Lufthansa Technik has teamed with Pennsylvania-based Innovative Solutions and Support (IS&S) as a supplier of glass cockpit retrofits for legacy Boeing 737, 757 and 767 flight decks, marking the MRO company’s first foray into avionics upgrades and a much-needed boost for IS&S after its recent struggles with Delta Airlines.
The partnership agreement, which IS&S has been pursuing for more than 18 months, will allow Lufthansa Technik entry into a market, and to install at its global maintenance centers a range of IS&S-built full- or partial-panel upgrades and standby units into the aircraft based on supplemental type certificates held by IS&S.
“This agreement strengthens the Lufthansa Technik portfolio by adding an avionics retrofit capability,” said Thomas Rueckert, Lufthansa Technik vice president of base maintenance services, announcing the partnership at Aviation Week’s MRO Americas 2017 conference in Orlando on April 25.
The desire for cockpit upgrades is particularly strong given the continued outlook for low jet-fuel prices and the necessity of transitioning to performance-based navigation (PBN), including satellite-based approach and departure procedures, for economic and regulatory reasons.
IS&S flat panel display systems offer pilot-controller data link and required navigation performance capabilities (including satellite-based approaches) as well as certain automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast “in” applications at prices that are lower than upgrading the legacy flight management system (FMS) equipment to be able to handle PBN, says IS&S President Shahram Askarpour. A side benefit of the LCD display system upgrade is that operators can fly for 10 days in non-ETOPS service with one of the four main 10.4-in. displays inoperative, and three days for ETOPS operations.
IS&S has installed its flat panel displays systems in more than 320 Boeing 757 and 767 aircraft, including for American Airlines, Icelandair and FedEx.
What would have been the company’s largest contract to date—cockpit upgrades for nearly 200 Delta Airlines MD-88s and MD-90s—did not come to fruition and turned out to be a significant obstacle for the company over several years. IS&S had been developing the flight deck internally since 2011 and received a contract from Delta in March 2013. The carrier canceled it in October 2014, before any upgrades had been installed. An ensuing lawsuit was settled in February 2017, with Delta paying IS&S $7.75 million and both sides dropping their claims and counterclaims.
In its court filings, IS&S had said Delta canceled the contract because the airline had changed its mind about keeping the MD-88s and MD-90s; Delta claimed that IS&S was not able to deliver a working FMS with the upgrade. Delta last year announced that it would replace its 116 MD-88s with a mix of new Airbus A321s and Bombardier CS100 airliners by 2020.
The three years of development work on the Delta system did not go to waste, however, as IS&S’s engineers developed several innovative approaches to augment legacy aircraft systems, offerings that will be included in the Lufthansa Technik portfolio.
One example is a method of keeping an aircraft’s legacy FMS—with its limited databases but optimized fuel savings algorithms—for managing the climb, cruise and descent portions of a flight and seamlessly splicing in a computation engine in the new IS&S displays to conduct the satellite-based approach and departure procedures.
Under the Lufthansa Technik contract, IS&S will provide hardware kits to Lufthansa engineers for the installations, which Askarpour says will take approximately three days each to complete. The companies have not yet announced a first customer.