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Avionics News Interviews Flight Data Systems’ Scott Hall

A Conversation With Scott Hall, Business Development Executive for Flight Data Systems

In January, Scott Hall joined Flight Data Systems to lead the company’s business development in the United States. With more than 20 years in aviation, Hall has held sales and business development roles with several Aircraft Electronics Association member companies, including avionics and in-flight entertainment manufacturers, a Part 145 repair station, and aerospace and avionics engineering firms.

“Each role was a challenge at first, but I’ve always been interested in the different areas of our industry,” he said. “I’m able to apply the knowledge I accrued in all of those previous positions to CVR and FDR programs.”

Based in Melbourne, Australia, Flight Data Systems offers data acquisition, data recording, data storage and data analysis solutions. Recently, the company launched the SENTRY Flight Data Recorder and Cockpit Voice Recorder. It’s the “lightest, smallest, and lowest power consumption TSO’d ED-112A recorder ever manufactured,” according to
Flight Data Systems’ press release.

In his new role, Hall spends much of his time explaining the systems’ features to potential clients. While the SENTRY is applicable across all aircraft segments, including military and commercial markets, it was originally designed for unmanned aerial vehicles, which explains its smaller form factor. The system relies on field-programmable gate arrays, small integrated circuits that are configured after manufacturing, which allows for better performance with lower power, according to Hall.

“FPGAs don’t go obsolete nearly as often as microprocessors, which helps us keep costs down,” he said. “FPGAs also allows you to partition a design, which can make recertification much quicker when a design change is made if that design change is limited to one partition.”

Along with his sales and business development experience, Hall brings self-taught technical expertise as well as AEA training to his new role at Flight Data Systems.

“While I’m not classically trained in electrical engineering or avionics installations, I’ve been reviewing wiring diagrams for so long I can follow along in most discussions,” he said.

Hall’s interest in aviation traces back to his grandfather, who served as an aircraft electrician in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War working on the AD-4 Skyraider, a single-engine piston attack aircraft, and the Grumman F9F-2 Panther, a carrier-based jet fighter. After the war, his grandfather worked as a sales representative for several Southern
California aerospace manufacturers in the 1950s and 1960s.

Hall grew up hearing his grandfather’s stories about those early days in aviation. Although he spent his youth as well as his career immersed in aviation, Hall actually headed down an entirely different path in the beginning.

Having studied political science and justice in college, how did you get your start in aviation?

After college, I was studying for the Foreign Service Officers exam and going through that application process, which can take a very long time. I was working part-time for a parts broker at LAX when I saw a job listing in the Los Angeles Times for an entry-level sales representative. I interviewed with Tim Gump of EDMO Distributors. Tim, Jeff and Fred took a chance on me, and I will always be grateful to them.

What are some of your customers’ biggest challenges?

I believe the No. 1 challenge for both the operator and the repair station is getting a firm grasp on not only the CVR/FDR requirements in their country but that of the countries they regularly visit. The AEA has done a lot of work in helping to educate its members and the public in this area, but we all have a bit more work to do. FDS will be generating more guidance material for the flying public in the near future.

Are you seeing any interesting trends in general, business or commercial aviation or special mission aircraft? If so, what?

Certainly, the migration of domestic air traffic control from radio voice-based to a digital text-based system is very interesting to me and our association. The FAA’s data comm technology rollout will give air traffic controllers and pilots the ability to transmit flight plans and departure clearances while CPDLC allows air traffic controllers to send data link
clearances and instructions to pilots in domestic airspace.

I believe data comm will benefit the operator as much as the controller. Like we saw with the implementations
of FANS-1A and ADS-B Out, this new data comm technology will require some hardware upgrades aboard the aircraft as well as education of industry members. Data comm offers another excellent opportunity for AEA members to support this new technology implementation as well as generate sales and revenue.

What’s happening with flight data and cockpit recorders?

Recorders are trending smaller and lighter and with more and more storage space in general. The cockpit voice recorder is making leaps in capabilities and technologies.

EASA is leading the way with a recent requirement that all CVRs installed on airplanes and helicopters must be solid state — magnetic tape versions being replaced.

Also, EASA currently mandates that all aircraft with a maximum takeoff weight of 59,500 pounds first issued with an individual certificate of airworthiness on or after Jan.1, 2021, has to be equipped with a 25-hour cockpit voice recorder.
That’s a significant jump in technology and potential data for investigators to access.

When you then add EASA and FAA requirements to capture datalink messaging to and from the aircraft, you can truly see how far CVR technology has advanced.

What’s next for flight data and cockpit recorders?

The next frontier in flight data and cockpit recorders will be enabling streaming of data off the recorders in real time through satellite communications. We are currently working with our sister company, SKYTRAC, to develop this capability through Iridium Certus broadband connectivity.

What do you consider the most exciting opportunities on the horizon for aviation?

It’s becoming apparent to me that all-electric air mobility is just around the corner. We could soon see our skies filled with low-flying piloted or even autonomous aircraft. While there are many benefits to this new transportation
mode, there are a number of other considerations including safety first and foremost.

I’m also interested to see how today’s aircraft electronics manufacturers will pivot to meet the needs of this new class of aircraft including super lightweight, but also crash-worthy solutions.

What do you enjoy most about being in aviation?

It has to be the people. I’ve made the joke that the annual AEA Convention is the same old faces, only the polo shirts change. It’s certainly true in my case. I’ve been attending industry events for the past 20 years, and I always look forward to running into old friends and customers but also meeting the newest generation of AEA members.

What has been the highlight of your aviation career thus far?

I once had the distinct pleasure of speaking with Gene Cernan, the last astronaut to walk on the moon, during a long flight to Brazil. Being an electrical and aeronautical engineer, naval aviator and astronaut, he was keen to ask about my role and the current state of our industry at the time. He asked me more questions than I got to inquire of him. I had to tell everyone I knew at the LABACE trade show that week.

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