Articles from the World of Aviation

Avionica, GigSky Launch eSIM Generation of Aircraft Wireless Networking

Woodrow Bellamy III

Three years after establishing their first partnership, GigSky’s Internet of Things (IoT) eSIM card will be embedded into Avionica’s avCM aircraft communications module to make the control and configuration of aircraft wireless cellular network data transferring completely remote.


GE Aviation subsidiary Avionica already uses GigSky’s global 4G/LTE international cellular network across its mini Quick Access Recorder (QAR), with its seven-band 4G High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) cell module for moving data on and off aircraft on the ground. Now, the Miami, Florida-based avionics-maker will embed GigSky’s eSIM chip directly into its communications module for seamless access to cellular networks globally.


Palo Alto, California-based GigSky’s global 4G/LTE aviation network provides mobile data in more than 190 countries and territories. The network has the ability to serve as a communications medium for Electronic Flight Bag (EFB), Electronic Technical Log (ETL) and Wireless Quick Access Recorder (WQAR) data off and on-loading while the aircraft is on the ground. Aviation operators can pay an annual fee for the service, avoiding cost impact from the amount of uploaded data.


Sean Reilly, vice president of business development for Avionica, told Avionics that one of the most beneficial aspects of the new modification for avCM will be the elimination of the need for occasional replacement of the current generation avCM’s plastic SIM card. Instead, Avionica and GigSky can now remotely configure the communications network of the aircraft to offload data to the operator’s operations control center or maintenance division based on the location of the aircraft and available local cellular networks.


“The eSIM gives us the ability to never have to go out and touch that module again,” Reilly said.


Using the GigSky toolset, Avionica actively monitors and manages connectivity to ensure that data is always delivered when and where required. GigSky describes its IoT eSIM technology as featuring subscription management and support for cellular networks across the globe.


That can allow airlines equipped with Avionica’s avCM, such as Cathay Pacific and Korean Airlines among others, to perform wireless QAR data offloads using the cellular network that is available near the airport or maintenance bay or other location that the aircraft is positioned in, according to Reilly.

On the eSim-enabled avCM, operators will notice a larger antenna, necessary to support Long Term Evolution (LTE) and work with higher data transfer speeds.


“One of the unique things of our approach is its very modular in nature, so I can take someone who has the 4G unit AVCM, and remove the cell module and put this new unit in its place, and its literally a plug and play replacement,” Reilly said.


Avionica is currently working through FAA supplemental type certification on the new eSIm version of the avCM module for 300 different aircraft types, and expects to start shipping the upgraded version to operators in December.



Utair Chooses Avionica for Flight Data Collection

The Russian carrier will use Avionica’s mini Quick Access Recorders to streamline maintenance and improve data collection.


August 29, 2019 | by Lindsay Bjerregaard

Russian carrier Utair has selected wireless mini Quick Access Recorders (QAR) from Avionica to reduce maintenance workload and meet flight data collection requirements from the Civil Aviation Authority of Russia.


The miniQARs will be installed in the airline’s fleet of 43 Boeing 737 and 767 aircraft, with deliveries currently taking place. According to Avionica parent company GE Aviation, the miniQARs require minimal setup and configuration requirements, and can also be transitioned to new aircraft in the future if required.


Utair operations director Andrey Semenov says the airline chose the miniQAR after a feasibility study that determined the product would provide lower cost of ownership, real time data availability for flight analytics and maintenance troubleshooting.


According to John Mansfield, chief digital officer, GE Aviation, the miniQAR will help Utair streamline its processes, increase the amount of available, usable data and reduce workload for its maintenance and engineering teams.


GE Aviation purchased an equity stake in Avionica last year to form a joint venture, which enables the combination of Avionica’s flight data management products with GE’s analytics and digital products. According to GE, more than 9,000 of Avionica’s wireless QARs have been delivered worldwide and the company has earned supplemental type certificates on more than 300 models of commercial, business and general aviation aircraft.



L2 Aviation To Provide Install for Avionica QARs

July 31, 2019 | by Curt Epstein

Texas-based avionics integrations, modifications, and remote installation provider L2 Aviation will partner with GE Aviation to provide remote installation services for its subsidiary Avionica’s miniQAR Mk III quick access recorder (QAR). Under the terms of the agreement, L2’s technicians will travel to an aircraft’s location and install all hardware and wiring and perform functional testing, returning the aircraft to service under its FAA Part 145 certificate.

L2 originally participated in the certification of the miniQAR last year, with an AML STC for Part 23 under a commercial agreement with Avionica. That STC includes the HondaJet; Eclipse 500; Cirrus Vision Jet; Daher TBM; Pilatus PC-12; Cessna Citation Mustang and CJ family; Embraer Phenom 100 and 300; and Beechcraft King Airs.

L2 has already performed several installations of the miniQAR as well as of Avionica’s avCM-4G cellular module, which provides greater data acquisition and instant ground-based cellular transmission to maintenance and FOQA providers.

“We’ve appreciated L2’s strong support in the installation of the miniQAR MkIII/avCM combination for operators needing to transmit flight data while on the ground and connected to a local cellular network from anywhere in the world,” said Avionica v-p of business development Sean Reilly. “I see this relationship continuing to grow and get stronger now as part of GE Aviation.”

Flexjet recently announced that it will equip its entire fleet with the QARs.



Avionica To Develop Swift Broadband Safety Terminal

Aerospace Daily & Defense Report Jun 17, 2019 , p. 7
Bill Carey

Avionica will develop a new lightweight satellite communications (satcom) terminal for Inmarsat’s Swift Broadband Safety (SBS) service, the companies announced on June 17.

The new terminal, available in 2020, has been designed for the retrofit market to give airlines the option of equipping their existing fleets with an internet protocol based, Lband satcom service that provides connectivity for operational and safety applications.

In May, Inmarsat announced that SBS had received final FAA approval for use in safety critical air traffic services applications, including controller pilot data link communications. Cobham and Honeywell are among other avionics manufacturers building or developing SBS terminals.

SBS will enable an aircraft to offboard operational information drawn from Avionica’s wireless data collection and transmission devices, which provide access to flight information, such as engine and aircraft health data, wherever the aircraft is operating around the world. Miami based Avionica, part of GE Aviation, pairs its devices with the latter’s data analytics applications.

“We are excited for the opportunity to bring Inmarsat’s next generation IP satcom technology to aircraft that traditionally did not have broadband service because the terminals were too large or expensive,” said Sean Reilly, Avionica vice president of business development. “With Avionica’s suite of data gathering capabilities and GE Aviation’s variety of applications such as FlightPulse and Connected Flight Management System, we can enhance the pilot’s user experience and get data off the aircraft for enhanced diagnostic operational efficiency,” Reilly added.

Avionica also announced that its aviONS onboard network server has been approved by the FAA for cybersecure connectivity and application hosting across airline information services, passenger and aircraft control domains.

The aviONS system is a data processing and storage device with up to 1 terabyte of solid state drive capacity that connects the flight deck with an airline’s data network.

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Avionica to offer lightweight terminal for Inmarsat SB-S

June 17, 2019

Inmarsat has announced that Avionica, part of GE Aviation, will develop a new cost-effective, lightweight terminal for Inmarsat’s SB-S aircraft operations and safety platform.


The new terminal will be available next year and has been designed for the retrofit market, providing an affordable option for airlines seeking to equip their existing aircraft fleets with IP connectivity to unlock new efficiencies for operations and safety.


Inmarsat’s SB-S platform is the world’s first and only global broadband solution for aircraft operational and safety communications, driving digital transformation in the airline industry.


Combining cutting-edge satellite technology with secure IP connectivity, it provides airlines with capabilities and benefits no other satellite communications provider can deliver.


Operational advantages include enhanced aircraft fleet and crew management, predictive maintenance, disruption management and aircraft health monitoring via Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) applications, which can significantly reduce flight delays and fuel consumption.


Safety benefits include improved communications with ATC, digital data and voice communications, and flight data recorder streaming (also known as Black Box in the Cloud).


Flight plans and arrivals can also be optimised by pinpointing aircraft in four dimensions, known as four-dimensional (4D) operations, which include latitude, longitude, altitude and time.


Avionica’s wireless data collection and transmission technology enables advanced data analytics by accessing important flight information, such as engine and aircraft health data, wherever the aircraft is operating around the world.

John Broughton, Inmarsat Aviation’s Senior Vice President of Aircraft Operations and Safety, said: “SB-S is a key component in the global aviation industry’s move towards digital aircraft operations and safety, which will help to reduce fuel savings and environmental impact, cut flight delays and turnaround times, and revolutionise air traffic management.

We are delighted to expand our hardware portfolio for SB-S through this new partnership with Avionica, providing customers with a cost-effective and lightweight terminal for their aircraft fleets.

This is another important step forward for SB-S and comes soon after it received approval from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), validating the technology’s potential to maximise airline operational efficiency and safety for many years to come.”

Sean Reilly, Avionica Vice President of Business Development, said: “We are excited for the opportunity to bring Inmarsat’s next-generation IP satcom technology to aircraft that traditionally did not have broadband service because the terminals were too large or expensive.

With Avionica’s suite of data-gathering capabilities and GE Aviation’s variety of applications such as FlightPulse and Connected Flight Management System, we can enhance the pilot’s user experience and get data off the aircraft for enhanced diagnostic operational efficiency.”

The SB-S digital aircraft operations platform is powered by Inmarsat’s advanced global L-band satellite network, which has underpinned safety services for 40 years.

Inmarsat is scheduled to launch two additional L-band payloads in 2020 and 2021, further cementing its long-term commitment to offering highly reliable services over this spectrum.


Avionica’s New Terminal Makes Dual-dissimilar Satcom Possible

June 18, 2019 | by Matt Thurber
Avionica is developing a new airborne satcom terminal that works on Inmarsat’s SwiftBroadband network. The new terminal, expected to be certified next year, will give operators an alternative to Iridium-based satcom. It offers much faster service, claims the company, along with the operational and safety communications provided by Avionica’s satcom terminals.


SwiftBroadband operates in the L-band, which suffers less interference due to weather conditions versus higher-speed Ku- and Ka-band networks, explained Sean Reilly, vice president of business development for Avionica, a GE Aviation (Chalet 144) company. Compared to the original Block 1 Iridium network, which offers system speeds of up to 2,400 bits per second (bps), SwiftBroadband offers more than 300 Kbps. “It’s drastically faster,” he said, “about 100 times faster.”


Reilly explained that the higher speed makes it easier to move larger amounts of data on and off the aircraft, including engine information, weather data, along with operational and safety communications. “We start making that a really connected aircraft,” he said.


Avionica is planning to develop a satcom terminal for the new Iridium Next satellite network that will operate at much higher speeds than Block 1. However, many operators prefer the opportunity to have dual-dissimilar satcom terminals.


With one Iridium- and one SwiftBroadband-based terminal on board, it might soon be possible to remove both high-frequency radios that are required for oceanic routes. “There is a movement toward that,” Reilly said. “Part of that is getting in front of that [with these new products] and providing a dual-dissimilar product that fits in our architecture.”


The SwiftBroadband terminal will be about the same size as Avionica’s four-channel Block 1 Iridium system, which is two inches high, nearly four inches wide and seven inches long.


An advantage of Avionica’s terminals is that these can be mounted close to the aircraft’s external antenna, then connected via lightweight Ethernet cable to Avionica’s Aircraft Interface Device installed in the electronics bay near the flight deck. “This minimizes weight and [allows] ease of installation,” Reilly said.


Avionica also announced it has received EASA supplemental type certificate (STC) approval for its miniQAR MkIII quick access recorder, avRDC remote data concentrator, and avCM 4G cellular module. The STC makes it easier for operators in most of the world to install these products without having to go through the extra work getting a local engineer to create a data package and submit paperwork to EASA. “In a retrofit market, having an STC is very much appreciated by the airlines,” said Reilly.


To help customers maintain secure communications, Avionica has also received FAA approval for cybersecure connectivity and application hosting for its aviONS onboard network server. This STC is expected to be validated soon by EASA. The aviONS system is an open-architecture design, and it bridges three aircraft domains while preventing security breaches.


“We provide a cybersecurity layer,” Reilly said, “and give the airline the ability to get a date from the control domain [for example, GPS information] and pull it into the airline services domain, and even pass it to the passenger services domain for satcom to move off the airplane.”


Another benefit of aviONS is that it allows operators to securely upload Arinc 615 navigation database updates directly into the avionics, instead of using antiquated floppy discs and a data loader. This can be done via cellular service or even satcom and can even be set up for older aircraft without a data loader. “It meets all FAA and EASA requirements around cybersecurity parameters,” he said.




AI for Airplanes?

June 11th will mark the start of the sixth annual Global Connected Aircraft Summit, and it really is fascinating how the evolution and changes in the content featured in this year’s program reflects how the concept and use of aircraft connectivity today is evolving.

Woodrow Bellamy III

June 11th will mark the start of the sixth annual Global Connected Aircraft Summit, and it really is fascinating how the evolution and changes in the content featured in this year’s program reflects how the concept and use of aircraft connectivity today is evolving.

This year’s program will feature our first ever panel discussion with speakers that are actively researching new applications for the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies in commercial aviation. The panel discussion features a wide range of perspectives including the use of IBM’s Watson for predictive maintenance and analysis of how Boeing is applying artificial intelligence to data analytics.

One area where the use of AI still has not been widely embraced by aviation is within the actual cockpit avionics of modern airplanes. That topic has been difficult to gauge in terms of how or when the use of AI in the form of a digital co-pilot might become a reality. MITRE actually already has developed such an application for general aviation pilots, although it is a speech recognition/command application reserved for an iPad, and not embedded within the actual avionics.

That’s why I am really looking forward to moderating our AI and machine learning at GCAS, to try to gauge where the industry is today with embracing these exciting concepts. In this month’s issue of Avionics, you will see AI discussed extensively, in interviews with Gulfstream executives looking at the infusion of AI into the G500/600 data concentrator network. We also show how commercial airlines are embracing AI for intelligent maintenance strategies.

Nick Zazulia also reports on how Lockheed Martin is improving the diagnosis of U.S. military fighter jet faults, and one of our newest editors contributed to an article on Thai Airways’ MRO expansion. I hope to hear feedback on what we should be covering within these and other topics from all of our readers that are attending GCAS this year. See you in San Diego!


Plugging Into Today’s Interface Devices

New connected aircraft applications and capabilities are being enabled by high-speed connectivity links and advancements in today’s AIDs and information servers, benefitting the entire airline’s operations.


Mark Robbins

Aircraft interface devices (AIDs) provide easy access to multiple aircraft data and communications channels. With the increased use of electronic flight bags (EFBs) and the reduction (or in many cases the elimination of) paper charts and binders, AIDs have increasingly become the foundation of most Aircraft Data Management (ADM) systems. With their tablets and the computer screens in aircraft, pilots can receive all the benefits of EFBs via their AIDs for improved decision-making to bolster situational awareness and safety, minimize errors, monitor aircraft parameters and reduce the workload of the crew. A secure, AID-enabled system can even suppress cyber-attacks.


AID usage is expanding. According to a market research report by Technavio, the global commercial AID market is expected to post an annual growth rate of close to 13 percent during the period 2019-2023. The report says a key factor driving this growth is the accelerating demand for procuring new aircraft units.


aviONS extends the airline network beyond the limitations of ground infrastructure to connect the cockpit to the airline’s data network.


“Several major aircraft OEMs are focused on developing new-generation aircraft models that can reduce operational costs of airlines by significant margins,” the report states.


“These new-generation aircraft models can generate up to 10 times more performance data which requires the use of AlDs for effective utilization of the data collected from a single aircraft unit, to initiate actionable insights regarding operations and fleet management. Hence, the increasing orders for the new generation of fuel-efficient aircraft units will remain a major driver for the global commercial AID market during the forecast period.”




GE Aviation, Avionica Close To Gaining Approval For FMS-EFB Connection

GE is testing its connected EFB on a Miami Air Boeing 737-800.
Sean Broderick Dallas

GE Aviation and partner Avionica are close to gaining regulatory approval for a connection between GE’s flight management system (FMS) and electronic flight bags (EFB) that is designed to increase the interconnectivity between the companies’ core avionics units and portable pilot aids.

Intended to reduce pilot workload and optimize operations, GE’s Connected FMS extends the flexibility of EFBs such as Apple iPads to more tightly controlled onboard systems. Airlines and third-party developers have created myriad EFB apps—from weather to fuel-optimization tools—to help pilots analyze possible route improvements using real-time data. Without a two-way link to the onboard systems that guide an aircraft, however, any work conducted on an EFB is isolated, and route changes plotted on a tablet must be hand-keyed into the FMS. Conversely, changes put into the FMS, either manually by pilots or automatically from an airline operations center (AOC) or air traffic control via the aircraft communications addressing and reporting system (ACARS), cannot be shared with the EFB. Connecting the two is intended to clear these hurdles.
Intended to reduce pilot workload and optimize operations, GE’s Connected FMS will extends the flexibility of EFBs
Pilots use them to avoid weather and crunch numbers
“It’s enabling all the functionality that we have on the tablets—from charts to maps—to communicate and keep up to date with what’s in the FMS,” says Gary Thelen, GE Aviation’s FMS product manager. “Map applications get out of date almost right away preflight, because as soon as you have a flight-plan change, your EFB application is out of date. From a pilot-workload standpoint, they don’t want to take the time and energy to go back and make those updates into the EFB. With this link, those updates automatically sync with the FMS, and the flight plan in your tablet is always up to date.”
The system’s configuration varies depending on the aircraft platform. An FMS software upgrade is required. The Boeing 737NG architecture, which is being developed first, adds a dedicated Arinc 429 connection from the FMS to the aircraft interface device (AID). The AID is linked to the communications management unit, the interface between ACARS and the FMS. EFBs can connect to the AID via a wired or wireless link—Avionica’s AviONS AID serves as a wireless access point on the ground—and link with the FMS via a secure pairing process. The process is similar to a Bluetooth connection, with the EFB generating a numeric code that must be punched into the FMS.
Once paired, flight plans and other performance data are automatically pushed to the linked EFB, where pilots can use it with specific apps. Sending routes from the EFB to the aircraft mirrors receiving a route-modification message via ACARS, with the exception of a prompt indicating the portable device as the source. The pilot uses the FMS to accept all changes, just as via ACARS. “It operates exactly like an AOC upload would from a pilot’s perspective,” Thelen says.
Many airlines receive initial flight plans via ACARS. For those that do not, linking an EFB to the FMS means routes could be loaded into the tablet and delivered to the aircraft. The inflight environment offers even more opportunity.
The ability to manipulate routes using a graphic interface is available on some newer aircraft, including the Boeing 787. But for most pilots, such capability is only possible on an EFB.
“The power of the [connected FMS] is that the EFB is no longer just a [navigation] display,” explains Sean Reilly, Avionica’s vice president for business development. “I’m looking at a map in front of me. I’m heading right toward that thunderstorm. I have the ability to click on that [flight path] line, drag it around the storm and execute that back into the FMS.”
Developing a secure bridge between the iPad and FMS was a key part of making the system work. GE has created a software development kit for third-party EFB app developers, and the kit includes the necessary security protocols.
Plans call for the connected FMS to be flight-tested on a Miami Air International Boeing 737-800 in the next few months. Barring any unforeseen snags, it will gain FAA approval and enter service with the global charter specialist soon afterward. Then, GE and Avionica plan to “offer it to the broader market,” Thelen says. The market is broad: GE has been supplying FMS since 1984 and has them on more than 12,000 aircraft, including the most popular narrowbody families—the 737 and AirbusA320.
A pilot that flies 737NGs for a U.S. major sees the benefits of the connected FMS but questions its upside: “We already can load our route into the FMS before departure, via ACARS, and independently load the route into various applications on the EFB via the internet,” this pilot says. “The only useful feature would be to synchronize the routes on each platform once we were in the air, but that seems pretty limited.”
As EFBs grow more useful, GE sees them becoming integral to the industry’s push to drive operational improvements through real-time data.
“This is part of a natural progression going on in the industry,” Thelen says. EFB capability is rapidly expanding, due in part to third-party developers creating everything from weather apps to flight analytics tools. “But if you talk to airlines, they still have limited value because the embedded FMS is the only truth—what an aircraft needs to fly,” he says. “Creating a secure connection between the two opens the door to a lot more.”

Addvalue and Avionica to Develop New SwiftBroadband Aircraft Terminals


By Woodrow Bellamy III | February 22, 2019


Singapore-based satellite communications terminal maker Addvalue has a new partnership with Miami-based avionics manufacturer Avionica to start developing a new generation of Swift Broadband aircraft terminals.


Under the partnership, Addvalue will provide satellite connectivity components while Avionica will develop the new system’s avionics and provide system integration and certification. A key component of the partnership is Inmarsat’s Swiftbroadband internet protocol-based network. It will provide the medium through which the new terminal will transmit aircraft data transmissions and voice communications between controllers and pilots.


The terminals are being developed for commercial airliners, Sean Reilly, vice president of development for Avionica, toldAvionics International.


“Using SwiftBroadband terminals will enhance safety by incorporating voice and data communications as part of the SwiftBroadBand operations. We’re taking SBB technology, which is already in use today, and adding air traffic control services over the same network. We see this as a way to maximize the value of aircraft data through the combined use of more real-time and reliable data connectivity,” Reilly said.


The new partnership is Avionica’s effort to continuing ascending within the connected aircraft ecosystem of manufacturers, service providers and operators. In May 2018, the company established a new joint venture with GE Aviation. The joint venture pairs Avionica’s mixture of lightweight flight data management avionics with GE’s extensive lineup of digital aircraft analytics platforms.


Reilly said the partnership with Addvalue will enable the delivery of aircraft data over the SwiftBroadband link to products and services that are provided by GE.


“The terminal is designed to be used as part of the current satellite system. It will be fully integrated into the aircraft’s voice and data communications. We’re strictly using Inmarsat L band,” he said.


Addvalue’s partnership with Avionica will also be its first move to break into the commercial aviation market, as the company’s 15-year history has focused on developing communication terminals for mobile satellite systems within other markets. The company will also provide post-production maintenance support on the new terminals for Avionica’s customers based in the Asia Pacific region.


The two companies expect to bring the new terminals to the market in early 2020.


“The partnership with Avionica signifies a watershed in the history of Addvalue as it extends our business portfolio into the exciting and fast growing aviation market,” Addvalue CEO Colin Chan said of the new partnership.