HAI Convention News

New Approach to Avionics Built on Flexibility

 - February 11, 2012, 10:20 AM

AgustaWestland and Honeywell are introducing a new “Phase 7” version of the Primus Epic avionics suite for the AW139 rotorcraft. The upgrade, which will be available soon for new-build aircraft as well as for retrofit, is about more than modernizing the operating procedures of the avionics, it marks a step-change in the manufacturer’s approach to developing the cockpits of its growing family of aircraft.

According to Dario Ianucci, project leader for the new AW189 and AW169 programs, AgustaWestland has taken control of avionics integration back in-house so that it can be sure that customers get what they really want. The key principle for cockpit development at the company is now maximizing flexibility for operational requirements by using open architecture built on the Arinc 664 AFDX high speed data bus. That also permits changes that can be quickly and easily applied via field-loadable software. Also fundamental is the desire to achieve a common avionics platform right across the AgustaWestland product family.

Phase 7 introduces a satellite-based LPV approach for a 9-degree slope and 50-knot speed, as well as an RNP approach with a 0.3-nmi decision distance. The Primus Epic upgrade, which will be available from the middle of this year, also will feature ADS-B-Out capability and access to TCAS II traffic-avoidance capability, plus a more advanced version of Honeywell’s enhanced ground proximity warning system (EGPWS).

Also in the sites of AgustaWestland’s cockpit commonality police is the AW109 Grand New light twin, featuring displays and a flight management system from Chelton, and a Sagem autopilot. Again, the craftwork of change is software-derived and here the airframer’s developers are pushing to certify LPV approach capability with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The requirement in this case has largely been driven by EMS operator Rega, which has helped AgustaWestland develop the da Vinci version of the Grand New.

With such a high degree hardware commonality, avionics development work for the two new helicopters is progressing efficiently in tandem, explained Ianucci. Software changes introduced to the aircraft mission and management system will drive features in the VMS/FMS such as HUMS and a digital map.

“On the avionics side, we have developed and are still developing products in different weight classes with enhanced [operational] effectiveness and reduced costs,” concluded Ianucci. “We’re trying to achieve [across the product range] the same philosophy of mission effectiveness, crew workload, situational awareness and the overall look and feel.”

In his view, the market is already endorsing this approach by investing in multiple AgustaWestland family members. For instance, Malaysian offshore operator WestStar recently placed orders for a mix of AW169s and AW189s, having already introduced the AW139. Similarly, UK-based Bristow Helicopters–an established AW139 operator–was the launch customer for the AW189, which it will use to replace its fleet of Eurocopter Super Pumas.

Overall, AgustaWestland feels its more pro-active and flexible approach to avionics development has made it more competitive by allowing the company to get new products to market more quickly.