As growth of air transport in Asia-Pacific and China outpaces the rest of the world, Honeywell Aerospace is developing ways to make flying the crowded skies more efficient and even safer.

Honeywell is harvesting data and developing software across the whole of the organization, including Aerospace, as it evolves into a software driven, multinational company, says Brian Davis, vice president of airlines for Honeywell Aerospace, and aerospace leader for Honeywell International.

Progress to date can be seen here at the Singapore Airshow, where Honeywell is talking up the next evolution of its popular RDR-4000 weather radar; greater connectivity between aircraft, their systems and the ground; the latest high-speed satellite communications; and developing aircraft into nodes on the Internet that can talk to the ground and each other.

“A big part of the story . . . is going to be the mechanisms to move data; another is the concept of data itself” and how best to utilize it, Davis says.

More Powerful Weather Radar

Software upgrades to the RDR-4000 weather radar used by airlines around the world increase its ability to see through storms and predict hail, lightning and turbulence.

“There’s another 30 nmi of predictive turbulence awareness, and you get the nice software feature that it now paints a magenta color on the weather radar screen if the radar power is not enough to see what’s behind a really bad storm. It will let you know that you can’t see through there. 

“One of the problems in aviation safety is, with a pretty significant storm, there may be times where [the radar picture] looks black on the other side of the storm, and a lot of pilots will assume that means they can do a quick deviation and get around it. Unfortunately, that may not be the case. It may just be that the radar power is not enough to go through that heavy storm.”

These upgrades to the RDR-4000 are just one highlight of how Honeywell is applying software solutions to improve its products.

Davis noted that radar and other cockpit displays feature touch-screen controls and the latest thinking in ease of use and human interface, which then company calls the Human User Experience. The displays can also be seen here at the show.

Connected Aircraft

Honeywell is featuring its success in improving airline efficiency with connected APUs (auxiliary power units) at Cathay Pacific, and trials in China with connected air cycle machines.

“We are still the only one in the industry to proactively monitor the APU LRUs [line replaceable units] and go from 1.2 terabytes of data down to a single page that can be emailed to the customer that tells them, ‘On aircraft 123, APU LRU part number 456 is going to fail within a very short time. Go out and change that.’ So far, we’ve had less than a 1% a false positive rate.

We have hard real numbers from Cathay Pacific that show we reduce their flight disruptions by 35% on their APU,” says Davis.

“Another way to say it is that plane is available 35% more without delay disruptions. And we’re not stopping there,” says Davis. “About 8% of airline revenue can be affected by plane disruptions, and technical issues and are a big portion of that 8%.” So the next thing Honeywell did in data-connected aircraft was to monitor the air cycle machine with an airline that operates in China’s heavily polluted skies. That development has now begun trials with one airline there.

High-Speed Connectivity

The partnership between Honeywell’s JetWave hardware and Inmarsat’s JetConneX advanced Ka-band high-throughput satellite network brings consistent global coverage to airline and business jet passengers alike, and enables data transfer to and from the aircraft. Airlines to sign up for the high-speed Wi-Fi so far include Singapore Airlines, Air New Zealand, Vietnam Airlines and JAL.

“When we brought our Boeing 757 demonstrator to the region, it was amazing watching passengers’ reactions when . . . they were live onboard the airplane filming each other, messaging their families, doing live WeChat, live FaceTime with no interruption at the same time as other people were on Netflix and watching live video streams. It was just a very powerful flight demonstration across the region,” says Davis.

Honeywell is playing a leading role in the development of the connected airplane, Davis notes, pulling together many technologies and resources from throughout the company.

“If you think about the end-to-end control of data, we’re able to capture the data, we’re able to review it, we’re able to make our designs in the future more robust, and I think it’s going to be that model that really works well for the industry. We’re quite far ahead of everybody else right now.” 

Honeywell Jetwave for Australian AF

Honeywell’s Jetwave communications system is finding military application too, as the system has been evaluated on C-130 Hercules aircraft operated by RAAF, the Royal Australian Air Force, using Inmarsat’s Global Xpress satellite network. 

A fuselage-mount antenna enables live video streaming and encrypted file transfers.

“The RAAF has been at the forefront of connectivity technologies, seeing the importance of having this type of connectivity for operators,” said Honeywell Americas president Ben Driggs. 

“JetWave provided unparalleled situational awareness,” he said.