Inmarsat has announced that it has received final approval from the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) for its SB-S digital airline operations and safety platform.
The FAA has validated the capability of Inmarsat SB-S to support air traffic services by providing direct datalink communication between pilots and Air Traffic Control (ATC).
The letter of approval highlights the future potential of this ‘first-of-its-kind’ service, stating that SB-S technology “provides diversity and potential for advances of capability that will further maximise operational benefits and ensure safety”.
The endorsement follows a recommendation last year from the FAA’s Performance-Based Operations Aviation Rulemaking Committee (PARC).
FAA approval follows an extensive live evaluation of SB-S by Hawaiian Airlines and United Airlines, which took place between June 2015 and July 2018 on approximately 25,000 flights and seven aircraft types.
Inmarsat partners in the evaluation included Cobham Aerospace Communications, Collins Aerospace, SITAONAIR, ASG and L2.
China’s Shenzhen Airlines is also using SB-S and Inmarsat’s digital airline operations platform has been selected by Airbus as a Light Cockpit Satcom (LCS) line fit solution on its A320 and A330 families.
SB-S’s real-time IP connectivity delivers powerful benefits to airlines. Operational advantages include enhanced fleet and crew management, predictive maintenance, disruption management and aircraft health monitoring via Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) applications, which can significantly reduce flight delays and fuel consumption.
Safety benefits include improved communications with ATC, digital data and voice communications, and flight data recorder streaming (also known as Black Box in the Cloud). Flight plans and arrivals can also be optimised by pinpointing aircraft in four dimensions, known as four-dimensional (4D) operations, which include latitude, longitude, altitude and time.
The IP solution provided by Inmarsat’s SB-S is also essential to air traffic modernisation programmes, such as the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) masterplan and NextGen in the U.S.
In addition, Inmarsat’s SB-S powers Iris, a project by Inmarsat and the European Space Agency (ESA) that uses satellite-based datalink communication to enhance and modernise air traffic management over European airspace.
Inmarsat is the only aviation satcom provider authorised to provide aviation safety and operational services globally, including in China and India.
Philip Balaam, President of Inmarsat Aviation, said: “Inmarsat has a rich history of providing cutting-edge, transformative services for the global aviation industry.
“We are proud to continue that tradition with SB-S, the world’s first solution for digital aircraft operations and safety. Inmarsat is the only satellite communications provider that can deliver these benefits to airlines.
“Receiving the FAA’s final approval is a milestone of huge significance, reinforcing Inmarsat’s global market leadership and validating the potential of SB-S to maximise airline operational efficiency and safety for many years to come.”
The SB-S digital aircraft operations platform is powered by Inmarsat’s global L-band satellite network, which has underpinned safety services for 40 years.
Inmarsat is scheduled to launch two additional L-band payloads in 2020 and 2021, further cementing its “long-term commitment to offering highly reliable services over this spectrum”.