Thales aims HUD, satcom at bizjet retrofit markets

 - September 20, 2007, 8:35 AM

Thales Aerospace this week is expected to unveil retrofit options covering four of its products in the business aviation market. The French group already has a U.S. presence and is creating a dealer and installation center network to deal directly with operators.

One of the items offered for retrofit is Thales’ LCD-based head-up display (HUD), which offers increased refresh rates for updating the information shown on the screen as well as a clearer display. The company has already provided this technology for the Airbus A380 super-large airliner and is exhibiting the unit here at its NBAA display (Booth No. 4760). It is also talking to airframers about possible applications for the HUD, having already provided a non-LCD display for Bombardier’s Global Express.

Satcom for Business Jets
Another pending breakthrough into the business aviation market for Thales is its TopFlight satellite communications terminal, which delivers Inmarsat SwiftBroadband high-speed Internet access to passengers’ laptop computers, cellphones or other IP-enabled devices.

Here in Atlanta, the manufacturer is expected to announce a deal with an as-yet-undisclosed airframer to fit the system on a new “very large cabin” business jet. The equipment can also support voice calls on passenger cellphones, the company said, using IP technology. In the corporate sector, Thales intends to provide the latter via voice-over-Internet protocol instead of
Wi-Fi to avoid the need to get the required telecommunications regulatory approvals in numerous different countries.

The new satcom unit meets the Arinc 781 standard and can fulfill other air/ground communications needs, including air traffic control exchanges and weather downloads. The box weighs less than 25 pounds and includes a 30-watt high-power amplifier.

Thales will also be offering its latest integrated standby instruments for retrofit. The LCD units combine various electromechanical displays in one screen, saving space and promising greater reliability. Embraer recently selected the equipment for the cockpits of its Phenom 100 very light jet and 300 light jet, and Pilatus chose the units as an upgrade for the PC-12.

The final new retrofit offering from Thales this week is an emergency locator transmitter (ELT) that meets the new ICAO requirement for aircraft certified to carry 19 or more passengers. According to Ed Senen, Thales’ vice president and general manager for aerospace services worldwide, growing numbers of operators are seeing the safety case for ELTs, even if their aircraft are smaller than those covered by the ICAO mandate.

“Our focus until now [in the business aviation market] has been on the OEMs,” Senen said. “Now we are trying to deal more directly with the operators.” The avionics and flight controls group has had a relatively low profile in this segment of aviation in comparison to rivals such as Honeywell and Rockwell Collins. Its presence here at the NBAA convention suggests a new determination to change that, although Thales has tried with little success to wrest market share from the entrenched competition in the past.