The Aircraft Electronics Association kicked off its fifty-ninth annual International Convention and Trade Show in Orlando April 27, with more than 30 companies participating in AEA’s New Product Introductions session. Nearly 2,000 avionics manufacturers, repair station representatives, installers, and other general aviation professionals are expected to attend the event, which runs through May 1. The exhibit hall is sold out, with more than 135 exhibitors.
The new products session often identifies a theme for the convention. If last year’s theme was Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B), this year’s is connectivity—especially for the cabins of mid-sized and smaller business aircraft.
Gogo Business Aviation said that it had just completed the initial phase of flight testing for its Gogo Biz 4G service, which uses an integrated router and modem. The company said it remains on schedule for first deliveries in early 2017.
TrueNorth Avionics announced its Optelity product line, which offers Wi-Fi, voice, and combined options. SmartSky Networks said it will offer a 4G network later this year, and is installing hardware in a Cessna Citation Excel.
Meanwhile, BendixKing announced a new Wi-Fi router, the Aerowave 100, as well as new voice and data plans—it will offer promotional pricing through June 1.
Send Solution’s Airtext will allow 16 people to send text messages, at a cost as low as five cents per message. List price for the hardware is $9,750, and the company expects deliveries beginning in May.
ADS-B was not ignored. Cobham announced the Comant CI 105-17-L antenna. “This antenna does both ADS-B In and Out,” Don Jekyll said. Another new Comant antenna combines VHF communications and NextGen functions, he said; it will be used on Honda Aircraft’s HondaJet.
Blue Avionics announced a supplemental type certificated ADS-B Out solution for Falcon jets and Bombardier aircraft, and CMD Flight Solutions offered ADS-B Out solutions for both Part 25 and Part 23 aircraft.
HeliTrak presented its Collective Pull Down, a safety device designed to automatically pull down a helicopter’s collective when a low rotor RPM warning occurs. It weighs less than two pounds and can be installed in approximately three hours, the company said. Initially it will be available for the Robinson R22, and other rotorcraft are under development. An autopilot for the R22 also is in final development. The company said installing both products will create significant improvement in flight safety.
FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta addressed the opening-day general session, stressing that the deadline to equip for the ADS-B Out mandate is Jan. 1, 2020. “It’s not going to change, and it’s just 44 months away,” he said. “There’s a sense if owners wait to equip, they may get better deals. We encourage you to be creative marketers.”
Huerta said the explosion of drone technology reminds him of Moore’s Law. “They’re thinking the product life cycle is not two years, but four to six months. That’s how fast things are changing,” he said. “In this business we all need to pay attention to what’s happening in unmanned aircraft.”
AEA released its first-quarter 2016 Avionics Market Report. In the first three months of the year, total worldwide business and general aviation avionics sales were down 3.6 percent compared to the first quarter of 2015. Participating companies reported more than $566 million in sales. “It’s disappointing that total worldwide sales are off to a slower start compared to the first three months a year ago,” said AEA President Paula Derks. “Sales in the forward-fit market were nearly identical to last year, so the overall decline was mostly felt in the retrofit market.” Retrofit sales dropped 7.5 percent for the quarter.
AEA also announced that Jeanne Rau-Flattery of Millennium International is member of the year, and Gogo Business Aviation is associate member of the year. Robert Duncan of Duncan Aviation received AEA’s Lifetime Achievement Award.