Top Aviation Maintenance & Technology Exchange 

April 15, 2015  -  No. 27

In This Issue
Aircraft Using NextGen Systems Vulnerable To Hacking, US Agency GAO Warns
North American Re-Fleeting Will Bring Technological Change To Aftermarket
Rocket Lab Unveils Battery-Powered Turbomachinery
Feds concede drone filmmakers have First Amendment rights
Ohio panel OKs measure saying Connecticut not 1st in flight
Safety Expertise
Aircraft Using NextGen Systems Vulnerable To Hacking, US Agency GAO Warns

Modern commercial airliners using the Next Generation (NextGen) Air Transportation System are vulnerable to attacks during flight by anyone who remotely takes over the plane's Wi-Fi system, according to a report released Tuesday by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). The NextGen system is a modernization effort started in 2004 by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to shift air traffic control from ground-based technology to satellites. 

"Modern aircraft are increasingly connected to the Internet. This interconnectedness can potentially provide unauthorized remote access to aircraft avionics systems," the government agency said in its report. "Internet connectivity in the cabin should be considered a direct link between the aircraft and the outside world, which includes potential malicious actors."

According to the report, even planting a virus or malware in websites visited by the passengers could provide an opportunity to access the plane's onboard information system through the infected machines. This risk is further compounded by the presence of smartphones and tablets in the cockpit, if these devices have the capability to transmit information to the aircraft avionics systems.

"If the cabin systems connect to the cockpit avionics systems and use the same networking platform, in this case IP, a user could subvert the firewall and access the cockpit avionics system from the cabin," the report warned, citing cybersecurity experts. 

In contrast to the FAA's decades-old legacy communications infrastructure, which relies on point-to-point, hardwired information systems, the plans for NextGen call for an overarching system of interconnected systems.

"The older systems are difficult to access remotely because few of them connect from FAA to external entities such as through the Internet. They also have limited lines of direct connection within FAA," the report said. However, the NextGen programs are designed to increase interconnectivity with other systems and use IP networking to communicate within FAA. "According to experts, if one system connected to an IP network is compromised, damage can potentially spread to other systems on the network, continually expanding the parts of the system at risk," the report added.

So, in theory, it is possible for someone with just a laptop or a smartphone to not only infect the plane's computers with a virus, but also commandeer the aircraft and take control of its navigation systems.

So, in theory, it is possible for someone with just a laptop or a smartphone to not only infect the plane's computers with a virus, but also commandeer the aircraft and take control of its navigation systems.

North American Re-Fleeting Will Bring Technological Change To Aftermarket

MIAMI - The massive re-fleeting underway in North America will keep the aftermarket growth rate nearly flat for the next decade, and the resulting higher-technology fleet will prompt more data-driven services that will change the maintenance landscape, analysts at Aviation Week's MRO Americas conference project.

By any measure, the North American airline market is mature, meaning that while the region's fleet is getting newer, it is not getting much bigger. Forecasts presented by analysts from Aviation Week, Cavok and ICF International show a range of between 400 and 1,300 net aircraft being added to the North American fleet in the next 10 years, with the majority of new deliveries replacing existing aircraft. Aviation Week's forecast shows a current fleet of about 9,100, growing to just 9,500 in 2024 on the strength of 4,450 deliveries and 4,080 retirements-an anemic 0.5% compounded annual growth rate (CAGR).

The result is a very different fleet mix, with current-generation aircraft flying routes currently operated by decades-old technology. These aircraft will produce more data for operators and MRO providers to use for real-time health monitoring and, soon, sophisticated predictive maintenance. 

An Oliver Wyman survey released April 13 showed that MRO executives from more than 100 airlines, manufacturers and service providers foresee airplane health monitoring (AHM) and predictive maintenance (PM) as the segment's most promising new technologies in 2020. In each case, two-thirds of the more than 100 respondents picked AHM and PM, ahead of choices like mobile technology, additive manufacturing, and composite repair developments.

Most of the benefits will accrue to airlines, said Dave Marcontell, a VP with Oliver Wyman-owned Cavok. "By using predictive maintenance, operators can rely on data to limit part failures before they cause system breakdowns, reducing the frequency and length unscheduled repairs and out-of-service events, and ultimately resulting in less labor and lower piece-part repair costs," he told the MRO Americas audience April 14.

The Oliver Wyman survey projects that the technology shifts will lead to significant disruption. "We believe these advances could cut or redistribute 15-20% of the total MRO spend," Marcontell said. "That's $10 billion-$15 billion."

Manufacturers offering AHM and similar services will surely benefit, while carriers should see reduced maintenance costs. But Marcontell says independent MROs can use the data they collect to cash in as well. 

"MROs out there that don't even own an airplane can start leveraging the computing power and algorithms being developed to better mine the data they are already collecting and own," he said. "What MRO out there wouldn't want to know what non-routine or corrective action is going to be required on a part or an airplane before it ever gets to the facility?"

Figures revealed in the forecasts underscore how critical it will be for providers with large stakes in the North American aftermarket to embrace data-driven approaches. Aviation Week projects the North American MRO market of $15.8 billion to average just 1.4% CAGR through 2024, Aviation Week Director, Forecasts and Analysis Brian Kough said. ICF Principal Richard Brown called the market, which ICF put at $18.2 billion in 2014, "basically flat," projecting a 1.2% CAGR through 2024.

Cavok's year-by-year breakdown shows the current North American market of $20 billion in 2015 rising to $21.3 billion in 2025, but the timing of retirements and the maintenance honeymoons of new jets replacing them means that the nine years in between will each have annual market sizes of $19.2 billion or lower.

Underscoring the ramifications of re-fleeting, Marcontell pointed out that the decade will see $4.6B in MRO from 1970s-and 1980s-vintage aircraft disappear, while work on aircraft delivered from 1990 to today will add $5.9 billion in MRO demand.


HAMBURG, Germany, April 14, 2015 /PRNewswire/ - Honeywell Aerospace (NYSE: HON), Inmarsat (LSE:ISAT.L) and Kymeta, a company that develops innovative flat-panel antennas for satellite communications, are working together to design, create and test a new, higher-speed Ka-band wireless antenna for business and commercial aircraft customers around the globe. The new antenna will have unique and advanced capabilities that will bring faster connectivity and a higher-quality broadband service to the aircraft.

The smaller and more compact design will allow the antenna to be installed on a wider variety of aircraft, including smaller business aviation aircraft. The flat-panel design is lighter and will reduce weight and drag on the aircraft, in turn reducing fuel and maintenance costs.

"Honeywell's work with Inmarsat on GX Aviation is at the forefront of bringing high-speed, global connectivity services to airlines and operators," said Jack Jacobs, vice president of Marketing & Product Management at Honeywell Aerospace. "Having Kymeta and Inmarsat aligned with us ensures we stay forward-looking with new antenna technology that will be more efficient and compact, providing customers with even faster global in-flight connectivity." 

All three companies will work together to bring this new, faster, lightweight antenna to the business and commercial aviation market. Kymeta will deliver its mTenna™ antenna products to Honeywell, which will be responsible for testing and integrating the antenna into its JetWave aviation product line. JetWave is the family of satellite communications hardware that exclusively supports Inmarsat's GX Aviation service.

"Honeywell and Inmarsat changed the connectivity landscape in 2012 when they announced GX Aviation with the goal of bringing reliable, high-speed connectivity to the skies," said Dr. Nathan Kundtz, Kymeta's president and chief executive officer. "Now, with mTenna technology from Kymeta, Honeywell's terminal solutions and Inmarsat's global service portfolio, we will be able to expand upon Honeywell and Inmarsat's commitment to high-speed global aviation connectivity."

"The demand for constant high-speed connectivity in the aviation industry in this day and age is non-negotiable. Business jets, commercial airliners and their passengers want access to a quality broadband service at all times," said Leo Mondale, president, Aviation, at Inmarsat. "Inmarsat has a proven history of delivering a trusted, reliable service to the cockpit. We're applying this knowledge to our GX Aviation services, scheduled to be available later this year, giving our customers a high-quality, consistent and reliable broadband service to the cabin as well. 

"This will be the first truly flat-panel antenna for aviation that will offer great performance at the right price," Mondale added. "The relationship between Honeywell and Kymeta has taken a great technology and turned it into a product ideal for aviation. We're very excited to be working with these companies to include this innovative product in the Inmarsat product road map and to bring it to the market."

Mondale said the agreement represents Inmarsat's commitment to continuous improvement of technologies and delivering lower-cost, lighter and more-efficient next-generation hardware and services to operators. 

Keeping Connected With Honeywell 
  Global demand for fast, in-flight connectivity continues to grow, and Honeywell provides a comprehensive range of products and services for air-to-ground and satellite-based solutions to meet the needs of passengers, pilots, and maintenance and operations centers worldwide.

Honeywell is well-positioned to bring together its electrical, mechanical and connectivity solutions with its proven systems integration capabilities to create a connected aircraft for general aviation, business and commercial fleets that delivers the most expansive, consistent, high-speed connectivity network in the world for passengers, pilots and operators alike. 


Contact: curt@curt-lewis.com

Rocket Lab Unveils Battery-Powered Turbomachinery

Rocket Lab, a sounding rocket and launch vehicle company co-located in the U.S. and New Zealand, is preparing to begin testing a smallsat launcher dubbed Electron that would use battery-powered turbomachinery and other innovations to hold the cost per mission below $5 million.

The company, which received U.S. Defense Department funding before branching into commercial development, unveiled its Rutherford engine at the annual Space Symposium in Colorado Springs. The engine uses high-performance brushless DC electric motors to drive its liquid oxygen and kerosene turbomachinery, drawing power from lithium polymer batteries. The approach, says CEO Peter Beck, eliminates the complex valves and other plumbing required to use hot gas to turn turbomachinery, boosting efficiency from 50% for a typical gas generator cycle to 95%.

"For us it was really about decoupling that thermodynamic problem," Beck says. "And the beauty with an electric turbopump is that it takes that really complicated problem and turns it into software."

Each Rutherford engine has two electric motors the size of a soda can, Beck says, one for each propellant. The small motors generate 50 hp while spinning at 40,000 rpm, "not a trivial problem," he says.

"The battery technology is also a little bit special," Beck says. "We're drawing huge currents and huge energies from those batteries to provide the energy, but really it just provides such a simplified and efficient system."

The efficiency is needed for the company's business model, which foresees customers with payloads weighing as much as 100 kg (220 lb.) launching into 500-km (310-mi.) Sun-synchronous orbits or to inclinations as low as 46 deg. The payloads can be readied for flight at the customer's own facility and then shipped to the launch site, which is under construction in New Zealand at a location Beck says is still "a closely guarded secret."

Beck says the company has about 30 "commitments" from customers.

A former Crown Research engineer, New Zealander Beck established Rocket Lab with the support of seed-investor Mark Rocket, an Internet entrepreneur who changed his name from Mark Stevens.

"In 2009, we launched R-1, our first sounding rocket, on a suborbital ballistic arc," Beck says. "That got the attention of agencies in the U.S., particularly Darpa."

Rocket Lab subsequently studied and tested propellant and launcher technologies for Darpa, Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Operationally Responsive Space Office.

"In 2013, the company reached a crossroads," says Beck. "Did we want to follow the road of being a U.S. defense contractor? Or did we want to get into the commercialization of space-which is always what I wanted to do? So we chose the latter." 

The company secured additional funding in late 2013 from the New Zealand government under the Callaghan Innovation Growth Grants program, and since then "we have been flying under the radar for about a year working on the development of the Electron launch vehicle," Beck says. The Electron is "the crux of the project and is aimed at what is expected to be a huge growth of 60% or more in the small satellite business over the next five years," he says.

The company is banking on the lightweight structure of its two-stage vehicle and the power-to-weight efficiency of the Rutherford engine to make a cost breakthrough in the small satellite launch market. Rocket Lab is targeting a cost per launch of $4.9 million, which it says will reduce the average orbital delivery costs by 95% versus the current launch infrastructure and its large reliance on ride-share payloads.

In another effort to increase efficiency and hold down cost, Rocket Lab is building the regeneratively cooled engine using three-dimensional, additive-manufacturing techniques that include laser and electron-beam sintering, with Inconel and titanium powder as the feed stock.

Nine of the engines will be used to power the 59-ft.-tall Electron vehicle, which will have a total combined thrust of 27,000 lb. at liftoff, with a targeted peak thrust of 34,000 lb. during ascent. The second stage will be powered by a 4,000-lb.-thrust vacuum variant of the Rutherford engine, essentially identical to the main-stage engine but with an extended nozzle.

Beck says that commonality extends down to the fastener level, with standardized parts used wherever possible to lower costs. For efficiency at the launch site, the Electron upper stage is designed for independent payload integration before it is literally bolted onto the top of the main stage with four bolts.

"The first flight is scheduled for the end of this year and the program is pretty mature," Beck says. 

Feds concede drone filmmakers have First Amendment rights

The federal government has admitted that, while it can still regulate the commercial use of drones, people and businesses who make films or videos using drones have constitutional rights to publish them that cannot be violated.

The upshot, according to a new policy document issued last week by the Federal Aviation Administration, is that the agency's inspectors no longer have the right to demand that drone filmmakers remove videos they post to YouTube or other online services.

"Inspectors have no authority to direct or suggest that electronic media posted on the Internet must be removed," the FAA wrote.

In a tweet about the policy, drone expert Ryan Calo wrote, "The FAA concedes there's a First Amendment."

Ostensibly, the policy, titled "Aviation-Related Videos or Other Electronic Media on the Internet," governs how the FAA can use videos taken using drones as evidence of illegal use of the flying devices against the filmmakers. "There are an escalating number of videos or other electronic media posted to the Internet which depict aviation-related activities," the policy states. "Some of these posted videos may depict operations that are contrary to [federal rules], or safe operating practices."

But the policy makes it clear to inspectors that in addition to prohibiting them from demanding that filmmakers remove videos, they must remember that the videos alone may not be enough to determine there's been illegal activity that must be regulated. "Electronic media posted on the Internet is only one form of evidence which may be used to support an enforcement action and it must be authenticated," the FAA wrote. "Electronic media posted on the Internet is ordinarily not sufficient evidence alone to determine that an operation is not in compliance with" FAA rules.

However, the agency added, drone videos "may serve as evidence of possible violations and may be retained for future enforcement action."

To some, the new rules show that the FAA has overreached when it has tried to stop people, including journalists, from posting video taken with drones without getting clearance first.

"The Federal Aviation Administration, after more than a year of warning media companies and hobbyists that posting or linking to any footage filmed by drones may violate a ban on commercial use of drones without permission, has finally acknowledged that its inspectors cannot 'direct or suggest' the takedown of drone-recorded videos," Charles Tobin, a lawyer at Holland & Knight, wrote in a blog post about the new policy.

Tobin added: "The ban has led to much confusion in the agency's statements to the public. Last year, an FAA staff member warned an Ohio newspaper against running [unmanned aerial vehicle] UAV video filmed by a hobbyist and provided to the newspaper after the fact. The FAA told the newspaper to "err on the side of caution" and not publish the footage because the FAA said it "would require more legal review to determine if it was a fineable offense to publish the video on [a news] site."

"That advice - as the FAA's new directive tacitly acknowledges - likely violated decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court. The court has ruled in other contexts that journalists' mere receipt and publication of newsworthy information, even if the source violated the law to obtain the information, is protected under the First Amendment. The new FAA directive also makes clear that hobbyists operating drones in compliance with safety regulations - and not otherwise violating the law - are permitted to post videos on YouTube."

In February, the FAA issued new guidelines about commercial use of drones. Although they are not yet law - and it's not clear when or if they will be - the guidelines suggested that drones of under 55 pounds cannot be used at altitudes above 500 feet, or at speeds above 100 miles an hour. 

Ohio panel OKs measure saying Connecticut not 1st in flight

This undated picture provided by the Weisskopf Museum shows Aviation Pioneer Gustave Whitehead with daughter Rose in front of his "No. 21". Connecticut's leading role in aviation has never been disputed, but in June 2013, Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed a bill insisting that the Connecticut aviator flew two years before the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk, N.C. The Wright brothers have long been credited as the first to achieve powered flight.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - An Ohio House panel has approved a resolution rejecting Connecticut's insistence that one of its aviators beat the Wright brothers to the first successful airplane flight by two years.

The Ohio House Transportation Committee OK'd the measure by an 11-0 vote Tuesday. The measure's next stop is the full House.

The measure repudiates Connecticut's contention Gustave Whitehead successfully flew a powered, heavier-than-air machine of his own design on Aug. 14, 1901, "or on any other date."

A 2013 Connecticut law declared Whitehead's 1901 flight as beating the Wright Brothers' December 1903 flight off Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Aviation historians generally agree the Wrights won the race to flight.

Connecticut state Sen. Kevin Kelly says his state "must stand strongly behind the history (it knows) to be true."


Curt Lewis, PhD, CSP, FRAeS


PH:  817-845-3983



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Curt Lewis & Associates, LLC is an international, multi-discipline technical and scientific consulting firm specializing in aviation and industrial safety. Our specialties are aviation litigation support, aviation/airport safety programs, accident investigation, safety & quality assessments/audits, system safety (PRA), human factors, Safety Management Systems (SMS) assessment/implementation & training, safety/quality training & risk management, aviation manual development, IS-BAO Auditing, airfield/heliport lighting products and Technical Support.