A preview of what future AgustaWestland helicopters’ cockpits will look like was seen in the AW149 mockup exhibited at the Paris airshow last June.
The new approach promises to reduce costs, both in the development phase and in the life cycles of aircraft. The higher degree of cockpit commonality among AgustaWestland models promises to save money on pilot training and enhance fleet flexibility.
The common cockpit concept is built on a highly flexible avionics platform, to allow for the integration of customers’ operational requirements. Visually, the cockpit is built around active matrix 10- by eight-inch displays that allow all the required flight parameters to be hosted on the primary flight display (PFD), leaving the multifunction flight display (MFD) free to host additional aircraft information or mission-related data. The displays are compatible with night-vision goggles.
AgustaWestland’s aim is to design a full glass cockpit that will eliminate the need for auxiliary panels such as those prevalent today. The common cockpit is an open- architecture system based on the new AFDX communication bus used on the Airbus A380 and Boeing 787, which provides a data rate of 100 mbps. However, a MIL-1553 bus is still employed for military applications.
The PFD-format page is designed to allow for synthetic-vision capability. The upper section of the display, which would normally be used for the attitude symbology, presents a realistic real-time, three- dimensional, virtual-reality view of the helicopter attitude and the outside world.
The PFD bezel keys allow immediate access to control critical and safety related functions. The crew alerting system (CAS) is no longer a separate panel but is now a window located in the upper right corner of the copilot’s PFD and in the upper left corner of the pilot’s PFD.
AgustaWestland views the CAS the most important human-machine-interface system and was very careful in developing this glass cockpit CAS, prioritizing alarms in case of multiple failures. These messages trigger the master warning light or the master caution light positioned at each pilot station on the upper portion of the instrument panel. Voice messages and tone are generated by a dual redundant aural warning generator.
The common cockpit technology is also intended to ease pilot workload during flight. Control and management tasks, such as radio tuning, are more straightforward when performed through the cursor control device.
The cursor control device mounted in the central console also is duplicated on the cyclic grips to provide joystick functions without the need to remove hands from controls. This is mostly used for controlling the MFD functions, for graphic duties and in military helicopters might be employed for command and control duties.
The AW149 helicopter is being equipped with four 10- by 8-inch displays, but the common cockpit’s open architecture allows for different numbers of displays to be used for other aircraft with different missions.
AgustaWestland is equipping the latest version of the AW101 with the new common cockpit. This technology will also be installed on future AgustaWestland programs.
The new cockpit has inherent growth capabilities that will allow the Italian airframer to add new features such as an integrated terrain awareness and warning system and a synthetic-vision information system in the MFD. Electronic charts also can be presented on the MFD, as well as on the integrated touchscreen MCDUs and head-up display.
The system’s modularity will allow AgustaWestland to transfer software modules from one aircraft to another, reducing development time and cost. They also can add new instruments and sensors.