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28 August 2006
Commercial Aircraft

Satellite communications will keep A380 pilots in touch


A new, lighter-weight antenna will enable A380 pilots to keep in contact with air traffic controllers and their own operations departments via satellite. Satellite relay links are particularly important when the aircraft is over water or is crossing remote areas during long-range flights.

Pilots flying the A380 will be able to speak with air traffic controllers and exchange data with their own airline operations departments using the latest in satellite communications - which is particularly important during routes over water and when crossing remote areas.

A key element of the A380's satellite communications system is its external antenna, which is mounted atop the aircraft's forward fuselage. This antenna must be powerful enough to perform its relay duties via Earth-orbiting satellites, while also keeping a low profile in terms of aerodynamic drag and weight.

The satellite communications antenna on all A380s produced to date is supplied by Canada's CMC Electronics, and is 30 percent lighter than units currently in service on other widebody aircraft. This high-gain antenna is utilised for air traffic control communications, as well as for datalinks and the relay of information from on-board systems.

CMC Electronics has developed an even more compact satellite communications antenna for smaller aircraft, and this system recently was selected by Airbus for its single-aisle A320 Family. With an overall length of 99.3 centimetres, the new SatLite® antenna's weight is cut by 70 percent from earlier-generation systems.

SatLite will allow the A320 Family to benefit from the same high-quality satellite communications as available on larger aircraft, especially since these single-aisle jetliners are increasingly used on longer-range flights.

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