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Astronics

We always like to visit the folks at Astronics. Why? Because they never seem to stop introducing new products and new companies that they have acquired. Without a doubt, Astronics is achieving its goal to become one of the most vertically diversified companies in the IFE business. By developing a broad based capability in the cabin they achieve at least two goals. First, they obviously do not rely on one product or product line to aid in their financial growth — that fact is obvious. The second, by developing an internal cabin (or aircraft) database, they can increase their developmental efficiency. Information gleaned and developed for one product just may be helpful in the design and development of another. Certainly, the process of certification knowledge is a valuable commodity that more than one company can share and use. Let’s look at a short compilation of products that we quickly reviewed:

1. the SmartTray development we saw now included a built-in USB power port. We note that Astronics called it a “concept” but the potential for a USB System built-in to the tray table makes a lot of sense because there is always an issue finding a place on a seat to hand an output adapter. We understand that the box associated with the electronics would remain elsewhere.

2. Next, we note the new 1191- 4x InSeat Power Supply – 11VAC/60 Hz. The unit is smaller now, with linnet offer ability at Boeing and Airbus – the link shown is the 3 seat unit.

3. IFExpress was caught off guard with the new “webFB” product. The small black box plugs into a cockpit jack and delivers wireless, encoded information to pilot apps on their handheld devices that gathers flight data, runs a world of custom software for flight applications, and securely delivers this data to the handheld via Apps, as we noted. You can read more about it here: Ballard Technology – webFB Innovative EFB Platform. Interestingly, the handheld sized device talks to satcom, flight data recorders, ACARS, and other devices and acts like a small computer (1 GHz ArM processor, 512 MB Flash storage and 32 GbB recording Flash).

4. ASTRONICS AEROSAT and ARMSTRONG AEROSPACE (wholly owned subsidiaries of Astronics) introduced AeroShield low-drag radome and composite adapter plate products for connectivity systems. Here are the images of the products: Radome and Adaptor. The new combination, Composite Adapter Plate & AeroShield Radome are two of the newest products rolled out out at APEX. Here is what the news release said: “The AeroShield radome is designed with highly-optimized aerodynamic shape which reduces aerodynamic drag for improving fuel burn savings and provides bird-strike hardness to meet stringent FAA requirements. The composite adapter plate design simplifies and standardizes installations while it reducing weight by 78% over traditional metal designs. The new adapter plate delivers commonality and interchangeability across fleets, making it easy making for easy de-modification for end-of-lease restoration.” We note that Astronics said the units have not been FAA certified yet and the first test flight will occur in 2016. We will have more on these tow as testing and certification progresses.

GORE

When we interviewed GORE a few years back, they said that there would be more and more optical fiber used in IFE systems and that prediction has surely come to pass. Further this year, they added more data to their claim: “Look, the big picture of connectivity and there is more demand for data from the passengers and the crew and the connected airplane is a big data generator/user as well,“ said Adrian Milne, Global Product Manager Aerospace. He went on, “When you look at the data requirements, speed requirements have generated the need for more bandwidth.”  “New technologies like USB 3.0 (5 GB/sec) and HMDI 2.0 (10 GB/sec) are new new normal and thus new technologies (or improved ones) and calling for new products… ones that GORE make. A good example of the changing world can be found in the fiber optic product. In the past, longer range data transmission over fiber optics had limitations based on the loss in db/unit distance – based on length. Long (and future longer) fiber lines require higher power box drivers to get the correct signal level up, as distance is directly proportional to the applied optical power. But optical drivers cost more as their power output is increased. As time goes on, however, driver costs goes down. Thus, with newer technology, transceiver chip cost is down and the crossover point for dollars versus distance is merging… and thus more fiber.”

As we noted, fiber use is increasing and one of GORE’s products that we liked was their dual gigabit fiber optic cables (great for coupling 2 one Gigabit/sec signals in one direction or 1 GB each direction). It’s no wonder that fiber use is increasing and the higher the rates, in many cases, cause boxes like data loaders to get their job done sooner, thus reducing maintenance time and content loading sooner.

The attached image that adorned the GORE booth said it all. Today, up to 10 GB/sec (or so), HMDI 2.0 copper cables can operate. Above that, it’s fiber optic for data connectivity wiring. We say “today” because GORE always seems to increase metal wire capability with new insulation, wire twisting and other tricks of the trade. It will be interesting to see where copper wire eventually ends, and fiber optic one’s take over based on physics.


MORE NEWS:

Thales has signed an agreement to acquire Vormetric, a leading provider of data protection solutions in physical and virtual environments. Vormetric is a fast growing company, headquartered in San Jose, California that employs 200 people. Their business is on pace to reach $75 million sales for the current fiscal year and addresses 1,500 customers worldwide, including 17 of the top 30 US companies. Information security has become a key requirement in both civil and governmental worlds. Deal closing is expected to occur first quarter 2016. (Ed Note: We expect to see a lot more data security acquisitions for IFEC vendors in the coming months – Stay Tuned)

Aircraft Cabin Maintenance Conference, Monday, Nov. 30 – On 30 November, Air Transport Publications, home of the industry-leading publications MRO Management and Aircraft Cabin Management, will host the Aircraft Cabin Maintenance Conference at The Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel, London Heathrow. Hosted by Ian Harbison – editor of both publications – this unique conference will combine the world of contemporary cabin design with the complex maintenance issues that surround modern aircraft interiors. You might check here for last year’s blog entries on their website: 2014 Speaker Blogs | Aircraft Cabin Maintenance Conference

TECHNOLOGY TEASER: If you are involved with aircraft maintenance, you might want to be aware of a new Spanish company,Talent Swarm, and rather than explain what they do, here is the AvWeek MRO description from a recent London event: “Talent Swarm is a Collaborative Work Platform that allows the remote viewing in real time, recording and retrieval of aircraft maintenance operations using Telepresence, Augmented and Virtual Reality. Based on a secure open standard for data exchange, OEM, MRO and Airline personnel can efficiently track and document using full 3D models, photo’s, audio, video, tag and volume scanning actions required to maintain their fleet. Whether used as a stand-alone supervisory tool or integrated into your enterprise software, the Talent Swarm toolset will provide their personnel with the real-time information they need to make airworthiness decisions quicker and with greater accuracy.” Noted SpeedNews: Talent Swarm has announced a virtual environment that blends 3D video games, Big Data storage and Smartphones running a special App to create a global space in which pilots, mechanics, airframe and engine manufacturers and service companies collaborate in real time to keep airplanes flying safely while saving money. Stay Tuned on this one.

We understand that SAS has contracted with SR Technics for IFE on four more A340s with new Zodiac RAVE IFE, as well as, Panasonic Global Communication Suite (GCS) for inflight connectivity. Further, AIR EUROPA plans interior refurbishment program for 12 A330s next year (also by SR Technics) and Zodiac RAVE inflight connectivity system for three, plus Panasonic Global Communication Suite for all 12.

IFExpress has to admit, it looks like Gogo is pretty B-to-B focused. Case in point: Gogo will develop new 4G inflight connectivity solution (Gogo Biz 4G) for business aviation starting in 2017. Lets face it, there is money to be made there with the biz jet market heating up. Here is a good link.

JetBlue has completed installation of Fly-Fi Ka-band inflight connectivity system on all (150+) of its A320’s and A321’s, around 60 E190’s – all to be completed by end of 2016. Here’s a recent summary.

Lufthansa Systems announced that it is supported the “THack” hackathon this past weekend in Hamburg. In cooperation with JR Technologies, the airline IT specialist provided a demo system based on IATA’s (International Air Transport Association) New Distribution Capability (NDC) standard which will give developers the data base they need for their tools. The programming event was organized by IATA and Tnooz in advance of the IATA World Passenger Symposium (October 20-22).

Retired Boeing employee and pilot Bob Bogash has sent IFExpress an exclusive story as he documented the moving a fleet of museum aircraft. He notes: The 787 and B-17 were moved in – some of the airplanes are so big, they cannot be moved in till after completion. The building must be built around them.”

IFExpress ran into Russ Johnson at APEX and discovered he is now the Chief Technical Officer at Custom Control Concepts, the Big BizJet IFE vendor.

As you may, or may not, know, John Guidon is now doing his own thing and it involves software and database data acceleration… and you can now reach him at john.guidon@gmail.com.


Ron Chapman told IFExpress that future biz jet connectivity will barely cost ‘CHiiMP’ change!”

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