looking beyond ads-b out

June 11, 2020

With ADS-B Out now in effect in North America and Europe set to follow suit this June, BART Avionics Expert Steve Nichols asks, ‘what comes next’?


The North American ADS-B Out mandate may now be in effect, but in Europe, the cut-off date is still a few months away. By June 2020, European operators must equip their aircraft with ADS-B Out avionics that meet the performance requirements of the mandate. Honeywell estimates that around 8,000 aircraft in Europe will be affected by the European ADS-B Out mandate and time is running out. Failure to comply will result in your aircraft being grounded – putting your operations at risk.

But will all these new mandatory avionics spark other upgrades in the retrofit market? According to Kevin Kliethermes, director of sales at Flying Colours Corp, there are still a fair number of aircraft in the US that have not had the mandatory ADS-B upgrades. “Other than that, our customer’s attention is turning to other things, including CNS/ATM-related upgrades,” he says. “We’re also seeing a big push on inflight connectivity.”

Kliethermes says that the company’s Bombardier Global customers are doing Honeywell Ka-band Inmarsat Jet ConneX installs, while the Challenger customer base is mainly focused on Gogo air-to-ground systems.

“Looking forward a year or two, there may will be other options on the table, and we think the price point is going to drop,” adds Kliethermes. “I have no doubt that there will be additional mandates coming as well, but we have no idea of the timelines.”

Justin Vena, senior avionics sales at Duncan Aviation, says that they have seen significant interest in other avionic upgrades since the US mandate deadline. “Some operators say they have just spent a ton of money on avionic upgrades in connection with the mandate and don’t want to spend any more,” he says.

That being said, Vena points out that there are a significant number of people who fit into a different category. This group is buying new aircraft and retrofitting them to meet their needs. “Hull values are coming down on all their aircraft and so they are prepared to do upgrades to make them do what they want,” says Vena. “This is ideal, as whenever you force someone to do something there is resentment, but when they want to, they tend to be excited about it.”

Vena says that Duncan is seeing an increase in the number of operators opting for inflight connectivity installations and cabin management/IFE. “There is an obsolescence factor going on with IFE, but there are so many different options available for customers and operators,” he says. “There is a top tier level for complete retrofits and, in many cases, you need to do that as nothing is supported anymore.”

There are also a large number of aircraft that have cabin management systems where the main switch boxes are obsolete, but the rest of the parts are still good. According to Vena, this is the perfect opportunity to not only update obsolete equipment, but also do, for example, a high-definition refresh. “We can update their monitors and get some HDMI ports added so that passengers can bring their own carry-on devices on board and plug them in,” he explains. “That means they can plug in and use services like they have at home, such as Chromecast and Roku sticks, and can start sharing content with other passengers even if they don’t have a strong internet pipe on board.”

This is important as, according to Vena, business aircraft users are now routinely streaming Netflix or Hulu content while on board. In fact, for the last six months, 80% of his time has been focused on internet and cabin management upgrades. “That doesn’t mean I didn’t see any activity on ADS-B or Future Air Navigation Systems (FANS), but it was small percentage of my time overall,” adds Vena.

This is a trend that’s likely to continue, especially with all the inflight connectivity developments coming up in the near future, including the launch of more high capacity Ka-band satellite from Viasat and OneWeb’s upcoming LEO satellite system (see the last issue of BART International). “LuxStream from Collins Aerospace also offers high-speed, high-throughput connectivity,” says Vena.

Collins teamed up with satellite provider SES to provide 15Mbps globally and 25 Mbps Ku-band connectivity in the United States with LuxStream. Collins provides the airborne hardware and its ARINCDirect unit is the service provider. “LuxStream is powered by SES’s global geostationary high-throughput and wide satellite beams, as well as a flexible, intelligent ground network,” says JP Hemingway, CEO of SES Networks. “Its performance has been validated extensively with a large number of passengers who were able to easily access the internet and stream entertainment content to their personal devices at 25Mbps.”

Vena said they have some LuxStream systems up and running now (Vista Global was named as the launch operator back in September), but thinks they are about six to 12 months away from being a legitimate option for operators with multiple aircraft.

Collins Aerospace is targeting the aftermarket for LuxStream sales, primarily large-cabin jets such as Globals, Challengers, Falcons, and Gulfstreams.

Inflight Connectivity on the Horizon

At the Satcom Direct (SD) customer conference, held in Orlando in March, we saw the launch of SD’s Plane Simple antenna portfolio. These are new electronically-steered phased arrays with no moving parts. The new tail-mounted antenna system offers two variants for operation in Ku- or Ka-band frequencies. The Ku-band variant is expected to be available for STC in early 2021, followed by the Ka-band version later in the year.

With only two line-replaceable units (LRUs) and a network-agnostic design, a common form factor and wiring simplify the installation. Partnerships with Inmarsat for Jet ConneX (Ka-band) service delivery and Intelsat for FlexExec (Ku-band) connectivity have already been established.

“Until now, customers may have had to contact two or three companies to integrate or troubleshoot the equipment and services needed for consistent connectivity,” says Jim Jensen, SD Founder and CEO. “Now, with the Plane Simple antennas added to the SD portfolio, we can rapidly predict and respond to issues before or as they occur.”

SD is investing in antenna development to make secure, flexible, reliable solutions available to a wider segment of the business and government aviation communities than ever before. The tail-mounted antennas will support super-mid to large-size jets and are being developed in partnership with Germany-based QEST (Quantenelektronische Systeme GmbH), a worldwide market leader in innovative aeronautical antennas. SD has partnered with QEST to develop an electronically-steered, fuselage-mounted phased-array antenna. When it comes to market in late 2022, the lightweight, low profile, modular antenna will deliver high-speed connectivity via upcoming LEO constellations.

SD says it is also developing the Plane Simple Certus terminal, which will enhance operational safety and provide access through the global Iridium NEXT constellation. “We are committed to delivering the best-in-class aircraft connectivity experiences that augment operational efficiencies through the SD ecosystem of hardware, software, infrastructure, and data synchronization – all of which is supported by an award-winning customer care team,” says Jensen.

This now means that customers have a choice of antennas for Honeywell’s JetWave service, which is delivered by Inmarsat’s Jet ConneX satellite service. Previously, the only tail-mount antenna available for JetWave was Honeywell’s MCS-8000 unit. “For the first time, operators will be able to choose the connectivity system that best meets their mission requirements and also positions their aircraft ahead of technological changes in the satellite sector,” adds Jensen.

The Future of the Avionics Market

According to the Aircraft Electronics Association “2019 year-end Avionics Market Report”, total worldwide business and general aviation avionics sales for 2019 amounted to more than $3 billion (as reported by its participating companies). This figure represents a 10.2% increase in total year-end sales compared to 2018. During the fourth-quarter of 2019, sales increased 5.3% compared to Q4 of 2018. Furthermore, 55.1% of the total came from the retrofit market (avionics equipment installed after original production), while forward-fit sales (avionics equipment installed by airframe manufacturers during original production) amounted to 44.9% of sales.

For those companies that separated their total sales figures between North America (US and Canada) and other international markets, 74.7% of the 2019 sales volume occurred in North America, while 25.3% took place in other international markets.

The report is based on the sales figures from 23 avionics manufacturers.

This is noteworthy as it is the first time that the business and general aviation avionics industry reported more than $3 billion in year-end sales. The industry also reported an increase in year-over-year sales for three straight years and 12 consecutive quarters. “As leaders in product innovation, it’s clear that the contributions to the international economy by avionics manufacturers are significant,” says AEA President and CEO Mike Adamson.

Adamson says that a “tapering-off” in ADS-B installations is one of the reasons for the slight shallowing of growth in the retrofit segment of the market, combined with a generally flat bizjet market, which strongly drives the forward-fit economics.

It is a similar story in a report from Global Market Insights, which suggests that avionics in the business and general aviation market should see more than four percent compound annual growth in the period 2019-2025. Likewise, a report by Research and Markets projects that the global business jets market is set to grow to $36.4 billion by 2030, at a CAGR of 3.6% during the forecast period. It says an increasing number of high net worth individuals is one of the significant factors driving this, along with an ageing fleet and upcoming new aircraft programs.

A Look at Available Upgrades

Honeywell recently produced a report entitled “Maximizing Avionics Upgrades in Older Business Jets”.

According to the report, a combination of factors makes an avionics refresh ideal, one being the trade-ins and savings on new insurance plans that have been introduced by Honeywell for its Primus Elite avionics suite. Furthermore, an upgrade provides a modern replacement option for ageing cathode ray tube cockpit, with new options including its Synthetic Vision system.

The report says adding Primus Elite to the Primus 1000/2000 configuration brings improved situational awareness, new electronic displays of Jeppesen charts and maps, and XM graphical weather overlays and video inputs – all enabled and controlled through a cursor control device.

Joey Meier, chief pilot for NASCAR champion Brad Keselowski, said one of the noticeable differences he saw in upgrading his Lear 45 to Primus Elite was the amount of heat and weight that gets taken out of the cockpit and off the aircraft. “On the standard CRTs of the Primus 1000 cockpit, when the avionics are powered up and turned on, it can generate a lot of heat in the cockpit because it’s an old projector style screen,” he says. “But now on the LCD, it’s cool to the touch, you can leave them on indefinitely and there’s little to no heat generated.”

A private owner of a Global Express invested $5 million in what Honeywell calls the “largest single aircraft update in the business jet space”. That may sound like a lot of money, but he now has the same technology that features in the new $70m Bombardier Global 7500 at a fraction of the cost. “Right now, aircraft owners and operators of those older Globals and other legacy jets can decide about buying a new one for a really high price or getting their old one retrofitted and modified,” says Nils Janssen, managing director of ACC COLUMBIA Jet Service. “We upgraded a 15-year old Bombardier Global Express for $5 million, which is less than 10% of the money that the owner would have spent on a new Global jet.”

The Global Express upgrade includes geo-referenced airport charts, graphical depiction of aircraft position during approach, enhanced Map on MFD with dropdown menus via a Cursor Control Device (CCD), Synthetic Vision and XM Weather.

LCD replacements for older cathode ray tubes (CRTs) brings big benefits. Honeywell says it no longer supports aftermarket repairs for cathode ray tubes as finding replacement parts for existing CRTs is getting harder and harder. On average, the weight savings per cathode ray display replaced by a liquid crystal display is 7.5 pounds. LCDs also enjoy an average of 4,000 hours mean time before failure, compared to 2,000 for CRTs.

On the Falcon 900, the Primus Elite upgrade includes a replacement of five CRT displays with five LCDs.

The Falcon 900 C and EX models, which entered into service in 1996 and 2000, each feature cockpit designs with five displays in the standard configuration. That means if all five displays are replaced, there is an automatic weight savings of 35 pounds.

“Sooner or later you’re going to have to deal with the obsolescence, especially if you try to re-sell it,” says Denis Kruse, a senior sales representative for Duncan Aviation. “Having the LCD displays and the avionics to meet the ADS-B mandates is a better approach toward operating and maintaining that legacy jet and establishing a better aftermarket value for its LCD-focused upgraded cockpit.”

Recently, Honeywell released its Forge solution for Business Aviation. The system is based on its Go Direct product, which was launched in 2016, but takes the command and control options available to a new level.

According to the company, Forge provides a full suite of mission-management capabilities in the areas of connectivity, flight operations, navigation databases and maintenance, empowering flight departments to improve operational inefficiencies. It provides customers with an easy-to-use, integrated dashboard that sends real-time alerts on connectivity issues and flight plan changes.

“Business Aviation is looking for more than just a service provider for connectivity,” says John Peterson, vice president and general manager Honeywell’s software and services division. “It’s really looking for somebody that can bring it all together.”

Honeywell Forge’s dashboard gives operators a real-time analysis of its aircraft, showing their location and connectivity status. Weather information can also be displayed, and Forge also allows operators to send datalink messages to the aircraft via the satellite connection. “We are going to have releases every six to 12 weeks that bring in more and more integration,” adds Peterson. “You’ll see releases on releases on gateways, routing software and Edge nodes.”

One operator who has beta-tested Honeywell Forge says the system has proved invaluable, giving them one-screen access to data that would have previously been spread across multiple platforms.

Forge’s network monitoring can also detect online threats and shape data usage to better suit the customer.

“We can adjust and filter connections to save the customer money – one customer is now saving more than $200,000 a year by switching to a different Jet ConneX data plan,” says Peterson.

Robert Clare, director of Business Aviation aftermarket sales at Universal Avionics, says that after the US ADS-B mandate, it is keeping an eye on ADS-B in other markets, such as Australia, Canada, Europe and South America. “I think ADS-B In also has a part to play in terms of making flights safer,” says Clare. “We are also seeing an uptick in LPV (Localiser Performance with Vertical Guidance) in Europe.”

LPV approaches are designed to provide 16 meter horizontal accuracy and 20 meter vertical accuracy 95% of the time. Clare says that PR NAV (Precision Area Navigation) is also hot. “We are still seeing the benefits of DCL departure clearances over Controller Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC),” he says. “We’ve seen a lot of unfortunate crashes recently as well, such as the Koby Bryant helicopter crash and, as a result, I think we will see an uptick in the use of Enhanced Flight Vision Systems, such as our ClearVision product.”

ClearVision provides head-up capability combined with enhanced vision (EVS) and synthetic 3D terrain display (SVS). It allows pilots to overcome extreme weather conditions and low visibility situations – both during the day and night. The top-of-the-line EVS-5000 multispectral camera features six sensors – from visible light to long-wave infrared (IR). The compact EVS-4000 multispectral EVS camera features two sensors, visible-near IR and long-wave IR, and is suitable for smaller fixed wing aircraft and rotorcraft.