Wednesday, June 23, 2010

OnBoard Server is IFE Buffet for Passenger Personal Electronic Devices

Welcome to Wired!

image Actually talking to someone is rarely at the top of the list of things people do with their smartphones, at least that’s the impression given by Pew Research Center studies. Adding tablets like the iPad, netbooks, and old school laptop computers to the mix of personal electronic devices (PEDs) people use to connect with the wired world, ASIG realized that most airline passengers today fly with the display half of an in-flight entertainment (IFE) system. It only seemed right to meet passengers halfway and install its OnBoard IFE server and access terminal in the launch customer’s Boeing 737 NG.

Traditional IFE systems, with screens wired into the back of every seat, are heavy, expensive, and impractical on many smaller single-aisle jets. And keeping pace with technology is an expensive decision because the server that feeds the seatback displays is permanently installed.

Powered by Avionica equipment, the OnBoard server/access terminal is based on tablet computer technology and size (10.5-by-7.2-by-1.65-inches). Easily removable, it is securely mounted in a lockable dock. Combined, the server and mount weigh just 9 pounds, and keeping pace with new technology is simply a matter of remotely and wirelessly pushing content updates or plugging a freshly updated server into the dock.

Part of ASIG’s Wired Aircraft architecture, OnBoard distributes its IFE content through a secure Wi-Fi router. To connect with the outside world, ASIG can configure it with the appropriate Iridium gateway and/or satellite communication system. OnBoard’s solid-state drive holds up to 800 hours of content, from streaming video to web hosting of online catalogs. With the Iridium gateway it will handle point of sale applications with real-time credit card clearing and text messaging. With satcom, OnBoard gives passengers text e-mail and SMS service.

image OnBoard can also reduce the time and money it takes to keep an aircraft mission ready by storing all the necessary manuals, databases, LRU operating software, and code images, making them immediately available to technicians. In conjunction with the backend server based avSYNC software, OnBoard uses its wireless routers to keep its IFE and maintenance content current.

Maintenance technicians can remove the server from its locked mount and take it to where they are working. In addition to a variety of digital documents and databases, OnBoard can deliver a number of support applications, including ARINC 615, ARINC 615A dataloading, ARINC 429 databus analysis, TCAS diagnostics, DFDR download, flight data analysis, and many more.

OnBoard’s new menu software enables operators to build custom prompts and workflows, from one-touch operation to detailed data entry. Combined with the system’s scalability, you can design the system best suited to your passenger’s needs and your bottom line.

OnBoard is the third and final phase of ASIG’s Regional Aircraft Cabin Improvement Program. An April 2010 STC marked the completion of Phase II, which provides external power for passenger personal electronic devices (See Major Amenities for Regional Cabins). Phase I, STC’d in January 2010, brought eight-meal TIA convection ovens to the EMB-145.

Combining an OnBoard IFE server and access terminal with ASIG’s external power supply system to the passengers’ personal electronic devices operating at full capacity will go more than halfway in making their flight productive and entertaining.

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

Monday, June 21, 2010

Building Unique, Flexible STC Solutions

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When bidding upgrades, most operators of transport-category aircraft look at deliverables and want to know the cost of four things: nonrecurring engineering, equipment, the kits that unite equipment and  airframe, and time and money it takes to consummate that union.

b727_09The answers to these questions define a  start-to-finish journey in four giant leaps, the categorical summation of the step-by-step route ASIG takes from the operator’s statement of work to installing the inaugural upgrade kit and shepherding it through certification. Optimized for efficiency and flexibility, each route is unique to the upgrade destination.

Each STC project has a unique list of documents that gives the FAA the data it needs for certification, says Managing Director Luke Ribich. ASIG builds a proprietary datalist with an application that compiles the necessary certification, manufacturing, and installation documents. Related applications compute the time and labor involved for each step, enabling ASIG to quickly answer the four main questions.

A full communication and navigation upgrade is a good example, says Ribich, because it has an involved document list, including the analysis of electrical load and system safety to weight and balance supplements. If the STC covers different aircraft, as an  all-model list (AML) would, an aircraft similarity report itemizes the applicable equipment. “More modern aircraft have a common nav pack or data bus,” but  classics like the Boeing 727-300 often have different electro-mechanical suites, depending on the initial operator. “That means more wire, different switches, and different boxes.”

A Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB), ASIG assigns a highly experienced and proficient team of five to eight key employees to the prerequisite work that answers an operator’s four questions. They are the same people who make the plan happen once the deal is signed. An addendum to that agreement covers the kits, Ribich says, “because we can’t  price them until the engineering is done and the bill of materials is fully developed and bid out.”

ASIG always does the inaugural kit installation because it and any applicable ground and flight tests are part of FAA certification, which “goes extremely smooth when it’s a front to back, closed-loop program” handled by the same team. Once the STC is approved, ASIG drop ships kits to the operator.

ASIG will do phased installations, running cables and wiring on the first pass, and “ripping out the old hardware and dropping in the new on the second evolution,” Ribich says. ASIG will also work where the operator wants.

DC8_EFIS One of ASIG’s early projects proves this point and illustrates  its capabilities.  With  engineering liaisons and mechanics, a 22-person team turned a French Air Force DC-8-72 with a five-man cockpit  into an US-registered aircraft with with a three-man cockpit filled with 21st century systems. 

The to-do list was long: demilitarize the NATO equipment, install and certify a Universal EFIS with dual FMS, TAWS, and triple redundant RVSM digital air data system, as well as a cockpit voice and digital flight data recorders. “What made the project unique was the 10 pallet positions aft of the cockpit, followed by a 32-passenger combi section,” Ribich says. “A specialized flight director gave us some problems initially, but we designed and built a converter box that solved them.”

In a hangar the operator rented for the work, just big enough for the DC-8’s nose, the ASIG team brought everything it needed to install the new systems. Starting from scratch with a contract signed October 2005. all engineering was done the same day installations started, December 18. “We worked through Christmas Eve, were off through New Year’s Day, and completed all the work on March 28. The FAA issued the STC on March 12.”

Everyone at ASIG comes from the Part-121 world, Ribich says, “so we know it is a fast-paced environment that requires efficiency and flexible solutions.”

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

Thursday, June 17, 2010

And the RAA Winners Are…

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ASIG exhibited at its inaugural Regional Airline Association (RAA) Annual Convention in Milwaukee. All registered attendees (roughly 1,500) were automatically entered in our drawing, as were those who stopped by the booth, and it was good talking with all of you. Without further adieu, the winners are…

Grand Prize - Tom Tom Go 730 GPS

Tom Haarmann

Customer Service Manager—GoJet Airlines

Dry-weave Moisture Wicking Sport Shirt

Gwendolyn Bentley 

Purchasing Manager—Republic Airlines

John Cross

Director of Materials –Colgan Air

Joe Grogan

Director of IEP—Pinnacle Airlines

Rich Rupslauskas 

Technical Services—Air Wisconsin

Ron Charles

Senior Director, DIA—Frontier Airlines

Terry Basham

Vice President, Customer Service—Trans States Holdings

Port Authority Moisture Wicking Golf Visor

Todd Hargrove

HazMat Senior Specialist--Southwest Airlines Company

Jimmy Owenby

Station Manager—SkyWest Airlines

Joe Williamson

Diversified Communications Group

Mike Lohmann

Training & Standards Director—Jazz Airlines

Randy E. Tweed

Chief Inspector—Commutair

June Donovan

Security Manager—JetBlue Airlines

Cindy Grzyb

General Manager—Continental Airlines

Thomas Reynolds

GM, Maintenance Operations—Atlantic Southeast Airlines

Lo Lyons

In-Flight Training Manager—ExpressJet Airlines

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

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

PMA Parts Make Improvements Possible

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Any aircraft is the sum of its parts, and if any one of them is not designed, tested, and approved for use on a specific make and model, the airplane cannot legally earn its keep. Airframe and powerplant OEMs are the primary source of approved parts, but usually they do not accommodate capabilities beyond those that existed when the aircraft earned its type certificate.

PMA FLowchartIncorporating new technology after an aircraft earned its TC requires a supplemental type certificate (STC). And the parts that bring everything from glass cockpits and NextGen avionics to cabin in-flight entertainment systems earn their right to fly through the Parts Manufacturing Approval (PMA) process.

As the PMA flowchart suggests, it’s an involved process. Often it starts with an approval from an Aircraft Certification Office (ACO). Most STCs involve major changes to an airplane’s capabilities, and the FAA requires proof that they do not adversely affect the airplane. As part of its STC efforts, ASIG  works with the necessary FAA offices.

Developing PMA parts not only makes STC’d  improvements possible, it creates the parts that maintain the new capabilities. ASIG engineers design needed parts as they develop an STC, but their work goes well beyond laying out an instrument panel or  wiring harness that connects it to the airplane. In transport-category aircraft each new part must meet the requirements of Part 25. In other words, the new part must be equal to—or better than—the part it replaces.

A new part proves itself through drawings, specifications, and documents that include all required computations and the results of an exhaustive testing plan. To be eligible for installation the part must be made of the appropriate materials. It must perform its intended function and be compatible with the parts or components to which it is connected. Tests must prove that the part performs reliably under all mission profiles, cyclic loads, the stress of pressure and temperature, and all other applicable operating conditions.

From this design and testing work ASIG creates the required plan for continued operational safety (COS). Central to this effort is determining how critical a part is by assessing the consequences of its failure. Starting with the part’s fatigue life, engineers apply the appropriate margin of safety by establishing its airworthiness lifespan. Further, they identify failure modes, provide corrective actions, and generate instructions for continued airworthiness. And they include a recordkeeping plan that starts when the part is manufactured and legibly numbered with permanent markings. 

An FAA Manufacturing Inspection District Office (MIDO) examines every scintilla of a PMA application. This can be time consuming, but ASIG’s designated engineering representatives approve much of the work before it goes to the FAA, significantly reducing the time to the MIDO’s final approval—and the time it takes to introduce new capabilities to your fleet.

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