Avionics manufacturer and integrator Thales and helicopter OEM Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. are discussing plans to incorporate a synthetic-vision system (SVS) into the Thales TopDeck avionics suite in Sikorsky’s new S-76D, but whether it will be available by the aircraft’s expected FAA certification date in 2008 is still up in the air.
S-76D project chief pilot Greg Barnes told HAI Convention News that the two companies are currently in negotiations on SVS, and that while he’d hoped to have SVS in the first round of S-76D deliveries, that target may not be realistic.
“They put forth a proposal for us that’s tied to their TAWS database,” he said of Thales. “Certainly SVS is high on our priority list.
Honeywell is also exploring helicopter SVS technology, and as reported in HAI Convention News Thursday (page 13), it is still several years from launch. Honeywell has a demonstrator of its proposed SVS on display at its booth (No. 2801). Barnes said Sikorsky is considering Honeywell to provide SVS for various military applications, but not for the civil S-76D.
Sikorsky named Thales as its avionics provider for the S-76D in 2005.
The TopDeck avionics suite on display at the Thales booth (No. 1815) includes a large eight- by 10-inch center screen flanked by a pair of six- by eight-inch primary and multifunction displays, but the S-76D cockpit on display at the Sikorsky booth (No. 2339) shows only the PFD and MFD pairs. Pilots will use a trackball to navigate around the screens and make data selections, similar to the glass-cockpit setups in several new business jets and airliners.
Thales’ TopDeck helicopter suite is based on the avionics in the Airbus A380.
Phil Naybour, vice president of helicopter solutions for Thales Aerospace, said Thales has invested “serious money” in developing the TopDeck suite for the S-76D. “The economics of hooking this up to a helicopter are significant,” he said. “To justify putting this on a helicopter, we would expect a lifespan of ten years of production.”
Naybour, whose background is in information technology, emphasized that the main selling point of the TopDeck suite is its open architecture. Adding SVS to it would amount to a software upgrade, he said, not a hardware replacement.
“We are going to have SVS on this platform, but maybe not for initial certification,” Barnes said.