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Say goodbye to slow. Say goodbye to obsolete. Say hello to Thunderbolt 3.

Where are they now?

If you’ve tried to buy a new laptop with ExpressCard or PCMCIA connectivity recently, you’ve almost certainly been disappointed. ExpressCard and PCMCIA have gone the way of the once-ubiquitous parallel interface. That’s a problem in an avionics world that has historically relied on those interfaces. Yes, there’s USB – but for many applications, bandwidth is too low and latency is too variable – and at 30 microseconds or more, too high. And: USB doesn’t support hardware interrupts, DMA or PIO access.

The world of portable avionics devices needed something better. Much better.




More Speed.

  • 40Gbps Thunderbolt
    • Four lanes of PCI Express Gen 3
    • Two streams (eight lanes) of DisplayPort 1.2
  • Integrated USB 10Gbps host controller
  • Four times the data and twice the video 40 Gbps bandwidth of any other cable.



Recent government-mandated security requirements have presented a challenge to avionics interface customers in that migrating to newer operating systems and hardware creates significant technical obstacles. Availability of the Thunderbolt 3 interface significantly eases that migration for users of portable avionics devices.


Connectivity nirvana.

When Intel launched the Thunderbolt 3 interface, the company described it as “computer port nirvana”. Why? First, because it delivers bandwidth of 40GBps – four times the data rate of USB 3.1. How fast is that? Fast enough to download a 4K movie in 30 seconds. It uses the USB-C port – meaning it will work with almost any device. It delivers latency of less than a microsecond. Thunderbolt 3 will also provide up to 100 watts of charging power. Oh, and: it supports daisy-chaining. And hardware interrupts. And DMA. And PIO access. What’s not to like?

Thunderbolt 3 does almost anything you’d want an interface to do.

Thunderbolt 3 External
Up to 40 Gbps

< 1usec



USB 2.0 (HighSpeed) External  
480 Mbps Half-duplex

Highly variable, but min. polling interval is 125 usec
Not Supported Not Supported Not Supported
USB 3.0 (SuperSpeed) External  
5 Gbps Full-duplex

Highly variable, avg. latencies approx. 30 usec
Not Supported Not Supported Not Supported
USB 3.1 (w/ USB-C connector) External  
10 Gbps Full-duplex

Highly variable, avg. latencies approx. 30 usec
Not Supported Not Supported Not Supported
Ethernet External  
Variable, depending on bus rate, packet size, & network
Extremely variable

Not Supported Not Supported Not Supported
PCI Bus-based  
Up to 66M words/sec

< 1usec



PCI-Express - Gen 3 Bus-based
8.0 Gbit/sec per lane

< 1usec




The speed and features of bus-based. The convenience of cable. Thunderbolt 3 is now available for Abaco portable avionics devices.


Four – and counting.

Abaco was first portable avionics device supplier to see the opportunity that Thunderbolt 3 presented for our customers. The launch of the RCEI-830A-TB with support for ARINC 429, ARINC 615-3 dataloader, ARINC 717, ARINC 575 and selected 2-wire, 32-bit protocols and the QPM-1553-TB was quickly followed by the launch of the RCNIC-A2PA-TB for AFDX/ARINC 664 Part 7 protocol traffic applications and the RAR15XF-TB - the highest density portable MIL-STD-1553 and ARINC 429 device available.

And: there’s more to come.

Thunderbolt 3 for:

  • Data loading
  • Flightline
  • Test and simulation, SIL
  • Embedded

Thunderbolt 3 for:

  • MIL-STD-1553
  • ARINC 429
  • ARINC 664/AFDX
  • Multi-protocol

Thunderbolt 3 for:

  • Ultimate performance
  • High density
  • Portability
  • Seamless support for existing BusTools and Abaco APIs

Thunderbolt 3 for:

  • Today
  • Tomorrow
  • Next year
  • Next decade

We just dropped in your data loader, and it worked the same as our existing solution.

- a major aircraft manufacturing company.

Thunderbolt 3: a path forward for avionics data bus interfaces and Abaco’s ARINC 615-3 data loader

Engineers using avionics data bus interfaces and data loaders are facing a growing problem: the demise of the PCMCIA and ExpressCard interfaces, and the inadequacy of USB as an alternative. There is, however, a way forward.


Can’t find what you’re looking for? Need help?

Head on over to our support pages, where you’ll find key contacts, how to obtain documentation, information on warranty and repairs, contract samples, details of our Product Lifecycle Management and Configuration Management programs – and much more.