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The Duncan Download Blog: Business Aviation Advice & Observations

Overhauling NAT (Cobham) Avionics Units

Posted by Diane Heiserman on Thu, Aug 01, 2013 @ 10:59 AM

Dan Magnus, avionics instruments tech rep

NAT avionics overhaul

Duncan Aviation avionics technician, Patrick Klein, tests a NAT TH250 tactical communications unit on the bench in front of nine NAT test sets.

Northern Airborne Technology Ltd (NAT), dba Cobham Avionics, designs and produces avionics communications equipment installed aboard helicopters. These units control the audio voice transmissions between the pilot and co-pilot and from the cockpit to the crew/cabin.

One of the more common failures that Duncan Aviation technicians have experienced with these units is intermittent audio squawks. The audio transmitted by these units passes through relays or electronic switches. As relays begin to lose conductivity causing poor contact, intermittent audio is the result. At this point the unit needs to be repaired or overhauled.

If you build it, they will come

Duncan Aviation has full overhaul and repair capabilities on many NAT units. These capabilities are continually growing as customers call and request to send their units to Duncan Aviation for repair or overhaul. If a request comes in and we don’t have a current test set capable of repairing their unit, we build it. And it doesn’t take as long as you might think. We are able to order the manual, build a test set, perform the repair or overhaul AND return the unit to the customer typically quicker than the OEM can do a repair.

Cobham (NAT) repair and overhaul capabilities

Duncan Aviation currently has a total of 12 test sets specifically built to troubleshoot and test hundreds of different Cobham (NAT) models and part numbers. Call a Duncan Aviation avionics tech rep to inquire about our repair and overhaul capabilities for your Cobham (NAT) unit.

Duncan Aviation provides comprehensive avionics and instrument overhaul and repair services, and we are an avionics and instrument authorized service center for more than 50 of the top equipment manufacturers. Our capabilities listings are available online in our inventory and capabilities search.

Dan Magnus is an avionics instrument technical representative located at Duncan Aviation's Lincoln, Neb., location. He specializes in ADF, Comms, Control Heads, CVR, DME Gables Control Heads, Receivers, Nav-Comm/Receivers, Radar Systems, GPS, GNS, Transponders and UNS Components and Systems Specialist. His aviation career began in 1976.

Tags: Squawk Solution, Troubleshooting, Aircraft Communications, Avionics & Instruments, Aircraft Parts

Aircraft Satellite Television Service Extended Through 2012

Posted by Diane Heiserman on Thu, Jun 14, 2012 @ 06:00 AM

Contributed by Matt Nelson, Manager of Satellite Operations

satellite TV

Avoid satellite television service disruption, order your replacement hardware soon.

In an earlier post, we reported that as early as March 31, 2012, operators could experience a complete loss of satellite television service aboard their aircraft over the United States. Since our original report, revised information has been received from DirecTV.

The current airborne satellite television service from DirecTV will be continued through January 2013. According to satellite television manufacturers Rockwell Collins and Honeywell, the service provider for airborne Satellite Television services in the Continental United States will discontinue its services for some early model systems.

Certain OEM trade-in programs have been extended slightly for the purchase of the replacement hardware, however if recent experience is any indication, we expect to see extremely long lead-times for that equipment. Please be prepared to place orders soon to avoid any service disruption!

Which Satellite Televisions Are Impacted?

The model and part numbers of the receiver and decoders currently installed are the determining factors whether your aircraft will be impacted and your course of action.

  • The Rockwell Collins Tailwind Series systems utilize a Receiver/Decoder Unit, or RDU, and will use a part number of either 931000-XXX, or 930002-XX.
  • Honeywell AIS-1000 and AIS-2000 systems utilize a Receiver/Decoder Module, or RDM.  The RDM's affected by this announcement will use a part number of 4088477-901.

The replacement RDU / RDM may also affect the television remote control functionality and require hardware and / or software upgrades or other modification to your existing Cabin Management System. When speaking with one of our avionics professionals, it is advised to have your avionics wiring diagrams accessible.

Take Advantage of Limited-Time Price Breaks

Both Collins and Honeywell are offering upgrades and trade-in pricing for the Receiver/Decoder replacements. These are limited-time trade-in programs; we recommend that you do not hesitate in taking advantage of them.

At Duncan Aviation, we have avionics satellite locations throughout the United States. Anyone of which, is capable of the new RDU Installation. We will also provide you with Duncan Aviation quality installation records and drawings needed for future upgrades.

For installation and scheduling information, contact the following Duncan Aviation Avionics Satellite shop managers:

Matt Nelson serves as the Manager of Satellite Operations for Duncan Aviation's avionics network, providing avionics installation services at the busiest business airports in the United States. His aviation career began in 1987.

Tags: Avionics Installation, Aircraft Communications

Business Aircraft Satellite Television Service Ending Soon

Posted by Diane Heiserman on Tue, Mar 20, 2012 @ 07:00 AM

Contributed by Matt Nelson, Manager of Satellite Operations

As early as Jan. 2013, you could experience a complete loss of satellite television service aboard your aircraft over the United States. According to satellite television manufacturers Rockwell Collins and Honeywell, the service provider for airborne satellite television services in the continental United States is discontinuing its services for some early model systems. DirecTV could potentially discontinue its services for these early receiver modules by the end of the month.

Honeywell AIS 2000

Common Honeywell AIS 2000 configuration.

Photo Source: www.HoneywellBusiness.com

Is your satellite television impacted?

The model and part numbers of the receiver and decoders currently installed are the determining factors whether your aircraft will be impacted and will dictate your course of action.

  • The Rockwell Collins Tailwind Series systems utilize a Receiver/Decoder Unit, or RDU, and will use a part number of either 931000-XXX, or 930002-XX.
  • Honeywell AIS-1000 and AIS-2000 systems utilize a Receiver/Decoder Module, or RDM, and will use a part number of 4088477-XXX.

The replacement RDU/RDM may also affect the television remote control functionality and require hardware and/or software upgrades or other modification to your existing Cabin Management System (CMS). When speaking to one of our avionics professionals, it is advised to have your avionics wiring diagrams accessible.

Both Collins and Honeywell are offering upgrades and trade-in pricing for the Receiver/Decoder replacements. These are limited-time trade-in programs; we recommend that you do not hesitate in taking advantage of them.

At Duncan Aviation, we have avionics satellite locations throughout the United States, anyone of which is capable of the new RDU Installation. We will also provide you with Duncan Aviation quality installation records and drawings needed for future upgrades.

For installation and scheduling information, contact the following Duncan Aviation Avionics Satellite shop managers:

Matt Nelson serves as the Manager of Satellite Operations for Duncan Aviation's avionics network, providing avionics installation services at the busiest business airports in the United States. His aviation career began in 1987.

Tags: Avionics Installation, Aircraft Communications

3 Options To Improve Connectivity Aboard Your Business Aircraft

Posted by Duncan Download Blog on Tue, Dec 06, 2011 @ 03:29 PM

Contributed by Adrian Chene , Avionics Installation Tech Rep.

GIV laptop video interface illustration

This photo illustration demonstrates how a laptop can interface with cabin entertainment systems to improve team collaboration.

High Speed Data technology for the aviation industry has reached a level where it now supports most office activities aboard an aircraft allowing a team to continue to collaborate, share and analyze data, ideas and workload. 

The following are three methods to increase employee connection and productivity while in flight.

Laptop Video Interface

When installing a new cabin video system, always request a laptop video interface. With this, business travelers are able to use their laptops to share presentations and documents on cabin monitors. Such a simple measure allows a team to continue collaboration and work on complex projects. It also permits sales teams to practice the "big pitch" on the way to the client.

Carry-on Encrypted Network Drive

A carry-on encrypted network drive is simply an external hard drive that uses a separate power supply and an Ethernet connection. These are easily encrypted to permit access to only those who require access. A single network drive would allow multiple people access to different portions of a larger project and then return those worked pieces prior to landing. Teammates will also have access to each other's working documents for brainstorming.

Data Encryption

An aviation-grade router that supports encrypted communication provides a secure link between your aircraft's router and the home network. This secure link allows travelers to receive sesitive data from the homeoffice while traveling. EMS, Lufthansa Technik and True North's Chorus system have routers that support data encryption and acceleration options. For many, the answer to which router is needed is going to depend on the availability of a STC for Wi-Fi.

The world is moving fast at faster speeds. Critical work and team collaboration isn't reserved for just the office on the ground. It has become critical for flight departments to create the perfect office in the sky.

Duncan Aviation answers common issues and questions about Wi-Fi installations for business aircraft in a new field guide entitled "Making Sense of Wi-Fi: An Operator's Guide to Aircraft Internet Options." The guide explores the various topics operators face when selecting Wi-Fi for business aircraft, and includes a comparison of the major service providers and main equipment options for business aircraft. To download a copy, please visit www.DuncanAviation.aero/fieldguides.

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, Aircraft Communications, In-Flight Internet

2 Reasons Why Aircraft Internet Connections Fail

Posted by Diane Heiserman on Thu, May 05, 2011 @ 05:00 PM

Contributed by Adrian Chene, Avionics Tech Rep.

Broken HSD Internet Link

Your inflight internet service provider should be able to determine why a connection failure occurred.

With any high-speed data (HSD) connection, there are times and places where connectivity will be lost, particularly in geographic areas with high internet usage or when transitioning between satellite signals.

Congestion occurs when an internet service provider is unable to handle the number of users on their network and begins to throttle back available bandwidth and/or drop users. This is more common during the afternoon and in airspace with a high number of internet users logged in, like New York City or Chicago.

Inflight internet services that offer moderate- to low-speed satellite-based connections, like Inmarsat, tend to experience more issues with network congestion. Ground-based high-speed connections, like Aircell, have more bandwidth at their disposal, which greatly reduces the effects of congestion. Aircell also monitors network use more closely to ensure more evenly distributed bandwidth.

It is also common to momentarily lose connectivity when switching between satellite signals during transcontinental flights.

Your service provider should be able to determine if a connection failure occurred due to congestion or when switching between satellite signals. Usage Logs can also provide clues to the nature of the service interruption. Both Aircell and Inmarsat are able to provide usage logs upon request. If troubleshooting the link between the CNX and your home network, CNX-200s will allow usage log downloads for evaluation by EMS or your service provider.

For help troubleshooting an internet connection issue in your aircraft, contact the Duncan Avionics installation and line maintenance location nearest you.

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: Wi-Fi, Aircraft Communications, In-Flight Internet

4 Steps to Troubleshooting Business Aircraft Internet Connections

Posted by Diane Heiserman on Fri, Apr 08, 2011 @ 01:01 PM

Contributed by Adrian Chene, Avionics Tech Rep.

aircraft internet

Knowing the right questions to ask is important when troubleshooting HSD failures.

High-speed data (HSD) failures are difficult to troubleshoot, and require several different skill sets. The most important skill needed is knowing which questions will yield the best results. The price for poor troubleshooting is very high, and my number one recommendation is to get advanced troubleshooting experts involved early.

Here are four steps to troubleshoot why passengers can’t connect to the internet onboard an aircraft. I will also explore each topic in further detail in future posts.

1. Check the router.

Plug a laptop into a ‘hardwired’ Ethernet port in the cabin to verify the router is powered and other basic functions are operable (an internet connection is not necessary). If the Ethernet ports are functioning, but the Wi-Fi is dead, then there is a problem with the router.

2. Verify there wasn’t a connection loss.

There are times and places where connectivity will be lost due to congestion. This is more common in afternoons and airspaces where lots of users are logged in, like New York City or Chicago. It is also common to momentarily lose connectivity when switching between satellite signals during transcontinental flights. Your service provider should be able to tell you if a connection failure was caused by congestion or while switching satellites.

3. Send fault logs to the service provider and equipment manufacturer.

Most HSD terminals have fault logs that can be downloaded to assist in troubleshooting. Send these logs to your service provider and equipment manufacturer technical reps.

I always recommend that operators contact their field service and equipment manufacturer technical representatives, and get them involved early. If you don’t know who your representatives are, ask the facility that installed the equipment. 

4. Hire a professional for ancillary system troubleshooting.

For ancillary system issues, such as Sat AFIS/ACARS, save your time and hire a professional to assist you. In many cases the satcom and datalink service providers are companies with competing services, and unfortunately a fair amount of accusation can take place between the two. To reduce confusion and root out the error relatively quickly, get both parties on a conference call.

For help troubleshooting an internet connection issue in your aircraft, contact the Duncan Avionics installation and line maintenance location nearest you.

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: Troubleshooting, Wi-Fi, Aircraft Communications, In-Flight Internet

3 Physical IT Security Issues Aboard Business Aircraft

Posted by Duncan Download Blog on Thu, Feb 10, 2011 @ 09:00 AM


Satcom Security Issues in Business Aviation: Part 2 

Contributed by Adrian Chene, Avionics Tech Rep

it security

Any device with internal memory is a weak point. If you won't use your laptop or cell phone, leave it in the hangar.

Hackers are always looking for the back door to get your information or disrupt operations. Information is most easily breached at places where protective barriers do not exist. In many cases, it is much easier and expedient to breach a laptop with a screwdriver than with sophisticated software. This makes physical computer security critical when carrying out IT operations abroad. 

Physical IT security aboard business aircraft can be breached in three main areas: satcom network, computers and electromagnetic emissions.

Satcom Network Security

Your satcom service provider should have physical and software security measures in place to help prevent data from being compromised. This should involve some form of professional independent auditing which verifies that they are taking adequate measures to ensure the protection of customer information. 

FISMA and SAS 70 compliance are common auditing practices designed to ensure some baseline of security is being applied with regards to protection of customer information. While compliance is not necessarily an indication of the quality of protection that is provided, it demonstrates a service provider’s willingness to submit to review by an independent auditor.

Physical Digital Security

Any device with an internal memory is a weak point. Cellular phones, iPod Touch’s, and laptop computers can all be compromised. If you do not intend to use your cell phones or other network devices leave them in the hangar.

Phone calls can be made using a dedicated voice-traffic-only cell phone, the in-flight satcom to relay non-sensitive information or at your final destination.

Laptops that do not have hardware-level security measures should not be taken or should be kept under continuous supervision. Operatives may compromise the contents, if they are left unattended in a hotel room.

I recommend that business teams only travel abroad with laptops that contain encrypted hard drives. This will make it more difficult to copy the hard drive and retrieve the data. Some private key systems will be very difficult to crack even if the entire machine is stolen.

Electromagnetic Emissions

Computers produce a lot of electromagnetic noise. With specialized software and signal analyzers, the savvy can turn this noise into usable information. Electromagnetic signals have a tough time getting through “Gaussian Surfaces,” or enclosed metal surfaces. This means that laptops with metal cases may broadcast lower levels of unwanted signal. Getac (a GE subsidiary) does make a line of commercial tough books (like the A790) that are similar to models produced for the Department of Defense. 

When the required equipment for emissions detection will not fit into your iPhone or laptop, you can protect your data by being unpredictable. Use your computers in different locations each time. It is not recommended using your computer in your hotel room where operatives could have advance notice of your location. Use the laptop’s batteries wherever possible as AC chargers can be their own emission source. Wait till your laptop is turned off to charge it. 

I will be the first to say that I am not an Intelligence Operative. What I have written here are some considerations for individuals traveling in nations where intelligence operations pose a threat to legitimate business practices.

Hopefully you have some questions now that you can take up with your security firm to further advise you. It is not paranoia to think you are being spied on when operating abroad, where espionage can be performed with impunity by domestic intelligence agencies. The only real question is whether or not you will insist on taking measures to ensure that your passengers are both physically and digitally safe.

In part 1 of Satcom Security Issues in Business Aviation, I discussed hardware encryption and HSD security for international operations.

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, Aircraft Communications, Network Security

2 Encryption Methods to Secure Business Aircraft Communications

Posted by Diane Heiserman on Tue, Dec 21, 2010 @ 09:00 AM


Satcom Security Issues in Business Aviation: Part 1

Contributed by Adrian Chene, Avionics Tech Rep

network security

The very networks used to communicate satcom system transmissions can be used to compromise network security aboard business aircraft.

To say that large corporate networks are under daily attack by hackers and cyber-spies is a gross understatement. What is interesting about these attacks is that they rarely ever start at some screen that says "password." They involve custom software applications that function as any predator does: by systematically exploiting weaknesses.

Network Security Risks

Bizjet operators whose passengers deal with sensitive information in foreign nations face real threats from several angles. The very networks used to communicate satcom system transmissions can be a serious point of compromise.

Russia, China and Australia currently require that all Inmarsat terminals that log on inside their border have traffic forcefully rerouted to centralized traffic management points (government servers). This can be troubling for operators seeking to do business abroad. 

Although it is impossible to stop the interception of your communications, you must take steps to secure it. The most efficient way to address this is to encrypt the information you are sending with a software or hardware intermediary.

Hardware Encryption

An investment in airborne routers, such as the CNX-200 by EMS, can employ VPN Tunneling at the hardware level. In my opinion, this is the more productive and preferred method because it creates a secure data pipe between your network and your aircraft without a decrease in data transmission rates. Maintaining average speeds of 700-800 Kbs using a sister gateway unit on the company’s network. The tunneling and encryption takes place behind the scenes and does not require any action by your passengers.

Software Encryption

There are a myriad of applications available that will encrypt information without additional hardware; making this a very inexpensive option. Cisco’s VPN Client is one such software-driven solution. While inexpensive, software-based solutions an adverse effect on the maximum speed of your Internet connection, cutting it in half to about a 400 Kbs pipe.

A hacker’s network server monitoring traffic would be hard pressed to intercept your transmissions in any type of useable form from either of these two options. 

In part 2 of Satcom Security Issues in Business Aviation, I will discuss physical security measures you can adopt to stymie foreign operatives.

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, Aircraft Communications, Network Security, In-Flight Internet

Wi-Fi in the Sky: What's Involved with an Inflight Internet Install?

Posted by Diane Heiserman on Wed, Sep 08, 2010 @ 02:15 PM

Contributed by Gary Harpster, Avionics Installations Sales Rep

Aviation Week Clearing WiFi To Fly

"Wi-Fi in the sky" is the latest aviation industry milestone for improving passenger productivity. Image source: Aviation Week.

The phrase “office in the sky” dates back to when passengers were first able to pick up a phone while in the air and make a call to anywhere in the world. Now for the first time ever, another major milestone: "wi-fi in the sky," or the ability to use high speed internet while airborne.

So how is inflight internet accomplished and what does it take to install? I was interviewed for a recent Aviation Week blog post "Clearing WiFi To Fly," in which Paul Seidenman and David J. Spanovich explain that lots of testing is involved.

"The current approval route for onboard WiFi equipment on U.S. registered aircraft is through an “issue paper,”... which spells out the testing procedure that the installer must follow to assure that the WiFi equipment—the router, transceivers, associated wiring and external antenna—will perform its intended function and shield the aircraft’s electronics from any interference from a portable electronic device.

"According to the FAA, the aircraft’s operating certificate holder is the only one who can [qualify the aircraft as transmitting portable electronic device-tolerant], based on the testing done by a maintenance provider."

In the post, I explain that a multi-step testing process is necessary and rigorous. Technicians place "rogue transmitters" at each seat in the aircraft to simulate passenger wireless device connectivity with the inflight Wi-Fi suite.

The test is specific to each aircraft make, model and avionics configuration. Technicians carefully document the procedure and any abnormalities with the aircraft's electronics, which becomes part of the STC application. 

"...[A]n STC for WiFi... enters a multi-step approval process, which begins at field level and concludes at the FAA’s Transport Directorate Office in Seattle. For a number of shops, especially those without organization designation authority [ODA], that could mean getting into a sequencing situation and as much as a 90-day waiting period, depending on field office work load."

For more details on the testing and development of inflight internet STCs, please read Aviation Week's "Clearing WiFi To Fly" blog post.

I also recommend reading Duncan Aviation's press releases on the completion of the first STC for Aircell's Wi-Fi system in a Challenger 300, and our Organization Designation Authorization (ODA) approval.

Tags: Avionics Installation, Wi-Fi, Aircraft Communications, In-Flight Internet

In-flight Internet: Wi-Fi is worth every penny

Posted by Diane Heiserman on Tue, Jul 27, 2010 @ 12:39 PM

I’ve been skeptical of in-flight internet and High-Speed Data (HSD) since I first started hearing about it. Internet speeds like my home or office network? I had to experience it to believe it. On a recent flight, I got that experience.

Within 7 minutes after takeoff I was online with Aircell's Gogo service, which is the commercial airlines equivalent of High Speed Internet for business aviation. I checked my e-mail, tweeted, updated a website, did some research online and chatted with my husband (who, after a few moments of confusion, commented the accessibility was “very cool”). It was more than cool. It was, truly, just like being in the office.

How fast is fast? The speeds are advertised at up to 3.1 mbps. Webmail is snappy. FTP uploads and downloads are speedy. I even watched Robert Duncan, Chairman Emeritus of Duncan Aviation and pilot of Dove 1 for the Special Olympics, in an interview on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-XH4XM8CWIg.

The connection did lag at times and I had been warned beforehand that the advertised speed is sometimes more of an exception than the rule (not unlike my home internet connection). The number of users, among other factors, can affect connection speeds. Connection speed analyzers aren’t necessarily accurate as the lag time (or latency) between the aircraft and the ground-based stations can skew the results. Even so, I was pleasantly surprised.

Is Aircell’s High Speed Internet for everyone? It depends on the needs of the passengers. Gogo and its High Speed Internet equivalent is only available in the United States above 10,000 feet. Some passengers may not need the faster connection speeds, and aircraft that frequently make international flights may need to consider other solutions.

After landing, I wasn’t any slower to reach for my cell phone, but I did accomplish more during my flight with in-flight internet. That productivity, in my opinion, is priceless. 

Tags: Avionics Installation, Wi-Fi, Aircraft Communications, In-Flight Internet

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