The FAA Administrator took the occasion this morning at the Aircraft Electronics Association annual meeting in Orlando to describe some of the advantages of NextGen, the highly touted and much
anticipated future of America's aviation system. "5.6 percent of the nation's GDP is represented by the aviation industry," Babbitt told the group, "and aviation impacts nearly everyone." Babbitt
cited key NextGen advantages: improved routing and continuous descents that will save $2 billion worth of kerosene annually, improved radar accuracy that will allow for safer yet more fuel efficient
spacing and separation, and electronic flight bags that will allow pilots to know their position relative to potential collision threats with pinpoint accuracy. "We can make runway incursions go
away," Babbitt said. "You will have information available to you that you have never seen before." He said Southwest Airlines has gotten a jump on NextGen with a recent $175 million dollar
investment to build its own approaches at four airports that will save three minutes per arrival. Fuel savings, according to Babbitt, mean Southwest anticipates recouping its investment in two
Babbitt also discussed safety management. But he said safety in the air and on the ground still depends on something all of us already know: "We want people to do the right thing at the right
time. Not just when they're on a check ride, but when no one else is looking."
PS Engineering announced Thursday at the Aircraft Electronics Association convention in Orlando a new, FAA-certified, Bluetooth-enabled
audio panel, the PMA8000BT, that it expects to ship by the end of Q2. The technology allows pilots and passengers to wirelessly connect smart phones to the audio panel, which can then distribute the
phone's music, cellular telephone access, or other audio to anyone using the intercom. It also offers multiple distribution modes that control the dominance/discrimination given to the Bluetooth
output versus other audio as received by up to six occupants. Bluetooth aside, the panel is otherwise fully functional in the traditional sense with the addition of a "monitor mode" that automatically
mutes the standby frequency whenever the primary frequency is active.
The technology is not new to PS Engineering, which has offered a similar interface to pilots of experimental aircraft for more than two years. In the certified version, the Bluetooth link is
accessed via a "TEL" button. The PMA8000BT is set to be offered at about $2,100 and will interface wirelessly with iPhones, Blackberry devices and more.
Click here for a video demo from the show.
As any traditional Internet service provider will attest, flexibility is key in the competitive marketplace, and that movement has hit the relatively new field of airborne broadband for business
aircraft. At the Aircraft Electronics Association convention in Orlando, Aircell announced that it will introduce a pay-as-you-go program for its Internet system. Existing programs only offer
flat-rate monthly billing, which doesn't work for many customers. "Customers with low or sporadic utilization patterns will find great value in getting full access to the Aircell Network in a
pay-as-you-go format," said Aircell General Manager John Wade. "Adding a 'per megabyte' option to our existing unlimited plans is like adding an a la carte menu to an all-you-can-eat buffet."
In the continental U.S., Aircell uses a ground-based system of receivers and transmitters to provide the broadband connection. Overseas, it uses a satellite-based system. Aircell says its onboard
equipment is small and lightweight and provides true high-speed connections.
Moving map displays for the cabin have come a long way since they were introduced and Flight Data Systems has come up with a plug-and-play upgrade for some of the pioneering systems still installed
on business aircraft. The new gear fits pin-for-pin into the racks holding Rockwell Airshow 100, 200 and 400 series units but provides the most up-to-date satellite imagery at a cost FDS says may be
less than repairing the existing gear.
"There are thousands of old Airshow units flying today that are no longer supported," said FDS VP Jay Healey. "Flight Display Systems now offers an easy, inexpensive option to modernize
those moving maps for the passengers." Because the gear plugs directly into the old racks, there is no wiring or aircraft downtime for installation.