An improving outlook for the airline industry and the projected continued turnaround in business aviation are converging at the perfect moment for Rockwell Collins, which has won more new avionics business in the last 24 months than any other cockpit equipment manufacturer.
Aircraft order backlogs are growing at Boeing and Airbus thanks to a surge of sales in emerging markets like Asia, South America and the Middle East. U.S. airlines, meanwhile, have been reporting close to double-digit profit margins through the first part of this year, confirming projections that the industry has reached a turning point after experiencing a sharp drop during the global financial crisis.
Rockwell Collins supplies the majority of the flight deck content in the Boeing 787. Once 787 production begins in earnest next year, Rockwell Collins will be a major beneficiary, said Kent Statler, executive vice president and chief operating officer for the company’s commercial systems division. “As the largest content provider on the 787, we’re working with Boeing daily to make sure this certification program progresses to a successful conclusion” at the end of the year, Statler said.
Regional Jet Flight Decks
Rockwell Collins has also been tapped to supply major components in the Bombardier C Series, Mitsubishi MRJ and Comac ARJ21 regional jets, all currently under development at their respective manufacturers and now predicted to perform well in a market that had been characterized by uncertainty at this time last year.|
The Cedar Rapids, Iowa avionics maker has also landed the majority of contracts to supply the avionics in new business jets, securing deals with Bombardier for an entirely new cockpit in the Global Express XRS and 5000, and with Gulfstream for the avionics system in the G250, an updated version of the super-midsize G200 built by Israel Aerospace Industries in Tel Aviv. Collins avionics have also been selected for the Learjet 85 and Embraer Legacy 450 and 500.
The centerpiece of each of these new cockpits will be the Pro Line Fusion avionics system, a follow-on to the Pro Line 21 flight deck introduced in the mid-1990s. Pro Line 21 has found homes in a wide array of business airplanes from the Beech King Air line to Bombardier’s Challenger 605. Pro Line Fusion takes the concept of avionics integration several steps further by incorporating advanced cockpit management functions with large LCD flat-panel displays.
The new cockpit will also feature advanced-vision technology that will merge infrared camera views with computer-generated synthetic views. The technique is intended to make every flight equivalent to a sunny day no matter what the weather outside is doing.
The latest business aviation industry forecasts predict the market will start to stabilize this year and enter a period of sustained growth starting in 2013. That’s good news for Rockwell Collins since all of the new platforms for which Pro Line Fusion has been selected will be entering the market around that time. “We feel very confident about the timing of these programs,” Statler said.
Rockwell Collins also stands to benefit from the introduction of new technologies to support the FAA’s ambitious NextGen effort, an overhaul of the U.S. air traffic control system that is projected to cost some $40 billion over the next two decades. Besides benefiting from the sale of new NextGen-compatible avionics, Rockwell Collins is also a member of an FAA-funded research team led by ITT.