Call it useful, call it unique, just don’t call it an MFD

 - January 31, 2007, 5:47 AM

In the past several years, avionics manufacturers have introduced a wide range of multifunction displays (MFDs) capable of integrating moving-map information, terrain warnings, traffic, weather and other sensor inputs. The trouble was, nearly all of these units required a relatively large opening for them to fit in the panel. In smaller business jets and turboprops with cockpits already crammed full of flight instruments, shoehorning another display into the mix can be a challenge.

It may not be an MFD in the traditional sense, but Ryan International thinks it has found an answer for operators seeking to combine hazard warnings on a single display that can slide into a standard three-inch opening. The Columbus, Ohio company is targeting its 3-ATI Multi Hazard Display (MHD) at business aircraft operators who are hamstrung by limited panel space yet are interested in a single display to integrate data from a traffic awareness system, weather sensor and terrain awareness and warning system.

It turns out that this particular set of criteria is proving especially popular with operators of Beech King Airs, Cessna Citations, Diamonds/Beechjets and Learjets, based on Ryan’s claim that it has delivered more than 400 MHDs since the product hit the market in May last year. The display is also selling well to helicopter operators, as evidenced by Eurocopter’s selection of the unit as a standard factory option in the EC 135, EC 145 and EC 155, and a recent $1 million contract from the German federal border police to equip its fleet of EC 135s and EC 155s with the unit.

Reducing Display Clutter
Designed to interface with the Ryan 9900BX traffic awareness system, L-3 Avionics’ WX-500 Stormscope and Honeywell’s KGP-560 class-B enhanced ground proximity warning system (or the Mark XXII helicopter version of EGPWS), the $7,990 MHD won’t get the job done if you’re in the market for a digital moving map. But traffic, terrain or lightning data can be displayed simultaneously in the MHD’s full-screen primary view and two thumbnail views, making it a good choice for aircraft already outfitted with a moving map.

Because the MHD is a dedicated hazard-warning display, it eliminates the clutter associated with moving map, navigation and communications overlays, according to the manufacturer. Pilots use a select button to choose the information to view on the primary multimode screen, which switches the other pages to the thumbnail views, or they can choose to view any single page by itself. The philosophy, Ryan said, enhances pilot situational awareness by giving flight crews access to safety-of-flight information at a glance on a single instrument.

“Our customers told us they wanted a stand-alone display for showing traffic separately and in a better graphic format than can be shown on a lot of the
glass cockpit multifunction displays that are available today,” explained Bruce Bunevich, Ryan vice president of sales and marketing. “So what we did was develop a 3-ATI instrument and called it a ‘multihazard display,’ taking the three most important flight hazards–traffic, terrain and thunder–and integrating them on a separate display.” The MHD, he added, gives pilots precisely what they need: easy-to-read, easy-to-interpret information about the most urgent flight hazards on a single color LCD.

From the start, he said, Ryan engineers intended the MHD to interface with the company’s own 9900BX traffic awareness system, a $20,990, 20-nm-range active traffic alerter capable of providing audible cautions and warnings. The company later struck deals with Honeywell and L-3 Avionics Systems to add EGPWS and Stormscope data, and soon plans to offer another interface for L-3’s Skywatch and Skywatch HP traffic awareness systems.

The 9900BX traffic alerter provides active interrogation through the use of two antennas, one mounted on the top of the aircraft, the other on the bottom. The unit can track more than 50 targets simultaneously and displays targets on the MHD using TCAS-like symbology. The audible position-reporting feature of the 9900BX gives direction, altitude and range information, such as, “Traffic! Six o’clock low! One mile!” The 9900BX, however, does not issue conflict-resolution advisories. Instead, pilots decide how to avoid traffic based on what they see on the display.