Articles from the World of Aviation
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.
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!
GE is testing its connected EFB on a Miami Air Boeing 737-800.
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.
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.
Novenber 15, 2018 | by Woodrow Bellamy III
Avionica has unveiled the second version of its automated aircraft data synchronization service, avSYNC 2.0, with new cloud computing and improved cellular and Wi-Fi downloading and uploading capabilities.
The Miami, Florida-based avionics manufacturer describes avSYNC as a web-hosted software as a serve (SAAS) application designed to optimize the process used by commercial aircraft maintenance engineers and technicians’ processes for acquiring and analyzing aircraft performance data. Now, under avSYNC 2.0, Avionica has added the power of Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing service as part of a new product line.
Avionics International caught up with Avionica VP of Business Development Sean Reilly during his trip to London for the 2018 EFB Users Forum to discuss the public unveiling of avSYNC 2.0. Reilly confirmed Boeing 737 private charter operator Miami Air as the launch customer for avSYNC 2.0 and noted that 20 airlines using avSYNC are upgrading to 2.0 as well.
He describes avSYNC 2.0 as focusing on improving Avionica’s ability to support the downloading and uploading of aircraft data, information and software to and from the aircraft.
“We have built the platform around the Microsoft Azure Cloud Services. This not only allows us to make the data easily accessible, but it enables us to keep data in-country, such as Europe [and] China and never travel back to the United States, unless required,” said Reilly.
Aircraft equipped with either Avionica’s mini QAR and avCM communications module or the avRDC with avCM are capable of using avSYNC. The technology’s cache and forward configuration is described by allows aircraft mini QARs and other devices to periodically connecting to the virtual private network (VPN) and servers. Aircraft data such as engine temperatures and pressures conveyed directly to and the company’s mini QAR, secureLINK, aviONS and avRDC avionics over encrypted VPN tunnels.
According to Reilly, avSYNC’s aircraft data transfer capabilities are more focused on enabling FOQA data download and upload while the aircraft is on the ground. While airborne, a different set of data in “small snapshots” is available, although that is not coordinated with avSYNC, he said. The avSYNC service records flight data from the aircraft’s digital flight data acquisition unit after the aircraft has landed and uses a cellular or local Wi-Fi network connection to transmit the aircraft’s FOQA data requirements across Avionica’s firewall to its network operations center and the airline’s virtual machine server and local storage devices.
The minimum local system requirements for operators using avSYNC include two gigabytes of random access memory for the virtual machine. Systems must also feature dual core or better computer processing capability.
“The 2.0 software has increased security features and redundancy for downloading data at different location around the world. This helps keep data in-country if the airline requires. Also, avSYNC 2.0 gives us the ability to push large data content (FMS databases) to the aircraft, not only download QAR data from the aircraft,” said Reilly.
Avionica has expanded and extended the onboard capabilities of its satellite communications and data transmission avionics in recent years through new industry partnerships, supplemental type certificates and industry partnerships. In May, the company formed a new joint venture with GE Aviation, extending an ongoing aircraft edge processing and wireless connectivity partnership the two companies first established in 2016. On avSYNC 2.0, Avionica is working with another division of GE as well.
“We’ve rolled avSYNC 2.0 out to airlines and business jet operators working with our GE Digital partners for C-FOQA data analytics,” said Reilly.
October 17, 2018 | by Matt Thurber
For owners and operators of business aircraft, the opportunity to participate in a corporate-flight operational quality assurance (C-FOQA) program depends greatly on the availability of equipment that records flight data and the ease of downloading and sharing that data. Avionica, a manufacturer of quick-access recorders (QARs), aims to ease those difficulties and encourage more business aircraft operators to realize the benefits of participating in C-FOQA.
Earlier this year, GE Aviation purchased a portion of Avionica (Booth 1351). The deal includes a joint venture under which GE (Booth 224) sells Avionica products and offers its analytics services, while Avionica provides its flight data management solutions.
One result of the joint venture is Avionica’s business jet bundle, which includes the Avionica QAR with C-FOQA and avSync. The QAR is STC’d in more than 300 aircraft models, ranging from the Pilatus PC-12 to the Boeing 777, and recently Avionica has targeted more Part 23 airplanes for QAR installations. In addition to the PC-12, the QAR is also certified in the Cirrus Vision Jet and HondaJet, along with many other business jet types.
“The bundle is about enabling C-FOQA across the business aircraft market,” said Avionica COO Anthony Rios. Many modern aircraft are able to store engine and operational data, but for C-FOQA programs this data needs to be downloaded after a flight then sent to an analysis firm. The process can sometimes take weeks before the analysis is generated, and by then the information is irrelevant. “The key here is that small operators find it difficult to participate in C-FOQA,” he said.
Avionica’s avSync system makes C-FOQA much easier by automatically downloading QAR data and sending it to GE servers for analysis. The new avSync 2.0 system is a cloud-based, private and secure network for transmitting QAR information via cellular networks worldwide. As soon as the aircraft lands and if a cellular connection is available, the data is transmitted. Buyers of the Avionica bundle receive a one-year subscription to the network as part of the $15,000 equipment cost.
Another reason that small operators sometimes don’t see the benefit of FOQA is that with just one or two aircraft, it is hard to generate enough data for meaningful statistics. With C-FOQA, data from many operators is combined to provide comparison benchmarks that are more useful. “C-FOQA allows small operators to participate in a large population of airplanes,” Rios said.
Another QAR benefit is monitoring of important parameters such as engine trends or airframe limit exceedances. For example, a pilot given a rapid descent instruction by air traffic control might inadvertently fly near the flap limit speed but not be sure whether the airplane exceeded the limit. A suspected exceedance has to be examined, which could put the airplane out of service pending a structural inspection of the flaps system.
Knowing precisely whether or not the limit was exceeded by examining QAR data can resolve this problem quickly. “Once the data has already been transmitted, the maintenance officer could look it up,” Rios said.
The Avionica hardware weighs about 15 ounces and uses very little power. On a modern aircraft that generates a large amount of data, the QAR can store about 1,000 flight hours. An older aircraft with less data generated would be able to store about 3,000 hours in the QAR, the company said.
June 19, 2017 | by Nick Zazulia | Paris, France |
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Aviation runs in the family for Simone Drakes. The Barbados-born Drakes’ father was an air traffic controller. Her brother is a commercial pilot.
As VP of engineering for Florida-based avionics company Avionica, Drakes serves as the company’s designated engineering representative (DER) to the FAA. Drakes said that “most avionics firms focus on cookie-cutter designs driven by mandates,” but Avionica can explore further and push the boundaries, which fits well for the outdoorsy mother of one who loves car racing and competitive biking.
Drakes spoke to Avionics about designing STCs, working with the FAA and being at the forefront of the avionics industry.
You got your degree specifically in Avionics. What drew you to the field?
Luck and chance. I started out at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. I applied to aeronautical science. Within a week of starting my undergraduate program I switched to aerospace engineering for a greater academic challenge. I did that for a semester, was bored out of my mind, went back and asked for something engineering that was more hands-on, and they put me in avionics.
How did you get from there to where you are today? What are some highlights or decisions you had to make along the way?
I’m sort of an adrenaline junkie; I like fast-paced moving, so when things try to settle down, I move on, I hop on that next train. When I graduated Embry-Riddle in 2001 it was hard to find a job (in the aviation industry because of 9/11). I found a firm making plastic parts. I didn’t like that because I did electronics engineering and I was just playing with plastic — I’m not messing with any electronics! So, I took the first opportunity I got to go to an STC design firm.
I learned most of what I know about avionics engineering at Emteq. I took a junior engineering spot there, then a senior engineer who had worked there and left followed up with me and brought me to Avionica. I was mostly doing EGPWS upgrades, weather radar, ELTs, flight data recorders, large transport category aircraft … I was bored.
Avionica did not have an aircraft certification department when I joined. They just developed the product and then relied on outside help, but I could bring that in-house. I was the only engineer integrating products. I would outsource STC designs they had previously, but then I would do the new stuff, like flight deck integration. I was hired and they said you have two weeks to get something done.
You’ve worked on many certifications or installations for a lot of big and smaller companies. What stands out as the most fun or interesting project you’ve worked on?
When Avionica is releasing something, it’s new, so you have to bring the FAA up to speed on the new technology. The FAA doesn’t know how to certify it and what the compliance requirements should be, what use cases you have to consider.
When I joined Avionica, we were one of two companies that were introducing Iridium SATCOM to aircraft – this new technology provided global voice and data communication for the flight crew with improved reliability and availability at a reduced cost as compared to similar pre-existing aircraft communications equipment.
Being cutting-edge on the avionics Wi-Fi side, the whole cybersecurity piece, we’re looking at things we can implement not only on the integration side but software. We’re implementing a secure OS with Docker support to host operator defined applications that are secured to the point that you can control what accessibility that particular application may or may not have, and that’s all new to the FAA so we’re educating them on what functionality that may or may not have. The system offers over-the-air updates which has long been the desire and challenge for airline operators. Being that cutting edge and leading the way, to me, has been the most exciting.
Walk me through your day-to-day at Avionica.
We have basically three engineering teams that I oversee. One is aircraft integrators–my passion because that’s my background. The second is an R&D group—those two teams work very closely together, which is beneficial to us getting things done a lot faster compared to another STC firm that doesn’t have both teams working in concert – and the other team is flight services. That third team is flight data services, which specializes in taking the black box data and converting it to parameters, what we call engineering units, which helps us understand how the aircraft is flying through the air. Now, with our GE partner, we’re moving toward aircraft health monitoring and analytics. We can say “Hey, you may want to look at this specific parameter of an engine, of an APU, of an AC unit,” to aid in a customer’s ability to predict when they’re going to have to do an avionics upgrade, having malfunctions of a hydraulics upgrade, etc. It’s exciting with GE because they’re driving that analytics, and our products are installed on theirs.
We want to not only give the pilots but also maintenance staff access to knowing what’s going wrong with the aircraft before it even does, so they’re ready to react to both emergency and predictive situations. When you operate an engine over time, the health degrades… the rate is typically established based on tests with a large safety margin. We’re measuring and doing these analytics in real time and proving that the safety margins can be reduced, resulting in operational cost and aircraft downtime savings.
What is working directly with the FAA like?
As an FAA applicant and DER, you’re given an advisor from the Aircraft Certification Office (ACO). We interact with him directly and facilitate and support review of our STC design data through him with other FAA groups such as the flight test group, aircraft evaluation group, structures, acoustics and MIDO (Manufacturing Inspection District Offices).
The flight test group would take a look at how the pilots going to interact with the system. This is all through the ACO. With the structure group, it would be fatigue critical systems like, say, the installation of an external antenna. How do we certify that, how it can be continually maintained, how should it be maintained for continued airworthiness? Even though it’s reviewed and approved by the DERs for compliance prior to FAA submission, that group is the group that approves the flight manual supplement.
With the ACO, I probably talk to my advisor once a week. More so, it’s we suggest and they accept. They might give us feedback, ‘you might want to look at this.’
However, when you’re dealing with new and novel tech, the path to approval has not been defined. So, we might set up a meeting and invite additional parties, like the transport director, to join so we can educate them. You’re basically getting their buy-in on your design practices, how you’re meeting the design requirements and also showing compliance to regulations.
It’s a close-knit partnership—sometimes it can be challenging, and sometimes the FAA can be slow. Our ACO engineer is very much in tune with how industry works and how the avionics industry makes money, so if I have an emergency, he is very supportive. He would walk the ground test procedure through to get it reviewed by a specific person and put pressure on them to get either their feedback or get it approved quickly. And I know that’s unusual. Our processing times are usually in the order of 4-6 months depending on what we’re looking to get accomplished, which is quite fast.
What do you project for the industry five years from now?
More broadband; more data. Really and truly that’s the only space you can guarantee connectivity for aircraft; you can’t put cell towers out in the middle of the ocean.
There will be analytics to improve the reliability of aircraft. Coming from Malaysia Air and Air France, there is a great focus on the ability to communicate with the aircraft autonomously, determine where is it, is it experiencing turbulence, the environment externally and having that data in real time.
The ability to crowdsource this information can be used to enhance operational safety for all aircraft. If Flight 276 from Miami to New York experienced bad weather, that info can be gathered and sent not only to the local news but also any trailing aircraft; the operations department of the airline may choose to adjust altitude because of the weather. Today, we really don’t have the capability to capture that weather information in real time and provide better routing to aircraft that are following the same traffic to enhance the passenger experience and reduce the possibility of failure.
We’re moving toward open architecture to allow different industries to influence and progress technology and progress the aviation space. You don’t have to know how to certify a product on an aircraft to provide growth for the space. It will be more of a partnership space. Our goal is to provide a simplified path between the whiteboard and on-wing aviation, allowing non-aviation technology companies to influence how avionics will be innovative.
May 13, 2018 | by Matt Thurber
After acquiring an “ownership interest” in airborne connectivity and data collection provider Avionica, GE Aviation has deepened its partnership and formed a joint venture with Avionica to take advantage of the two companies’ strengths. GE is now offering Avionica products as part of its digital product line and supporting them via the GE worldwide service network.
Under the joint venture, Avionica will provide flight data management solutions and GE will add its analytics expertise and digital products “to address customer needs in flight analytics, aircraft health management, and flight operations,” according to the two companies. Air transport, general and business aviation, and agricultural aviation flight operations will benefit from the joint venture’s offerings, which will enable “new levels of efficiency.”
Certifications are already in place for Avionica’s quick access recorders in Airbus, Bombardier, Cessna, Embraer, Honda, and Thrush aircraft, with STCs covering more than 300 models and 8,000 units delivered. Avionica’s quick access recorders collect aircraft data and enable transmission of the data via ground networks (cellular and Wi-Fi) and in the air via Iridium satcom.
“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,” said Avionica president Raul Segredo.
“We are determined to take aerospace data usage, related product delivery, and customer support to the next level,” said John Mansfield, chief digital officer for GE Aviation. “Our customers increasingly require a lightweight solution for data flow to and from their fleet. The flow of rich and continuous data provides insights into asset condition that were not previously possible. Applying physics and data science expertise together, on continuous data, helps create the analytics needed to provide increased detection lead time, reduce maintenance burden and improve asset availability.”
April 11, 2018 | by Matt Thurber
The FAA has granted an approved model list (AML) STC for installation of Avionica’s miniQAR (quick-access recorder) and 4G cellular transmission module on Part 23 turboprops and jets.
The combination of Avionica’s miniQAR MkIII and avCM 4G Cellular Module enables operators to transmit flight data while on the ground and connected to a local cellular network, anywhere in the world. The avCM can also facilitate in-flight entertainment system and electronic flight bag updates, and operational datalink communications. The miniQAR can store up to 3,000 hours of flight data.
The AML-STC covers popular airplanes such as Part 23 Cessna Citations and the Beechcraft King Air series, HondaJet, Phenom 100 and 300, Pilatus PC-12, and more.
L2 did the engineering design and project management and Avionica, in collaboration with L2, obtained certification for the miniQAR and avCM system.
“There is growing need for data solutions in all classes of aircraft, and the popular Avionica miniQAR and avCM Cellular Module will make for safer operations and may enable FOQA programs for Part 23 aircraft with newly available data,” said L2 Aviation vice president of operations Dean Rudolph.
June 19, 2017 | by Matt Thurber | Paris, France |
Kalitta Air is the first airline customer to implement Avionica’s newly amended supplemental type certificate (STC) for the avWiFi router, allowing the air-line’s flight crew members to use wireless applications—such as electronic flight bags (EFBs)—in all phases of flight. Kalitta Air is also using the avWiFi router for on-the-ground, dual-path Internet access, which provides low-cost broadband data transfer when the aircraft is not flying, as well as for terminal wireless connectivity for automated data downloads. Avionica (Hall 3 DE19) is celebrating its 25th year in business.
The amended STC covers a variety of airframes under an approved model list, including Boeing 777, 767, 737, DC-10, MD-10, and MD11 series and Bombardier DHC-8-200 series. Avionica partnered with Air Greenland to develop the DHC-8-200 STC.
The avWiFi router is available with up to one terabyte of solid-state storage, and it is equipped with two 10/100-Mbit Ethernet ports with an 802.11a/b/g/n access point. The router supports distribution and loading of software parts and EFB operations, including updating “IFE systems, electronic flight bags, onboard maintenance terminals (such as Avionica’s RSU II OnBoard), and other Ethernet-enabled mass-storage systems,” the company said. Other features include automatic download of Ethernet-enabled quick-access records, and the ability to be combined with Avionica’s avRDC (remote data concentrator), which allows the avWiFi to deliver real-time flight data to onboard EFBs and in-flight entertainment systems.
For aircraft without a data loader or an older data loader, the avWiFI combined with Avionica’s avRDC provides wireless 615-4 and 615A data loading. This eliminates the hassle of maintaining stacks of floppy discs and distributing them to each aircraft. Operators can also develop their own applications that can access avWiFi-based features and services.
For aircraft equipped with Avionica’s Iridium-based sat-Link Max satcom, avWiFi allows the use of multiple VoIP cabin handsets to make and receive satellite voice calls.
“This is another important step toward e-enablement and EFB connectivity,” said Anthony Rios, vice president of sales for Avionica. “It builds on our long history in terminal wireless that began in 2003 with our secure-Link. We appreciate Kalitta’s support and assistance in this development project that now allows Avionica to provide our customers with Gatelink services on a large array of aircraft.”
Avionica also announced e-enablement equipment selections by: Cathay Pacific, for its Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon Boeing/Airbus fleet; Icelandair, for 16 new Boeing 737 Maxs; Korean Airlines; and FlyDubai.