Cockpit Avionics: Retrofits and upgrades top operators’ lists as Free Flight draws closer
The typical business airplane at different points in its lifetime will receive overhauled engines, a refurbished interior and more than a few coats of fresh paint, along with a host of required periodic maintenance checks and upgrades, all of which constitute the obligatory costs of operating a business jet or turboprop. Yet many older corporate airplanes have been flying for years with decades-old technology in the cockpit, undergoing only minor upgrades to inertial navigation sensors, flight management systems, GPS receivers and secondary equipment. As the shift to a so-called Free Flight operating environment continues its slow but steady crawl, a host of advanced digital avionics will be needed to meet new requirements. Experts counsel that operators should be planning for such changes now, while there is still ample time to gauge exactly what will be needed in the way of cockpit retrofits and upgrades.
For many operators, fundamental changes to the U.S. National Airspace System (NAS) and the airspace within Eurocontrol, scheduled to start taking root in the next five years or so, will mean having to make wholesale changes within the cockpit. Pilots may scarcely recognize the instrument panel of their airplane as they nestle into the cockpit for the first time after it emerges from two to three months of comprehensive upgrades inside an avionics maintenance center.
With this in mind it should come as no surprise that avionics makers and installation shops anticipate a growing share of their revenue in the next decade and beyond will come from sales of sophisticated digital cockpit equipment for retrofit into older business aircraft. As mandated by coming CNS/ATM (communications, navigation, surveillance/air traffic management) operating rules, a host of new avionics equipment will be required to operate IFR in the NAS and Europe, including cockpit LCD screens for viewing flight-related information, from traffic targets, terrain, weather and navigation course lines to datalink text messages sent by ATC.
The question, then, becomes what to do with a 20- or 30-year-old airplane that has an instrument panel that looks as though it belongs in a 20- or 30-year-old airplane–that is to say, a cockpit that is replete with analog air-data systems, round-dial instruments and perhaps only a basic CRT weather radar display. The interior and paint probably look fairly good assuming they’ve been redone in the near past, and the engines and airframe are likely to have many more years of service to offer if proper maintenance practices have been followed. In such cases, a top-to-bottom retrofit of the cockpit panel may be in order.
Avionics technicians at Garrett Aviation Services’ modification center in Springfield, Ill., spent the better part of the summer pulling out almost all of the old analog cockpit equipment in a 19-year-old Gulfstream III and replacing it with a trio of flat-panel displays from Honeywell, the key components of the Phoenix avionics maker’s just-certified Primus Epic CDS/R (control display system/retrofit) integrated avionics system.
Designed for aging medium and heavy business jets, Primus Epic CDS/R is an evolution of the Primus 1000 and 2000 avionics systems from Honeywell that are flying today aboard a long list of business jets, from the Citation Bravo, Excel, Ultra and X to the Learjet 45, Falcon 900EX, Gulfstream V and Global Express.
Mike Anderson, director of avionics for Garrett, explained that this GIII was the first airplane to undergo retrofit to the Epic CDS/R system, but he hopes it won’t be the last as operators begin to realize the benefits such a system can offer.
“If you’re planning to keep your airplane for another five years, then you’ll probably want to look into an upgrade package similar to this,” Anderson said, adding that Garrett is in talks with not only Honeywell but also Rockwell Collins and Universal Avionics to provide retrofit avionics installations for a number of business jets and turboprops. In addition to Epic CDS/R programs for the GII and GIII, Garrett is also involved in programs for Collins Pro Line 21 Continuum retrofit avionics in the Falcon 20 and FDS-2000 display systems in the Falcon 50, as well as cockpit display systems from Universal.
The Epic GIII installation, said Anderson, was completed in two phases, the first of which involved certifying the aircraft for operations in reduced vertical separation minimums (RVSM) airspace and adding a new radio package and weather radar. The second phase required technicians to remove the entire instrument panel and create a new one from scratch. This process involved milling three new panels, one large panel in the center to house the three 8- by 10-in. flat-panel displays, engine instruments and master warning console and two smaller panels on either side for the remaining instruments.
Primus Epic CDS/R is designed to interface with an airplane’s existing autopilot and flight director, an engineering feat that Anderson said leads to savings in terms of both cost and time. However, he added that Primus Epic CDS/R at present can be integrated only with Honeywell Primus II radios and Primus 870 and 880 color weather radars, meaning most GII and III operators will need to schedule upgrades. In the future, Honeywell plans to offer Epic CDS/R with a Collins radio package and additional weather radar choices.
Because this GIII was the first airplane through the certification pipeline, Anderson said it is impossible to pin down how long a typical installation will take to complete, although he predicted downtime of between eight and 12 weeks, depending on how much work must be performed. Anderson also had a hard time guessing what the price of a typical installation will run, saying that because each airplane will require different equipment pricing will vary.
Honeywell’s published prices put a full installation of Epic CDS/R at between $300,000 and $1.5 million. Anderson said operators could “easily spend a million dollars” after adding equipment such as TCAS, EGPWS and RVSM-capable air-data computers, none of which are included in the basic CDS/R package.
In addition to the DU-1080 flat-panel displays, which include LCD glass produced for Honeywell by Japan’s Mitsubishi, Epic CDS/R includes a simple joystick-style cursor-control device (CCD) that is used for scrolling through a number of simple menus on the displays. Behind the scenes, the IC-1080 integrated computer incorporates software enhancements and provides all of the system’s computational capability. An optional FMZ-2000 FMS that is integrated into the IC-1080 box can also be purchased, thereby reducing wire count and cost, or operators can install FMS equipment from other makers. Anderson said the UNS-1F from Universal Avionics is a popular option now.
Anderson estimated a weight saving of between 50 and 100 lb resulting from the replacement of electromechanical instruments with the flat-panel displays. He said reductions in wiring of about 50 percent are responsible for eliminating much of that weight.
“When you replace an instrument panel’s electromechanical round dials with displays, the wiring count goes way down and the reliability factor goes way, way up,” he said.
Garrett competitor DaimlerChrysler Aviation recently reported the first installation of Epic CDS/R is a GII at its modification center in Waterford, Mich. Paul Reynolds, manager of avionics, said the GII entered flight testing in late September and was scheduled for delivery to the customer late last month. The installation included three DU-1080 displays, Primus II radios, EGPWS, SPZ-800 flight director/autopilot, L-3 TCAS 2000 and Goodrich’s GH3000 standby instrument system.
Guy Lachlan, Honeywell sales manager, said Epic CDS/R is designed to provide an upgrade path for aging airplanes that doesn’t require a cash outlay reaching into the millions of dollars.
“We are making a commitment to our customers who may be operating airplanes that are 25 years old to keep those aircraft in service as long as the airframes are still capable,” Lachlan said, adding that the upgrade to Epic CDS/R can extend the useful life of a GII or III by 10 years.
Honeywell’s Primus Epic CDS/R system isn’t the only choice for corporate aircraft operators seeking flexible and expandable upgrade paths. Based on the Pro Line 21 architecture selected for the Bombardier Continental, Raytheon Premier I, Hawker 800XP and Bell/Agusta BA609, the recently launched retrofit Pro Line 21 Continuum system from Rockwell Collins also features large-format active-matrix liquid crystal displays, which replace current electromechanical instruments or Pro Line 4 CRT-based systems.
Unlike Epic CDS/R, however, Pro Line 21 Continuum involves stripping out almost the entire cockpit, including the autopilot, air-data computers and attitude and heading reference system (AHRS). The result is a cockpit that is nearly as advanced as the full Pro Line 21 systems flying in new airplanes. The price for the Pro Line 21 components is somewhat higher than Epic CDS/R (estimates put the uninstalled price for basic Continuum hardware in the ballpark of about $1.6 million) but the extra money represents installation of an all-new cockpit that is basically guaranteed to meet coming operational requirements for years and can be expanded as new technologies and operating requirements emerge.
Collins said Pro Line 21 Continuum will allow operators to meet all coming airspace demands, many of which are currently in the definition phase at the FAA through the agency’s CNS/ATM initiatives. Continuum is also expected to bring to the cockpit an advanced avionics system with better reliability and lower lifecycle costs than the electromechanical and CRT-based equipment currently installed in older business airplanes.
According to a Collins spokesman, Challengers and Falcons will be among the first jets upgraded with Continuum. The system includes high-performance partitioned-processing and Ethernet interfaces, which Collins said would provide the bandwidth needed to meet future operational requirements. The technologies are applied in the processing modules that drive the avionics and display systems, meaning future expansions to the architecture can be made through software upgrades rather than expensive hardware changes.
The philosophy behind Pro Line 21 Continuum is to provide value for the operator by offering a system that can expand and grow as the new operational requirements evolve, said Collins. The system will offer new capabilities designed to decrease workload and boost the overall utility of the avionics. Technologies incorporated into Pro Line 21 Continuum will include datalink communications, uplinked graphic weather and 3-D FMS planning maps.
The system is also being developed to support functionality that has yet to be defined, such as enhanced mapping, electronic charting and improved terrain-awareness presentations.
Last month, Collins introduced several new initiatives for the business aviation market under the general banner eFlight. Billed as a complete onboard information system, Collins said it is developing eFlight to integrate communication to and from both the flight deck and the passenger compartment. Going far beyond cabin entertainment, eFlight is described as an ongoing program designed to grow and expand along with the rest of the airplane’s avionics and in-flight entertainment equipment.
As envisioned, eFlight will operate with hardware of both the Pro line 21 and Pro Line 21 Continuum lines in conjunction with a specially designed portioned file server. In the cockpit, eFlight is designed to give pilots a “heightened” level of situational awareness. Advanced datalink capabilities, for instance, will enable instant access to textual and graphical weather updates, flight plan updates, automated clearances and navigational databases.
Collins said eFlight would also provide automatic and crew-initiated features, including controller-pilot datalink communications (CPDLC), allowing routine communications with ATC to be handled far more efficiently and with fewer interpretation errors. CPDLC is a key element of Free Flight.
“Through eFlight, Rockwell Collins will provide aircraft operators with unprecedented access to information and the means to manage that information,” said Greg Churchill, newly appointed vice president and general manager of Rockwell Collins Business and Regional Systems.
Initial eFlight services are expected to include digital ATIS and some ATC messaging, as well as in-flight services such as text and graphic weather, flight following, flight deck e-mail and Internet access. Eventually, the system will serve as a pipeline for automatic FMS database uploads and transfer of maintenance data from the airplane.
It is Collins’ vision to combine eFlight with other cockpit advances to create a flight deck that gives the pilots a total situational-awareness picture. For instance, Collins’ idea for terrain awareness is to provide a profile view of the ground ahead of the airplane, which a pilot could combine with the display of EGPWS data to get a better tactical picture of mountains ahead. A vertical-speed selector could then command the autopilot to miss terrain by whatever margin the pilot chooses. Collins is also pioneering 3-D map capabilities and synthetic vision.
Collins uses a so-called Advanced Flight Deck simulator at its headquarters in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to test new avionics concepts. The simulator provides a realistic environment and accurate test bed for pilots, where they evaluate the latest concepts. A primary focus is on human factors and the human-machine interface of the avionics, from the standpoints of both safety and utility.
The electronic charts Collins has developed, for example, use a Jeppesen database that allow for automated chart selection, which the company says reduces pilot workload. The addition of airport diagrams on the displays will improve a pilot’s ability to taxi in a sea of blue lights on a large airport and, when combined with a head-up display, improvements such as the surface guidance system in development at HUD maker Rockwell Collins Flight Dynamics should provide better awareness for on-airport operations as well, said the company.
The Continuum package will be sold complete with as many as five displays, or in pieces depending on mission needs. As stated earlier, buyers of Continuum are essentially guaranteed a pathway to meet all present and many future airspace requirements, such as WAAS, LAAS, ADS-B and CPDLC.
All the capabilities of Continuum are managed through on-screen menus controlled by cursor-control devices. The complete package will include Collins’ adaptive flight displays, an automatic flight control system, a maintenance/diagnostics system and processors.
The displays will be available in 8- by 10-in., 7- by 7-in. and 7- by 6-in. formats, with installation of between two and five displays possible. The system also includes the Rockwell Collins solid-state AHS-3000 attitude heading reference system, which features quartz rate sensors and accelerometers in a one-inch cube, and the ADS-87A air-data system, TCAS II, Doppler weather radar and Collins Pro Line radio/nav sensors.
In other recent developments in the retrofit avionics market, Honeywell announced it is joining forces with Meggitt Avionics to develop, certify and sell an avionics retrofit package for the Raytheon King Air C90 based on the Bendix/King integrated hazard awareness system (IHAS) and flight controls, combined with Meggitt sensors and displays.
Honeywell will provide its IHAS 8000 hazard avoidance system and datalink weather information system as options, as well as its KFC 250 automatic flight control system. IHAS includes terrain and navigation databases and a five-inch liquid-crystal display designed to serve as a safety warning system that includes terrain, traffic, navigation and weather information.
Meggitt is providing its Magic EFIS in a four-display layout with its low-cost air-data/AHRS computer. The package, which is expected to gain certification approval by the spring, will be available through Bendix/King dealers. Price for the autopilot and Meggitt flight displays is expected to be $125,000 plus installation. The optional IHAS 8000 system is $62,907 plus installation.
Meggitt is also providing the Magic EFIS to owners of Twin Commanders in a four-display layout that replaces most electromechanical instruments in the airplane’s panel. The Magic system will become standard equipment in Grand Renaissance Twin Commanders and be available for retrofit in other models. Stand-alone price for the system, according to Twin Commander general manager Jeff Cousins, will be about $160,000.
Honeywell also recently announced a partnership agreement with Cessna to provide RVSM equipment for some 2,000 business jets. Honeywell has just finished developing RVSM packages for the Citation 500, I, II, S/II and V. RVSM equipment has already been developed for the Citation III/VII, Bravo, Ultra, Encore, Excel and X. The RVSM packages include AZ-252 digital air-data computers, AM-250 air-data/altimeters and VN-800 vertical navigation controller. All the Citation RVSM packages are available through authorized Citation service facilities.
Innovative Solutions & Support in Malvern, Pa., meanwhile, continues its aggressive certification schedule for RVSM equipment for business aircraft. The company is scheduled to obtain STCs for its RVSM air-data display unit (ADDU) on as many as six business airplanes–including the Hawker 700, Sabre 60 and 65, Learjet 31A, King Air 200 and 350–by the end of the year. In addition to developing these RVSM packages, IS&S has also been selected by Industrie Aeronautiche Rinaldo Piaggio to retrofit the Italian company’s P.180 Avanti business turboprop with RVSM equipment. Piaggio is scheduled to begin OEM and retrofit installations of the equipment later this year.
Along with NASA, Rockwell Collins has been a pioneer in developing and testing synthetic-vision systems for business and transport airplanes. Simply put, synthetic-vision is a concept that seeks to present a scene of terrain and navigation waypoints (including airports) on a cockpit display. NASA researchers in Langley, Va., have been testing sophisticated synthetic-vision systems for the past five years that they say hold the potential of greatly reducing or even eliminating controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) accidents.
With synthetic vision, the view that one sees on the display is very similar to what might be expected on the computer screen of a flight simulation video game. The benefit of such a concept, which essentially allows pilots to see dangerous terrain or obstructions in any lighting conditions, is obvious. As one avionics engineer put it, “If you can see the mountain looming out there in front of the airplane, you’re not going to hit it.”
Universal Avionics, best known for its line of FMS equipment for business airplanes and regional airliners, is taking a unique approach to the retrofit avionics market with the introduction of a full cockpit suite that integrates experimental synthetic-vision technology with primary flight displays (PFD).
The avionics maker last month unveiled the first phase of its new cockpit suite, called Cockpit 1. Under secretive development for the last three years at the company’s development center in Redmond, Wash., the system combines an active 3-D terrain image with the pilots’ primary display, replacing the traditional blue-over-brown ADI ball and black background with a simulated picture of the “world” outside the airplane. Designers of the Cockpit 1 concept believe the system can vastly improve situational awareness.
Cockpit 1 features include as many as six flat-panel displays coupled with Universal’s new Super FMS flight management systems, its now fully certified Terrain Awareness and Warning System (TAWS), Vision 1 synthetic-vision system components and integrated electronic chart/checklist system. Like Honeywell Primus Epic CDS/R, the components of Cockpit 1 are designed to interface with an airplane’s existing autopilot and flight director, as well as already-installed airborne weather radar, TCAS and other systems.
Universal unveiled the Vision 1 synthetic-vision element of the developmental Cockpit 1 suite at last fall’s NBAA Convention. It has been designed to generate an artificial view on the displays of terrain as fed to the system’s computers by a worldwide database of hills and mountains.
The image automatically reverts to a standard electronic ADI background if the computers detect a discrepancy between the terrain image and common aircraft state data. Universal’s TAWS provides the high-resolution terrain map that allows Vision 1 to present its 3-D graphics.
On the multifunction displays, Vision 1 is programmed to provide a full-screen image that shows the airplane and its course from the perspective of a camera behind, above and to the right of the aircraft. Referred to by Universal as an “exocentric” aircraft view, the video-game-like presentation is designed to give the pilots an idea of the airplane’s position relative to the terrain and desired course.
The EFI-890R displays for Cockpit 1 measure 8.9-in. diagonally and can accept direct inputs from a variety of analog and digital sources. A glareshield control unit (GCU) serves as a tactical head-up FMS controller that can supplant a traditional FMS control display unit, according to Universal. In the future pilots will also use the GCU as the control-display interface for CPDLC.
Besides producing FMS equipment and TAWS units, Universal is starting to make a name for itself in the retrofit market. Garrett Aviation announced that it recently wrapped up installation in a Falcon 20 of the electronic engine instrument (EEI) upgrade from Universal. The package, said a Garrett spokesman, consists of three MFD-640 6.4-in. (measured diagonally) flat-panel displays, stacked vertically in the center of the instrument panel.
The top display in the Falcon 20 shows all engine instrument and master fault panel information, including N1 low-pressure and N2 high-pressure turbine speeds. The middle display contains systems information for landing gear and flap status, hydraulic systems, control surface positions and cabin temperature and altitude. The bottom display accommodates Universal TAWS views in 3-D, map or profile perspectives. It can also be used to display uplinked weather graphics.
Another cockpit system that is designed to use synthetic-vision technology is the Apex system, marketed under Honeywell’s Bendix/King brand. Designed for light jets, turboprops, high-performance piston airplanes and helicopters, Apex and other similar cockpit systems, such as Goodrich’s SmartDeck and the Avidyne system for the Eclipse 500 entry-level jet, represent a revolutionizing opportunity in aviation. By making use of advanced computing technology, commercial off-the-shelf displays and micro-mechanical inertial sensors, such cockpit systems will be lighter, more reliable, less costly and in some ways more capable than even the most sophisticated business aviation avionics flying today.
The first flight test of the Bendix/King Apex panel display unit was successfully concluded last month aboard a Cessna 206 Stationair test bed. Apex uses Honeywell’s Visual Cueing and Control (VC2) technology to present a picture of the sky and ground on an instrument-panel-mounted screen. The horizon appears in the distance and the ground appears to be passing under the airplane. Significant features, such as runways and radio navigation aids, appear in the picture in the same relative locations as if the pilot were looking at them through the windshield.
“VC2 really improves a pilot’s situational awareness,” said Dan Barks, Bendix/King
v-p and general manager of business and general aviation avionics. “You can tell at a glance whether the airplane is banked left or right or pitched up or down, and you can immediately see where you are going in relation to ground features. It is far easier than trying to interpret a bunch of pointers and then form a mental picture of the situation.”
The new system incorporates an air-data attitude and heading reference system (ADAHRS) with six Honeywell micro-electromechanical sensors taking the place of traditional spinning mass gyros. Such sensors don’t need GPS updates, and with no moving parts they have a life expectancy eight times that of a mechanical gyro. Apex will also make use of high-bandwidth databuses from Germany’s TTTech, the same components that Audi has selected for drive-by-wire systems in its luxury car line starting in 2004.
Apex will be offered in three versions: Apex 1000 for single-engine piston airplanes; Apex 2000 for multi-engine piston airplanes, light turboprops and helicopters; and Apex 9000 for heavier turboprop airplanes and light business jets.
Unlike synthetic-vision, which provides an artificial view of the outside world on a display, the enhanced vision system, or EVS, uses a small infrared camera or millimeter-wave radar to capture a real-world view outside and ahead of the airplane, which it then overlays on a HUD. EVS has been in development for several years but its designers have been hamstrung by the FAA, which for years refused to certify such systems in civil airplanes, citing safety concerns.
The EVS design from Gulfstream and Kollsman for the GIV-SP, GV and GV-SP gained certification last month, but the test program had to overcome significant hurdles. The FAA’s Seattle-based Transport Standards Directorate last spring issued a notice of proposed special conditions, which required several modifications to the system’s design to ensure that the IR view on the HUD does not distract the pilot during the approach and landing phase.
An FAA test team recently flew a two-week acceptance program that prevailed in certification of the HUD/EVS combination in the GV. That test airplane was fitted with a BAE Systems HUD and a Kollsman EVS. Mike Mena, Gulfstream HUD/EVS project manager, said FAA certification marks the world’s first civil HUD/EVS approval.
Gulfstream expects to begin customer GV EVS installations in the first quarter of next year. Mena said he expects FAA certification of the EVS equipment in the GIV-SP will occur in the second quarter of next year, with the first customer installation following in the third quarter.
HUD is already an option on the GV and GIV-SP, but Gulfstream said 35 current owners have ordered the $500,000 EVS upgrade. Mena said this early level of customer support was “only the first step” in what he believed would become a major evolution toward expanding flight-deck use of developing technologies such as millimeter-wave radar and other enhanced-vision advances.
MaxVis Inc., a new company established in Portland, Ore., over the summer, has joined the EVS race and is currently conducting flight tests of five different infrared sensor units, the best of which it plans to mate with new signal-processing techniques and special optics, according to a spokesman.
MaxVis anticipates offering two infrared packages, aimed initially at the corporate jet market. The first, targeted for certification late this year or early next year, will be designed for installation high in the leading edge of an aircraft’s vertical fin, with a forward viewing angle of 20 deg either side of the nose. Its primary purpose will be to provide airport surface situational awareness. Estimated uninstalled price for the device would be less than $100,000.
The second MaxVis infrared package is to be a nose-mounted, uncooled, dual-frequency unit with a ±15-deg forward view matching the standard HUD conformal-viewing angle. Uncooled means that the infrared sensor will not require the special cryogenics devices used in conventional systems such as the Gulfstream/Kollsman EVS, while dual-frequency describes the use of separate long- and shortwave “bands” in the infrared spectrum. The long-wave band provides optimum sensing of terrain features, while the shortwave band reduces the “blooming” effect produced by approach lights and other high-intensity light sources. Certification of the second EVS package is expected next year. Pricing information has not been released.
In Canada, CMC Electronics, the former Canadian Marconi, has completed a second set of flight trials of its EVS. Rick Beasley, CMCE director of business development, said the trials, which incorporated an updated infrared sensor and other product refinements in a small, lightweight package, were “very successful.”
By now most professional pilots have heard a lot of talk about the FAA’s plans for the future with regard to Free Flight and CNS/ATM. Those who have been following the agency’s progress in the last five years are also aware that several key aspects of Free Flight–the long-delayed wide-area augmentation system, for instance–have been persistent thorns in the sides of policy makers.
Despite the technological and bureaucratic setbacks, the NAS is moving slowly toward the Free Flight vision, where aircraft would fly unrestricted “trajectories” from departure to destination. Free Flight, or something similar to it, is needed if the U.S. is to avoid gridlock, aviation experts warn.
Many readers have at least heard of Free Flight’s in-development supporting technologies–the user request evaluation tool (URET) and the final approach spacing tool (FAST), as examples. However, most business aircraft operators probably should be concerned less with the “big bang” driving technologies behind Free Flight than with the equipment requirements that will follow in Free Flight’s wake.
The trouble is, much of the Free Flight puzzle has yet to be defined, and advances in technology are allowing planners to dream up new ways of implementing Free Flight concepts. From the end user’s point of view–that is to say, from the vantage of pilots and business aircraft operators–it is probably more useful not to consider the future NAS in terms of Free Flight and its myriad elements, but rather in smaller, more easily digested segments.
The business aviation community has already been apprised of much of what will be required in the way of new equipment through recent rulemaking and by observing the FAA’s progress so far in testing Free Flight concepts. What is clear at this point is that all business jets in the near future will need to have some type of cockpit display that will allow many of the coming technologies to be used by pilots in the cockpit. These include datalink messages from ATC (using digital datalink-capable radios), weather information, terrain warning information, navigation data and traffic out to a distance of 100 nm or more.
Depending on how quickly the different pieces of Free Flight move forward, operators may soon also need to equip their aircraft with automatic dependent surveillance (ADS) equipment that records and shares information about IFR and some VFR flights with all other appropriately equipped aircraft. And of course, the FAA has already mandated that most in-service business jets be equipped with TAWS equipment by March 2005. The agency is gearing up to require RVSM compatibility over the U.S. possibly as early as 2004.
Currently there are two FAA-certified TAWS product lines on the market. The first, EGPWS, is the enhanced version of Honeywell’s GPWS, which has been flying aboard transport-category aircraft since the 1970s. The second is Universal’s TAWS, a $35,000 competitor. Both feature terrain databases that provide look-ahead views of the ground.
The FAA’s rules for installation of TAWS devices apply to turbine-powered airplanes with six or more passenger seats. Part 91 airplanes with between six and nine passenger seats can be operated with a class-B system, which is required to include only aural caution and warning messages. Part 91 airplanes with 10 or more passenger seats and all Part 135 and 121 airplanes must be equipped with class-A TAWS, which includes both aural and visual cues. The TAWS rule goes into effect next March 29 for new airplanes and on March 29, 2005, for in-service airplanes.
As the rules’ effective dates draw nearer, a number of avionics makers are developing TAWS products of their own to meet demand for such devices in some 18,000 U.S.-registered civil airplanes. Aviation Communications & Surveillance Systems (ACSS), a joint-venture company owned by L-3 Communications and Thales Avionics, plans to certify a combined TCAS and TAWS in a single box called T2CAS. The new product, which is scheduled for certification late next year, would provide GPS and wind-shear warning options, as well as terrain safety standards required by the FAA’s TAWS mandate, said the company.
ACSS officials claim that T2CAS will be the only TAWS product to provide avoidance alerts based on actual aircraft performance data rather than standard climb rates and assumptions that all critical functions are performing properly. For example, if one engine fails while an aircraft is approaching a mountain, T2CAS will factor in the decreased performance while accurately alerting pilots of any necessary avoidance maneuvers, ACSS said.
Sandel Avionics of Vista, Calif., has also introduced a TAWS unit for business jets and turboprops that saves panel space by replacing a standard RMI with a three-inch liquid-crystal color display. According to Sandel president Gerry Block, the company’s ST3400 TAWS combines a terrain-warning computer with a 3-ATI LCD, two-pointer RMI and terrain/runway database in a self-contained unit that will meet the class-A requirement for TAWS.
Terrain information that resides in the unit’s database comes from the U.S. government. Initially only data for North America will be included, but the company said Europe and eventually the entire world would be added. The ST3400, which should receive FAA certification soon, is targeted to sell for less than $30,000.
Goodrich has also announced plans for TAWS equipment. Like Honeywell, which last year certified the $10,000 KGP 560 GA-EGPWS, Goodrich has taken the wraps off a low-cost TAWS unit that meets the less stringent class-B requirements outlined by the TAWS technical standard order. Price is expected to be competitive with that of Honeywell’s KGP 560.
According to Goodrich, the Landmark TAWS provides a continuous color-coded, bird’s-eye view of surrounding terrain on a cockpit display, as well as aural alerts and warnings. The unit offers predictive warning functions by comparing position data from a GPS receiver, altitude sources and aircraft configuration and analyzing that data against an internal terrain and obstacle database.
No report on the state of the avionics art would be complete without mentioning what the top avionics makers are dreaming up for the cockpits of tomorrow’s globe-girdling business jets. To find the answers, one need look no further than the engineering designs on the CAD/CAM computers at Honeywell and Rockwell Collins, where some of the most imaginative ideas in aviation are being conceived and tested.
Honeywell has been working on the so-called EASy concept for the Dassault Falcon 2000EX and 900EX for about two years, although Dassault engineers have been dreaming of such an avionics system for far longer. With safety foremost in mind, the EASy design is unlike anything that has yet flown in a production business jet. Its makers say EASy holds the promise of enhancing crew situational awareness and, as the name implies, greatly simplifying the job of the pilots.
In contemplating an entirely new avionics system for its next generation of business airplanes, Dassault decided that the cockpits of the 900EX and 2000EX should be identical. After initially selecting a four-display layout with two panels in front of each pilot, Dassault instead chose a T format with a primary flight display directly in front of each pilot and a nav display and systems screen stacked vertically between the pilots. Cursor-control devices similar to the track-ball on a personal computer allow either pilot to move a large crosshair between any of the displays, seamlessly moving from one screen to the next.
The result is that the pilots’ heads are always looking forward at the displays, rather than down at an FMS CDU, and crew coordination is concentrated in the center of the cockpit between the pilots. The large-format flat-panel displays (14.1-in. diagonal) represent a leap forward in symbol generation, with crisp clean lines and brilliant colors that are easily readable from any angle.
The CCD controls most of the map functions. Unlike some early concepts from Honeywell, the track-ball design that Dassault picked is easy to use and seems well suited to the cockpit environment, where turbulence can sometimes make touch pads or some other types of CCDs hard to use. The CCDs feature large handgrips with buttons on each side and the track ball facing forward, within easy reach of the pointer and index fingers. A knob next to the CCD can be used for scrolling through various menus or to tune radios.
Throughout the EASy cockpit, the menus are intuitive and simple to use. With some early menus shown with Primus Epic, the engineers seemed not quite sure how far to take the technology, but with EASy it is clear that a good deal of attention has been paid to human-factors aspects of the design, and each action performed by the cursor is straightforward and logical.
Flight trials of EASy were slated to begin in a Falcon 900EX in Bordeaux, France, last month. Dassault expects certification of the 900EX with EASy in the second half of next year, with the first EASy-equipped aircraft going to a customer in mid-2003. After certification of the 900EX, Dassault will begin the certification program for the 2000EX. Service entry of the derivative model is expected in 2003.
Meanwhile, Honeywell has delivered an LCD-based Primus Epic avionics system to Gulfstream in Savannah, Ga., for flight trials in the GV-SP, a follow-on to the GV. The new system, called PlaneView, replaces the jet’s current CRT-based Primus 2000 avionics system. PlaneView includes four 14.1-in.-diagonal flat-panel displays and the I-NAV enhanced moving map that provides a 360-deg view of nearby terrain. The displays feature an intuitive, point-and-click environment using CCDs, which are driven by a trio of modular avionics units. Honeywell said the new avionics provide a 50-percent increase in display resolution over the Primus 2000 system, as well as significant space and weight savings.
Rockwell Collins, meanwhile, continues to press forward with development of its Pro Line 21 suite. The maiden flight of Bombardier’s super-midsize Continental in August marked the debut of a reconfigured version of Pro Line 21 with large-format active-matrix displays. The Continental’s flight-deck layout includes four 12- by 10-in. liquid crystal flight displays, consolidated control panels, TCAS II and EGPWS as standard equipment.
Optional equipment for the Continental comprises turbulence-detection weather radar and 3-D FMS navigation map presentation. Bombardier plans to use five aircraft in the flight-test program, each equipped with the Collins Pro Line 21 avionics suite. The airplane is on schedule for type certification and first deliveries before the end of next year, according to Bombardier. As the jet’s avionics system integrator, Rockwell Collins is responsible for all aspects of the avionics program, from design through certification.