Retrofit LCD brings new technology to analog cockpits

 - December 8, 2006, 5:31 AM

The “Flipper” from Flight Display Systems of Alpharetta, Ga., fits into that welcomed category of products that fill a need without breaking the bank.

The thin, five-inch LCD screen is designed to mount to the underside of the glareshield, staying out of the way when not in use and flipping down when needed. It’s intended to serve as an extra display screen in cockpits where space is limited.

The brainchild of Flight Display Systems president David Gray, the Flipper helps to bring newer technology like XM satellite weather feeds and infrared enhanced-vision camera views to airplanes packed mostly with round-dial instruments. Priced at “just under $5,000” uninstalled, the Flipper should attract interest from aircraft owners and mod shops alike. “It’s an easy, low-cost solution,” Gray told AIN.

The device is bracket-mounted to the glareshield and, with the press of a button, folds down to reveal its half-inch-thick screen. “Now you see it, now you don’t,” Gray said. When not deployed, the Flipper is hardly noticeable and, Gray claimed, won’t disrupt the crew’s panel scan. He added that the unit can be mounted just about anywhere along the glareshield, saying it has good side and sunlight readability.

The company has begun an STC program for the screen installation and has fitted it for testing in the single-engine Stallion Citation 501 belonging to Sierra Industries of Uvalde, Texas. For certification purposes, the Flipper will be considered an “advisory information display,” in that regard similar to a side-mounted LCD or electronic flight bag screen.

Will pilots flip for the Flipper? Some already have. Rickey Smith, a pilot for Phoenix Air of Cartersville, Ga., who flies with the display, says it’s a valuable addition to the flight deck of the company’s Gulfstream. “The Flipper gives us a compact, crystal-clear LCD monitor” for viewing information that can’t be displayed elsewhere.

Established in 1999 to bring a line of lower-cost cabin products to business aviation, Flight Display Systems has unveiled dozens of popular devices, from widescreen television monitors to passenger moving-map systems and even a direct broadcast satellite television system intended to sell for less than $100,000. While it has gained a patent for its unique satellite tv antenna configuration, the company has yet to win FAA approval for the concept, which places the dish in a fuselage-mounted radome sitting on stilts.