Falcon 900EX delivers on EASy promises

 - October 23, 2006, 9:41 AM

Dassault has begun deliveries of the Falcon 900EX equipped with the fully operational EASy flight deck. The so-called “Step 3” of EASy includes new features, such as video display capability. It also corrects some minor imperfections and offers, at last, some functions the French manufacturer had promoted heavily when it announced the product.

EASy Step 3 on the 900EX received certification on July 29, and similar approval for the 2000EX is expected by year-end. Dassault has begun retrofitting the airplanes with the new flight deck; at press time the company had completed upgrades on three of the twenty-eight 900EXs that require it. “The retrofit is done for free except for some options,” Brigitte Bonneville, a member of the sales engineering team, told AIN during an interview at Dassault’s Saint-Cloud headquarters.

The Honeywell Primus Epic-based flight deck entered service in late 2003. As the Primus Epic avionics suite is totally integrated, modification work is involved. Each software improvement requires flight tests. “It is more complicated than adding a new piece of hardware,” Bonneville said.

Many of the improvements to the flight deck are the result of pilot feedback. First, EASy Step 3 now filters crew alerting system messages at initializing. In the early versions, EASy declared faulty any system that was not in its so-called “initial status.” Dassault engineers have also suppressed the “cascading effect” in the modular avionics units (MAU), preventing a “failed” message from every component inside the MAU in the event that one fails.

Another improvement is the modified colors on the synoptic pages, which show the status of their components (such as the fuel system with the tanks, pumps and so on), to provide clearer information.

Navigation functions have become smarter. For example, tuning the radio no longer involves punching “1” digits at the beginning of a frequency. Now to tune 126.5, the pilot has to enter just three digits: 265. Moreover, navigation and ADF radios can now be tuned from the I-nav display contextual menus.

In addition, Jeppesen charts are now displayed directly on one of the two central displays in EASy’s T configuration. On the EASy flight deck, during the arrival procedures, the aircraft’s route appears on the Jeppesen chart just as it is shown on the I-nav display. The chart and the map can be displayed one under the other, making their use more intuitive for the pilot.

When on the ground, the pilot can see the aircraft moving on the runway and then on the taxiways displayed on the screen. In poor weather, this reduces the risk of getting lost and causing a ground collision or a runway incursion.

“The European Aviation Safety Agency [EASA] asked us for many human factors-related demonstrations on these charts, such as ‘How long does it take to get this piece of information?’” Bonneville told AIN. This partly explains the delay on the inclusion of the Jepp charts in EASy.

Another improvement may alleviate the crew’s workload. The flight management system (FMS) can now control the aircraft’s speed. For example, the FMS will automatically command the autothrottles to reduce the aircraft’s speed to 250 knots below a given altitude if the pilot has specified it in the flight plan.

From the program’s announcement in 2000, Dassault has touted EASy’s benefits in crew coordination. The company promised that EASy would eliminate the need for pilots to work on two separate FMSes, each with its own flight plan. “In conventional flight decks, you could get confused and follow the second flight plan when you thought you were following the first one,” Bonneville emphasized. To eliminate this problem, Dassault designed the EASy flight deck with the navigation displays as the central ones, thereby forcing the pilots to share the information.

However, on EASy’s early versions, only the active flight plan was available. The crew could not work on another flight plan (an alternate flight plan or a flight plan for the next leg). Rather, it could only modify the active flight plan–a downgrade from conventional flight decks, in which the crew could create a secondary flight plan.”

This function is at last available. The secondary flight plan is clearly differentiated from the active one by dotted lines (instead of solid ones) and by the word “secondary” on each side of the map. The flight director is coupled to the active flight plan.

Another delay was noticeable on the horizontal situation indicator (HSI). Unlike conventional flight decks, EASy was not displaying the flight plan on this instrument. With the Step 3 upgrade, the flight plan is now available on the HSI.

A Complement to the Flight Manual

When Dassault began marketing the EASy flight deck, it promised the system would provide “what if” engine-out calculations, with remaining range and endurance. Those features are now available with Step 3. Separately, the “direct-to recovery” function will be useful when ATC allows the crew to go directly to a waypoint and cancels its clearance shortly thereafter. With the additional function, the crew will be able to recover its previous flight plan.

EASy now offers wind shear escape guidance. In the “go-around” manual mode, a guidance cue appears in the flight director, providing velocity vector (flight path) guidance, giving more safety margin, Bonneville said. The conventional procedure recommends flying near the stall limit. “We already had wind-shear alarms,” Bonneville added.

The status page with alert messages and associated consequences should reduce the crew’s workload in case of system failure. For example, should brakes one and two fail, the page would read “brake 1+2 failed, landing distance +50 percent,” making it unnecessary for the pilots to consult the flight manual.

Maintenance technicians, too, may find some benefits in EASy Step 3. The “fault” menu on the status page shows the failure, its code and the name of the related procedure in the maintenance manual. “While in flight, the crew can thus alert the maintenance technicians on the ground as they prepare the repair job,” Bonneville said. Should the failure happen before departure, the crew can make the dispatch decision more quickly.

Much promoted when the product was announced was the vertical profile display (VSD). Now available, it shows the terrain along the track of the flight plan. The VSD shows the actual path (in green) and the target path (in magenta) in addition to the flight plan (in white).

If the pilot wants to climb above a mountain ahead, he simply moves the cursor to the desired position on the VSD. “The system then supplies path and distance to the cursor’s position,” Bonneville told AIN.

The Step 3 version of EASy also offers new options. Thanks to the integration into EASy of the Honeywell MCS-7000 satcom and the Magnastar Phone System, the crew can have a telephone conversation. For example, it can establish a priority line with ATC in case of a problem.

A lightning strike sensor and a weather uplink (both optional) provide real-time weather charts superimposed on the I-nav display. In the weather uplink, three graphical weather products are available: Nexrad radar, satellite cloud coverage and winds aloft.

Another option is a video interface, able to accommodate as many as eight video sources. Exterior cameras can provide the crew with visual confirmation on the landing gear’s position, for example. Enhanced vision systems (EVS), such as the one currently undergoing flight tests on a Falcon 2000EX, require this option.

A journalist at French daily Le Figaro once wrote, “Compared to conventional flight decks, EASy is what Windows has been to DOS-equipped personal computers.” With the introduction of Step 3, his appraisal is 100 percent correct.