By Dave Higdon
July 30, 2013 - Rockwell Collins and Jeppesen this week announced a step forward in the 28-day cycle of updating the charts and plates on which we depend for our flying: an agreement to automatically and securely transfer electronic charts via Wi-Fi and cellular networks via the avionics makers' Ascend Aircraft Information Manager (AIM).
It's a welcome step to many a pilot.
Pilots flying prior to 2010 remember the world of paper charts, plates, and manuals and all its weaknesses - bulk, weight, and the pressure on tree populations.
But most demanding - and time-consuming - was the need to file the new and discard the old every 28 days - the FAA's 13-times-per-year update cycle.
While the shift to digital eased the first three issues it left in place, it didn't necessarily eliminate the need to update software databases and electronic devices - hardly as arduous as the paper-based but still a time-consuming process. Often installed avionics required comparatively archaic loading and transferring via various flash-memory cards through slots in the devices.
It had its own complications.
Rockwell Collins' AIM ensures pilots flying behind Pro Line Fusion and Pro Line 21 equipped aircraft always benefit from the latest data. These aircraft can wirelessly receive Jeppeson electronic charts, flight management system navigation, performance and V-speed databases, and checklist files.
"Operators can be assured that their JeppView content will automatically be available when they need them," said Greg Irmen, vice president and general manager, flight information solutions, cabin and electromechanical systems for Rockwell Collins.
Through an Ascend AIM subscription service, flight departments can monitor the progress and confirm successful uploads by logging on to the AIM web portal.
AIM also automatically sends e-mail or text notifications whenever the aircraft's databases require attention or when updates are loaded into the avionics, making record-keeping easier.
"Expanding our relationship with Rockwell Collins using AIM technology provides a direct data connection to the aircraft and enhances the customer experience," noted Scott Reagan, Jeppesen's director, OEM client management.
"We will continue to further streamline and improve the management of information to and from the aircraft, leveraging the core strengths of both Jeppesen and Rockwell Collins to enhance data integration using AIM technology."