Embraer Chooses Avionics for New E-Jets

 - February 4, 2013, 3:21 PM
The cockpit design of the second-generation E-Jets features four 13-inch-by-10-inch displays. (Photo: Embraer)

Embraer has opted to retain Honeywell as the avionics supplier for its second-generation E-Jets, the Brazilian airframe maker announced today, ending speculation that it might switch to another supplier as a result of “teething” troubles it experienced following entry-into-service of the current E-Jet line. Under the terms of the contract, Honeywell will supply its Primus Epic 2 avionics system, featuring four 13-inch-by-10-inch landscape displays, more robust processing capacity with a new Intel i7 processor in several of the circuit boards and “possibly” touch-screen multipurpose control display units (MCDUs).

The selection marks the second major contract award for systems on the proposed new E-Jets, scheduled for industrial launch this year and service introduction in 2018. Late last month Embraer chose Pratt & Whitney’s PW1000G Geared Turbofan to power the airplanes.

Speaking with AIN on the day of the announcement, Embraer Commercial Aviation COO Luis Carlos Affonso noted that the company did seriously consider offers from Garmin and Rockwell Collins, but that the design “maturity” of the Epic 2, its commonality with the current Epic system in today’s E-Jets and its technical advances tipped the competition in favor of Honeywell.

“The main issue [with the current system] was really maturity more than reliability, all the software being developed and so forth,” said Affonso. “This time, in sticking with the incumbent, we believe it will be very good for the maturity.”

Not an entirely new system, the Epic 2 borrows much of its architecture from today’s Epic, explained Affonso. “The architecture, with the boxes and so forth, the data buses and all those things that took us lots of time to develop, all these are the same,” he noted.

Scheduled for service introduction in 2018, the second-generation E-Jets will also benefit from a new flight management system (FMS) that Embraer plans to first integrate into the current-generation airplanes by 2015, said Affonso. “The next-generation FMS will have several addition functionalities,” he stressed. “I believe the current FMS is quite reliable, but the new one will have some important functions such as the cost index.” The cost index feature—a system now used on new larger airplanes but new to regional jets—helps pilots choose the most economical altitude or thrust, for example, for a particular mission.

Affonso also described the new FMS as “key” to equipping the E-Jets with the technology needed for the program to convert the current ground-based radar system to a satellite system known as NextGen. “This next-generation FMS is, of course, capable of interacting with and allowing for flight planning and navigation and performance capabilities associated with this new air traffic management scenario,” he explained.

As it does in the current family of E-Jets, Embraer will offer head-up displays with the new system, but it hasn’t yet chosen the supplier. Rockwell Collins supplies the head-up displays in today’s airplanes.

Affonso said that in the next three or four months Embraer would likely make “several” announcements of major supplier contracts, such as those governing the fly-by-wire system, the APU electric system and the air management system. “Others will be selected a little down the road,” said Affonso. The design does not call for the use of a lithium-ion battery, he added.