Director of Avionics Sales
A CRT with phosphor burn-in – common with older CRTs due to the screens only displaying non-moving images at high-intensity.
In the first article we published related to this topic, we discussed the overall concern of parts obsolescence in aviation. Due to ongoing changes in consumer electronics, avionics are highly susceptible to obsolescence. This makes many airframes vulnerable to expensive upgrades or potential grounding. However, manufactures and service centers are creating solutions and developing products to keep your airplane flying indefinitely.
The first article mentions unlike consumer electronics, airplanes are built to fly for many years. This especially holds true for the Beechcraft King Air. The King Air was first introduced in the 1960’s and continues to be assembled to this day using the same airfoil. Many of these later models King Airs are still in circulation around the world. However, many owners and operators are beginning to feel the effects of parts obsolescence.
When King Air operators face this challenge, they have two options: source out pre-owned aftermarket parts that have been removed from the same airframe, or invest in a new avionics package. Each option has pros and cons. If you decide to replace your avionics with pre-owned aftermarket parts, sourcing can be very difficult. You also run the risk of investing in a part that has an unknown part life before it too needs to be replaced.
The next option is to install a new avionics package in your King Air. The most popular retrofit for the King Air is the Garmin G1000. The G1000’s popularity stems from the high cost of maintaining current avionics, the reasonable cost of the G1000 installation and the value added back into the aircraft.
For instance, take the cost of traditional King Air avionics upgrades vs. the G1000. A traditional upgrade would include WAAS LPV at $95,000, ADS-B at $45,000, RVSM at $83,000 and five year maintenance and upkeep at $100,000 for a grand total of $323,000. With the traditional upgrade, you add no resale to your aircraft. With the G1000, your average base install is $325,000 and you add an average value increase to the aircraft of $275,000. In addition, the system is safer, lighter, more reliable, requires significantly less maintenance and the aircraft is down for only 15 working days.
Deciding which route to take can be a daunting task. At some point you will be faced with this predicament that will have you searching for additional information. Regardless of what you decide, our avionics retrofit teams and aftermarket avionics department can help your aircraft flying.
Mark Wilken joined Elliott Aviation in 1989 as an Avionics Bench Technician. He was promoted to Avionics Manager in 1996 and joined the sales team in 2003. Mark has led many highly successful avionics programs such as the King Air Garmin G1000 avionics retrofit program. He recently led efforts for Wi-Fi solutions in Hawkers, King Airs and Phenom 300’s. Mark holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Aviation Management from Southern Illinois University and is a licensed Pilot.
Elliott Aviation is a second-generation, family-owned business aviation company offering a complete menu of high quality products and services including aircraft sales, avionics service & installations, aircraft maintenance, accessory repair & overhaul, paint and interior, charter and aircraft management. Serving the business aviation industry nationally and internationally, they have facilities in Moline, IL, Des Moines, IA, and Minneapolis, MN. The company is a member of the Pinnacle Air Network, National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), National Air Transportation Association (NATA), and National Aircraft Resale Association (NARA).
Image: Creative Commons/SempreVoldano
For aircraft owners, there are still a lot of issues surrounding the FAA's NextGen program. Determining what you should do to remain compliant without drowning in the high costs associated with the new avionics involved is challenging, to say the least.
Last month, in part one of our NextGen series, I discussed avionics equipment and mandates associated with the NextGen program, including what equipment is already mandated, what will be mandated come 2020 and what could potentially become required in the future. These scheduled and proposed mandates have become an important factor to consider for aircraft owners, especially when it comes to deciding whether to upgrade their aircraft's avionics or upgrade to a new airplane altogether.
Here's a rundown of what some aircraft owners have experienced, including how much cash you may need to shell out to get up to speed:
While some business jet operators have a little bit of time to think it over, others are already finding it necessary to upgrade their airplanes to ADS-B and FANS-1/A for international operations. And others are choosing to upgrade early to get it over with and avoid the consequences of not being ready for the 2020 ADS-B mandate.
"What I'm seeing is people using the cost of NextGen to justify an aircraft replacement sooner rather than waiting," says David Wyndham, President and Co-Owner of aircraft consulting firm Conklin & de Decker. "They are fearful of the cost of the upgrade on their older aircraft, or having an older aircraft with little resale appeal if they don't upgrade."
The resale value of an old airplane is one thing. The cost of new, mandated equipment exceeding the cost of the aircraft itself is another reality that aircraft owners must face.
But not everyone shares the opinion that upgrading now is the best option. Some aircraft owners are willing to wait it out with the preconception that the FAA won't be able to meet its own mandate in 2020, and with the hope that the cost of equipment will decrease as more manufacturers put their solutions on the market and better options start to emerge than exist right now. This plan could backfire, though: According to Duncan Aviation's website, as the deadline approaches, the cost of ADS-B will likely go up and aircraft owners could find themselves on a wait list for installation, and, ultimately, grounded.
Jeremy Cox, Vice President of JetBrokers, Inc says there are problems at the manufacturer level when it comes to compatibility. "The main problem with ADS-B compliance…is that both Collins and Honeywell are still working on their FMS modifications to enable the ADS-B functionality."
Equipment upgrades for NextGen have become a bit of a headache for aircraft owners, as much of the newer technology isn't compatible with what's currently on board aircraft, especially aircraft older than 10 years.
"Worse, there will not be any weather depiction through most of the large aircraft FMS units, as they will not support the frequency," Cox says.
Add to this the possibility of STCs and required waivers for some equipment upgrades, and aircraft owners are experiences delays and down time for expensive equipment that they didn't want to begin with.
The Real Cost:
There are numerous options to consider when it comes to upgrading an airplane for NextGen, which is why every aircraft will be different when it comes to determining the cost of NextGen upgrades.
International operators will be hit the hardest, according to Cox. A full NextGen-compliant upgrade for an international, long-range business jet could likely mean numerous equipment upgrades, such as a new GPS, NAV system, FMS, transponder, Multi-Function Display (MFD), SATCOM, cockpit voice recorder (CVR), or a datalink printer.
Some owners will have additional options to consider, like whether to install ADS-B In along with ADS-B Out equipment. (As of now, the FAA is only mandating the use of ADS-B Out.)
Cox says the cost could add up to millions for business jet owners. "A Gulfstream IV will cost about $1 million to comply. A Falcon 900 will cost anywhere from $1.1 million to $3.5 million. A Challenger 601 will cost more than $1.5 million. Add to this the cost of in-flight SATCOM data that will always be turned on when operating within FANS and CDPLC airspace."
The Silver Lining:
If there's a silver lining to the cost of NextGen equipment, it's that the safety and efficiency that comes with these upgrades will benefit everyone who participates.
While the initial installation is no doubt costly, some people (depending on the type of ADS-B equipment used) will get satellite weather and traffic information at no cost. For those used to paying fees for satellite weather and GPS subscriptions, the high initial price of ADS-B might be worth it in the long run.
And still others see the value in NextGen overall. Pilots are all different when it comes to what they find necessary or valuable in avionics, and many see ADS-B and other equipment upgrades as a welcome and necessary part of the flying world.
Aircraft owner Neal Clayton says the technology is worth it. "I am not a weekend-afternoon local flyer. If I fly I'm going somewhere, at least across state lines, maybe at night, maybe in IMC, or maybe both. So things like synthetic terrain, weather display, and GPS steering are more than toys to me."
Image Courtesy: FAA
By now, everyone on the general aviation industry is tired of hearing about NextGen and its amazingness, right? I mean, it all sounds great - until you realize that in just a few short years, that new avionics upgrade you got a few years ago could be almost worthless.
While it will be beneficial to have ADS-B, weather mapping and CPDLC, these fancy upgrades don't come cheap. And it's not just the high dollar that destroys people's optimism. There are other decisions involved, too - like whether to upgrade now, wait until the equipment is required or just start over with a brand new jet. Add to this an overabundance of confusing FAA rules, the need for STCs, waiting for paperwork to go through and aircraft downtime, and it's a pretty unappealing process for the typical Citation or Gulfstream owner.
But NextGen has its benefits, too, in the form of safety and efficiency, and maybe it's time for everyone to get on board. But what exactly will you need? When should you equip your aircraft? How much will it cost? Should you upgrade or sell?
In this two-part series, we'll look first at the requirements of NextGen, the equipment upgrades in question, what is mandated and what will be mandated soon. In part two, we'll examine insider opinions and go over some advantages and disadvantages of upgrading avionics versus replacing your aircraft.
If you're not familiar with The FAA's NextGen program and all that it entails, it's time to get cozy with it. The program is a complex one with many different facets within it, including a series of new technologies that will allegedly make the nation's airspace more safe and efficient. A few of these new systems are especially important to aircraft owners because of the high cost and complex avionics involved. We'll go over two of the more significant systems below:
ADS-B, or Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast, is the most accurate system to date for determining aircraft position. Because both ATC and other pilots in the area will be able to determine your aircraft's precise position while flying, ADS-B will allow for reduced separation minimums and a safer flight environment.
According to an FAA mandate, all aircraft owners that intend to fly in class A, B or C airspace must be equipped with ADS-B Out capabilities by January 1st, 2020. This sounds easy enough, but the exact installation requirements vary greatly from aircraft to aircraft, depending on the current avionics package and the type of flying accomplished.
At a minimum, aircraft will need to be equipped with a WAAS-enabled GPS receiver and (for aircraft flying above 18,000 feet) a 1090 MHz ES link with a Mode S Transponder.
ATN-B1 (Datacomm) and FANS-1/A:
ATN-B1 has many names. It's known by the FAA as Datacomm and it's known still to others as Link2000+, PMCPDLC, or CPDLC. It uses datalink technology to send data communications from air traffic controllers to the cockpit of the aircraft via a text message, and vice versa. The FAA's Datacomm program intends to improve communication by reducing voice communication errors that come with fuzzy or congested radio frequencies and improving the accuracy of transmissions. Currently, there is no FAA mandate for the use of Datacomm in the United States, but ATN-B1 will be mandated by EASA in February 2015. The program is expected to be implemented in the U.S. in 2016 and expanded on until 2024.
FANS-1/A is a datalink system that incorporates CPDLC with a surveillance feature called ADS-C. The ADS-C feature provides position reports over areas not served by ground systems, such as the Atlantic Ocean. FANS-1/A is mandated by the North Atlantic Track System (NATS) for the two center tracks over the Atlantic, and this mandate is expected to expand.
Whether an operator decides to equip with ATN-B1 or FANS-1/A will largely be determined by mandates, cost and the aircraft's current equipment status. But one thing is for sure: These datalink upgrades are something operators should prepare for in one way or another.
Stay tuned more information about how business aviation is preparing for NextGen, including why some business jet owners are choosing to upgrade now!
The FAA announced this week it is ready to go full scale with its implementation of the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) system to track aircraft. The agency expects the transition, which will give air-traffic controllers another tool to track aircraft, to be complete by 2013 and mandated by 2020.
As this development plays out, though, a smart phone application that allows the technology to track aircraft with a phone camera has come under fire from a British security official.
Patrick Mercer, former chair of the UK’s Parliamentary Counter Terrorism subcommittee, according to a Press Trust of India report, said terrorist could use an iPhone application to locate and target an in-flight aircraft for an missile attack.
“Anything that makes it easier for our enemies to find targets is madness,” he reportedly said.
The article also mentions, without specifics, that the Department of Homeland Security also “is investigating how to protect aircraft from attacks.”
This line of thought has its critics as well, however. Marcus Yam, writing for the technology web site TomsGuide.com, commented smarmily: “Next thing he’ll go after are telescopes and binoculars.”
Louisville pilot Robert Patterson said as much this week to us. He hosts an ADS-B receiver on the system used by PlaneFinder.net, which sells the smart phone application.
Louisville International Airport (SDF) was chosen by the FAA as a test site for the system largely due to the UPS fleet that flies cargo into and out of the city daily. Patterson, an aviation enthusiast who does similar hosting for LiveATC.net, said he has enjoyed using the new technology and thinks it should be there for others.
“(It's) Innocent,” he tweeted to us on about the tracking system, after we posted a link to the initial criticism on our Twitter feed.
In a follow-up phone interview, Patterson noted that the tracking data broadcast by the receivers is easy to come across. Anyone can buy and connect one to a laptop via USB for about $700.
“If they can afford an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade), the price of the (ADS-B) antenna probably isn’t going to stop them,” he said.
The only difference between having it on a highly mobile laptop versus a smart phone app, he said, is the price.
Patterson said it would be a disservice to the aviation community to block access to the applications, which cost around $5, as many who would enjoy following flights in their neighborhoods might not opt for the pricier antennas. At least one aviation authority agrees, it seems.
Yam also notes in his report that “the UK Department of Transport doesn’t seem that worried, though, as it said, ‘This application might be new but the ability to track aircraft isn’t.”
How else are we going to have fun with aircraft when we are stuck on the ground?