LABACE 2005: Flight display systems expands market to large aircraft

 - November 1, 2006, 4:47 AM

Flight Display Systems continued its push to gain entry into the large-aircraft market with its presence at the Latin American Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition in March.

The Alpharetta, Ga.-based company has been gaining a market share with Ellipse Direct, a new cabin entertainment system the company is promoting as “a low-cost alternative that delivers the same quality” as more expensive systems. Ellipse Direct sells for less than $100,000. (See story on page 20.)

The company had been flight testing the system on a Challenger 600 and hoped for certification in October last year. It was, in the words of Flight Display v-p Jay Healy, “an optimistic forecast. An STC that will cover the Challenger 600, 601 and 604 was expected by mid-April, and Healy said a Gulfstream III client is waiting in the wings, as are a Citation 650 owner and some Pilatus PC-12 operators.

At the heart of the system is a new, lightweight computer processor, operating on Windows XP, that is seven times faster than the old model and produces higher-quality graphics. A new video player slightly smaller than the typical automobile CD box can accommodate CD, DVD, MP3 and video CD disks in any format. According to company president David Gray, the 3.5-pound player, priced at $655, can be mounted horizontally or vertically upright or on its side. There are three monitor input ports for camera, video and the moving map.

Entertainment Enhancements

The VGA moving map is an upgrade that features worldwide topographic maps with an auto-zoom feature and GPS/FMS updating. Customers can add takeoff and landing sites, as well as points of personal interest and standard GPS latitude and longitude coordinates to the mapping software. An expanded city database includes regional flight information with local towns, major roads, highways and landmarks.

Also on display at LABACE was the new wireless SRS Surround Sound earphones produced in partnership with Sennheiser. The system, upgraded from two to three channels, operates with a 900-MHz transmitter. The transmitter is priced at $782 and the headsets at $160 each. The company was also introducing its new, thinner, lighter video displays. The 10-inch screen, formerly 1.2 inches thick, is now just .45 inches thick, and the 15-inch monitor has shrunk to 1.1 inches thick. Gray said the company has also begun marketing a new 30-inch LCD monitor at a price of $13,000.

Flight Display Systems has previously focused on the cabin refurbishment market for smaller aircraft. Now, with the new Ellipse Direct system that includes video, audio, distribution/mixing hardware, the company is looking ahead to the large-aircraft market, as part of a green completion or a major interior refurbishment.

Gray believes that if the very light jet market takes off, Flight Display Systems is in a position to become an instant major player in that industry segment with lightweight systems ideally suited for smaller airplanes, at prices more appropriate to the size of the airplanes.