Oshkosh 2011: Rockwell Collins Introduces Touchscreen for Fusion

 - July 25, 2011, 7:50 AM

Rockwell Collins announced Sunday at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh that its engineers have developed a touchscreen interface for the Pro Line Fusion avionics suite. While no OEM has yet ordered Pro Line Fusion with the touchscreen interface, certification of the touchscreen capability will take place in 2013 and it is expected to appear in future Pro Line Fusion cockpits. Pro Line Fusion will first appear in Bombardier’s Global 5000 and 6000 and is slated for the Gulfstream G280, Learjet 85, Embraer Legacy 450 and 500 and Mitsubishi MRJ.

Rockwell Collins hasn’t exhibited at EAA AirVenture for many years, but this year chose to become a platinum sponsor of the show. The Rockwell Collins (air-conditioned!) tent showcases the old and the new, from the touchscreen Fusion PFD and MFD to examples of avionics that the company pioneered such as the Apollo lunar lander communications system, the HSI, V-bars and the first EFIS. Given that Rockwell Collins has been in the aviation business for 75 years, said Colin Mahoney, vice president of marketing, “Why haven’t we been here? This really is the absolute place to be in aviation this coming week.”

According to Mahoney, “The next phase [of technological development] is being able to touch the screen.” Rockwell Collins tested the touchscreen concept extensively with focus groups, with the goal of providing a way for pilots to keep their eyes forward instead of buried in a center console when manipulating avionics. “It’s very intuitive,” he said, “even for dinosaurs like myself. Ten to 15 years from now, this is going to be a routine way of interacting with aircraft.”

The Rockwell Collins touchscreen PFD and MFD Pro Line Fusion system is targeted at a wide sector of the market, from single-engine turboprops and light jets to Part 25 jets. “We think this is the way the business is going,” Mahoney said.

The touchscreens have some unique features, such as the ability to format screen layouts and which elements to place in the layouts. This allows the pilot to display on the MFD, for example, a moving map on the top overlaid with live weather radar and on the bottom split screen the same moving map overlaid with datalink weather, providing a more well-rounded view of the actual weather. The pilot can touch any element on the display and if anything can be done with it, a context-sensitive menu will pop up with all the available options. Alphanumeric input will be via physical keyboard because engineers felt that an onscreen keyboard covers up too much vital information.

The touchscreen system is designed to appeal both to older pilots who prefer inputting using knobs and buttons and younger pilots who find touchscreens more natural, according to Gribble. The moving map allows pilots to touch any point on the map and select that as a new waypoint. The Fusion system then automatically incorporates the rerouting into the flight plan in the FMS. The Fusion touchscreen treats CAS messages in a new way. When a CAS message pops up, the pilot can touch the message and Fusion automatically pops up the applicable synoptic and checklist. Other touchscreen features include easy access to full performance calculations, weight and balance, fuel planning, V speeds, checklists and approach and en route charts.

Fusion also displays documents in Adobe PDF format. A new Fusion feature from Rockwell Collins’s Ascend flight information solutions division is built-in Wi-Fi and cellular data networking. This allows the Fusion system to automatically download database updates anytime the aircraft parks where a suitable signal is available. Fusion stores Wi-Fi passwords, so when the aircraft parks on an FBO ramp with a Wi-Fi network stored in Fusion, the download automatically takes place.