FLYHT and Spectralux Avionics Integrate Systems to Deliver FANS-Over-Iridium Satellite Communications to Airlines

To fly oceanic routes, aircraft must be Future Air Navigation System (FANS)-compliant by 2020. The two companies are working together to reduce FANS costs for airline operators, especially those with older aircraft.

Spectralux provides ICAO-compliant products for Boeing aircraft, such as the Boeing 737, 767, and 787 (pictured here). (Image source: Boeing)

FLYHT Aerospace Solutions Ltd.  of Calgary, Canada, and Spectalux Avionics  of Redmond, Wash., have teamed up to integrate FLYHT’s Automated Flight Information Reporting System  (AFIRS) 228S component into Spectralux’s Envoy  Future Air Navigation System (FANS) Data Link Unit (DLU). Together the systems offer a streamlined upgrade option for airlines to obtain a cost-effective, FANS-over-Iridium (FOI) solution – a requirement for flying over the world's oceanic regions.

For commercial aircraft, FOI satellite DLUs are a means of maintaining direct satellite-based communication (Satcom) between the pilot and the air traffic control (ATC) regardless of flight path. A growing number of airlines managing older aircraft have been using FOI communication systems because it provides compliance with Satcom voice and data capabilities at a relatively low-cost entry point.

Traditional ATC systems still use analog radio signals for aircraft communication, navigation, and surveillance (CNS) – technology that dates back to the 1940s.

In 1983, responding to dramatic increase in air travel, the International Civil Aviation Organization  (ICAO) established a committee to outline an air navigation system for the future – FANS – and develop operational concepts for the future of air traffic management (ATM). Five years later, ICAO established that air traffic management (ATM) would be conducted through digital CNS using satellites and data links. The two satellite constellations being the Iridium Communications Inc.  of McLean, Va. and London’s Inmarsat plc  satellite networks.

Per ICAO, aircraft must be FANS-compliant by 2020 to fly oceanic routes.

While FLYHT’s AFIRS offers Satcom voice and data capabilities, Spectrlux’s Envoy DLU – a standalone, highly integrated, lightweight component – offers enhancements to safety and efficiency in the modern CNS ATM environment. It incorporates a Multifunction Control Display Unit (MCDU) for text-based communication and data entry, a VHF Digital Radio for data communications, and a Communications Management Unit (CMU) which manages communications between airline pilots and ATC.

Envoy is designed to meet future ATM standards with unique software technology called “True Dual Stack Controller-pilot Data Link Communications” (CPDLC). This functionality enables flight crew to select the appropriate communications protocol, depending on specific airspace requirements and be compliant with European and North Atlantic FANS mandates.

“We have long understood that airlines with FANS-compliant aircraft obtain a wide variety of benefits, which is why we developed our Envoy system to be a lightweight, highly integrated unit,” says Scott McCammant, Spectralux Avionics president. “These systems help maintain safety, lessen pilot workload, and allow airlines to fly preferred more direct routes which can result in fuel savings. Collectively, the systems are a good fit for retrofitting older aircraft to obtain FANS compliance.”

William Kucinski  is content editor at SAE International, Aerospace Products Group in Warrendale, PA. Previously, he worked as a writer at the NASA Safety Center in Cleveland, OH, and was responsible for writing the agency’s System Failure Case Studies. His interests include literally anything that has to do with space, past and present military aircraft, and propulsion technology.

Contact him regarding any article or collaboration ideas by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..