Aviation Technology - Page 8 Aviation Articles

No Better Time to be Connected

By Mark Wilken
Director of Avionics Sales at Elliott Aviation

www.elliottaviation.com

High-speed internet on your corporate aircraft can exponentially increase it’s value. Photo courtesy www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Business aircraft offers you and your company’s employees the opportunity to get to critical business meetings in a fraction of the time it takes to fly commercial. Historically, however, travel time has been counted as unproductive from both the perspective of the traveler and the CFO. Recent advancements in Wi-Fi connectivity in business aircraft have provided us the opportunity to bring our offices into the sky. Until recently, these options have been cost prohibitive to many aircraft owners and operators.

The Aircell ATG 2000 high-speed internet system is designed for business jets and turboprops to allow you to access the internet, check email and use your smartphone to call and text (using Gogo ® Text & Talk service) on a budget. From now until December 31, 2014, the ATG 2000 equipment package can be purchased at approximately $45,000 plus installation charges. This is $12,000 off of list price and will allow up to five users instead of the original plan of three users. Aircell’s industry-leading network allows you to access high-speed internet above 10,000 feet just about anywhere in the United States and many areas in Canada. Data service starts at $395 per month or is offered as a pay-as-you-go alternative. Voice plans start at just $134.95 per month.

Providing Wi-Fi in your aircraft not only offers an increase in employee productivity, but allows a better quality of life on the ground by allowing employees to effectively manage their workload during travel and not have to bring their work home. As the demand rises for the ATG 2000 system, there is no better time to take advantage of Aircell’s promotion.

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).

Aviation is Synonymous with Innovation

The entire world of aviation was born from human innovation. We saw birds take flight and said to ourselves, “Why couldn’t we do that?” Since the beginning of time we have been looking for ways to be better, to move to the future, and to make tomorrow brighter and easier for mankind.

By now most people have heard of Nextgen, the nation-wide plans to move the aviation industry into the future. The Federal Aviation Association and Department of Transportation are pushing for this update to the National Aerospace System that will bring us into a safer and more efficient airspace environment.

The Nextgen mission is very fascinating, but I am interested in the projects that are put together by smaller companies. The innovators of tomorrow are truly the dreamers of today. They come up with amazing ideas, and decide to believe in their ideas with all of their might. Much like Steve Jobs starting the Apple empire in his garage in California, I believe that the future of aviation will be paved with innovations from individuals and small businesses.

I have recently come across a few companies that are doing just that. I am very interested to see where these innovators take their ideas in the future, and I can’t wait to see new realms of progress within the world of aviation.

"MakerPlane is an open source aviation organization which will enable people to build and fly their own safe, high quality, reasonable cost plane using advanced personal manufacturing equipment such as CNC mills and 3D printers.” Imagine being able to design your own aircraft and print the necessary pieces out. The technology this project is creating opens so many doors for the future of homebuilt aircraft.

Malloy Aeronautics has created a prototype for a stable and pretty great looking Hoverbike. They are currently still in the testing phase, but have plans for mass production of the hovercraft if they can secure enough funding for the project. I certainly can see a future where having a personal hovercraft is commonplace.

Terrafugia have created the flying car of tomorrow. Many have already heard of this project, but having an aircraft that is capable of converting into a car is an amazing feat.

I hope that showing you a few of these innovators inspires you to achieve more and create a better future for aviation. Here’s to the next great ideas!

Having an AMT on Staff makes Financial Sense

Having an Aviation Maintenance Technician (AMT) on staff can be invaluable to a business aviation flight department. Some operators will whole-heartedly agree with this, and others may not be so sure. Lets take a look at the numbers.


Reduction in unscheduled maintenance. Prior to trips, the AMT can perform a more thorough pre-flight than the pilot can do. When the aircraft is not flying, the AMT will be doing minor tasks and cleanup items versus waiting to have them done during a scheduled check. A little TLC can help keep an aircraft reliable.

Higher rates of dispatch reliability. The response time of an in-house AMT is immediate. A flat tire or burned-out landing light can delay a trip by many hours when waiting for the local FBO to send someone over to look at the plane. Plus, they may not have the tire or bulb needed.

What is the cost of a delayed or missed trip? It isn't easy finding a last minute charter. A minimum delay needed to find, book and have a charter aircraft on hand may be four to eight hours, if you are lucky. If there are three senior executives cooling their heels in the pilot lounge, how much is their time worth? If they have a combined salary of $1 million, their worth to to corporation can be 5-10 times that. So $5 million annually could be costing you $2,500 per hour in waiting time for those executives! A four-hour delay can cost $10,000 in lost productivity of the passengers.

The cost of the charter itself is not inconsequential. Assuming $3,500 per hour for a mid-size business jet, and an 8-hour round trip, the charter cost is $28,000. You avoid the operating cost of your own aircraft. Accounting for that variable cost, assuming $2,000 per hour, still results in an increased cost for the trip of an added $12,000 (more if an overnight and waiting times are needed).

What if the trip is cancelled? What if the cancelled trip results in a delayed opening of a new factory, or a lost opportunity to land new business? There is no way to easily calculate this lost opportunity cost, but it can be huge. It was important enough to have an aircraft and schedule the trip.

It isn't too hard to see a single lost or significantly delayed trip can easily cost a company $100,000 or more. One trip saved by your in-house AMT can be the break-even point!

Other areas the AMT is well worth having around is in the ability to save money on scheduled maintenance. Turbine aircraft maintenance facilities charge around $85 to $125 per hour shop labor. The AMT typically has the tools and facilities to do much of the minor, routine checks. If that capability is outsourced to a facility an hours' flight time away, the travel time and costs are higher.

When major maintenance is being performed, the AMT can monitor the progress of the tasks and represent the aircraft owner. This "babysitting" of the aircraft can result in an on-time, on-budget completion of the maintenance task. A great service center will make every effort to get the job done right, and having your AMT on hand will enable them to do just that.

Lastly, a good AMT knows his or her aircraft better than anybody else. I've seen maintenance manuals with pages of handwritten notes in them. Those notes represent the knowledge of your AMT with respect to your aircraft and are much more valuable than the manuals themselves.

If your flight department has more than two aircraft, the decision to hire an AMT is an easy one. Even for a small, turbine flight department, the AMT can make sense from both a financial and effectiveness perspective. When considering hiring an AMT, look at the benefits and you will likely agree the cost is worthwhile. 

Beechjet Landing Gear Overhaul

Beechjet landing gear requires overhaul every 5,000 cycles. In between overhauls, a Beechjet operator is likely to need unscheduled maintenance items such as brakes, wheels, tires and other items as required. Components like brakes can be turned in as little as three days and wheels as little as two.

A total Beechjet landing gear overhaul is an extensive event that requires many man hours to complete. If a repair is needed to the airframe, such as a trunnion repair that is becoming more common, AOG support is required to complete.

During the total landing gear overhaul, everything is inspected and repaired to FAA regulations including seals, bushings, wheels, brakes and overall condition of structural components. The time-lapse video below gives you a behind-the-scenes account of the process of a set of Beechjet main landing gear being overhauled with a complete AOG repair of the trunnion.

Live-Streaming: The Future of Flight Tracking?

The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 once again raises questions about the real-time tracking of aircraft. MH370 remains missing after controllers lost contact with it on March 8th. Authorities have assumed the Boeing 777 crashed in a remote area of the Indian Ocean.

The idea of real-time flight tracking has been discussed before, namely after Air France Flight 447 went missing and was later found in the ocean in 2007. It took investigators almost two years to recover the flight data recorder after the A330 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean while en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. Afterward, the public and industry folks alike wondered how we can manage to locate missing cell phones, but not missing aircraft? Even with the addition of NextGen technology like data link and ADS-B that's on board aircraft today, it's strangely not enough to find a missing airliner.

While the search for MH370 continues, industry groups are once again revisiting the idea of a live-streaming flight recorder for airliners. While the costs associated with it aren't anything that airlines want to pay, many believe that the cost is minimal when compared to the added benefits, and that it's an obvious remedy for cases like MH370 and AF447.

The NTSB is one industry group that is still interested in the concept of live-streamed data from aircraft. According to Reuters, the NTSB plans to continue to examine potential solutions that could include real time streaming of aircraft data from the flight recorder or ACARS, or both.

What About ACARS?
Currently, many planes are equipped with data tracking services like ACARS - data link technology that uses VHF and satellite communication to gather data from sensors on the aircraft. The data is sent from air to ground at certain times during the flight, transmitting things like flight times, location and fuel usage to air traffic controllers and dispatchers. The ACARS system on MH370 was disabled in flight, but satellites were still able to "ping" the aircraft about once per hour.

Why Can't We Stream Flight Recorder Data?
The short answer is that we can. The technology is there, according to this New York Times article. The cost, however, is prohibitive. And the logistical demands associated with thousands of airliners transmitting real-time data all day aren't there yet. And according to the New York Times article, the infrastructure required for constant live-streaming from thousands of airliners would be huge.

To become equipped for live-streaming, airlines would pay $50,000- 100,000 per airplane, according to some sources, and an additional cost for the service might range from $5-10 per minute. In an already cash-strapped industry, airlines just aren't going to pay that much if they don't have to.

Future Technology
The conversation doesn't end there, though. At least one supplier, Flyht Aerospace Solutions, Ltd., is already able to stream black box data in an emergency.

Flyht claims that while live-streaming technology on airline flights is an investment, there is also a cost-benefit involved. Security isn't the only topic at hand here: Live-streaming of data can alert airlines of maintenance issues immediately, instead of hearing about it after the flight lands or minutes or hours after the event. It also allows for better monitoring of new procedures and the system can record data for future safety and cost analysis. Operators would be able to implement improvements and safety measures with this kind of access to data.

And of course, in the wake of MH370, a more secure system of tracking airliners would be a welcome one. Live-streaming of aircraft data could ensure that an aircraft never disappears again (as long as the system can't be easily disabled or manipulated from the cockpit.)

What's your opinion? Should future airline flight data be live-streamed?

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