New Technology in the Cabin and on the Flight Line

A recent press release announced a digital entertainment company had just installed its in-flight connectivity solution in its 2,000th commercial aircraft. Today’s passengers want the same easy access and entertainment that they have at home or at their place of work. That’s an important consideration for airlines around the world. In the business aviation segment, providing an environment for passengers to work and communicate with others has created virtual offices in the sky.

Advancements in consumer electronics continue to require OEMs, MROs, airlines, and flight departments to install new technology devices in many of today’s aircraft. New technology is not only installed for the passengers’ benefit, but for flight crews and maintenance crews alike. Yet certification and regulatory concerns exist.

In this month’s issue of Aircraft Maintenance Technology, contributor Jim Sparks talks about cabin management systems in his article “The Magic in the Cabin.” As Jim describes, knowledge of system architecture by maintainers is essential. He asks the question where does someone go to obtain this knowledge when the typical aircraft maintenance school does not address topics such as Ethernet and Wi-Fi.

New technology is not only used in the cabin. As you read last month in Karen Berg’s article titled, “Hey, This is Your Airplane Talking to You,” aircraft health monitoring is a rapidly emerging technology and one that promises to become an integral part of maintenance for new aircraft. In this month’s follow-up article titled, “Pushing the Envelope for Aircraft Health Monitoring and Maintenance Technology,” the subject of unscheduled maintenance becoming scheduled maintenance due to predictive capabilities, and the need for aircraft maintenance technicians to read and understand binary codes is explored. However, the ability to modify aircraft maintenance times and scope based on performance data of components requires a different thinking by operators and regulators.

The ability for regulators to keep up with the rapid pace appears to be an issue for not only maintenance and airworthiness but also for certification of new aircraft with new technology equipment. Pete Bunce, president and CEO of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), talks about the industry efforts of the FAA Part 23 Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) to reorganize the Part 23 regulatory structure in this issue. As Pete states in his article, something needs to change and fortunately, officials around the world agree.

This month the business aviation community will meet in Las Vegas, NV, at the NBAA 2013 Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition. You will find numerous companies, exhibitors, regulators, and industry leaders all willing to discuss how new technology in cabin management systems and airplane health monitoring are impacting operations, maintenance, and certification of aircraft and products.

Cygnus Aviation will be exhibiting at the 2013 NBAA Convention and Exhibition so stop by and meet myself and the staff at booth C11036.

I’ll see you there, Ron.

Ron Donner has held both technical and management roles in general aviation and during his 27 years with Northwest Airlines. He holds FAA certificates as an A&P/IA and a commercial pilot.