The Duncan Download Blog: Business Aviation Advice & Observations

Adrian Chene

Adrian Chene is an Avionics Tech Rep for Duncan Aviation. He provides troubleshooting and technical advice on avionics installation services, and specializes in custom, integrated HSD solutions. He began working in aviation in 1996.

Recent Posts

Six Guidelines To Maintaining Your Aircraft Maintenance Laptops

Posted by Adrian Chene on Thu, Jun 23, 2016 @ 10:00 AM

laptopwithaircraftinbckgrnd.gifSince the first Pentium was installed in Honeywell’s Primus 1000 system, OEMs have relied on laptops for maintenance functions. The latest generations of aircraft are delivered with dedicated laptops. Once the aircraft departs the completion center though, you often find that you are on your own to maintain this new (and sometimes unfamiliar) addition to your flight department. Knowing that a failed laptop can wreak havoc, it is wise to take measures to ensure the best possible service life from your maintenance laptops. The following represents some guidelines that may assist in prolonging the service life of your equipment.  

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  • Do not connect your maintenance laptop to the internet. In fact I recommend leaving your Wi-Fi disabled. This is not an email laptop. This is not for online Field 5 access. Maintenance laptops often have little or no anti-virus protection because anti-virus software can interfere with talking with the aircraft. In addition to that, laptop network security settings are often set to provide little protection to make communications easier for avionics software.
  • Do not load non-essential software on your computer. Installer executables on Microsoft OSs are often given administrative access to computer assets, which mean that they can cause things to not work. There is a reason why our installation department has five different Windows XP/3.1 laptops. It is because some maintenance programs can actually conflict with others and make both applications not work properly.  
  • Do not alter computer settings unless instructed to do so by a procedure or professional. I know that sounds common sense, but there are a core group of people (you know who you are) who think that in their past life they were computer science majors, and like to “poke around” when a program does not run properly. Do not do it. I have spent hours figuring out why a dual core laptop would not connect to a Cabin Management system (it was the hyper-threading option in the Bios settings). A careless key stroke or mouse double-click can mean a lot of lost sleep. Call a Field Service Rep immediately for assistance.
  • If you must change a setting, change it back when you are done or when it is determined that the setting is unrelated to whatever computer failure you are experiencing. I recognize that “poking around” can also be legitimate troubleshooting. Take the time though to make notes and reverse your changes as you go. 
  • Get one or two spare laptops of the same model # when at completions as backups. Many times when a laptop fails, the component that failed is actually replaceable. The problem arises when the model laptop you possess is no longer supported (3-5 years) and replacement parts are not available. So it is often not a bad idea to have a couple of laptops lying around that you can use should something go very wrong. The cost on these laptops is usually under $1200
  • Do not do Microsoft Updates. Two major functions of Microsoft updates are to alter security settings to make your machine more secure, and make tweaks to the OS that permit the system to work with new programs. As you are only interested in allowing it to continue to work with the software already loaded, performing Microsoft Updates will generally not benefit you.

Following these simple recommendations will help keep your maintenance laptop healthy and in good working order.

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Six Considerations When Selecting a Aircraft Wi-Fi Installer

Posted by Adrian Chene on Tue, Jun 07, 2016 @ 08:00 AM

8866286-business-travel-on-a-laptop.jpgIf you want to see an angry passenger, tell him or her you have Wi-Fi and then have it not work. Engines and altimetry do not matter; the only thing that really matters is the lack of internet service, because it is so immediately in front of the client. For that reason alone, I encourage you to carefully consider who will be performing your aircraft Wi-Fi installation. Following are six things to consider when selecting that installer. 

1.  The three E’s of Internet.  Experience. Experience.  Experience. 

Pick a company that knows these systems inside and out. Ask how many internet systems the company has installed. If the number is low, go somewhere else. With Duncan Aviation, I have been involved in hundreds of internet system installations, and I am still learning things. You don’t want training day for your installer to occur on your aircraft. 

I recently troubleshot an aircraft that was experiencing internet problems, only to find that there was damage to transmission lines that required an entire coax harness to be replaced from the tail of the aircraft to the forward fuselage. Did this operator save anything by going to a cheaper installation shop?  No. In fact, it will now cost them an additional one week of ground time and thousands dollars to repair the system. The lowest bidder in some cases is the lowest bidder for a reason. 

2.  Look at the aviation certification of the Wi-Fi equipment.

Carefully examine the proposal of the installing company and question the technical data by which the Wi-Fi connection is being installed. Aviation-grade Wi-Fi equipment has been tested and found to operate in the electrically noisy environment of an aircraft without interfering with onboard systems. There may be an STC applied that permits the Wi-Fi to be activated. Another method of Wi-Fi certification is to complete interference testing as part of applying a 337 or Major Alteration to the aircraft. 

3.  Understand the equipment the installer is proposing.

When you receive proposals from several competing MROs, look at the details and determine if they are all installing the same equipment in the same way. If they are not, ask them to explain the differences and the reasons for those differences. Often, an installation company will have one vision of how a system should go in when a better solution might be more cost-effective long-term. For example, if someone is proposing installing a newer router and the competing proposal is installing a different, older router, then those proposals are not equal in functionally and will cost you a lot of money long term. Use the knowledge of experts in the industry to arrive at an equipment configuration that is going to meet your needs. 

4.  Choose a company that is a dealer for both the Wi-Fi and the HSD equipment.

Often, the manufacturer of the router is different from the manufacturer of the actual internet system. This can lead to some finger-pointing when troubleshooting needs to happen. Some avionics installers, like Duncan Aviation, have dealership agreements with a large number of equipment manufacturers, and spend time tending those relationships. As a byproduct, we receive timely support from the manufacturer when it is needed. 

5.  Make sure the company installing the equipment has the expertise to accommodate the highest level of complexity required.

tower-signal.jpgIt is essential that you are able to provide your passengers with the best system possible. Ask about the security measures the avionics installer is familiar with and has installed in the past. Understand how the installation will work for different services, such as phone and datalink services. Your company’s computer specialists may have to work with the avionics installer to ensure everything is set up properly. If the installer appears unfamiliar with troubleshooting or satcom registration procedures, do not use them. I have assisted many clients with troubleshooting and redoing internet installations that were not completed properly. 

6.  What methods are used to test the Wi-Fi installation?

After a Wi-Fi system is installed, it should be tested in the same way that your customers will use it. Standard connectivity and speed tests will tell you if the equipment is performing basic functions. From there, it will be up to you and your IT department to further define the details of system configuration. Your installer should be willing to be a partner in this effort and you should have this conversation before you choose the installer. 

If smart phone connectivity is the most important to you, then make sure you plan for testing using the same model, set up the same way by your IT department. If your company has VPN client software, make sure to take a company laptop. The installer should support any testing you may seek, the same as they would any other service. There may be VPN tweaks that are required due to the high latency of satcom internet connections. This fine-tuning for corporate clients can sometimes make a big difference. 

In Conclusion

  1. Know the experience level of your installer.  
  2. Know how they are getting it on the aircraft from a certification point of view. 
  3. Know what equipment they are installing.
  4. Know they are a dealer for both the Wi-Fi system and the HSD system.   
  5. Know that the installer is capable of resolving issues between the internet equipment provider and the router manufacturer should one appear. 
  6. Know that the equipment was tested in a manner consistent with how it will be used. 

If any of these are unclear, ask questions, consult a tech rep, and know what to expect before you sign. 

Adrian Chene is an avionics technical representative who started his avionics career with the US Air Force. While knowledgeable on all bizjet avionics, Adrian is an industry expert on internet and phone solutions at Duncan Aviation's Battle Creek, Michigan, facility, where he has worked for more than 16 years. 

Tags: Wi-Fi

What Do Unicorns & ADS-B Exemptions Have in Common? Neither Actually Exist

Posted by Adrian Chene on Tue, Oct 27, 2015 @ 11:13 AM

You can always dream, but Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) exemptions fall into roughly the same category as unicorns.

When Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus introduced a live unicorn into its lineup in 1985, it created quite a stir. The question that swirled around the animal was whether it was a real horn. Although the horn was real, many people ignored the most important fact; the animal was a goat.

In much the same way, there has been much misunderstanding with regard to a recent ADS-B exemption letter from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Some operators heard ADS-B and exemption in the same sentence and immediately began planning for non-compliance. The reality though is that in 2020 an ADS-B transponder exemption is as likely as Ringling Bros. having an actual unicorn at one of their shows.

The controversy started when Airlines for America, the trade organization that represents the principle U.S. airlines, sent the FAA a request for an exemption. The exemption request indicated that much of the airline fleet was not currently equipped with Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) Global Positioning System (GPS) units that supported the required navigational performance. Airlines for America also noted that the required performance—even for the correct WAAS GPS—was not always possible. In light of that, the organization requested that the GPS section of the ADS-B mandate be extended to 2025.

The part of the letter that most folks missed was that it only applies to the portion of the ADS-B mandate that deals with new WAAS requirements for GPS. A transponder that transmits in an ADS-B message format is required to operate above 10,000 feet by 2020.

The FAA agreed with Airlines for America and granted a temporary exemption from the GPS accuracy portion of ADS-B. The FAA has since been getting out the word that operators are still required to have an ADS-B-compliant transponder to meet the mandate. (Visit for current information on the mandates.)

Owner/operators who opt for an exemption must submit an annual request to the director of the local Flight Standards District Offices (FSDO) until the aircraft is equipped with the mandated receivers. This annual request must include a plan for an eventual upgrade to the mandated WAAS GPS and is subject to approval. For aircraft that are scheduled for major inspections at a facility where a WAAS GPS installation is available, your FSDO may deny your request. “I don’t want to upgrade,” may not be a good reason to apply for an exemption.

With manufacturers, such as Universal Avionics, Honeywell Aerospace and Rockwell Collins offering incentive programs for Flight Management Systems (FMSes) and transponder upgrades, now is the time to include new WAAS/Localizer Performance with Vertical Guidance (LPV) and ADS-B in your aircraft’s budget at your next major inspection.

Don’t bet on the unicorn.


For the most current information on the NextGen mandates visit Duncan Aviation NextGen Resource

Adrian Chene is an avionics tech rep for Duncan Aviation providing troubleshooting and technical advice to business aviation operators on avionics installation services. He specializes in custom, integrated HSD solutions. He began working in aviation in 1996.

Tags: Avionics Installation, ADS-B, NextGen

Inflight Internet Operation Cybercrime: The Barbarians At The Gate

Posted by Adrian Chene on Thu, Sep 03, 2015 @ 10:26 AM

Inflight internet was the ubiquitous gift of the digital age. The engineers and equipment manufacturers in some cases were so focused on connectivity that security often had to take a backseat. The result was weakness in the system’s ability to withstand a cyber-attack.

Whether an aircraft owner is a private individual or a large corporation, it is clear that everyone needs to consider data security in their flight operations. Most airborne IT security concerns fall into three main areas: service provider security, physical security, and your individual software and hardware policies. While this initial discussion is a 50,000 foot view of airborne data security, the following articles in this series will delve deeper into the particulars.

Service providers are the gatekeepers of your traffic in many circumstances, whether you are using Inmarsat Satcom, 3G, or GoGo. They are responsible for making sure that the data sent and received is not intercepted in a manner that is usable by others for nefarious purposes. They are also responsible for defending their data centers against service interruptions by potential man-made or natural disasters. 

Physical IT security is also very important. Many intelligence operations involve theft or tampering with portable electronic devices. These can be laptops or cell phones. These sorts of attacks are more common than most would like to admit and often lead to individuals being personally compromised.

Your individual IT policies have a lot to do with how safe you are. Using a WEP Encrypted Wi-Fi connection on the ground at Teterboro could have disastrous results for your VIP, not to mention your Satcom bill. The myth often shared by people is that hacking or identity theft is something that happens to the “other person.” The sad reality is that there are always barbarians at our digital gates whether we choose to acknowledge them or not.

When I watched the movie “Hackers” in 1995, the notion of teenagers masterminding an attack on a corporate mainframe seemed pretty pie-in-the-sky. The reality though is that there have been numerous examples of children cracking into secure servers even at the DOD level.

We are all under attack. The goal is not make your aircraft an impenetrable IT fortress. The aim should be to make others an easier target and prevent the most crippling attacks.


Adrian Chene is an Avionics Tech Rep for Duncan Aviation. He provides troubleshooting and technical advice on avionics installation services, and specializes in custom, integrated HSD solutions. He began working in aviation in 1996.


Tags: Avionics Installation, Wi-Fi


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