased by 12.6 percent and helicopter shipping decreased 16.2 percent compared to 2019. The biggest decrease occurred in turboprops which saw a 27 percent decline. Piston airplanes, which had a 1.4 percent increase from 2019, were the only aircraft to not show a decline.

 

Two New EFISs Certified for Airbus AS350/355

The IDU-680 and IDU-450 electronic flight instrument systems (EFIS) from Genesys Aerosystems now have supplemental type certification for Airbus AS350/355 helicopters, according to a Nov. 17 press release.

Both EFIS displays use air data, attitude, and heading reference systems (ADAHRS) and GPS satellite-based augmentation system (SBAS) for precision aircraft operations. They also come with 3D synthetic vision, highway-in the sky (HITS) navigation, geo-referenced Hover Vector, and graphical flight management system, according to the release.

“The AS350 and AS355 are highly utilized, and operators depend on them to be ready when they need them,” Jamie Luster, director of sales and marketing with Genesys Aerosystems, said in a press release. “This avionics upgrade not only adds capabilities of a modern EFIS but removes the weak link in the panel, mechanical gyros.”

 

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PODCAST: University of Zurich Researchers Talk Review of Air Travel Industry’s Air Travel Industry’s COVID-19 Prevention Methods

November 21st, 2020   •   Comments Off on PODCAST: University of Zurich Researchers Talk Review of Air Travel Industry’s Air Travel Industry’s COVID-19 Prevention Methods   
PODCAST: University of Zurich Researchers Talk Review of Air Travel Industry’s Air Travel Industry’s COVID-19 Prevention Methods

Patricia Schlagenhauf, a professor at the University of Zurich and Michel Bielecki, also a doctor at the University of Zürich Centre for Travel Medicine, WHO Collaborating Centre for Travellers’ Health, Epidemiology Biostatistics and Prevention Institute, join episode 47 of the Connected Aircraft Podcast.

On this episode of the Connected Aircraft Podcast, Michel Bielecki, a doctor at the University of Zürich Centre for Travel Medicine, WHO Collaborating Centre for Travellers’ Health, Epidemiology Biostatistics and Prevention Institute, and Patrica Schlagenhauf, also a professor at the University of Zurich discuss their recent narrative review of the air travel industry’s efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on airplanes and at airports.

Their review, entitled, “Air travel and COVID-19 prevention in the pandemic and peri-pandemic period: A narrative review,” was recently published in the Journal of Travel Medicine and Infectious Disease, and aims to assess the “status quo” of air travel measures in the context of COVID-19 as of October 2020 and to examine their scientific basis if appropriate.

Check out their full article here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1477893920304117

Have suggestions or topics we should focus on in the next episode? Email the host, Woodrow Bellamy at wbellamy@accessintel.com, or drop him a line on Twitter @WbellamyIIIAC.

Listen to this episode below, or check it out on iTunes or Google Play If you like the show, subscribe on your favorite podcast app to get new episodes as soon as they’re released.

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Most DoD Aircraft Do Not Meet Mission Capable Goals, New Study Finds

November 21st, 2020   •   Comments Off on Most DoD Aircraft Do Not Meet Mission Capable Goals, New Study Finds   
Most DoD Aircraft Do Not Meet Mission Capable Goals, New Study Finds

A 54th Helicopter Squadron UH-1N Iroquois prepares to take off from Minot Air Force Base, N.D., Sept. 7, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman J.T. Armstrong)

Military aircraft spanning all branches failed to meet mission capable rates according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) which analyzed 46 types of aircraft from fiscal year 2011 through 2019. The GAO found that out of 46 aircraft types, only three met annual mission capable goals the majority of the time with 24 aircraft not meeting any of their goals during any year.

“The Department of Defense (DOD) spends tens of billions of dollars annually to sustain its weapon systems in an effort to ensure that these systems are available to simultaneously support today’s military operations and maintain the capability to meet future defense requirements,” the report states.

GAO researchers found that the only aircraft to meet its annual mission capable goals in all nine years examined is the Air Force’s UH-1N Huey. The UN-1N Huey is set to be replaced by the MH-139 Grey Wolf made by Boeing. The EP-3E Aries II, a Navy anti-submarine aircraft, and the E-6B Mercury, a Navy command and control aircraft, were also included in the three aircraft that met their goals a majority of the years examined by the GAO.

“Our observations are based on 46 manned fixed- and rotary-wing types of aircraft that support combat-related missions in the Departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force,” the report states. “In selecting these aircraft, we considered a number of factors, such as the mission of the aircraft (e.g., fighters, bombers, or cargo) and the size and age of the inventory for each aircraft.”

The mission capable rate, which assesses the health and readiness of an aircraft fleet, is calculated by examining the total time an aircraft can fly and perform at least one mission.  The GAO found that the average annual mission capable rate for Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps aircraft decreased since fiscal year 2011 while the Army’s aircraft mission capable rate increased slightly.

In September 2018, U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper issued a memorandum establishing an 80 percent mission capable goal for the F-22, F-16, F-35, and F/A-18 inventories — including the F/A-18A-D Hornet, F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, and EA-18G Growler—in order to implement the 2018 National Defense Strategy. The GAO report found that none of these aircraft met that goal.

“An Office of the Secretary of Defense official stated that the department had decided to move away from a goal that narrowly focused on selected aircraft and had expanded to a more holistic view of readiness,” the report states.

Decreasing mission capable rates were due to aging aircraft, maintenance challenges, and supply support, program officials told the GAO. Part shortages and delays were reported as a major contributor with almost 74 percent of the 46 different aircraft types reporting challenges. Other challenges in supply included diminishing manufacturing sources and parts obsolescence.

About 59 percent of aging aircraft reported unexpected replacement of parts or repairs as a challenge and only two, the F/A-18A-D and AV-8B, reporting delays in acquiring replacement aircraft. The service life extension of aircraft also led to challenges in sustainment.

Maintenance delays included access to technical data, delays in depot maintenance, shortage of trained maintenance personnel, and unscheduled maintenance. Fifty-two percent of the aircraft examined reported challenges related to unscheduled maintenance.

Operating and support (O&S) costs varied widely across aircraft ranging between $4.24 billion for the Air Force’s fleet of KC-135T Stratotankers and $118.03 million for the Navy’s fleet of KC-130T Hercules during fiscal year 2018, the GAO found. Some O&S costs were related to specific challenges with an aircraft, others were linked to the size of the fleet. The O&S costs totaled $49.33 billion in 2018.

The GAO analyzed the fiscal year 2018 O&S costs by aircraft and found the E-4B National Airborne Operations Center, sometimes referred to as the Doomsday Plane due to its ability to within stand a nuclear blast, accounted for over 80 percent of annual O&S costs. The UH/HH-60 Black Hawk had the smallest share of the O&S costs.

O&S costs increased for 20 aircraft including the MH-60R Seahawk, the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, and the F/A18-E/F, according to the report. The F-22, UH-1N Huey, and the B-2 were the only aircraft in the report that had consistent O&S costs. The review found that the remaining 22 aircraft had decreasing O&S costs.

The public version of the report was initially sent to the DoD in August of this year but was further redacted for sensitive material before being released on Nov. 19.

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France, Germany and Italy Among Nations to Sign Next Generation Rotorcraft Capability LOI

November 20th, 2020   •   Comments Off on France, Germany and Italy Among Nations to Sign Next Generation Rotorcraft Capability LOI   
France, Germany and Italy Among Nations to Sign Next Generation Rotorcraft Capability LOI

Five nations signed a letter of intent to build NATO’s Next Generation Rotorcraft Capability. (NATO)

Five nations have signed a letter of intent for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) Next Generation Rotorcraft Capability (NGRC) project, according to a Nov. 19 press release. France, Germany, Greece, Italy, and the United Kingdom will use the NGRC project to replace aging helicopters set to end their life cycle between 2035-2040.

The signing took place virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic with each defense minister signing from their respective capital.

“Medium lift helicopters are a crucial part of allied inventories and a key enabler of rapid deployment and transfer in and out of theaters,” NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană said in remarks during the virtual signing. “Many platforms currently in service are reaching the end of their life cycle and will start to be phased out in the next 15 to 20 years. The goal of this initiative is for participating allies to develop and field the next generation of medium-lift helicopters to ensure a seamless transition between the two generations.”

The development of the NGRC project started in 2015 with a workshop on future requirements and then progressed in 2016 to the formation of the NGRC Team of Experts (TOE) which released a 2018 report stressing the need to update rotorcraft.

Col. Paul Morris, assistant head of air maneuvers for the British Army, spoke about his work with the NGRC TOE in an Oct. 6 presentation reported on by Avionics International. During the presentation, Morris said NATO was looking to medium-range aircraft because of the cost savings that could be optimized by the balance of a medium-range fleet versus a single heavy-lift fleet. Morris also said medium rotorcraft would be optimal for global reach and urban environments.

Morris said the NGRC would look to key technology drivers like flight control and performance, avionics and mission equipment, teaming, and lethality when developing new rotorcraft.

“We’re looking at advancing sectors, fly by wire technology, active control avionics and mission equipment, and the modular consistent architectures,” Morris said. “The trailblazing work that [Future Vertical Lift] FVL is doing, we watch with keen interest. We see this as the way forward.”

Experts from all five nations will put together a Statement of Requirements over the coming years, the release said. In October, Morris said that if a letter of intent was signed at the end of 2020, an industry day would take place in 2021.

“By investing our resources and channeling our development initiative through a multinational framework, we are making sure allies are equipped with the best available capabilities which helps to maintain NATO’s technological edge,” Geoană said

The post France, Germany and Italy Among Nations to Sign Next Generation Rotorcraft Capability LOI appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Boeing 737 MAX Return to Service Approved with Alerting, Software and Wiring Changes

November 19th, 2020   •   Comments Off on Boeing 737 MAX Return to Service Approved with Alerting, Software and Wiring Changes   
Boeing 737 MAX Return to Service Approved with Alerting, Software and Wiring Changes

The FAA published its rescinding of the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX fleet on Wednesday Nov. 18, 2020. (Boeing)

On Wednesday, Nov. 18, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officially published a rescinding of its emergency order prohibiting the operation of the Boeing 737 MAX, 19 months after the aircraft was grounded following its operation in separate Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines flights that killed a combined 346 passengers and crew onboard.

FAA Administrator Steve Dickson signed an order rescinding the grounding Wednesday, and the agency published a new Airworthiness Directive (AD) outlining design changes that need to be made to individual MAX airplanes before the in-service fleet returns to passenger-carrying service. The agency estimates that the AD affects a total of 72 aircraft operated by U.S. airlines, while Boeing has another 450 of the MAX aircraft parked in storage waiting to be delivered.

Specific changes required on the MAX by the new AD focus on improving the overall functionality of the maneuvering characteristics augmentation system (MCAS) and its associated systems and components along with some required manual and pilot training updates. MCAS is designed to automatically command the aircraft’s nose-down stabilizer to enhance pitch characteristics when entering steep turns with elevated load factors and flaps up conditions that are approaching stall, according to Boeing.

Among the changes to the MAX required by the new AD include a revision to the aircraft’s flight control software, which now requires inputs from both angle-of-attack (AOA) sensors.

Prior to its grounding, MCAS relied on information from a single AOA sensor feed, making it vulnerable to failure if the data reported by either sensor individually was flawed or erroneous for any reason. Under the new software update, inputs from both sensors are required and the flight control system software will now compare inputs from both sensors if those inputs differ by 5.5 degrees or more for a specified period of time the Speed Trim System (STS), which includes MCAS, will be deactivated for the remainder of the flight.

“The new flight control laws now permit only one activation of MCAS per sensed high-AOA event, and limit the magnitude of any MCAS command to move the horizontal stabilizer such that the resulting position of the stabilizer will preserve the flight crew’s ability to control the airplane’s pitch by using only the control column. This means the pilot will have sufficient control authority without the need to make electric or manual stabilizer trim inputs,” FAA said in the new AD.

A new mechanism for monitoring the performance of each flight control computer and cross-FCC monitoring has also been including in the updated flight control software, according to the AD. There is also a mandate for each 737 MAX that re-enters service to feature an “AOA DISAGREE” alert, a message that will appear on the pilot’s primary flight display if there is a failure in either AOA sensor or if the flight control system experiences a significant calibration issue.

Previously, the AOA DISAGREE alerting message was included on the MAX as a purchase option. This change will require the installation of new MAX display system software.

The FAA provided cost estimates for the required changes established by the new airworthiness directive.

FAA is also requiring changes to the horizontal stabilizer trim wire routing, an AOA sensor system test, and an operational readiness flight for each MAX that is targeted for re-entry into service. In a 99-page report analyzing its review of the 737 MAX re-certification program published on the same day as the AD, the agency also summarized the changes to the aircraft’s design and operation established by the rescinding order.

“The MCAS activation software now includes a maximum limit of one nose-down stabilizer activation during a single elevated AOA event and cannot be reset by pilot activation of the electric trim switches,” the agency said.

The overall amount of time required to complete the re-certification program and sign the rescinding order ungrounding the 737 MAX fleet was 20 months, according to a video statement published by Dickson on the FAA’s YouTube page. Before finalizing the AD, the FAA reviewed more than 550 public comments submitted by the proposed AD published in August.

New training requirements for U.S. operators of the MAX have also been published, according to Dickson.

“This doesn’t mean that the MAX will immediately take to the skies, we will still have to approve the 737 MAX pilot training program for every US airline operating the MAX, additionally the FAA will retain its authority to issue airworthiness certificates and export certificates of airworthiness for all new 737 MAX aircraft manufactured since the FAA issued a grounding order last year. Airlines that have parked MAX aircraft will also have to follow required maintenance steps to prepare them to fly again,” Dickson said.

During an appearance on CNBC following the publishing of the AD Wednesday, Dickson said the combination of the design changes and training for pilots will make it “impossible” for the MAX to experience the same kind of accident that lead to the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air crashes.

Stan Deal, president and chief executive officer of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, called the FAA’s directive an “important milestone,” in a Nov. 18 statement published by Boeing.

“We will continue to work with regulators around the world and our customers to return the airplane back into service worldwide,” Deal said.

The post Boeing 737 MAX Return to Service Approved with Alerting, Software and Wiring Changes appeared first on Aviation Today.

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FAA, NASA UAS Demonstrations Mark End of UTM Pilot Program

November 19th, 2020   •   Comments Off on FAA, NASA UAS Demonstrations Mark End of UTM Pilot Program   
FAA, NASA UAS Demonstrations Mark End of UTM Pilot Program

The second phase of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) traffic management pilot program (UTM/UPP) ended with testing demonstrations in partnership with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

The second phase of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) traffic management pilot program (UTM/UPP) ended with testing demonstrations in partnership with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) focused on testing remote identification (RID) technology and beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations, according to a Nov. 17 press release.

The demonstrations used test sites at the Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP) and the New York UAS Test Site (NYUASTS) with each event attracting over 100 participants. The demonstrations collaborated with local public safety agencies to show complex UTM capabilities in BVLOS operations, according to the release.

The FAA and NASA demonstrated the ability of the FAA to access information from industry with the FAA UTM Flight Information Management System prototype and infrastructure and exchange secure information between the FAA and industry, according to the release. The demonstrations also used UAS volume reservations and in-flight separation to show how UAS would operate in a high-density environment.

“The demonstrations will help move us closer to safe beyond-visual-line-of-sight drone operations,” Pamela Whitley, the FAA’s acting assistant administrator for NextGen, said in a press statement. “Flight testing UTM capabilities in high-density airspace will help us develop policy for safely and efficiently integrating drones into our national airspace while benefiting and serving communities.”

RID capabilities were validated in the demonstrations using data and new technology to confirm the latest international standards. The highly anticipated RID rules from the FAA are set to be released in December.

The UTM/UPP will inform policy considerations, standards developments, and the implementation of a UTM system. The FAA will now use the results of the program to allow stakeholders to develop capabilities based on lessons learned, according to the FAA.

The post FAA, NASA UAS Demonstrations Mark End of UTM Pilot Program appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Gogo’s John Wade Talks Intelsat Commercial Aviation In-flight Connectivity Acquisition

November 19th, 2020   •   Comments Off on Gogo’s John Wade Talks Intelsat Commercial Aviation In-flight Connectivity Acquisition   
Gogo’s John Wade Talks Intelsat Commercial Aviation In-flight Connectivity Acquisition

John Wade is the president of commercial aviation for Gogo.

 

In early September, Intelsat made the move to acquire Gogo’s Commercial Aviation business for $400 million. Despite the aviation industry’s struggles during the COVID-19 pandemic and Intelsat’s ongoing Chapter 11 restructuring, the operator’s creditors approved the deal, which will create another vertically integrated player in the in-flight connectivity (IFC) market. Analysts also applauded the capacity efficiencies the deal will bring, and it could be a win-win situation for both parties.

Intelsat CCO Samer Halawi recently said the deal will transform the IFC experience for airlines, as Gogo will now have efficient use of Intelsat’s satellite capacity, and that Intelsat has a strong vision of future growth in the commercial aviation market. The transaction is expected to close early in 2021.

Here, John Wade, Gogo’s president of Commercial Aviation, talks about why the acquisition made sense for Gogo, what restructuring will look like, and how IFC will be affected during the pandemic recovery.

 

Why did this deal make sense for Gogo? Why was Intelsat a good fit for the business?

Wade: I think the deal made sense for both parties. There’s been discussion around the industry for years about not only consolidation but the need to become more vertically integrated — to make sure that there’s true value added in everything one’s doing. Intelsat recognized that that was something that needed to happen. They are clearly a very strong satellite operator and have been for decades, and with a great roadmap to the future. So, from our perspective, merging with a satellite operator made all the sense in the world … from Intelsat’s perspective, we’re the leading in-flight connectivity provider in the industry today. So, putting those two together means you’ve got this very formidable partnership, which is going to allow us to offer really compelling in-flight connectivity solutions to the world’s airlines.

 

How do you think this deal will result in better service for airlines and their customers?

Wade: I think it comes down to both owner economics and scale. Intelsat has a great repertoire of satellites that give it global access. With its planned roadmap to the future, that’s only going to get stronger and better. That means we’re going to be able to bring very competitive, very high caliber, high service level in-flight Wi-Fi to the world’s airlines.

 

What other opportunities does being vertically integrated with a satellite provider bring Gogo?

Wade: I think it’s that access to satellite capacity — that’s the primary thing we got from merging the organizations. There’s certainly going to be some scale benefit as well if you’re putting together a large satellite operator with a large Internet of Things (IoT) provider, but the relationship is complimentary. We bring a lot of things that they don’t have today. And, they bring a lot of capacity that our customers are very excited to get. So, I think it’s a very natural marriage.

 

What challenges has Gogo had that will be addressed under Intelsat?

Wade: I think it’s the same thing. The primary thing we get from the relationship with Intelsat is access to not just current capacity, but future capacity. Intelsat has a very innovative and open-minded approach to how we bring capacity together. Whether it’s on their own satellites, partner satellites, or other third parties’ [satellites], I think we’re going to have an incredibly compelling global network of satellites and capacity. That’s going to mean having the highest service levels in the industry.

 

As I understand it, Commercial Aviation will maintain its office in Chicago, and it’ll be an independent business unit under Intelsat. So, what will restructuring look like?

Wade: We’re not anticipating much in the way of changes. Until the deal is closed, we’re still operating as a part of Gogo. But from what we understand Intelsat’s goals are post-merger, we will continue to operate as a standalone division inside the Intelsat infrastructure — which will be based in Chicago with the current team. One of the things that Intelsat told us was attractive about Gogo was the quality of the people in the team we have here in Chicago. It’s a great testament to the fact that they recognize that Gogo has been a leader in IFC. It’s the people, as well as the products, that make a difference in the way that we have been able to deliver market-leading IFC services to the world.

 

Gogo will maintain its business aviation segment. But, will it look any different with the Intelsat acquisition?

Wade: That’s really a question for the guys who are running the business aviation side. But, I think it’s a win-win for both sides of the Gogo business: both for the Commercial Aviation (CA) business to become part of Intelsat, as well as allowing the part of Gogo’s remaining Business Aviation side to really focus on the success that it’s had in the Business Aviation market.

 

The deal means Intelsat has access to go Gogo’s Air-to-Ground (ATG) service for Commercial Aviation. Could you see a deal in the future between Commercial Aviation and Business Aviation to equip some business aviation customers with satellite IFC?

Wade: Yeah, at closing, we expect to enter into a satellite network sharing agreement, which will support some of the Business Aviation aircraft with Intelsat’s satellite network. So, yes, the relationship will go both ways: Gogo will provide current and next-generation air-to-ground services to install that. Then, we will do the same in reverse and Intelsat will provide satellite service back to Gogo.

 

Are there any new antenna partnerships in the works?

Wade: Just as a general matter of policy, we don’t announce new products that haven’t had any formal product announcement. There’s nothing I can really specifically say about that. What I can say is, I think both Intelsat and Gogo have a history of innovation that goes back decades … that will inevitably, at some point, include new antenna technologies as well as other technologies.

 

You’ve seen a lot from working in the aviation market over many years. Is this pandemic the most challenging environment you’ve seen?

Wade: I think this is the most challenging time for aviation since the Wright brothers. We’ve never seen global aviation take such a profound market hit in terms of the impact on passenger traffic. Although, I was delighted to see how many airlines immediately switched from pulling passengers to hauling medical supplies. There are various airlines out there, including some of our customer airlines, that went as far as taking seats off the triple sevens to put in a lot more medical materials to be moved around the planet. I think it just speaks to the need that we have as a global society today, for aviation, which forms the very fabric of society … I think we’ll see aviation recover in the post-pandemic period.

 

Clearly, airlines are also challenged during the pandemic. What is your forecast for a return to pre-pandemic air travel?

Wade: I was actually just talking to one of our major customers about that a few minutes ago. I think the entire industry feels it’s going to be several years before we see the industry return to normal. But I think we’re going to see a rapid recovery in ’21 once a vaccine is more widely available, and people have the confidence to fly again. So I think we’ll see the majority of the recovery happening in 21. And then [we need until] ’22 or ’23 before we get back to the pre-pandemic levels.

 

Speaking of recovery, what trends do you see happening in IFC during the recovery?

Wade: This is actually really interesting — I was having a conversation with the same customer [about this]. We are not seeing many people flying on business, most people are flying for vacation reasons. Yet, the percentage of passengers using our products is just as strong today as it was pre-COVID when most of our passengers were business. So, what we’re seeing is that we’re all online, all the time … and this shift is seeing people traveling on leisure not just wanting to use IFC, but actually using in-flight connectivity — it’s a trend that’s going to carry on into the post-COVID period. So we expect to see a very strong recovery in terms of passenger connectivity use in the future.

 

Gogo had to make some cuts during the pandemic, furloughing more than 600 employees and reducing 143 positions. Do you have any updates on when those workers on furlough will be brought back?

Wade: Yeah, they’re all back already, we actually brought everybody back at the end of August. Unfortunately, that wasn’t true for the people whose positions were eliminated. We had to take that unfortunate step because we believe it’s going to be years before the industry has recovered back to its previous levels. But I can say that Intelsat was extremely impressed with what the Gogo team has been able to do over the years and fully intends to keep everybody that is a Gogo employee today and move them on to becoming Intelsat employees once the deal closes.

 

This article was originally published in Via Satellite, a sister publication to Avionics. It has been edited. 

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