Friday, May 14, 2010

NextGen Now an Important Part of Aircraft Buying & Selling Decisions

Welcome to Wired!

Deciding to buy or sell an in-service transport-category aircraft is a process that employs a calculus of variations to assess myriad values. There are hundreds of them, from cycles and hours remaining on life-limited components and systems to fleet compatibility, maintenance training, spare parts, and required documentation on things like Standardized Wiring Practices, which includes EWIS, electrical wiring interconnection systems (another area of ASIG expertise, by the way).   

Airliner for sale Add a new variable: the NextGen National Air Transportation  System. Really. After years of talking and testing, the time has come to get serious  about  upgrading to  performance-based navigation systems that deliver the required navigational performance because “tomorrow” is here. And  travelers know it’s coming, thanks to articles like “Overhaul Lies Ahead for Air Traffic Control,” which recently ran in Cincinnati.

The satellite-based Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) system now tracks aircraft over the Gulf of Mexico and Louisville, and it is coming online in Juneau and Philadelphia. But that’s just the start. “By 2013, satellite-based surveillance will be available to equipped operators nationwide [emphasis added],” writes FAA Administrator Randy Babbit.  

Naturally, work on NextGen will continue beyond 2013 as the government redesigns the airspace to match the new satellite-based systems. But the administrator’s words are also an unspoken warning: aircraft not equipped for NextGen airspace will go to the end of line for ATC services, a position that will match their standing with their competition—and consumers.

Why buy or sell an aircraft in this time of transition? Because upgrading some aircraft is easier and more economical than others. And as airlines like Southwest have proven, a homogenous fleet, which cuts the cost of upgrades, spare parts, and maintenance, makes an important contribution to overall success. (See Fleet Upgrades Share Rewards--and Costs.)

Whether you are buying, selling, or both, ASIG's Fleet Planning & Support staff are masters of complex calculus, working all of the financial, regulatory, and operational variables in custom computations founded on clearly defined operational requirements. The results are decisions that deliver the best return on an investment in NextGen capabilities. 

Airplane lot Beyond a comprehensive analysis of cost versus configuration, ASIG can handle the entire process for buyers and sellers,   reliably completing every task quickly and correctly. Tasks range from finding appropriate aircraft and thoroughly evaluating it before the purchase to performing or managing all of the maintenance, upgrades, conversions, and standardization work that makes it a member of  your fleet after the deal is done.

To start calculating how you will efficiently and economically build a fleet that will take full advantage of Next Generation National Air Transportation system, contact ASIG. You can start face-to-face at the Regional Airline Association (RAA) 2010 Convention, May 24-27, at the Frontier (formerly Midwest)Airlines Convention Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Look for us in Booth 631.

Until next time, stay 5x5, mission ready, and Wired!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Major Amenities for Regional Cabins

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EMB-145 Cabin To the traveling public the hours spent strapped in a jetliner’s seat are the same whether they are in a big Boeing or Airbus or a regional jet like the Embraer EMB-145. In this confined world, what makes or breaks a flight are the amenities—or their absence. 

Cabin services are what separate regional from major carriers—until now. ASIG earned a supplemental type certificate (STC) in April that adds a power supply for passenger personal electronic devices (PEDs) to the EMB-145. It completes Phase II of  ASIG’s three-part program that upgrades regional cabins with major amenities.

Rare is the passenger who doesn’t carry at least one PED. Ranging from smart phones and netbooks to tablet computers (like the new iPad) and full-size laptops, business travelers often carry more than one—and they all need power. With the ASIG PED power supply STC, the launch customer can now deliver it.

AS3112-Plug ASIG built its system using  Astronics AES Empower units, which includes FAA-approved sockets on the lower sidewalls that accept plugs from 145 nations. Passengers simply plug in their PED’s AC converter. Serving up to 50 passengers, the system can be divided into as many as 12 zones. The custom ASIG control panel (with fault indication) manages the zones individually, allowing operators to monetize the service.

Regional carriers that energize and recharge their customers will  have the edge because market research shows that they are flying longer routes for their major airline partners,” says Luke Ribich, ASIG’s managing director. Using himself as an example, regionals deliver him to the hubs surrounding ASIG’s home in Little Rock, Arkansas, and “it’s an hour to Dallas, two hours to Houston, and almost three hours to Atlanta.”

Before giving passengers uninterrupted power, ASIG’s regional cabin improvement program brought them hot meals. In January 2010 it earned the STC that installed  TIA convection ovens  in the launch customer’s  EMB-145s. It is now selecting equipment, completing the certification plan, and reviewing the final details with the launch customer for Phase III, a cabin IFE server that will Wi-Fi music, movies, and other entertainment  to PED web browsers.


“Installing a full blown in-flight entertainment system in a regional jet is not cost effective,” Ribich says. But the opposite is true if the passengers bring their own screens. “Smart phones will lose their 3G signal at 10,000 feet, but like any Wi-Fi device, from portable games to laptops, when you open the web browser it’ll look for—and find—the cabin Wi-Fi enabled server.” 

Satellite-based Internet access is a Phase III option, as is the credit card screen that appears when passengers log into the cabin entertainment server. The server will download the billing information to the airline’s accounting system after landing, Ribich says.

Phase III should be completed by the end of 2010, and ASIG is in the process of adding the 37-seat EMB-135 and 44-seat EMB-140 to its Phase I and II STCs. Individually or combined, each regional cabin amenity will set that flight apart from the rest in minds of passengers. 

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