Bombardier authorized service centers are ready to start free modifications of in-service Challenger 300s and 350s with a health monitoring unit designed to enable a more streamlined process for acquiring and sharing flight data between aircraft systems and maintenance technicians.
The free upgrade program is known as Smart Link Plus, first introduced by Bombardier and GE Aviation during the 2019 National Business Aviation Association annual conference and exhibition. Now, Bombardier service centers are ready to start modifying Challenger jets with the Smart Link Plus upgrade that is enabled by the addition of Avionica’s onboard network system, aviONS, to the Challenger’s electric equipment bay.
“Today, data is being generated on the aircraft, but it is dormant,” Elza Brunelle Yeung told Avionics International in an emailed statement. “The Smart Link Plus Box allows us to capture this data and securely sends it to our Bombardier platform, from where it can be visualized by our customers via the app. Some of that data is generated from the aircraft (CAS, OMS) or is captured by the [flight data recorder] FDR (which requires an FDR or a QAR download). A [quick access recorder] QAR today would only allow the extraction of a subset of data, the Smart Link Plus Box provides richer data.”
While in-flight, the Smart Link Plus service automatically sends takeoff, landing and in-flight fault notifications together with contextual data to a cloud-based system, according to Bombardier. Once the aircraft has landed, the Smart Link Plus service makes all of the data generated by the aircraft on that flight to maintenance crews through a web-based application provided by Bombardier.
Brunelle Yeung, who was also a recent guest on the Connected Aircraft Podcast, said that Challenger 300s and 350s featuring satellite connectivity systems can access the in-flight service enabled by Smart Link Plus. However, connectivity is not a prerequisite to enabling its use.
“To enable all functionalities of the system on the aircraft, aircraft connectivity through a satcom or an air-to-ground system for in-flight service is ideal,” Brunelle Yeung said. “However, full aircraft data is accessible once the aircraft lands via cellular or a standard Wi-Fi internet connection. The cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity capabilities are included in the Smart Link Plus program. The data will be made available in the application on any web connected device.”
There is also a new data visualization tool being developed by Bombardier that will allow Challenger operators to troubleshoot aircraft while in-flight, by giving maintenance crews on the ground a real-time view of parametric data.
“Bombardier will be rolling out this key visualization tool very soon and it will enable operators subscribing to the program to have access to real-time data to make-data-driven decisions and maximize the aircraft’s operational efficiency. This will also help operators to make faster data-driven decisions to better manage their aircraft operations – in real time or upon landing,” Brunelle Yeung said.
The upgrades are to begin as Bombardier closes its first quarter as an all business aviation company, after completing the sale of the remaining stake it held in the A220 program to Airbus Canada last year. Smart Link Plus has also been made available as a line-fit option on the Global 7500. According to a Jan. 28 press release published by Bombardier giving an update on the Smart Link Plus program, nearly all Global 7500 operators have enrolled in Smart Link Plus services.
Preliminary results published by Bombardier on May 4 project their business jet revenues to be $1.3 billion, an increase of 18 percent compared to the same period a year ago.
During Bombardier’s Investor Day 2021 event hosted virtually by the Montreal-based business jet manufacturer on March 4, Jean-Christophe Gallagher, executive vice president of services and support, explained how Smart Link Plus is also part of their effort to engage Bombardier owners and operators more periodically throughout the lifecycle of their aircraft.
“A significant part of what the aftermarket team is focused on is improving our digital infrastructure to provide new and innovative services for customers. A key strategy for us to connect our fleet with technology that enables these aircraft to be in sync with Bombardier’s customer service response teams in real time,” Gallagher said. “Such advanced technology and the use of big data will allow us to enhance our customer service response times and effectively and efficiently troubleshoot customer aircraft. We recently began a campaign that will see us start to retrofit our install base with Smart Link Plus.”