Government-mandated avionics upgrades are a fact of aviation life as pressures to increase efficiency in crowded airspace and lower fuel expenses are called for by operators in all segments of the aviation industry.
As Brian Sill, President, Honeywell, Business &General Aviation recently told the readers of Pro Pilot magazine, "The good news is that avionics suppliers are utilizing their resources to find ways to add functionality to mandates to actually provide cost savings to operators."
The impact of air traffic control systems being rigorously overhauled over the next several years will certainly affect Honeywell's channel partners in several ways.
"With most new systems we develop we have to sell the benefits of the new functionality to operators, show the value proposition for the function to “earn” its way onto the aircraft," said Tom Dooling, Senior Manager, Technical Sales. "But a mandated improvement has, in a sense, already earned its way onto an aircraft so we can concentrate on expediting the appropriate avionics retrofits, modifications and upgrades."
Ironically, the rolling schedule of regulatory deadlines could also mean scheduling "humps" in manufacturing and engineering departments and throughout our service network as operators rush to order products and have their aircraft fitted.
Four areas in particular stand out with implementation timelines spread out between now and 2020…and beyond.
Perhaps the best known of these is the traffic alert and collision avoidance system (TCAS) designed to reduce mid-air collisions between aircraft. The European Change 7.1 mandate enhances TCAS capabilities, including TCAS-TCAS reversals and aural warnings.
Many current or upcoming mandates add functionality that actually provides cost savings to the operator. The ADS-B Out mandate is a case in point, providing air traffic controllers with real-time position information enabling them to position and separate aircraft with improved precision and timing, leading to more efficient flight tracks that will save fuel.
The future air navigation system (FANS 1/A) is a concept that was developed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in partnership with Boeing, Airbus, Honeywell and others to allow more aircraft to safely and efficiently utilize a given volume of airspace. A key element of FANS, controller-pilot data link communication (CPDLC)―comparable to text messaging on cell phones―enables pilots and air traffic control to send pre-set or “canned” data messages between the ground and the aircraft. Once all the modernization initiatives are complete, this should lead to a significant increase in airspace capacity and as much as a 50 percent reduction in air navigation costs.
FANS 1/A CPDLC is currently implemented in the North Atlantic tracks and Canada, and will continue to grow with its adoption by the FAA NextGen program over the next several years.
The European community has also mandated operational use of air-ground data link in the form of “protected mode” controller pilot data link communications (PM-CPDLC), similar to the FANS system adopted by many countries but using a different communication protocol.
"The bottom line is that mandates spell continued business for anyone involved with these key avionics systems while increasing system-wide safety, efficiency and cost savings―and at the same time challenging our partners to maintain customer satisfaction during peak periods of demand," said Dooling.