GE Aviation receives Flight Management System approval for KC-46 Tanker

February 14, 2018

GE Aviation recently received approval for its flight management system from the Boeing KC-46 tanker program. The approval is a result of Boeing securing an amended type certification from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the 767-2C aircraft configuration of the KC-46 aircraft.

GE Aviation's flight management system and communications management applications (CMA) are part of the KC-46 mission control system, which manages the aircraft mission.

This is the first aircraft that GE Aviation has received FAA approval for its flight management system integrated with its own CMA. The CMA takes the place of the traditional communication management unit (CMU) on the aircraft by providing the communications management function as a hosted application running on the flight management computer.

The CMA provides full aircraft communications addressing and reporting system (ACARS) and aeronautical telecommunications network (ATN) data link communications between the aircraft, and Air Traffic Control and the mission control center. By providing the FMS and CMA/ATN capability as software applications, GE has provided a more integrated user interface and eliminated the traditional CMU hardware on the aircraft.

In order to receive the certification, Boeing's team, which included Commercial Airplanes and Defense, Space & Security personnel, completed a series of analyses and lab, ground and flight tests that focused on the aircraft's fundamental capabilities including avionics, auto-flight and environmental control systems, as well as its new fuel system. The resulting data validated that all systems operated as intended.

The ATC is one of two FAA airworthiness certifications required for the KC-46 program. A combined Boeing/Air Force team has been concurrently completing Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) work, which encompasses the military systems that are installed on the 767-2C to make it a tanker.

The FMS provides primary multi-sensor navigation along with flight plan management and construction. Performing trajectory computations, the FMS assists in aircraft guidance, and provides aircraft performance advisory information. Tactical refueling operations can be conducted by the system as well. This includes setting up intercepts for rendezvous, timed holds, and multiple refueling patterns. Control and management of on-board military communications systems is also provided through the FMS.

In addition to the KC-46, GE's flight management system is installed on more than 12,000 aircraft including Boeing's 737-300 through 900ER models and BBJs, the U.S. Navy P-8A, E-6B, USAF E-4 and C-130J, international variants including UK MOD, RCAF, RAAF and IAF C-130J, Airbus A320/330/340, EADS A330 MRTT, Indian Navy P-8I, Japanese Navy C-2/P-1. GE certified their first flight management computer in November 1984.