SB Safety installation marks flight deck comms revolution

14 August 2014: Trials of Inmarsat’s ACARS-capable SwiftBroadband (SB) Safety equipment are underway on an Airbus A319 aircraft.

SB Safety enables the fast, efficient transfer of digital data messages over the SwiftBroadband link for the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) – a highly reliable system used extensively by the aviation industry for the transmission of short messages between aircraft and ground stations.

The SB Safety equipment was installed in May this year, since when Inmarsat has been closely monitoring the system on board the aircraft, which has consistently surpassed performance expectations.

Way forward

“This is the start of a revolution in communications for the flight deck. It shows the way forward for Future Air Navigation Systems (FANS) for the nearly 10,000 aircraft currently relying on our Inmarsat Classic Aero services, which were launched over 20 years ago,” said Leo Mondale, Inmarsat’s President of Aviation.

“SB Safety provides prioritised voice and ACARS/FANS data transmission when an aircraft is out of reach of land-based communications, which is indispensable for aircraft flying over oceans.”

As well as ACARS, SB Safety also supports flight deck voice services and IP connectivity to the flight deck, enabling other flight operations and cockpit services, such as inflight updates to Electronic Flight Bags and Flight Data Recorder downloads.  It also supports aircraft position reporting and tracking, and voice transmission for Air Traffic Management communications.

Terminal choice

A range of terminal variants is available, ensuring SB Safety can meet the requirements of all aircraft types, from the largest passenger types to business jets.

“A key point is that SB Safety provides a prioritised IP data pipe for the cockpit, for both security and continuity of service,” continued Mondale. “This is particularly important for airlines that use SwiftBroadband for both safety services and cabin connectivity.”

The A319’s airborne hardware is Cobham’s AVIATOR 300D, part of a range which includes low-cost terminals with low weight and drag. SITA is the communications service provider and Satcom Direct is responsible for the on-board flight deck and cabin services. The entire system has undergone SITA’s Verification and Qualification (VAQ) testing procedure.

SB Safety is expected to achieve FANS approval in early 2016, following flight trials on commercial aircraft.