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The growth of retrofit and systems upgrade services within the Aerospace Industry

Nov 05. 2015 

Aging aircraft combined with evolving air transport operations and parts obsolescence make the retrofit and systems upgrade activity one of the most demanded service within the aerospace industry.

There are 10,000 or so 10-20 year-old aircraft currently in service. With the predicted shortcomings in Air Traffic Management (ATM), FAA has launched the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) and Eurocontrol the Single European Sky ATM Research (Sesar) programs. The primary objective of these projects is to enhance ATM so that it can deal with the skyrocketing volume of air traffic. As a direct consequence, aircraft configured with NextGen or Sesar capable avionics will benefit from many advantages such as operational savings and landing priorities.

This context is driving operators to extend the operational service of their ageing in-service fleet. On top of this, cost of maintaining obsolete technology such as color CRTs or electro-mechanical analog instruments further motivates avionics upgrades.

Thales expertise and experience, an added value

The retrofit campaigns are predominantly motivated by safety enhancements, due to either the airframers deciding to make the enhancements or an airworthiness directive addressing changes in operations, such as required in the NextGen and Sesar programs. As an avionics supplier, we design avionics according to the airframers’ specifications which then certifies through flight test. Our monitored retrofit campaigns can come in various forms, such as distribution or software media, On Board Replaceable Module (OBRM), LRU exchange or upgrade at the Thales workshops. In terms of volume, it yearly represents more than 30,000 parts or avionics computers flow.

“We currently manage about twenty different worldwide retrofit campaigns over 400 operators with committed completion date”, precises Mihran Asik, Head of Retrofit & Systems Upgrade Sales. “To be in a position to respond quickly and efficiently, Thales has a fully dedicated team deployed worldwide in countries like France, the USA, Singapore and China, the main objective being to complete the services on-time for each operator”.

Apart from the retrofit campaigns, Thales also manages single equipment retrofits for fleet harmonisation purposes and proposes a range of systems upgrades.

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