Aerospatiale is negotiating with China on opening a new Future Air Navigation System (FANS) air-traffic route which would enable Virgin Atlantic to cut up to 45min from its Airbus A340 Hong-Kong-London service.

China Airlines, which is due to receive its first A340 in March, is also likely to benefit from the agreement, which is being negotiated by the systems-engineering group of the French company as part of its Airbus FANS-A development programme.

Jean Grossin, assistant head of Aerospatiale's avionics-design office, says that he hopes that the deal will be agreed by June, when the first of Virgin's A340s will have received the avionics upgrade, enabling it to take advantage of the more direct FANS routing. "We've talked to their civil and military air-traffic services, and there seems to be a basis for agreement," he says, although he adds that there remain "serious disagreements" between the two about which has the authority to grant new routes.

Virgin's A340s will be upgraded to a limited FANS standard by modifying the central maintenance computers to enable automatic-dependant-surveillance functions to be carried out via the SITA communications network, allowing the aircraft to be routed using satellite navigation instead of a limited ground-based system.

The upgrade is part of Aerospatiale's FANS-A approach to the forthcoming communications, navigation and surveillance (CNS) system, providing an architecture which can be slotted into the existing avionics, while being compatible with future CNS requirements.

It is based around an air-traffic-services unit, which is a direct replacement for the ACARS reporting system which airlines use to communicate with their operational centres. A multi-mode receiver and datalink-control unit complete the package, which, says Grossin, will cost $350,000 for aircraft with satellite-navigation and communications systems.

"This provides considerably more flexibility than the Boeing FANS package, which costs around $100,000 less," he says.

Source: Flight International