All posts tagged 'NextGen'

Aviation's New Challenge: Software Glitches and Hackers?


Photo: FAA

The next generation of flying has arrived: From paperless boarding passes to paperless cockpits, we are moving to a completely computerized aviation future. It's almost like something out of a futuristic cartoon like The Jetsons with our tablet computers, internet-ready modernized passenger seats and synthetic vision glass cockpits.

Today's flights are planned on computers and sent to pilot's iPads, replacing the pounds of manuals, charts and checklists that pilots used to lug around. Outdated navigation systems are being replaced with a single, incredibly accurate, satellite based system called ADS-B. Inflight Wi-Fi service for passengers has not only become popular, but it's now almost expected from frequent airline travelers. And our nation's airspace system is getting a complete overhaul with NextGen, which includes programs like ERAM, Datacomm and many other communications systems.

This is all good news… until something crashes (or gets hacked). And we were recently reminded that sometimes computers do crash, when a few dozen American Airlines crews were left without proper charts after their iPads suddenly crashed on them while flying. The software glitch left dozens of flights and many passengers delayed.

Computers are clearly the efficient way to modernize aviation, and it's a welcome and inevitable progression toward a more effective airspace system. But there are a few things that haven't fully kept up with the fast-moving aviation industry, like software management and cyber security.

Are airplane computers secure?
Experts have warned that our industry's efforts to keep iPads, ADS-B and other onboard communication devices secure aren't comprehensive enough. An April 2015 GAO report evaluated the cyber security strength of the FAA's six major NextGen programs: Surveillance and Broadcast Services Subsystem (SBSS), Data Communications (Data Comm), NAS Voice Switch, Collaborative Air Traffic Management (CATM), Common Support Service-Weather (CSSWx), and System Wide Information Management (SWIM), which will all use an IP-based network to communicate with each other, as well as with thousands of aircraft flight deck technologies.

You can imagine that an entire system based on a computer network might be susceptible to hackers. Passengers are connected through in flight Wi-Fi. Pilots are sometimes connected to Wi-Fi via their company iPads, and will also be vulnerable to the hacking of onboard equipment through an IP network. And ATC is going to be on the ground, potentially connected to the same network. While the FAA has taken some measures to secure the networks, information in the GAO report demonstrates that the system is still susceptible to hackers.

"According to FAA and experts we interviewed, modern communications technologies, including IP connectivity, are increasingly used in aircraft systems, creating the possibility that unauthorized individuals might access and compromise aircraft avionics systems, " the GAO report states. In the past, on board systems have been insolated, but IP networking included in the many new NextGen technologies could leave not just one aircraft's systems vulnerable, but any other computer on the network.

How can operators avoid software glitches?
Besides choosing a reliable third-party developer and a company with a sound history in computer application design, there's not much an airline or an operator can do to avoid an occasional software glitch except to prepare for and expect the occasional software glitch. So far, the airlines have been lucky. American Airlines had a few delays, yes, but the problem was one that was easily fixed by handing paper charts to pilots or getting them to a place where they could re-boot, upload new charts and move on. At no time were they actually in any danger.

But what happens when a seemingly trivial software glitch isn't so trivial anymore? This is a question that was relevant yesterday, remains relevant today and will be relevant still in the future. Computers are already in use at most ATC facilities and in most aircraft. A software glitch in an aircraft is a problem, but not necessarily a dangerous one. Airplanes have backup navigation systems, backup electrical systems and backup instruments that are powered by something other than a computer.) A pilot can fly safely if their onboard computer crashes. It would test their skills, for sure, but that's what pilots train for.

A computer failure or software glitch at an ATC facility can cause major delays, possibly even for days. Remember that fire at the Chicago ARTCC facility? It not only knocked out both the primary and secondary communications networks, but it knocked out the whole region's ATC capabilities. Everyone survived, albeit painfully.

If we can glean anything from recent events, it's that in order for our industry to move forward in the world, we are going to have to rely on computers, and computers are not perfect. We have to do what's necessary to mitigate and control any associated risks, like those from hackers and software issues. And as we learn to protect our computer systems we'll likely have a few problems along the way similar to American Airline's software glitch, but the overall outcome will be an impressive, capable air traffic system that allows us to fly even more efficiently and safely than ever before.

What are your thoughts?

New Cost Effective Solutions for Upcoming Mandates

Garmin is Now Offering Standalone ADS-B Solutions

By Conrad Theisen
Avionics Sales Manager for Elliott Aviation

www.elliottaviation.com

Earlier this year, Garmin announced a cost-effective, stand-alone Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) solution for Citation V, Hawker 800A/XP, Hawker 400A/XP, Learjet 60 and Learjet 35A. Their solution, which utilizes Garmin’s GTX 3000 Mode S Extended Squitter (ES) transponders, satisfies upcoming global ADS-B mandates without making costly Flight Management System (FMS) and cockpit display upgrades. What this means for owners and operators of these aircraft is that you now have a much more cost-effective solution to meet your NextGen requirements.

Not only does this solution satisfy upcoming NextGen mandates but paired with the Garmin GDL 88 ADS-B datalink and Flight Stream wireless gateway it gives you the capability to wirelessly receive the benefits of ADS-B In on your mobile device. While not a requirement, the addition of ADS-B In allows you to receive traffic and weather on your mobile device, which in these aircraft, currently do not have any other way of displaying the information.

Elliott Aviation is currently working on an STC to install Garmin’s new ADS-B solution in Hawker 800A/XP and Beechjet 400A/Hawker 400XP, while Executive Aircraft Maintenance is working on the STC for the Citation V and Butler National is pursuing an STC for Lear 60 and Lear 35A. With thousands of these aircraft currently in service, owners and operators now have a way to meet NextGen requirements and get added benefits of ADS-B In without the cost of a full cockpit retrofit.

Conrad Theisen has been with Elliott Aviation since 1996. He started his career as an Avionics Installer and was promoted to Avionics Manager in 2001. In 2009, he led the Customer Service and Project Management teams for all in-house aircraft. He joined the Avionics Sales team in 2012.

 

Business Aviation & NextGen, Part II: Upgrade, Sell, or Do Nothing?


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:

The Trends:
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.

The Challenges:
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.

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."

"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."

Business Aviation & NextGen, Part I: Updates and Mandates


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:
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!

FAA / DOT lays out NextGen plan details

 

The Transportation Department today issued its guidelines to manufacturers for NextGen implementation.

“Today's regulations set clear performance requirements for the electronics that will allow aircraft to be tracked with greater precision and accuracy. And by 2020, all aircraft flying over the United States will be broadcasting an ADS-B signal,” states an announcement on Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s departmental blog.  “ADS-B will allow pilots to get the same information as air traffic controllers and see the same things on their screens. Pilots will know where aircraft are located and how close one plane is to another. They'll have a clearer picture of what’s happening in the air or on the ground--even in low visibility.”

Read the blog entry here.

Or check out the entire implementation plan in PDF form here.

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