Numerous operators of upper-tier business aircraft are weighing the pros and cons of outfitting their planes with Future Air Navigation Systems (FANS 1/A)-related avionics. The upgrade will allow these aircraft to fly within flight information regions (FIRs) that require FANS 1/A worldwide, particularly along the congested North Atlantic Organized Track System (NAT-OTS).
Operators first need to determine if the cost to outfit is worth it.
“If you fly between the U.S. and Europe once or twice per year, and the cost of updating your aircraft with FANS equipment is around $350,000, we would likely suggest the operator fly commercial,” said Gary Harpster, principal avionics sales representative for Duncan Aviation. ”If you go to Europe regularly, then installing FANS equipment might be worth it.”
A basic FANS solution will cost a minimum of $200,000, according to National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) estimates. Over one year, Duncan charged customers between $200,000 and $393,000 to become FANS-compliant, said Harpster. The price depends upon the sophistication of the equipment needed, how extensive is the retrofit and whether the work is coupled with the installation of other systems.
Harpster listed examples of how FANS equipment acquisition and installation costs vary. One Gulfstream IV operator paid $300,000 for FANS equipment, while a Falcon 900B operator paid $202,000. A Challenger 601-3A operator paid $393,000, which also included upgrades to the FMS and GPS receiver.
If the operator is going to upgrade the avionics system substantially, “you might as well equip it with FANS,” recommended Harpster.
Customers should ask themselves the following questions before writing a check to install FANS 1/A equipment. How much do you want to spend? How will you use this aircraft? Can you justify these large expenditures? And what is your return on investment (ROI)?
In 2017, Duncan’s two main facilities in Lincoln, Nebraska, and Battle Creek, Michigan, installed FANS equipment in 24 business aircraft.
Before installing FANS 1/A avionics, operators need to obtain a letter of authorization (LOA) from the FAA or other regulatory authority.
To be FANS 1/A+ compliant, which could become the eventual standard, Bombardier Business Aircraft recommends its aircraft operators follow these steps: implement the modification via service bulletin or supplemental type certificate (STC); submit a letter of authorization (LOA) 056 (FAA) with supporting documentation to obtain operational approval; get flight crews trained on the FANS systems at one of Bombardier’s training centers; and file their flight plan accordingly to operate FANS 1/A+ on the performance-based communication and surveillance on the North Atlantic tracks for high-level altitude flying.
“An important part is crew training,” said Casey Miller, director of business development and pilot for Universal Avionics. “A lot of operators are selling themselves short by not getting their flight crews proper flight training on FANS.”
For newer models, Bombardier developed the FANS 1/A+ service bulletin that provide an “integrated solution,” which includes Bombardier’s continued support following instillation.
The Global 5000/6000 with Bombardier Vision are delivered FANS compliant, while older models will require prerequisite equipment and upgraded avionics.
The new Challenger 350 and Challenger 650 “have all the provisioning installed” to allow the aircraft to become FANS compliant, said Bombardier. For older aircraft models, such as the Challenger 600/601, customers may consider Bombardier-approved third-party solutions providers.
Gulfstream, a General Dynamics company, provides FANS 1/A+ (CPDLC/ADS-C) as standard equipment on the G650/G650ER since the aircraft entered service. The G500/600 will enter service with FANS 1/A+ equipment. FANS 1/A equipment on G280s has been available as standard since the end of 2013; an STC-based retrofit is offered for those aircraft delivered prior to the end of 2013. Gulfstream said it also offers FANS 1/A+ solutions for the GIV, GIV-SP and GVB aircraft. Gulfstream does not publicize prices for the equipment, said a company spokeswoman.
FANS equipment can be installed at Gulfstream-owned service centers worldwide.
On the commercial side, long-haul Airbus and Boeing airliners come with FANS 1/A as standard equipment from the factory, said Greg Francois, ATR avionics sales manager for Honeywell Aerospace. Those aircraft on which FANS 1/A is standard include the Boeing 767, /777 and /787 and Airbus A330, /A350 and /A380.
Required equipment to be FANS 1/A compliant includes Iridium or Inmarsat satellite communications (sitcom) capability; wide area augmentation system (WAAS)-capable GPS; FANS-capable flight management system (FMS); automatic dependent surveillance-contract (ADS-C), which allows air traffic controllers to plot aircraft on screen, separate traffic and control flow; controller pilot data link communications (CPDLC), which enables text-based messaging between ATC and aircraft; required navigation performance-4 approved navigational capabilities within plus/minus 4 nm of assigned lateral separation for a minimum 95% of the flight; a communications management unit (CMU); and a data-capturing cockpit voice recorder (CVR).
Some FANS solutions conform to FANS 1/A+, which adds pilot control latency adjustments. This solution enables pilots “to modify communications turnaround times at the request of ATC,” according to NBAA.
Operators should expect installation of FANS equipment to take around four weeks, said Harpster. Some of the downtime includes removing enough interior to run wires from cockpit to tail to install the new CVR.
FANS 1/A acquisition and installation business could pick up in coming years.
“There are many FANS 1/A regions all over the oceanic areas,” reminded Francois. “It is not just limited to the North Atlantic, but that is by far the most dense air traffic for trans-oceanic air travel.” AVS