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Monthly Archives: March 2014

Learn About CPDLCFollowing a two-week search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, the Malaysian Prime Minister, Najib Razak, regretfully confirmed the loss of the Boeing 777 after information provided by UK satellite company Inmarsat and the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB).

Inmarsat explained that CPDLC – Controller-Pilot Data Link Communications, the ACARS system onboard responded to text ‘handshakes’ send periodically via Inmarsat ground stations to the satellite network, then onto the aircraft. When an aircraft is within range, or over land, the ACARS messages are relayed over VHF radio.
Inmarsat and AAIB have been involved in the global operation to find the missing aircraft since 15th March and provided the data that enabled the investigators to indicate the likelihood of the plane taking the northern and southern corridors. Further calculations using the data provided have led to the conclusion that flight MH370 found its final resting place in the Indian Ocean.

CPDLC uses electronic data messages relayed to the ground via the satellite networks and carries information such as route instructions, clearances and NOTAMs. It was discovered that the onboard communications services had been manually shut down during the early stages of the flight. The datalink systems will however, continue to respond to the electronic handshakes while the flight is operational.

Until the flight recorder is recovered, we will never truly understand the nature of the disaster that has befallen the aircraft nor the plight of the passengers and crew.

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ACARS Messaging for Mission Critical TransmissionsA key question that has been on the lips of much of the public was how missing flight MH370 could still communicate with satellites, according to the latest Inmarsat information, when reports claim that the on-board ACARS system had been disabled?

The answer to this lies in the workings of the ACARS system itself. Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) has been the industry standard data communications system since the 1970’s. Developed and introduced by ARINC Inc, ACARS gives a data link from air-to-ground, relaying critical information regarding the flight, aircraft systems and also gives the ground-based operators means to relay NOTAMs, weather data and in-flight messages to the flight deck.

If ACARS failed, or was manually disabled during the flight, how, then, did the satellite appear to receive information after this? ACARS carries satellite equipment outside the aircraft that cannot be tampered with while the plane is in flight. The internal workings of ACARS in the cockpit can be disabled with a simple manual action. This is possible because of the risk of electrical fire on the flight deck.
Although ACARS, once manually disconnected, will not relay information, the satellite equipment outside the aircraft will send and receive ‘pings’ or digital handshakes periodically to determine the status of the network.

It is these pings or handshakes that the satellite picked up. While the aircraft responded to these pings, it was clear that it had power, was likely intact and in flight, although this does not prove beyond doubt that it was not intact on the ground.

The search continues for flight MH370 and leaves many questions unanswered.

Physical Security in AirportsMumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA) recently benefitted from the installation of a new CCTV system to enhance physical security in the new Terminal 2 building. Mumbai has historically been targeted repeatedly by terror threats and the new system brought a collective sigh of relief for the workforce and the millions of passengers that pass through its doors every year.

Imagine the shock when, particularly in the wake of the recent security issues surrounding the missing Malaysian flight MH370, it was discovered that all the CCTV cameras still have their covers in place.

At 4.40 million square feet, the modern T2 was opened in January by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and houses India’s largest art gallery – a 3km long wall of art featuring more than 5,000 artefacts and artwork from across the country. It is unclear why the physical security system is not being properly utilised.

ARINC Direct Business Flight Support ServicesAs Rockwell Collins see the business aviation industry growing, it makes sense that after its acquisition of ARINC Inc was finalised late last year, that the business aviation division, ARINC Direct brands and Rockwell Collins applications would gel perfectly in the business flight support services sector.

Rockwell Collins formed the Information Management Services division in January, placing Jeff Sanderski in the senior vice president role. It is a worldwide operation with offices in London and Singapore in addition to the HQ in Annapolis and a further US office in Houston with a total of 2,200 employees.

Around 22% of the business for this division lies in business aviation – a figure that Mr Sanderski sees growing as more private jet aircraft continue to be fitted with Rockwell Collins/ARINC Direct applications, including air-ground voice and data, ground-ground networks and business flight support services.

capitol-place-1-964706-mThe U.S. Senate met this week to discuss a warning from the aerospace and aviation industry that the upcoming expected wave of retiring aviation professionals could damage the industry within the next five years if the Government does not help more young people to train and qualify for these jobs.

Although there are sponsored training courses springing up across the industry, fears that global competitors could steal the show are growing within the U.S. industry. Regulatory issues, the need for an updated infrastructure and workforce development were some of the topics that were raised at the meeting.

Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Dept at AFL-CIO warned that the FAA will face similar staffing issues, “One third of the (FAA) workforce, including controllers, inspectors and systems specialists are eligible to retire. This is unsustainable and must be addressed because we believe it’s going to not only impact operations for the airline industry, but also the safety of the system as you see this brain drain of high-quality people retiring and we’re not hiring and replacing them fast enough,” he said.

Boeing’s Dennis Muilenburg told the Senate Subcommittee on Aviation operations, safety and security, “If we look at demographics of our workforce across Boeing and much of the aerospace industry, about 50 percent of our top engineers and mechanics will be eligible to retire over roughly the next five years.” Officials have added that encouraging schools to push science, math and technology-based subjects could help to create a new generation of engineers for the future, albeit even then, still putting pressure on the aviation industry jobs sector.

Muilenburg said, “We have about 4 million children entering kindergarten this year. At current rates, that would produce about 60,000 to 70,000 engineers at the end of college. That’s not even enough to satisfy the aerospace industry, let alone all sectors that need engineers.”

With the predicted rises in air traffic and passenger demand hitting new highs, the need is becoming more urgent for a skilled and experienced workforce in the coming years if the aviation industry is to cope.

New Eclipse 550 Business AircraftDescribed by its CEO, Mason Holland, as a ‘game-changer’, the Eclipse Aerospace delivered the first of its new Eclipse 550 to Albuquerque, New Mexico this week to the delight of the company’s European dealer, non-executive chairman of Aeris Aviation, Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden fame.

Mr Dickinson, who believes strongly in the Eclipse 550 as the ‘only VLJ’ on the market, said, “In essence it is a two-hour aeroplane. You can stick pretty much anything you want in it and go for two hours. The same is not true for other alleged VLJ’s that weigh a lot more and cost a lot more to operate.” A accomplished private jet pilot and joint-CEO of Cardiff Aviation, Mr Dickinson joined Aeris Aviation to promote sales of the Eclipse in October last year and underwent his type-training while piloting himself to Iron Maiden concert venues in an Eclipse.

Certification has just been achieved from the FAA for the Eclipse 550, a beautiful aircraft that began its production journey in June 2012, and has been described as ideal for those wishing to upgrade from turboprop or pistol aircraft.

Mr Holland said it was an exciting day for Eclipse Aerospace and for general aviation, “With the Eclipse 550, we’ve built a high-performance light jet that includes advanced technology and safety features that have traditionally been found only on much larger cabin-class business jets and commercial aircraft.”

Cabin Management TechnologyRockwell Collins, recent acquirers of ARINC Inc, today unveiled the latest innovation in personal tablet use. Their new side-ledge arm personal tablet mount is designed to work with the Venue Cabin Management System.

The new mount means that passengers with iPads and Galaxy tabs will be able to easily mount, charge and operate their personal tablets onboard, integrating with the latest in-flight entertainment system. This is great news for the ever-increasing numbers of passengers carrying personal tablets.

“With Venue, we’re creating a cabin experience that’s tailored to best suit its passengers,” said vice president and general manager, Flight Controls and Information Systems for Rockwell Collins, Greg Irmen. “Our new mount enables passengers to seamlessly integrate their personal tablets into the cabin setting and more comfortably enjoy their own content.”

Rockwell Collins offer apps that integrate with the cabin management system, such as Airshow, which displays an interactive moving map and real-time flight information. Also, they can offer Cabin Remote, which allows control of the cabin environment.

The new personal tablet mounts are available now for use in cabins equipped with the Venue system and allows Skybox passengers access to current onboard digital content.