Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Video Gives Life to ADS-B Benefits

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video that clearly animates the benefits of the ADS-B system is surely worth the thousands of tiny-type pages that describes the system’s operational benefits.

This video, produced by EurocontrolTV, brings ADS-B’s time-and-money-saving benefits in non-radar areas to life. The system is now providing these benefits over  the Gulf of Mexico and Philadelphia. And it will soon be coming to airspace near you.

Until next time, stay 5x5 and Wired!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Fleet Upgrades: Share the Rewards—and the Cost

Welcome to Wired!

Preparing a legacy fleet for the NextGen National Airspace System is, perhaps, the most pressing challenge facing fleet operators today, especially if they fly transport category aircraft of different makes and models. It is tempting to consider type individually. During aviation’s analog era this often made sense, given its electro-mechanical constraints, but it can be an extraordinarily expensive thought process in the second century of powered flight.

DC8_EFIS In the era of digital decision making, the goal—the desired capabilities—matters more than the legacy systems to be replaced, says ASIG Managing Partner Luke Ribich. The same hardware, connected with aircraft specific wiring harnesses, can serve any number of different aircraft. The displays ASIG uses in its STC for a four-screen DC-8 EFIS also fly in Barons and King Airs under STCs created by others. Software that defines an airplane’s “personality,” from number of powerplants to operational and performance data, is what makes it possible to share the rewards—and costs—of a whole fleet upgrade.

Upgrading a fleet across multiple types is “absolutely less expensive than the total cost of doing each type individually,” Ribich says. ASIG’s Fleet Planning and Support covers every step of the process, starting with a SEMPER (Systems Evolution, Modernization, Execution, and Realization) evaluation. “The likelihood of providing a common solution goes up exponentially if the fleet has a good CAS or reliability program,” Ribich says.

BuildingBlockAirplane Cost is a big part of any upgrade equation. As the fleet shares in the rewards of its new capabilities, it also divides the cost of engineering and certifying them under a single STC approved model list. Certainly, Ribich says, operators must pay for “non-recurring engineering,” work specific to each model type. But that cost, too, is divided by the number of airframes involved.

Modernization costs can also be divided by time. ASIG’s SEMPER process builds a long-term integrated technical and business plan that incorporates lifecycle costs and open-system commercial off-the-shelf components. This allows a building-block plan that adds a particular NextGen capability to the fleet just before the FAA puts the service online.

Quantity discounts also apply, says William Helliwell, ASIG’s manager of engineering and programs, and they count more than airframes. Using the same boxes, the same screens, in every airframe reduces the overall cost of upgrade kitting as common fixtures and basic elements such as connectors and wire types remain static across the various kit packages. Equally important, operators “don’t need as many spares on the shelf to support the fleet.” The digital decision making process applies to all manner of fleet upgrades, including in-flight entertainment systems, he says, adding, “there isn’t very much we can’t do with an airplane.”

Until next time stay 5x5, Mission Ready & Wired!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

NextGen at Busiest Airports by 2014: Will You Be Ready?

CONUS_ATCWelcome to Wired!

The fundamental challenge of aviation has remained constant as it transitions from its first to second century: develop a safe, reliable, efficient, and economic system that moves people through the air from Point A to B. Only the specifics have changed. Developing a satellite-based digital infrastructure that makes safe and efficient use of the finite natural resource known as airspace has taken the place of airframes, powerplants, and paved runways.

Making this challenge more interesting for operators of Part-25 turbine aircraft are the economic constraints that assign more responsibilities to fewer people, all of whom are climbing the learning curve of digital aviation technology. Having climbed this curve, the experts at ASIG have amassed more than a century of avionics and systems experience. To help you make informed decisions, every two weeks they will share information and insights in the new ASIG Wired.

Take, for example, the headline of this post. As reported in the Washington Post, the US Senate approved a $34.5 billon FAA funding bill on March 23, 2010, that would have the navigation and surveillance elements of NextGen up and running at the nation’s 35 busiest airports by 2014. As a whole, NextGen is supposed to be online by 2020.

This news is not that big of a deal—unless you regularly fly to and from America’s busiest aviation hubs. In that case, 2014 doesn’t leave a lot of time to upgrade your fleet with the systems that deliver the required navigational performance NextGen demands. At the same time, rushing to upgrade a fleet can have dire, long-term operational—and financial—consequences, says Luke Ribich, ASIG’s managing partner.

ASIG avoids the penalties of haste, and takes future requirements and upgrades into account, by creating comprehensive integration plans that look 10 to 15 years into the future. It creates them with SEMPER, a process for Systems Evolution, Modernization, Execution, and Realization that builds an integrated technical and business plan gives solutions based on a formal migration strategy, lifecycle costs as independent variables, and open system, commercial off-the-shelf components. (To learn more, request the SEMPER White Paper.)

Naturally, how much time and money it will take to connect your fleet to the second century of powered flight depends on variables unique to each operator.

There has been some talk of federal assistance to help operators equip their aircraft for NextGen. To be honest, we wouldn’t count on it. Airlines would be the primary recipients, and they are only slightly more popular than Wall Streeters right now. In an editorial about “The Future of Flight,” the Washington Post wrote that “some airlines are balking at having to pay for their end of the upgrade. But they will benefit from the implementation of NextGen and should ante up.”

For whatever reason, waiting is always an option: 2020 is still a ways away, and ATC will still have to handle analog aircraft for awhile after that, right? Yes, but remember when RVSM came online, and how those without it rarely climbed above fuel guzzling altitudes? If your fleet isn’t equipped for NextGen, take a number and be prepared to wait. ATC will work you into the flow as soon as it can, because as we all know, in aviation, timing is everything.

Until next time stay 5x5, Mission Ready & Wired!