Aeronautical Radio Incorporated, ARINC, was founded in 1929. The company was owned jointly by four of the major airlines and its purpose was to provide in-flight communications between aircrews and various company facilities.
It made sense to have a separate company to handle routine communications so that each company did not have to establish their own network of ground communications stations. By using the ARINC network, a flight crew at cruise between San Francisco and Portland, for example, could get a phone patch to speak with their dispatcher in Chicago.
ARINC is a private company. However it is a company that works closely with the FAA and the FCC to establish standards for aviation communication and navigation. Thus, the dividing line between private company and government is sort of fuzzy at times.
ARINC services extend beyond communications services. ARINC was chartered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and at the behest of the FCC and the FAA, ARINC establishes standards for aviation communication and navigation. In the 1940s, ARINC worked with the U.S. military to initiate military VHF radio communications.
One of the many engineering standards that ARINC has established is the ARINC 424 leg types used in aircraft Flight Management Systems and GPS navigators.
In the 1970s, ARINC and American Airlines pioneered Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting Systems (ACARS). This system provides direct data communications between aircraft and various ground resources. ACARS has become an airline standard and is used to track and record aircraft and aircrew flight and block time as well as cockpit crew to dispatcher digital communications, weather, weight and balance, real-time performance data and a variety of other critical and incidental flight data.
In July 2007 the airline group that owned ARINC sold their interest in the company to a private equity firm, the Carlyle Group. On Dec. 23, 2013 the Carlyle Group sold ARINC to Rockwell Collins, Inc. In addition to its extensive activities in aviation, ARINC has services used by airports, in defense, healthcare, security and other transportation industries like railroads.