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UPS receives first upgraded Airbus A300
that swaps floppy disks for wireless gateways
News/ > 2021/ > UPS receives first upgraded Airbus A300 that swaps floppy disks for wireless gateways/
UPS receives first upgraded Airbus A300 that swaps floppy disks for wireless gateways
31 March 2021 UPS received the first of 52 Airbus A300-600s operated by the international air cargo carrier scheduled to receive advanced new communications, navigation, and surveillance systems with the Honeywell Primus Epic integrated avionics flight deck upgrade.

Airbus delivered the first upgraded A300 to UPS, MSN868, on Feb. 3 at its Mobile, Alabama facility following the certification by EASA on 22nd December 2020 and by the FAA on 5th January 2021. The avionics overhaul program was first publicly announced by Airbus, Honeywell, and UPS during a May 2017 press conference.

The retrofit programme commenced with Airbus being chosen to design the new integrated cockpit architecture for UPS’ A300s, and to manage the overall development project including flight-testing and certification. Airbus would also supply the service bulletins and kits to UPS, comprising both the new Honeywell avionics modules as well as Airbus’ own aircraft-specific wiring, cockpit panels and other structural elements. Also worth noting is that being the Type Certificate holder, Airbus provides the warranty and updated documentation with the upgrade.

The enhancements transform the A300 cockpit to confer the maximum operational flexibility and capabilities — bringing it close to current generation of aircraft. Replacing the previous analog technology will give UPS pilots four large high definition 10x8 inch LCD main displays and the new colour multi-function control & display unit (MCDU), which replace several analogue instruments. Other new ‘under the hood’ items include: a new flight management system (FMS); a digital weather radar system RDR 4000 with turbulence detection and windshear prediction; a new multi-mode receiver (MMR) incorporating the latest GPS-based satellite navigation systems and satellite-based augmentation system-capable GPS that can fly LPV and RNP AR approaches, routes and landings when flying to airports that are not equipped with traditional radio-based ILS equipment; support for a worldwide navigation database; a digital datalink for communications with air traffic control (ATC); and a central maintenance computer (CMC).

The upgrade also provided the opportunity to integrate several enhanced safety and situational awareness functions. These include the latest Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System (EGPWS) and fully integrated traffic collision avoidance (TCAS) functions. >>>
>>> «It’s been a three and a half year journey,» recalled Allen Fenske, senior business director at Honeywell Aerospace. «I feel that with the Honeywell, Airbus and UPS teams we were very tight knit and collaborative. And with this delivery I can just imagine how excited UPS’ pilots are going to be. They have been flying in the original cockpit, and now they have our modern Primus Epic system with larger colour LCD displays, providing more information better integrated with room to adapt to the continually changing environment, (mandates and future capabilities).»

«The prior A300 had Honeywell’s Flight Management Computer (FMC),» told Fenske. «It was the limitations of this 30-year-old system that precipitated the original discussions between UPS and Honeywell regarding the upgrade. The FMC navigation databases are loaded via floppy disks, which takes 45 minutes and due to limited storage space is limited to a regional set of routes.» Fenske, who is responsible for managing avionics supplied to all Airbus aircraft models by Honeywell, said that the key to replacing the use of floppy disks as a storage medium for UPS is their Aircraft Data Gateway (ADG300) technology. «Now these databases are installed wirelessly via the Honeywell Aircraft Data Gateway ADG300 system and completes in two minutes,» he said. «Furthermore, the navigation database now includes all the worldwide routes and does not require changing databases based upon the region of operation. This facilitates quick turnaround times.»

Commenting on-site at the re-delivery milestone, Fenske highlighted some of the benefits which their new integrated systems will bring to UPS’ operation: «Our modern FMS with FANS capability will help give UPS aircraft priority with ATC controllers. And with the integrated MMR — which includes GPS and SBAS capabilities — UPS can fly into either ILS or non-ILS airports, and it also helps them to land in inclement weather.»

From an architectural standpoint, the upgrade brings additional simplicity such that if a particular function needs to be upgraded or changed, then in most cases this only requires a circuit board to be quickly swapped-out from a central cabinet — rather than (as previously) having to remove all the other associated hardware. >>>
>>> Upgrading software on the A300s has also become easier with Primus Epic — the latest version of which now hosts cockpit functionality such as primary flight display applications or CMC functions — on multiple processor cards. Whereas each of these separate functions needed to be individually physically modified to upgrade the aircraft's software in the past, each function is now updated through the ADG300’s wireless interface.

A300 operating manuals are also now hosted on the new data gateway, where they can be wirelessly downloaded to the iPads used by UPS pilots. There are also plans to further upgrade the capabilities of the ADG300 that can be used by UPS, which still needs to clear regulatory approvals, according to Fenske.

«The ADG300, (along with the Honeywell GoDirect Router) enables the ability to «print-to-file» flight plans and other documents (in .pdf and .rpt formats). The information flows from the CMC, thru the ADG300 to the [electronic flight bag] EFB. This functionality is not certified yet with UPS, it is planned for mid-2022,» Fenske said.

Primus Epic’s new central maintenance computer gives the A300 a fault history database capable of storing up to 16 flight legs per day and a maximum storage capacity of 6 megabytes. That can accommodate for data generated by more than six months of typical flying with an A300 before its data needs to be offloaded to a ground storage system, according to Fenske.

During a Feb. 8 Airbus-UPS Zoom press call, Ed Walton, director of engineering for UPS, told reporters that they're currently in the process of finalizing agreements with two aircraft modification providers tasked with completing the upgrade for the remaining A300s that need it. UPS expects to have the entire A300 fleet upgraded by late next year. Walton believes the avionics refresh could extend their service life through the late 2030s and for their PW4000 engines to seamlessly take advantage of current and future airspace requirements and evolving ATM infrastructures.

Walton notes: «It’s a beautiful airframe for us and it’s still a very efficient freighter. And for the pilots it greatly improves their situational awareness; while for the aircraft maintenance crew we have now transformed this airplane into the modern realm with its central maintenance computer which allows them much quicker troubleshooting.» >>>
>>> «We have no concerns at all about the airframes being able to go to 2035 and beyond,» Walton said.

UPS first started taking delivery of the A300s from Airbus between 2000 and 2006. Since then, Walton said, the growth in the number of unique new departure and arrival sequences at airports in the U.S. had become a challenge for the 200-kilobyte storage capacity size of the original flight management computer's navigation database.

«That worked ok for the first decade,» Walton said. «Even though we only fly the airplane in North America, we were pretty much having to be very stingy with the navigation database that we put into the airplane and had to eliminate a lot of airports.»

Walton expects upgrades for the remaining A300s to begin in May 2021.

For more information, please visit the following links:

https://www.aviationtoday.com/2021/02/16/
ups-receives-first-upgraded-airbus-a300-that-swaps-floppy-disks-for-wireless-gateways/

and
https://www.airbus.com/newsroom/news/en/2021/02/First-UPS-A300-facelift-completed.html.

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