Air Transport World

Communications and a whole a lot more.

ARINC's networks and technical expertise are relied upon by civil and military aviation, airports and even ground transportation

ANNAPOLIS. Md.-What does ARINC do? If you can't quite answer that question, you are not alone. The 69-year-old company has extended its tentacles into so many areas of aviation communications and engineering that even its chairman, Jim Pierce, admits that he has not delved into every nook and cranny of his far-flung, 2,500-employee enterprise, revenues of which will approach $340 million this year.

"We aren't easy to put in a box because we do so many different things," said Pierce in an interview at ARINC's sprawling headquarters complex here. "Providing communications services for the aviation industry and engineering services primarily for the [U.S.] Dept. of Defense captures the great bulk of what we do. When you get down to the next level, things start getting fairly complex."

That next level encompasses activities such as operating a vast air/ground voice and data communications infrastructure that is expanding rapidly from North America into Europe and Asia; managing a message-switching network that links more than 700 airline and travel industry information systems worldwide using a "one network, any protocol" strategy; guiding the development of standards-the familiar ARINC characteristics-for avionics and testing the systems after they are built; chairing an array of technical committees and representing the aviation community in domestic and international forums, especially those developing the future air-navigation system known as CNS/ATM. In that capacity, it played an important role in defeating the recent proposal to share the GPS frequency allocation with mobile communications.

That still only scratches the surface and does not touch on ARINC's military and airport businesses (see boxes).

ARINC was established formally as Aeronautical Radio Inc. in 1929 by Western Air Express, American Airways, Varney Air Lines and National Air Transport to serve as the U.S. licensee and manager of the nongovernmental aeronautical frequency spectrum, a function it continues to perform. Its shareholders, of which it has 40 around the world, must be airlines or aviation-related companies and none can own more than 20% of its stock. Aeronautical Radio now is a wholly owned subsidiary.

The company must make its services available to all airlines and aircraft, regardless of whether they are shareholders, "but we bear the responsibility for the proper use of licenses," says Pierce. Additionally, because of its monopoly position, "we are limited in the amount of profit we can make" from licensing activities, meaning careful management is needed to generate sufficient funds to upgrade infrastructure and fuel growth. …

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