Inmarsat and Cobham enable in-air EFB connectivity for first time

3 November 2016: Cobham SATCOM’s AVIATOR 300D and Inmarsat’s SwiftBroadband-Safety (SB-S) have enabled in-air connected Electronic Flight Bags (EFBs) for the first time.

The live EFB capability was achieved as part of a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) supervised technology evaluation with Hawaiian Airlines (HAL) to monitor the transmission of communications data over SB-S on the first-ever commercial flights to utilise Inmarsat’s next generation, IP-based broadband service on the flight deck.

Rockwell Collins’ ARINC aviation communications network establishes the links and provides the managed service, enabling seamless, secure connectivity anywhere in the world without interruption.

Airline safety

The secure broadband capabilities of SB-S enhance airline safety and operations through more powerful and flexible communications and the availability of real-time, in-air information for pilots, crew and air traffic management. HAL has equipped its fleet of Boeing 767-300 aircraft with the current generation of Cobham AVIATOR avionics and Inmarsat SB-S service.

With data already being successfully collected during the on-going evaluation using the Cobham Compact Satellite Data Unit (CSDU) interface, the latest advancement confirms the AVIATOR/SB-S system can also be used to channel ACARS data via the Aircraft Data Management (ADM) technology, or Aircraft Interface Device (AID), to another interface as well: the pilot’s EFB.

This further supports the ultimate objective to use broadband technology and avionics for data transmission in support of Hawaiian’s new eFLIE EFB program.

Digital technology

Thanks to digital technology, conventional flight bags that weighed more than 40 pounds (18 kilos) have been replaced with tablet computers, virtually eliminating bulky paper documents and increasing overall convenience and flight crew productivity.

The technology breakthrough being announced today takes the EFB to a new level by allowing pilots to obtain real-time information while in flight, rather than waiting for downloads while on the ground. Applications include graphical weather, telemedicine, passenger data, aircraft documentation, and more.

These enhanced features will become the centrepiece of Cobham’s AVIATOR S product family which is designed specifically to leverage Inmarsat’s new SB-S service and will ensure a system configuration that can meet the requirements of all aircraft types.

Connected EFB

Andy Beers, Global Sales Director for Cobham SATCOM said: “As a result of our program with Hawaiian Airlines and Inmarsat, the connected EFB is now a reality. EFB connectivity will have huge implications for the industry, allowing for a host of applications to transmit time-critical data quickly and effectively while in flight.

“This is a big step forward, both for Cobham and Inmarsat, in the FAA’s evaluation process of SwiftBroadband-Safety and in the development of our next generation SATCOM product family, AVIATOR S.

“We are proud to be playing a major role in transforming the flight deck into a fully connected work environment through our innovative line of SwiftBroadband-powered SATCOM systems. We are confident that the world’s airlines will embrace the concept of a fully connected flight deck as it will provide them with a new level of improved operations which will translate into an improved financial bottom line.”

Vast opportunities

“Enabling broadband flight deck connectivity opens up vast opportunities for airlines like Hawaiian to enhance their operations through new applications that deliver real-time value,” said Michael DiGeorge, vice president Commercial Aviation & Networks for Rockwell Collins.

“Our vision is to enable airlines to use connectivity to drive operational benefits by leveraging our ARINC global network to secure this process at the level necessary for flight deck operations.”

“This represents a true paradigm shift,” says Inmarsat Aviation’s VP of Safety and Operational Services, Captain Mary McMillan.

Game changer

“The SwiftBroadband-Safety platform, delivered via AVIATOR S avionics, increases the level of information and knowledge that pilots use every day on the flight deck by orders of magnitude. Having information like networked graphical weather in flight is a real game changer. It will boost the efficiency of flights, improve safety, and make flights more punctual.”

Cobham SATCOM’s upcoming AVIATOR S product line will offer smaller, lighter and more powerful SATCOM solutions to the airline industry, and addresses the growing demand from airlines for continuous secure data exchange between their ground operations and their aircraft.

SwiftBroadband-Safety (SB-S) is Inmarsat’s next generation platform offering global, high-speed, secure IP connectivity for the flight deck. Through its breakthrough “always on, always secure” applications such as flight data streaming (“Black Box in the Cloud”) and real-time Electronic Flight Bag applications, SB-S enables everything from safer operations and better communications to improved fuel efficiency and optimised fleet performance.

Graphical weather

With a plug-and-play concept and apps that update over the air, airlines can customise their EFB platforms and applications according to their operational needs. Graphical weather is expected to be one of the most popular applications, allowing the pilot to receive real-time updates that will facilitate dynamic routing away from bad weather or strong winds, resulting in fuel savings, enhanced safety and passenger comfort.

Watch Hawaiian Airlines pilots and Flight Operations leadership talk about the benefits of IP broadband in the flight deck in this video

INMARSAT’S Whitepaper ‘SwiftBroadband-Safety: The Future of Aircraft Communications’ can be downloaded here

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