Farnborough Air Show

Rockwell Collins Targeting Air Transport Segment With New Technology

 - July 8, 2012, 2:30 AM

Rockwell Collins (Hall 4 F9) continues to gain share in the air transport market, with a number of new regional jets featuring the company’s avionics, and Boeing’s 787 and the upcoming Airbus A350XWB also incorporating significant amounts of the company’s products. Its Pro Line Fusion integrated flight deck, which recently entered service on Bombardier’s Global 5000 and 6000 long-range business jets, is slated for Bombardier’s CSeries and Mitsubishi’s MRJ.

Pro Line Fusion was also selected by Embraer for its KC-390 military tanker and the Legacy 450 and 500. Other Pro Line Fusion customers include the Gulfstream G280 and Bombardier Learjet 85. China’s Comac C919 and ARJ21 airliners feature integrated Rockwell Collins flight decks.

On the “selectable” side, where airlines pick and choose different avionics products as opposed to a fully integrated flight deck, “We have extremely robust market share and capture rate,” said Kent Statler, Rockwell Collins executive v-p and COO, Commercial Systems. “Whether widebody or narrowbody, in the selectable side, we’re on all of them. For five-plus years, our capture rates from the airlines have been north of 75 percent of the market potential.”

The business aviation market is much different from the airline market, Statler explained. Business aircraft manufacturers seek the latest technology, and often that spawns developments in the airline market.

“If you’re spending that much money for an airplane,” he said, “especially at the top end of that segment, they want the latest and greatest features. Technology is very important to them. The transfer of some of those technologies into the air transport side is very slow.”

Boeing, for example, incorporates products from many different suppliers, but the result is a variety of models that remain familiar to any Boeing pilot. “Whether they’re flying a 737, 777 or 787, it feels like a Boeing,” Statler said. “That’s very important, especially when you get into the size of the fleets–that it has a common user-interface–because they want pilots to be able to move from one aircraft to another and not feel like they’re having to relearn a whole new cockpit. Or to go through another week of training because there is so much difference between the two. The cost of training and not having a standardized cockpit is more than offset by the value of a little faster processor in a certain box.”

That said, Rockwell Collins spends a lot of money on research and development for all market segments. And air transport customers are interested in newer products such as synthetic vision and touchscreen avionics displays. “We are having technology-based discussions with even some of the air transport OEMs, [about] when [new technology] would be ready to go into the air transport marketplace,” Statler said.

Head-up Guidance

Interest in another Rockwell Collins technology, head-up displays (HUD) made by its Head-up Guidance System subsidiary, is growing, too. Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines both have HUDs installed in their entire fleets. HUD is standard in a dual configuration in Boeing’s 787, Statler said, “and we’re in discussions on taking that even broader across the commercial fleet.” A new compact HUD will extend the market for the units into smaller aircraft, as small as single-engine turboprops.

The pinnacle of HUD technology is the Rockwell Collins system that is installed in the Pro Line Fusion-equipped Global 5000 and 6000. These are the first aircraft to feature synthetic vision displayed on the HUD. “We’re the only one that can bring synthetic vision onto a Head-up Guidance System display,” Statler said.

“We continue to see large traction in China. We believe probably in the 2013 or 2014 [time frame] there will be a mandate that HUD will be required on all Chinese national carriers–the narrrowbodies. Our ability to have the only certified HUD on Boeing aircraft and the integrated HUD that can fly on narrowbody aircraft gives us a solid tailwind as we look forward over the next five years.”

The Comac C919 will employ a system leveraging features of the Rockwell Collins Paves 3 and Venue cabin systems. “Paves 3 is a digital IFE system designed to move away from an integrated system,” Statler said, “where if one box goes down, you lose the whole flight.”

Paves 3 has storage at each seat and allows passengers to bring and control their own content. If a seat module fails, it’s a simple matter of replacing one during the flight. “We’re well into development on that,” he said, “and will be entering the market probably late 2013 or early 2014.”

Rockwell Collins (Hall 4 Stand F9) is demonstrating the new compact HUD here at the Farnborough International Airshow, along with a version of the Pro Line Fusion cockpit for the KC-390 tanker program. Also on display are military communications systems, cabin management systems and the Paves 3 inflight entertainment system.