May 19, 2008
Datalink weather to the cockpit has revolutionized weather avoidance but, unfortunately, because XM Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio don't serve Europe, the Continent has missed out on the benefits of weatherlink. Avidyne announced a new product this week at EBACE that will fix that. The MLX770 from Avidyne used the Iridium satellite network as its data pipe and in addition to weatherlink, the system also provides two-way messaging. Is an inflight phone service component also in the works? Avidyne wouldn't comment, but we think it's likely, given Iridium's market position as a sat phone system.
The MKX770's architecture is similar to that Avidyne used with the ORBCOMM datalink system it introduced about five years ago. However, Iridium is said to be a more robust system with better coverage in most parts of the world. Weather products will include graphical and textual METARS, TAFs, winds and temperatures aloft, and in-flight weather advisories. Radar and lightning data will be available as premium offerings and Avidyne says it will add satellite imagery in the near future.
The MLX770 datalink transceiver weighs 1.64 kgs (3.6 pounds) and is contained in a 152mm x 203mm x 76mm (6.0 x 8.0 x 3.0 inch) box. It requires a patch-type antenna on the roof of the aircraft. The MLX770 is designed specifically to display on the Avidyne Entegra system, of which there are some 600 active in Europe.
The European introductory price for the MLX770 is 7,995 ($12,400) plus antenna and installation. Avidyne and DAC International are accepting orders for the MLX770 with deliveries promised for the last quarter of 2008.