Barco views role on Apex as a ‘stepping stone’ into bizav

 - December 21, 2006, 4:15 AM

Add Belgium’s Barco to the list of companies interested in entering the market for business aircraft avionics. The company will supply the displays for Honeywell’s Apex integrated avionics system and says it is also developing a range of displays, computers and applications that could be brought to business aviation as OEM or retrofit products.

The crash of one of Grob’s SPn prototypes on November 30 during a demonstration flight in Germany raises questions about the future of the Apex program, but a Honeywell spokesman said development of the avionics system is continuing despite the setback, with certification of the sytem still expected this year.

Grob last spring announced that Apex would be the SPn standard cockpit, giving Honeywell a launch customer for a product that had failed to win much business as competing systems from Garmin and Avidyne dominated the market for new very light business jets.

Pilatus’ selection of Apex for the Next Generation PC-12 gives Honeywell–and by extension Barco–a well established platform from which to bring the integrated package to the marketplace. Pilatus has delivered more than 500 PC-12s, making the workhorse single the best selling business turboprop on the market. With the Next Generation’s more powerful engine and the modern Apex avionics suite, there is no reason to believe Pilatus won’t sell another 500.

Barco won the contract late last year to supply the Apex system’s 10- and 15-inch-diagonal active-matrix flat-panel displays. The company described the achievement as an important “stepping stone” into the growing market for business jet cockpit displays. Barco was due to deliver the first KDU-1080 and KDU-1500 displays to Honeywell this month.

Intended for turboprops and light jets, Apex has been developed with much of the functionality and “open architecture” philosophy of its Primus Epic avionics platform. Recent prototype versions of Apex have looked as good as anything flying in larger business jets (with the exception, perhaps, of the Honeywell PlaneView and EASy systems in the big Gulfstreams and Falcons), and looked crisper than the G1000 and Entegra cockpits from Garmin and Avidyne and flying in the Citation Mustang and Eclipse 500.

Barco deserves at least some of the credit. The Belgian company’s displays and mission computers are flying today aboard a variety of aircraft, from fighters and military trainers to Russian airliners. Barco is no stranger to Pilatus, having supplied the displays for the Swiss manufacturer’s PC-21 single-engine trainer. Barco has also been selected with partner Sagem to supply maintenance computers and displays on the Airbus A380.

In addition to flight displays, Barco has also developed a class-3 integrated electronic flight bag, symbol generators, graphics processors, digital moving maps and its proprietary MOSArt (modular open systems architecture) avionics operating system.