Aviation Technology - Page 5 Aviation Articles

Is It Time To Replace Your Aircraft?

In general there are two reasons to replace an aircraft. One is that the mission changes rendering the current aircraft unable to perform the job in an effective manner. The other reason is that the aircraft is no longer cost effective in doing its job.

Mission changes can be obvious. The regional company goes national. Or the company goes global with acquisitions and mergers in different companies. Big changes tend to happen from the top down.

Mission changes may also be subtle. Passenger loads may be increasing at a gradual rate. The users will understand the limit of how many passengers the aircraft can hold. They tend to adjust their requirements to fit the seats, versus asking for more seats. Passengers may avoid the company aircraft due to its lack of range, but if you don't know the travel needs within your company, you may not notice the opportunity. 

The aviation manager needs to be on the lookout for unmet travel needs within the company that the business aircraft can serve. This can be done by user survey and spending time in meetings. Make sure the entity responsible for corporate travel is aware of the capabilities of the flight department and that aviation is able to understand the corporate travel needs. There may be a potential for both efficiencies and cost savings by creating a corporate shuttle but if the flight department doesn't know of the need, they can't respond. 

Falcon 10

The cost effectiveness of the aircraft is measured in terms of dollars and time. Our data shows that aircraft  age has a profound impact on maintenance costs. The early years when the aircraft are young and warranties are in effect show very low maintenance costs – less than half of what they are at year five. As the aircraft ages, wear and tear is takes its toll. Maintenance costs can easily be double or triple for the older aircraft. The increased maintenance cost is due to increases in unscheduled maintenance and the cost of major airframe and engine maintenance.

Aircraft age also extracts a toll in the areas of reliability and availability. Availability is defined as the number of days an aircraft is available for flight operations divided by the total number of days in the operating year. Reliability is usually measured as the percentage of departures that leave within a specified number of minutes of the scheduled departure time and is referred to as the “dispatch reliability”.  In order to keep dispatch reliability high, older aircraft tend to spend more time in for maintenance. This detracts from the time the aircraft can be made available for flight. Our data suggests that availability drops from the 95% range for aircraft up to 15 to 20 years of age to an average of 70% at age 25 and 55% at age 30. Thus, it typically takes two older aircraft to have the same availability as one newer one!

Spare parts availability can also wreak havoc on aircraft downtime, especially for aircraft with limited production runs or that have components from vendors no longer active in producing spares.  At some point, the fleet will be too small to warrant extensive support. This will be due to the lack of a supplier for some critical components and lack of incentive of another supplier to enter a shrinking market. If you fly a lot of hours, the TLC needed for an older aircraft may not be possible with your flying schedule.

Aircraft aging issues can be subtle, like increased downtime. It can be a shock, as in finding corrosion or getting the quote for that second begin overhaul. We recommend that operators keep track of these key parameters:

- Mechanical Dispatch Reliability

- Aircraft Availability

- Maintenance Cost per Flight Hour (parts and labor)

LearJet 45

Upgrading your aircraft can help extend its economic useful life. New avionics can keep an aircraft capable of using the air navigation system, as well as increase safety. Some older aircraft models benefit from having a robust airframe but lack modern, fuel-efficient engines. For some, an engine retrofit is a good alternative. 

Costs for these turbine aircraft upgrades can run several hundred thousand dollars to several million dollars. Today's resale market does not give much value to older turbine airframes. Upgrading a 20-year old aircraft may not be cost-effective in terms of adding market value, but if it has value to your operation, it may be worth doing just for the operational benefits. 

Each case for when to replace the aircraft needs to be evaluated on its own. You need to look at the costs of keeping your aircraft and the costs and benefits of the alternatives. Don't forget to keep in mind the ability to maintain the desired flight schedule. The replacement questions needs to be thought out in advance and not done in an ad hoc manner. Manage your time by managing the time-machine asset that is the aircraft. 

What factors do you look at for decing it's time to replace your aircraft ? 

Shedding Light on Advancements in Cabin Illumination

By Adam Doyle, Paint & Interior Sales Manager
www.elliottaviation.com

Lighting is one of the most important elements of cabin design. It serves multiple functions like providing safety, assistance in performing tasks, creating an atmosphere, and in general pulling together the overall design. Understanding cabin lighting technology can assist in making the right decision for your cabin.

At first cabin lighting choices may seem relatively simple, but with recent advancements there are a large amount of new lighting technologies to choose from. This is a great thing for aircraft owners and operators because lighting can make a big difference in the upgrade of a cabin and cost considerably less than other available upgrades.

The cost of upgrading lighting varies depending on the specific aircraft model and the choice of upgrades. Manufactures are providing multiple options for almost all different airframes.

LED Technology
The recent influx in lighting advancements is no surprise to the industry because consumer electronics drives what goes into an airplane. As new options are available in the consumer market they are adapted into the aviation market as well.

Recently in the consumer market there has been a rapid rate of Light Emitting Diode (LED) technology change being driven by the idea that the brighter, the better. This has created new advancements for aviation, too.

Most general aviation aircraft with any kind of up-wash or down-wash lighting come from the factory with Compact Fluorescent Lighting. The problem with CFL is consistency and long term cost for replacement bulbs and/or power supplies. Don’t forget about the labor involved and potential for damaging interior components that comes with replacement.

LED Lighting
Generally, when deciding to upgrade cabin lighting, the choice is more often than not whether to make the change to LED lighting. LED technology is typically the line between newer and older generation aircraft. Lamp brightness, color, power consumption, heat management, and lamp lifetime are a few of the main differences between the two technologies.

Problems with individual power supplies, hot ballasts and individual bulb replacement are nearly eliminated with an LED option. Also, when a CFL bulb burns out it is easily noticed, but when individual diodes fail at different times within an LED cluster, they contribute incrementally to illumination decline.

LED technology also offers an overall 50 to 75 percent power savings for an aircraft lighting system. This means problems with individual power supplies, are virtually eliminated with LED.

The technology has safety and aesthetics benefits, too. LEDs are shock resistant, emit low heat, and have no bulb breakage. Also, they emit color consistency and a brighter light. Prior to installation you can even pick different colors as several manufacturers are also beginning to offer optional colored lights.

However there are different LED options or upgrades.

Plug & Play
A major switch the industry is seeing is from incandescent bulbs for reading lights to LED plug and play. The major benefit is cost savings. This option allows you to retain the original fixture. When replacing the fixture don’t forget you’ll incur labor and plating fees along with light longevity.

With plug and play you can pull the face off the light, unplug one bulb and plug the new one in. Plug and play lights are also easy to replace. Once done, that’s the last time you will ever replace it. This means when converting to LED you don’t have to rewire the whole plane and you can do it as needed instead of all at once.

It typically costs anywhere from $300 to $600 to replace just one CFL bulb. On top of that, there is also labor. CFL bulbs have a much shorter life span than LED so it needs replaced when the LED typically does not.

Unlike CFL, LED lighting is relatively maintenance-free once installed. The technology has a considerably longer life than florescent bulbs. At about 500,000 hours, the useful life of an LED is roughly five times that of an incandescent light, according to IDD Aerospace.

This saves labor, materials, and downtime. There is more initial investment for the plug and play LED technology but when it comes to the overall life of the aircraft, LED out performs and will cost less.

Self-ballasted
Self-ballasted lights are another LED upgrade. Un-ballasted lights run off of the aircrafts power supplies while self-ballasted lighting provides its own power. The owner can get rid of extra power supplies because it has its own power.

The need for less power supplies creates a weight savings, which leads to less fuel usage.

Disadvantages of LED
While offering many advantages, LEDs also present challenges to operators. The rapid rate of LED technology change in the consumer market brings concern to the aviation industry. The idea that brighter is better is driving components to be replaced or updated at a rapid rate. This kind of change rate creates parts obsolescence for the future.

Choosing a source for a particular aircraft interior lighting task ultimately is not as simple as it may seem. Before making a decision it’s best to evaluate all of the options and pick which one is best for the specific aircraft and use.

Adam Doyle joined Elliott Aviation in 2000 as an interior technician after graduating from Wyoming Technical Institute. While at Elliott Aviation Adam has experienced many different promotions on the shop floor including Install Team Lead, Soft Goods Team Lead, Assistant Interior Shop Manager and Seat Shop Manager. Adam’s most recent promotion has been to Paint and Interior Sales Representative for Elliott Aviation. He uses his experience with various vendors, products and processes to educate our clients by providing direction and helping plan for future investment with realistic and accurate figures.

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). More information can be found at www.elliottaviation.com

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?

Pilot Cell Phone Use: Don't Be That Guy


Photo: Jorge Quinteros/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Let's talk about your iPhone. It's no secret that the selfie craze has made its way into the cockpit. And why not? As pilots, we get to witness so many beautiful things from a few thousand feet in the air - the sun reflecting off of a puffy cloud layer, a gorgeous sunset against a vast horizon, the city landscape on a foggy morning. We have a great view - some of us are lucky enough to call it our office and get to see it daily - and we should feel free to snap a photo and capture a memory from time to time. And what harm is done by answering that text while we're at it?

But are pilots overdoing it with the selfies and other cell phone distractions? Are we are putting the safety of our flight at stake when we stop to snap a photo or text a friend?

David Yanofsky, a writer for Quartz, seems to think so. In a recent article detailing the "Pilots of Instagram," Yanofsky calls out a number of pilots for violating the sterile cockpit rule and FAA policy on portable electronic devices (PEDs). Yanofsky, whose article made him wildly unpopular among aviation professionals in the social media world, brings attention to yet another way that pilots might become distracted in the cockpit, but he was widely criticized for bringing negative attention to something that really isn't a problem. An airline pilot who snaps a photo of the clouds from 30,000 feet probably isn't creating any sort of hazard at all. Common sense tells you that the short attention diversion in this scenario is really no different than if a pilot glances at his watch for a moments or looks down to read a chart, or is otherwise engaged in conversation with her copilot. But common sense - and a will to survive - should also tell us that taking selfies while flying an approach just shouldn't happen.

The trouble is that often times where common sense should prevail, it doesn't. And there are at least a few cases to prove it. Selfies, or using personal electronic devices for texting has been a contributing factor during a few recent plane crashes.

In Denver last year, a pilot made a series of errors in judgment and crashed after stalling his aircraft during an approach. He and his passenger both died. Soon after, the NSTB reported that the pilots had been taking selfies while in the pattern. At night. In low IMC. Using the flash. We all shake our heads in disbelief, but I'm guessing this person thought of himself as a smart guy. And maybe he was a smart guy. Common sense can clearly escape the best of us if it means we get an awesome photo to share in Facebook. (The pilot also happened to be flying at night and in IMC without meeting the currency requirements for either… but that's another story.)

In 2011, four people died when a medical helicopter operating a commercial flight crashed in a field in Missouri. The helicopter ran out of fuel, and the NTSB listed "the pilot's distracted attention due to personal texting during safety-critical ground and flight operations" as a contributing factor.

More recently, it was reported that a student pilot is suing his flight school, claiming that his instructor was on FaceTime during a simulated engine emergency last December, causing an accident that left the student in critical condition and killed the instructor. The NTSB accident report does not mention the pilot's use of his phone during the flight, but the student's lawyer says they're suing.

In 2014, the FAA issued a Final Rule that restricts Part 121 (airline) pilots from operating any electronic devices for personal during flight operations. The rules states that pilots are only allowed to use company-issued devices for tasks that are directly related to the operation of the flight, for safety-related purposes or for company communications. But this rule does not apply to Part 135 or Part 91 operations. General aviation pilots are allowed to use cell phone and iPads during flight, for which most of us are grateful. After all, where would we be without ForeFlight? And how convenient is it to use our phone to call for a clearance instead of relying on an RCO? And, of course, it's nice to be able to capture a beautiful sunset on camera every now and then.

But we should not be taking selfies on final approach at night and in IMC, or during any other critical phase of flight. And we should really try to limit our cell phone use during flight to aircraft operations and emergencies only to ensure we don't lose focus on the task at hand and find ourselves the recipient of an FAA violation or worse, a fatal accident.

Don't be that guy. Don't be the guy taking selfies on final approach. Don't be that guy using FaceTime in the middle of a training flight. Don't be that guy messing with the GoPro at 300 feet on upwind because you forgot to turn it on during the preflight. Don't be the guy that dies in a plane crash, leaving photos or video footage of your mistakes in your wake.

Maybe we should just put down the phone, look out the window and enjoy the view.

Disconnected: A Business Aircraft without Wi-Fi is not a True Business Aircraft

By Mark Wilken
www.elliottaviation.com

There is no excuse for productivity loss in today’s business world, as it’s almost impossible to go anywhere without Wi-Fi—including the sky.

Currently about 6,500 business aircraft are equipped with something more than a dial up connection according to GoGo, a broadband technology that makes inflight Wi-Fi a reality. This is a significant increase of in-flight Wi-Fi installations compared to the only handful of business aircraft equipped with it in 2008.

Commercially, fifty-two airlines now have Wi-Fi available and two-thirds of the miles offered by U.S. airlines provide passengers a chance for Wi-Fi signal, according to a recent study conducted by Routehappy, which rates flights based on their amenities for passengers.

 Business Man Works Over Cloud Photo courtesy bplanet at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Aircraft passengers are rapidly gaining the ability to work in flight. According to Routehappy’s study, the number of U.S. domestic flights with at least some chance of Wi-Fi grew by nearly 1,600 in the last 18 months. That amount is only going to continue to grow. With such a large amount of flights offering connectivity, Americans have the opportunity to be more productive than ever.

The expansion of Wi-Fi on airlines has been remarkable, causing Routehappy to name 2014 as the year inflight Wi-Fi took off. This is carrying into 2015 as well. Gogo, the leading provider of inflight Internet and voice equipment in the United States, already has a backlog of 1,000 commercial aircraft installations for the year.

About 40 business aircraft types have GoGo’s business aviation products certified and, in 2014, the company’s revenues totaled roughly $400 million. Approximately 40 percent of that came from business aviation and 60 percent from commercial aviation income.

If your private plane is not yet equipped with Wi-Fi, your employees are missing out on that chance for extra productivity. There are multiple inflight Wi-Fi options available through GoGo and select avionics facilities can install it.

Imagine how many hours a company’s middle and upper management spend in the air. Take the number of people in the aircraft, multiply it by the average hourly salary rate times the number of hours flown in the month and you will see how much that loss of productivity cost the company. In most cases, you are spending thousands of dollars of lost productivity each month by not being connected with technology that is available for a fraction of that cost. Just one four-hour round trip for three managers equals twelve hours of inflight time, and twelve hours of their salary, that without Wi-Fi is productivity loss.

There are always emails to respond to, presentations to prepare for and research to conduct. For those business travel necessities, in-flight Wi-Fi is critical. Thanks to technology advancements like inflight Wi-Fi, travel time is no longer synonymous with lost productivity. It’s easier than ever to make your aircraft as efficient as your office. After all, your business aircraft should be more productive than a commercial flight.

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). More information can be found at www.elliottaviation.com

 

 

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