Aircraft SATCOM Systems

Inmarsat SB-S approved by U.S. Federal Aviation Administration for operations and safety communications

Aircraft SATCOM Systems

Inmarsat SB-S approved by FAA for operations & safety communications

Approval represents latest official endorsement of the world's first and only IP connectivity solution for digital aircraft operations and safety

Inmarsat, the world leader in global mobile satellite communications, announced on May 7th that it has received final approval from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (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 with Cobham's Light Cockpit Satcom (LCS) has been selected by Airbus as a line fit solution on its A320 and A330 families. 

Combining cutting-edge satellite technology with secure IP connectivity, SB-S is the world’s first and only global broadband solution for aircraft operational and safety communications, driving digital transformation in the airline industry. SB-S provides airlines with capabilities and benefits no other satellite communications provider can deliver.

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 CloudTM). 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 ground-breaking 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.”

Paul Kahn, President of Cobham Communications and Connectivity, said: "Cobham is honoured that it’s system played such a fundamental part in the approval of Inmarsat SB-S for operations and safety communications by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA). Cobham has been working with the FAA’s Performance based operations Aviation Rulemaking Committee (PARC) since the project’s inception, in which Cobham AVIATOR terminals installed with Hawaiian Airlines and United Airlines outperformed the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) required communications and surveillance requisites, providing data points from 25,000 flights and seven different aircraft types.

This approval comes at a great time for the industry, as Cobham’s nextgen terminal, AVIATOR S, becomes available as a line fit option on major OEM platforms including Boeing 737MAX, 777X and Airbus A320, A330 and A350. AVIATOR S will bring true global operational advancements to airlines and Air Traffic Management (ATM) through the introduction of 4D trajectory based operations allowing for reduced separation minima, free and more direct routing, slot swapping, and enhanced arrival management."

The SB-S digital aircraft operations platform is powered by Inmarsat’s advanced 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.

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