“It's safe to assume that anything that has something to do with with the aircraft's communication infrastructure will have to be updated to meet the requirements,” Peterson remarks. “Given the time frame and complexity of the systems involved, LINK 2000+ is probably one of the more invasive mandates we have seen.”
He points out that, depending on the aircraft, a number of issues will be involved on the retrofit side.
“Operators will have to determine the capacity of the LRUs to accept the required, more-powerful software,” Peterson says. “That will depend upon the age of the aircraft. The biggest challenge in doing this will be the certification and approval process that airlines flying older aircraft will have to go through to install updated equipment—hardware and software,” he adds.
Another potentially costly mandate for EU airspace is TCAS 7.1, which must be applied to any aircraft exceeding 5,700 kg (12,566 lb.) maximum certified takeoff weight, or authorized to carry more than 19 passengers. Here, forward fit was effective March 1, 2012, with the retrofit deadline Dec. 1, 2015. According to TAP's Araujo, the TCAS upgrade resolves some safety issues identified in the warning logic within the current TCAS 7.0.
“In more modern aircraft this is going to mean just a software change, with a typical cost of $25,000, and less than two man-hours to achieve, including testing,” he explains. “But older legacy aircraft might require change out of the main TCAS computer, bringing the total cost in the vicinity of $120,000, and five man-hours—if no further changes to the TCAS system installation are required.”
Airlines should consider TCAS 7.1 retrofits as a coming requirement—globally, according to Klink. “I expect the regulatory authorities in other regions of the world to follow the EASA mandate, as currently issued for European airspace,” he says. “This upgrade represents a four-fold increase in safety compared to the previous version for improving the monitoring of pilot responses to a Resolution Advisory (RA), and re-issuing a modified reversal RA command if the aircraft is not responding properly to the original command.”
In 2013, Honeywell will introduce a TCAS 7.1 software upgrade with a certified data loader for on-wing installation, says Dave Luken, Honeywell's vice president of sales-air transport and regional. The on-wing upgrade capability, he said, is generally applicable to most aircraft built within the past 15 years.
Regulatory mandates do not always drive avionics software upgrade programs. Two years ago, Southwest Airlines initiated its “Southwest Aircraft Self-Monitoring Project” for its Boeing 737-700/-800 fleet. The project involves a software upgrade that is focused on the health management and reporting functionality of the aircraft condition monitoring system (ACMS), according to Kirk Majors, the airline's avionics software engineer.
“The goal is to improve or enhance data-gathering and management concerning the aircraft's health status in order to identify any potential problems before the airplane reaches the gate,” he explains. “This includes the digital flight data acquisition system, the communications management unit, the bleed air systems and fuel burn.”
Majors reports that the airline does not anticipate a need for any significant wiring changes or shielding requirements. “In terms of hardware, the components we have on our next generation 737s already have the reporting capacity and capability we need to accommodate the software upgrade.”