Viasat‘s in-flight connectivity (IFC) Ka-band service is now ready to commence operation in Chinese airspace, the satellite operator announced Tuesday. Working in cooperation with China Satellite Communications (China Satcom), Viasat said it will soon begin delivering IFC service to domestic and international airlines via the Ka-band ChinaSat-16 satellite system.
The IFC service development was the result of a partnership agreement between Viasat and China Satcom that specifically covers commercial aviation IFC. Under the terms of the agreement, each company maintains its own intellectual property and will operate its equipment using a multi-layered approach to network services.
“Working with China Satcom, we have achieved a great milestone— delivering strong customer performance gains in terms of network speed and reliability at any phase of a flight, which provides an on-the-ground internet experience even when in-flight,” Don Buchman, Viasat’s vice president and general manager of commercial aviation, said in a statement. “The effort committed to by both teams has been tremendous and showcases the capabilities of Viasat’s industry-leading technology with China Satcom’s satellite capacity.”
Viasat did not give a specific date for the Chinese IFC service launch.
It’s been a busy November for Viasat, which just acquired U.K. global operator Inmarsatin a massive $7.3 billion deal that included a payment of $850 million in cash and 46.36 million Viasat shares valued at $3.1 billion. The combined company will have a spectrum license portfolio across the Ka-, L-, and S-bands and a fleet of 19 satellites in service, with an additional 10 satellites to come in the next three years.
IFC falls under Viasat’s Commercial Networks business. While the division is Viasat’s smallest, it saw the largest growth in it’s latest financial quarterly report. Viasat reported $135 million in revenue in its latest quarter ending in September, up 71 percent from the same time last year. Viasat said mobile In-Flight Connectivity (IFC) terminal deliveries and the continued strong performance of its ground antenna systems business drove this increase.
This article was first published by Via Satellite, a sister publication to Avionics International, it has been edited, view the original version here.
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U.S. aerospace firms are suggesting that an upcoming 5G rollout by AT&T and Verizon could lead to harmful interference with military radar altimeters. Earlier this month, the wireless companies said that they plan to move the debut back a month from Dec. 5 to Jan. 5, 2022 to address Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) concerns about potential 5G interference with commercial cockpit safety systems.
Since October 2017, aviation companies, starting with Boeing, have warned federal officials of the danger 5G transmissions in the 3.7 – 3.98 GHz frequency range–the “C band”–may pose in interfering with and giving false readings to commercial and military radar altimeters operating nearby in the 4.2-4.4 GHz band, per a Nov. 18 letter by aviation companies and interest groups to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Radar altimeters help pilots flying at 2,500 feet and below to determine altitude precisely.
The Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), the Aircraft Electronics Association, Boeing, Airbus, Collins Aerospace, Garmin International, FreeFlight Systems and Helicopter Association International are among the signatories of the Nov. 18 letter.
The missive criticized what the organizations said was a downplaying of the 5G interference threat by CTIA, the wireless industry’s trade association.
For example, the letter said that CTIA should not point to the U.S. Navy’s AN/SPN-43 radar by ITT-Gilfillan, now part of L3Harris Technologies, as an example. Navy aircraft carriers use the SPN-43 for air traffic control.
“CTIA has once again brought up this system that does not disrupt normal aviation operations due to the combination of power, duty cycle, waveform and the fact this system is deployed well away from aircraft landing and takeoff areas,” the letter said.
The Saab SPN-50 is to replace the 1960s-era SPN-43.
“The commission should not consider CTIA’s anecdotal examples as reasons to ignore the aviation industry’s desire to protect public safety without debilitating impacts on travel and other critical aviation operations,” per the Nov. 18 letter to the FCC. “Aviation’s findings of potential interference impacts require a very conservative analysis, focusing on worst case scenarios, because it could only take one instance of harmful interference to cause an accident. The fact no aircraft have crashed to date due to 5G interference in another country is not a reason to ignore the potential of it happening when 5G is deployed in the 3700-3980 MHz band in the U.S. Power levels and deployment scenarios are different than in the U.S, and even with these differences 5G deployment restrictions are in place in some countries, such as Canada and France and being considered in others.”
In October last year, the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics (RTCA) released a study on the possible impacts of 5G interference with commercial aviation, and the organization said that it would perform additional work to determine any interference with military radar altimeters, if asked.
The modern standard for commercial and civil aircraft is the frequency-modulated continuous wave (FMCW) radar altimeter, while many military aircraft still have unmodulated pulse radar altimeters, per the study.
The standard U.S. Air Force radar altimeter, used on C-130, C-17, C-5, F-16, F-15, and MH-53 aircraft, is the AN/APN-232 FMCW Combined Altitude Radar Altimeter (CARA) by NavCom Defense Electronics, Inc. and now supported by Melbourne, Fla.-based Extant Aerospace.
The Nov. 18 letter by the aerospace firms said that 5G interference would impose significant costs on the aviation industry.
“Each radio [sic] altimeter and the entire system could undergo an examination as a result of just one reported radio [sic] altimeter error,” the letter said. “As part of that examination, one or more of the radio [sic] altimeters might need to be removed and tested. Additionally, the wiring involved in sending altimeter information through the aircraft might need to be checked. Each of these tasks are time consuming and not carried out lightly. The process to determine whether the fault is with the aircraft could take many months. Only then, if it is determined that everything was working properly, would an operator know to start looking at external interference sources.”
The Pentagon and defense companies are looking to 5G to accelerate military communications and expand available bandwidth. This month, Lockheed Martin said that it teamed with Verizon on “5G.MIL” through the use of a Verizon 5G commercial network at Lockheed Martin’s 5G test range in Colorado to help run military applications at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works Integration Facility and Test Center in Texas.
This article was first published by Defense Daily, a sister publication to Avionics International, it has been edited, to view the original version, click here.
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The Beechcraft Denali, powered by GE Aviation’s new Catalyst engine, completed its first test flight Tuesday, according to a Nov. 23 announcement from Textron Aviation.
According to details shared by Textron, the single-engine turboprop reached an altitude of 15,600 feet and a top speed of 180 knots during a flight from the company’s west campus at Eisenhower International Airport. The 2-hour and 50-minute flight tested the aircraft’s “performance, stability and control, as well as its propulsion, environmental, flight controls and avionics systems,” the company said.
Developed with an 1,100-pound payload and a range of 1,600 nautical miles, Textron added the Denali to its existing turboprop family—including the twin-engine Beechcraft King Air 260 and King Air 360/360ER—earlier this year after the aircraft previously made its debut as the Cessna Denali.
“Today’s landmark flight is not only a significant occasion for the Denali, it’s a truly great moment for our employees, our suppliers and the customers who will be flying this aircraft,” Ron Draper, president and CEO of Textron Aviation said in a statement. “With its more environmentally friendly engine and largest cabin in its class, this is an aircraft that will change the landscape for high-performance single-engine turboprop aircraft.”
Textron is featuring Garmin’s G3000 avionics suite in the cockpit of the Denali, with a standard auto throttle feature that interfaces with the automatic flight control system and flight management system for speed control throughout all phases of flight, according to the company. Two touchscreen flight control panels, three 14-inch wide screen LCD displays, synthetic vision and a weather avoidance radar are among the other standard features of the Denali cockpit.
The Catalyst featured on the Denali makes it the first Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC)-controlled turboprop engine, according to Textron. GE Aviation completed its own first flight of the Catalyst on a Beechcraft King Air modified test bed in September, and has been ground-testing prototype Catalyst engines where it is being developed, in Germany.
Peter Gracey, a senior test pilot for Textron, described the first flight was “simply flawless.”
“It’s just a great aircraft to fly. The Catalyst engine was outstanding, and the aircraft performed to the levels we were anticipating. First flights really can’t go more smoothly than this. We are really off to an excellent start for the Denali flight test program,” Gracey said in a statement.
Textron is targeting Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification for the Denali in 2023.
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On this episode of the Connected Aviation Intelligence Podcast, we feature a sponsored interview with Intelsat.
John Wade, president of the commercial aviation division of Intelsat, joins the episode to explain how the introduction of software-defined satellites will revolutionize in-flight connectivity (IFC).
Intelsat signed a contract with Airbus to build two OneSat satellites operating in multiple frequency bands that will power their next-generation software-defined network earlier this year.
John talks about how that technology will improve in-flight connectivity performance and also gives a status update on Intelsat’s current install base in terms of the number of connected commercial aviation aircraft using their current satellite network.
Learn more about how Intelsat is shaping the future of connected air travel by clicking here.
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Emirates is retrofitting its fleet of Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 aircraft with upgraded avionics and in-flight entertainment (IFE) systems, according to separate announcements made by the Middle Eastern carrier and Collins Aerospace during the Dubai Air Show.
Under an agreement signed with Collins Aerospace, Emirates will modify its fleet of 101 total 777s and 107 total A380s with the GLU-2100 multi-mode receiver (MMR). Collins is also supplying a ” full suite of avionics and satcom capabilities to Emirates’ 777X aircraft,” according to a Nov. 16 press release.
MMRs are designed to ensure the integrity of aircraft positioning, velocity and timing reference, as well as availability of aircraft in low visibility conditions, according to Collins Aerospace. The GLU-2100 MMR that Emirates will install on its aircraft also features a flexible hardware baseline necessary to implement future Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) functionality such as multi-frequency and multi-constellation (MFMC), and Ground Based Augmentation System (GBAS) Category II/III via software-only update, the company says.
Airbus recently approved the GLU-2100 MMR as line-fit equipment on its Airbus A320, A330 and A350 aircraft.
Additionally, some of the A380s and 777s being modified with the GLU-2100 MMR are also being targeted by Emirates to be retrofitted with a new Premium Economy cabin class. The 18-month retrofit program was announced in a Nov. 16 press release published by Emirates, noting that it will see a combined 111 Boeing 777 and Airbus A380 aircraft equipped with the new cabin class.
On the Boeing 777 fleet, five rows of Economy class seats located just behind Business Class will be removed to install 24 Premium Economy seats laid out in 2-4-2 configuration. On the selected A380s, 56 Premium Economy seats will installed at the front of the main deck also in 2-4-2 configuration, according to Emirates.
Each Emirates Premium Economy seat includes a 13.3-inch personal seat-back screen and the airline’s Ice in-flight entertainment system.
“Emirates is investing in this retrofit programme to ensure that we continue to serve our customers’ needs, and provide the best experiences in the sky. Since we introduced our Premium Economy seats a year back, we’ve received a hugely positive response,” Tim Clark, President Emirates, said in a statement. “Customers have been amazed by the quality and comfort. As Emirates has done with our signature First, Business and full-service Economy travel experiences, we intend to further develop our Premium Economy into a distinctive Emirates experience that is unmatched in the industry. We are also considering a brand new Business Class product. More details will be revealed in due course.”
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Kuwait Airways is ready to begin uplinking and downlinking non-critical non-air traffic control (ATC) Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) messages over internet protocol (IP) links, according to a Nov. 14 press release shared by Collins Aerospace from the Dubai Air Show.
Two of the Airbus A330neo aircraft being operated by the Middle Eastern carrier are equipped to transmit non-safety ACARS messages over IP by using the Collins Aerospace Ground Flight Operations and Maintenance Exchanger (Ground FOMAX). The airline is using Ground FOMAX in an effort to reduce the amount of non-safety ACARS messaging traffic transmitted over the traditional very high frequency (VHF) and safety satellite communications channels that airlines traditionally use them for.
“As aircraft become more data-intensive, this additional information “pipeline” is critical to the efficiency of airlines, airports and air traffic control,” Clotilde Enel-Rehel, general manager for Commercial Aviation & Network Services for Collins Aerospace, said in the release. “Kuwait Airways will serve as a great example of how nearly 80 percent of ACARS traffic can be routed through an IP system, as well as utilizing both ground cellular connectivity and inflight cabin connectivity to offload ACARS over IP.”
Ground FOMAX is capable of transmitting the ACARS messages using IP by establishing a VPN-secured IP connection between the aircraft and ground, and then routing the messages through ARINC’s “Ground Messaging Processor (GMP) through the ARINC Global Network in the same format as ACARS messages today,” according to Collins.
Ground FOMAX is compatible with all FOMAX-equipped Airbus A320 and A330 aircraft, and enables automated management of cellular or satcom-based IP, using least cost routing rules that are customized to an airline’s preferred media, according to Collins Aerospace. Airbus includes a FOMAX router and connectivity unit on new-build A320s and A330s.
Airbus features the Ground FOMAX AOIP technology as line-fit equipment on all of its newly manufactured A320 and A330 aircraft. There are currently 10 other airlines that are working with Collins to start using Ground FOMAX in 2022.
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Diehl, the Germany-based aircraft systems supplier and Thales, the Toulouse-based avionics maker, will each supply the flight control computers for the CityAirbus NextGen electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft revealed by Airbus during their Sustainability Summit in September.
Airbus announced the flight control computer supplier agreements in a Nov. 17 press release, establishing Thales as the supplier of the eVTOL’s main computing system with Diehl supplying a secondary flight control computer.
“I’m delighted to announce today the first system partnership for the development of our CityAirbus NextGen” Joerg P. Mueller, head of urban air mobility at Airbus said in the release. “UAM is a joint effort. Nobody can do it alone. Airbus is reaching out to potential partners from the industry to design and build an optimised vehicle for safe and efficient air transport in urban environments. With Thales and Diehl, we are proud to have two excellent partners with a lot of expertise on board.”
CityAirbus NextGen’s flight control computing architecture will be dissimilar, and “comply with the new EASA regulation for eVTOL,” according to Airbus. Diehl’s secondary flight control computer will be responsible for monitoring data outputs from the primary computer, “and it can also take over the flight control itself,” Airbus notes in the announcement.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is working on a special condition VTOL (SC VTOL) means of compliance (MOC) to certify eVTOL aircraft. A finalized version EASA’s MOC for eVTOLs will use newly developed Eurocae standards.
A central component to the flight control computer that Diehl will supply is its “remote computing module (RCM)” capable of enabling “multifunctional applications beyond the pure flight control,” according to an announcement about the supplier partnership posted by the company. The division of Diehl that will be supplying the secondary FCC, Diehl Aerospace, is operated as a joint venture between Diehl Aviation and Thales.
Thales notes that the redundancy built into the flight control computing system and its streamlined architecture “will make certification simpler while retaining the capacity to accommodate further developments and host multiple functions such as navigation, guidance and pilot assistance,” in a Nov. 17 announcement.
“We are thrilled to see that our close cooperation with Airbus and Diehl is once again delivering concrete results through an agreement that will add a whole new dimension to air mobility,” Yannick Assouad, Thales Executive Vice President, Avionics, said, commenting on the new partnership. “With this safe and innovative flight control solution, we are working together to build an airspace environment we can all trust.”
Airbus is aiming to launch its eVTOL with a range of 80 kilometers with speeds of up to 120 kilometers per hour. The zero emissions all-electric four-seater aircraft is being developed initially as a prototype, with Airbus indicating plans to achieve a first flight by 2023 and certification as early as 2025, according to comments made by Mueller, during the recent Sustainability Summit.
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Thales has confirmed that it will be supplying the latest version of its flight control computers to Gulfstream for their G400 and G800 business jets.
Gulfstream revealed the two all-new aircraft types, the large cabin G400 and what will become the longest-range aircraft in the company’s history, the G800—during an Oct. 5 live-streamed ceremony from its Savannah, Georgia headquarters. Both aircraft are keeping the Symmetry flight deck, data concentration network and active control side sticks that were also featured on the G500, G600 and G700.
“The Gulfstream G400 and Gulfstream G800 will use the latest iteration of Thales’ Flight Control Computer family which benefit from improved growth capability to host new functionalities that the airframer may choose to implement,” Andre Cleroux, Vice President Business, Regional and Urban Mobility Aircraft at Thales told Avionics International in an emailed statement.
On the G800, Gulfstream is including seating for up to 19 passengers and a range of 8,000 nautical miles (nm). The business jet manufacturer has already built and started testing the G800, which will also feature dual head-up displays with a new combined vision system that blends enhanced flight vision system (EFVS) and synthetic vision system (SVS) functionality into a single image.
“Thales’ fly-by-wire flight controls are installed in Gulfstream’s G800 flight test aircraft. Thales is fully aligned to support the Gulfstream G800 flight test schedule,” Cleroux said.
The G400 will feature three different floorplans, with configurations supporting seating for nine, 11 or 12 passengers and will fly 4,200 nm at its long-range cruise speed of Mach 0.85. Powered by Pratt & Whitney’s PW812GA engines, the G400 is Gulfstream’s first new large-cabin aircraft program in more than a decade.
Phebe Novakovic, CEO of Gulfstream parent company General Dynamics, said during their Oct. 27 earnings call that they’re already seeing “a lot of good interest” and they have “taken a good number orders” already on the two new aircraft types. Gulfstream’s current aircraft order backlog is also at its highest level in six years, according to comments made by Novakovic during the call.
The company is anticipating customer deliveries of the G800 to begin by 2023, followed by the G400 in 2025.
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Widerøe Zero, the air mobility business incubator division of the Norwegian airline, has committed to an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) vehicle concept of operations study in Scandinavia, under a new partnership with Embraer subsidiary Eve Urban Air Mobility Inc.
According to a Nov. 10 press release, the two companies will use the zero-emission eVTOL being developed by Eve to develop an eVTOL concept of operations in Scandinavia. The partnership will extend the E-Jets E2 family launch customer’s relationship with Embraer, several years after it became the first airline to start operating the E-190-E2 in April 2018, in Bergen, Norway.
“Widerøe Zero is excited to work with Eve on the eVTOL concept. Although initially designed for Urban Air Mobility, we expect these highly flexible vehicles to be interesting in a variety of applications also in rural areas; from cargo to passenger transportation. Our partnership with Eve is part of our plan to accelerate the development of sustainable aviation in Norway. We are looking forward to the expanded partnership, unlocking new opportunities to improve regional connectivity,” Andreas Kollbye Aks, CEO of Widerøe Zero said in a statement.
The airline describes Widerøe Zero as a “consultancy-cum-incubator” that is tasked with helping to meet a target of operating a zero-emissions aircraft by 2026. As part of the partnership with Eve, Widerøe Zero will also contribute to a market readiness exercise in the region as well.
“In order to contribute to the world target to eliminate greenhouse gas emission by 2050, the aerospace industry depends on disruptive innovation. With Urban Air Mobility, we have a unique opportunity to design a new and optimized mobility ecosystem: infrastructure, vehicle, operations and air traffic management systems” André Stein, president and CEO of Eve said in a statement. “We are thrilled to work together with Widerøe Zero to develop UAM solutions in Scandinavia, with an entirely new, zero-emission, experience to travelers.”
The partnership is the latest to focus on regional evaluations for Eve after receiving a signed letter of intent to purchase 100 of their eVTOL aircraft from a large Brazilian private jet operator, and Widerøe’s latest advancement toward lowering their CO2 emissions. Widerøe is one of several airlines that has submitted a letter of intent to purchase the 19-seater all-electric ES-19 regional turboprop being developed by Swedish aircraft maker Heart Aerospace.
Neither company provided a timeline to when they intend to begin the eVTOL vehicle concept of operation study.
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Joby Aviation is on track to begin its first Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) aircraft conformity inspection, the latest in a series of flight testing and program advancements shared by the company during its first quarterly earnings call on Thursday.
The California-based company is developing a four-passenger electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, and completed a series of program advancements toward achieving FAA type certification during the third quarter of 2021 published in a Nov. 11 letter to shareholders. According to the FAA, the agency uses aircraft conformity inspections to verify that a manufacturer’s airframe conforms to the type design established in their approved program and operational scope.
Lina Spross, a former aircraft and avionics certification engineer for United Airlines and L3 Technologies, is leading the development of Joby’s first FAA-conforming part, a single airframe composite panel.
“In breaking news, we’re on track to start our first conformity inspection this week with an FAA designee on site, the focus of the inspection is a simple composite panel but its properties are representative of the entire airframe structure and delivering it according to the required standards which is what the FAA is checking as part of this inspection,” Paul Sciarra, executive chairman of Joby Aviation said during the call.
Sciarra said that now with more than 1,000 test flights completed across a range of different prototype aircraft, Joby’s “focus as a company is now shifting beyond engineering and initial testing to certification and commercialization.”
In addition to the start of aircraft conformity inspection, the company’s human factors team also completed an initial pilot evaluation campaign of their production cockpit design. Their flight control computer has also completed high risk electronic environmental testing, also a key step toward earning type certification. Other testing currently occurring on the production aircraft includes tail spar load, battery drop, lightning strike and cabin bird strike, Sciarra said during the call.
Other accomplishments from the third quarter include completing a 154-mile flight, the beginning of an Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) national campaign with NASA and the merger of Joby with Reinvent Technology Partners (RTP) to become a public traded company on the New York Stock Exchange. Joby has also entered the second of five stages toward earning a Part 135 Air Carrier Certificate from the FAA that will authorize passenger-carrying revenue flights in U.S. airspace.
“We’re incredibly grateful to the amazing acoustics team at NASA for spending a few weeks with us at our flight test base,” JoeBen Bevirt, Joby’s founder and CEO, said during the call. “The testing work that we’ve done with them is a key step and a foundation for the skyport permitting that we’re doing with cities across the country.
Sciarra also addressed the company’s preference to keep a vertical integration strategy that will see Joby as both the manufacturer and the operator of its eVTOL aircraft, although that could occur in a variety of different ways based on who and where their eVTOL is being acquired an operated.
“We believe the right way to commercialize these aircraft isn’t to sell them but instead to operate them ourselves, delivering the service directly to our own customers. This approach allows us to better control the passenger experience and safety of our launch,” Sciarra said.
However, Sciarra said, there are already some customers Joby is working with such as the Department of Defense (DoD), where their eVTOL service will not be sold or operated the way that it is for commercial passenger carrying flights.
“I think as we think about commercializing the service outside of the U.S., there may be different flavors of that vertical integration where maybe we’re not delivering the service directly to end customers but we’re not delivering it indirectly and someone else is acting as the front end on the service,” Sciarra said. “Here in the U.S. we feel great about our great partnership with Uber we think that’s going to be a great demand generation front end for the service, but outside of the US there may be other partners that look a little bit different.”
Joby is developing an electric air taxi with capacity for up to four passengers and one pilot, following an FAA Part 23 special conditions path to certification, while projecting a 2024 entry-into-service. Sciarra also explained why Joby prefers a vertical integration strategy with less focus on extensively working with established aerospace suppliers—with some exceptions. As an example, in February, Joby selected Garmin’s G3000 as the integrated flight deck for its eVTOL aircraft.
“One of the things we have been very focused on as a company is controlling more of the design and the development of the components that go into the aircraft,” Sciarra said. “One of the reasons why that’s important is not just that it allows us we think to develop a more conformant aircraft than might be possible with commercial off the shelf components, but also because we’re not reliant upon suppliers for parts to show up at the right time and to spec for the certification process. By controlling more of that both design and manufacturing in-house we think that gives us greater confidence that we’re going to be able to really program manage the certification process successfully.”
Joby reported a $78.9 million net loss for the third quarter, a reflection of their ongoing hiring and growth in their engineering, certification and early manufacturing activities. At the end of the third quarter, the company reported $1.4 billion in cash and short-term investments, according to their letter to shareholders.
Greg Bowles, head of government affairs for Joby, will share an update on their progress with certification on Nov. 16.
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