As the aviation industry continues to move toward standards-based approaches to in-flight communications equipment, Anuvu makes an interesting claim: The original Ku-band IFC installation, known colloquially as a “pizza box” installation, had a better maintenance history than its more standard installation—and still does. Already favored by its major customers.
“(We have) two facilities,” explains Anuvu Executive Vice President – Communications Mike Piggott. “We have an ARINC 600/ARINC 791 installation and we have our original installation, the old Row 44 installation (video below), and the maintenance intervals are better for the airline” with the latter.
And with instrumentation modules accessible via the roof panel, “you don’t need to touch the equipment compared to the standards” found in boxes in the E&E bay. Original number 44 retrofit The mount also features a doubler plate on top of the fuselage instead of the universal adapter plate which can support a wide range of antennas and is preferred by OEMs.
“So, the lugs and adapter plate” part of the ARINC 791 “is a good concept. It’s a good improvement,” Piggott admits, and has been adopted in Boeing’s Anuvu line installations. “But almost everything else on the ARNIC 791 involves more activity by the airline, and more difficulty getting in. You need to go into the E&E Bay rather than opening the roof panel and pulling the care item down.
Modified pizza box for Boeing Linefit
Interestingly, Anuvu’s installation for Boeing 737 Twinjets is largely “a pizza box installation because our customers looked at that and then looked at what Boeing could do, and said to Boeing, ‘We want this installation,'” he says. That sounds great in itself.
However, Boeing’s Anuvu Linefit package includes an adapter plate because it is a Boeing radome so it is a Boeing system. Anuvu recognizes that “ease of swapping (antennas) is important, so having the lugs and adapter plate probably makes sense. It adds weight. It adds cost, it adds complexity on initial installation, but in a charter environment and an aircraft restoration environment, that’s a good thing.” .
While RGN uses “pizza box” terminology here, as that was part of our interview with Pigott, Anuvu no longer publicly refers to the original Row 44 retrofit installation as such because the reference was considered unprofessional by some. Instead, it now refers to it as the “Profile Design,” which is still offered alongside the standards-based package, while the Boeing Linefit fittings, specifically, are the “Profile Design” with the ARINC 791 adapter plate.
But he believes Anuvu has a competitive advantage in terms of easing maintenance clauses for airlines with its “profile design” in part “because the 737 E&E bays are so small” so, compared to competing systems, “we don’t have any troubleshooting” in the Gulf.
Therefore, when the maintenance technician gets on the plane, he has to lower the roof panel and look into the box. They don’t have to call the box. In fact, we don’t allow them; We don’t have the ability to just plug in the box and plug it in. They do not take a laptop with them.
All of our competitors have troubleshooting skills that maintenance technicians with fifty other jobs must learn. For us, we ask them to switch the box…or we say to them, “Look at the box, are the three lights on?” Most of our boxes have lights that only indicate the presence of power in the box. If the power is in the box, we can say it is working. If the lights are not on, replace them. If the lights are on, call us, okay, there’s probably something else, but it’s probably still being switched on. And anything like that, it’s easy.
This type of approach has worked particularly well for Anuvu’s — formerly Global Eagle — and Row 44’s airline customers, who have short delivery times.
However, when the Row 44 system was first retrofitted onto aircraft, and reinforced with a double plate, some industry stakeholders suggested that the installation was unsafe. “These people were wrong,” Piggott says. “If you look at our other competitors out there, we didn’t have aircraft guidance because of the cracks. We didn’t have aircraft guidance because the antennas were affected by the wind current. We got it right.
“Now I will say this, again, the ARINC 791 allows for swapping (antenna systems) a lot easier (but) we think we’ve solved that in a more elegant way by using…a common mount. It’s like you’re just changing your mount. If you take a look at the DPSAA’s antenna Ours (Anuvua’s new dual panel Ka-band intercom antenna system), it has this common mount and we built it with the bracket in the design….you’ll see in the middle it has the cylinder and the cylinder is what can be attached to the adapter plate. So, We plan to maintain this in the future.
Regarding the ARINC 600 boxes (4 MCU and 2 MCU), “one of the biggest limitations of these boxes is standards,” suggests Piggot. “So the 4MC box has thermal limits and the thermal limits were put in place because of the standard and someone just wrote it into the standard and it’s there.”
While he stresses that the box is completely safe and contains very recognizable components, he points out that “we are now getting to the point where multiple modem cards, and multiple modem cards with the server, are putting out a lot of heat.” The Anuvu executive mentions this thermal limitation simply as an example of “there is tremendous value and tremendous good reasons for standards, but they need to keep up with the pace of innovation.”
Along with ARINC’s industry activities around avionics standards and interfaces, the Seamless Air Alliance is developing its IFC standards business, based on modular architectures and open interfaces, and continues to add significant new members. For example, WestJet appears to be the latest airline to join. But Anuvu and SpaceX are still noticeably absent from the list. And perhaps so will Viasat name, although it actually gained membership through the purchase of Inmarsat, Inmarsat is still listed as a member. RGN asked Pigott whether Anuvu sees itself benefiting from the fact that another prominent member of the IFC community, SpaceX, is going in a different direction and doing things its own way.
“We, as a company, have always seen ourselves as getting value by separating ourselves from the pack by not doing things the standard way,” Piggott says. “That’s why (we) maintain neutral Ku/Ka capabilities in all of our hardware designs.”
This is also why Anuvu “maintains an evolutionary standard for devices.” For example, our new award-winning dedicated space modem technology, which uses proprietary software to dynamically distribute capacity based on need, is not band-specific, it can be Ku or Ka.
“Without naming airline names, there are airlines that have gone through massive disruption in connectivity going from service to system to system to system,” says Piggott. “The cost profile for that is absolutely staggering and yet none of our customers have had to do that. We have maintained a steady evolution.” And that was based on the fact that we were always looking at…things as if we were in the airline’s shoes, what would we want. And we weren’t perfect, we weren’t perfect, we got a lot of things wrong, there’s no doubt we got a lot of things wrong and we had to “We evolve.”
But Anuvu’s big customers, Southwest and Norwegian, are happy to stay on the original path for retrofits, even as they upgrade with the allocated space. And the line mount for them is, again, a pizza box/profile design, but with an adapter plate.