Farnborough Air Show

CMC helps breathe life into ‘legacy’ airframes

 - November 14, 2006, 12:24 PM

CMC Electronics (Hall 4 Stand C16a) is showing off its latest avionics technology here at the Farnborough show, but it is also looking for customers wishing to breathe new life into their older “legacy” airframes.

The Canadian firm is featuring its range of SureSight infrared enhanced vision systems, with its first installation now flying aboard a corporate Bombardier Global Express business jet. In May it signed a deal for Universal Avionics to jointly market SureSight as the first step in what it expects to be a wider collaboration.

CMC is also exhibiting its Class 2 PilotView electronic flight bag, which can display a wealth of flight data and, according to the company, offers several of the features of more advanced Class 3 units. Dassault recently announced its choice of both the SureSight EVS and the PilotView EFB as standard options for its current line of Falcon corporate jets, including those with the sophisticated EASy all-glass flight decks.

In flight management systems, the company is showing the latest, RNP-ready, variant of its CMA-900 FMS, whose built-in 12 channel “all in view” GPS receiver has been enhanced by the wide area augmentation system (WAAS) capability. CMC has also developed an integrated future cockpit concept called Heli-4000. It is aimed at the advanced helicopter and single-engine civil and military fixed-wing market.

Building on its claimed 75-percent penetration of the civil airline satellite communications antenna market–which includes the Airbus A380–CMC is displaying its latest antenna offering, the SatLite. Smaller and lighter than those made for large transports, the SatLite antenna is designed expressly for business jets and regional and narrowbody airliners.

Conventional thinking would expect that all these new products would be destined for new aircraft coming off the production lines, as indeed most of them will be. But CMC has, since the late 1990s, developed a growing presence in upgrading the avionics systems in so-called legacy airliners to meet current and future air traffic control and airspace access requirements. Many of these aircraft have tens of thousands of cycles remaining on their engines and airframes, but their earlier instrumentation and avionics restrict their operations in today’s high-density airspace environments.

All-Glass Instrumentation

CMC’s first major upgrade project involved bringing the flight decks and avi-onics capabilities of KLM’s 13 Boeing 747-200/300s to have the equivalent functionality of the Dutch carrier’s newer 747-400s. Functionality was the key word. Attempting to convert the dial and pointer instrument panels of the -200/300 to exactly duplicate the glass cockpit of the more modern -400 would have been prohibitively expensive, so the challenge facing CMC engineers was to provide similar capabilities, including all-glass instrumentation and upgraded flight management and associated systems, all with equivalent reliability but at much lower cost.

CMC engineers achieved the upgrades by what they called their “best in class” approach, which meant selecting the optimum equipment for each specific task, rather than arbitrarily specifying a range of units from a single manufacturer. KLM regarded the program as completely successful, with minimum aircraft down time. One U.S. certification official described the program as “the most complex civil upgrade and integration project undertaken to date.”

But selecting appropriate units for a comprehensive flight deck upgrade project is only the beginning. Integration of these units is essential to ensure that they all work together under all operational configurations. CMC achieved this by creating a purpose-built laboratory at its Montreal facility, where an aircraft’s total avionics configuration is exercised through each flight phase to ensure that every unforeseen problem can be identified and corrected well before the actual aircraft installations are allowed to begin.

Since then, CMC has performed similar upgrade projects on more than 100 “classic” Boeing 747s, plus a number of McDonnell Douglas DC-10s, operated by several international air carriers. The company has performed less comprehensive upgrades on numerous MD-80s, Boeing 727 and 737s and other earlier generation narrowbody aircraft. In parallel, it has performed a large number of upgrades on a wide range of corporate and military aircraft, with particular emphasis on applications in trainers and transports such as the Lockheed C-130 Hercules.

CMC incorporated several of the latest technologies in the upgrade it performed to the Lockheed L-100 (civil C-130) operated by the government of Dubai’s air wing. Besides new electronic instrument displays, advanced flight management/satellite navigation systems, inertial navigation sensors and an upgraded weather radar, the installation includes a mode-S transponder, TCAS collision avoidance system, terrain warning system, flight data and cockpit voice recorders, RVSM-compliant digital air data system and dual electronic flight bag displays, none of which are normally found in this class of aircraft. Today, this former legacy aircraft can fly anywhere in the world, without air traffic control restrictions.