Air Transport World

Eliminating the SneakerNet: gatelink technology offers airlines a way to move data into cockpits via wireless infrastructure in the airport environment.(Information Technology)

With its 10 new 777-200ERs sporting Boeing Class III Electronic Flight Bags, KLM is at the forefront of the paperless cockpit revolution. Not only does the $150,000 EFB system compute aircraft performance and give pilots a bird's-eye moving-map view of the layout of a handful of the world's most complex airports, it also can hold electronic versions of maintenance and operations manuals, pilot charts and sundry other heretofore printed documents, freeing pilots and airline management from having to carry and update reams of paper products (ATW, 5/04, p.50).

All that upside is not without a downside, however. The EFB's Achilles' heel at the moment is that it takes heels--belonging to a mechanic--to keep the data-hungry devices up-to-date with fresh data. Though the frequency of updates varies from two weeks for certain charts to several times a year for maintenance tomes and minimum equipment lists, the method airlines use at the moment to update the devices is the same: Put the new information on a CDROM, memory stick or in paper format and hand-deliver it to the aircraft.

It's an information supply chain often referred to as the SneakerNet and one that Boeing and others are attempting to make extinct via the rollout of high-bandwidth, secure airport wireless LANs and specialized communications equipment onboard the aircraft, a system generically referred to as "gatelink." The airport portion of the effort is similar to, but more specialized than, the wireless networks that are being installed inside most facilities for passenger and vendor operations.

Though other connection methods are available for moving bits back and forth to the cockpit--ACARS, satellite-based communications, proximity systems that require the aircraft to be parked at a gate--wireless connections conforming to IEEE 802.1 la or 802. …

Log in to your account to read this article – and millions more.