Eclipse 500 nears full avionics functionality

 - April 28, 2008, 10:32 AM

Eclipse Aviation is expecting to achieve two major certification goals–flight-into-known-icing and EASA certification–for the EA-500 very light jet by July, according to Mike McConnell, vice president of sales and marketing. Full avionics functionality should follow by year-end, aided by Eclipse’s choice to install dual Garmin GPS 400W WAAS-certified moving-map GPS navigators to provide missing GPS functionality.

The avionics system capability was bolstered by FAA certification in December of a key piece of the Eclipse Avio NG integrated avionics/airframe electronics system, the glass panel developed by Innovative Solutions & Support. The IS&S panel includes integrated PS Engineering audio panel, Honeywell radios and Garmin transponder. GPS capability was not yet completed when Avio NG was certified last year, however, and Eclipse has decided not to use the GPS sensor supplied by Redmond, Wash.-based Spectralux, which had announced on Sept. 26, 2007, that Eclipse selected its NexNav WAAS Class Beta-3 GPS sensor to provide GPS for Avio NG. The FAA approved the NexNav sensor under TSO-C145b on Nov. 1, 2007, and a Spectralux spokeswoman told AIN at the time that the sensor “is being delivered to Eclipse Aviation for certification in the Eclipse 500.”

The contract with Spectralux was Eclipse’s second announced plan for a GPS sensor; the first was with FreeFlight Systems of Waco, Texas, but that never came to fruition. Gary Glynn, Spectralux director of marketing and new product development, told AIN, “It is Spectralux’s policy not to discuss activities of our customers with third parties,” and he would not confirm whether Eclipse had stopped trying to use the NexNav sensor.

Eclipse director of product marketing and brand management Matt Brown, however, confirmed, “Eclipse will no longer require the use of the Spectralux GPS unit with Garmin 400W units installed. This decision was driven solely by the need to implement FMS functionality quickly, and was not as a result of any technical or supply deficiencies on the part of Spectralux.”

The Garmin GPS 400Ws, which are similar to the popular GPS 430W but without radios, will replace the pilot-input keyboards. They will be mounted below both primary flight displays, according to Eclipse. FAA certification of the GPS 400W version of Avio NG is expected “early this summer,” followed by incorporation in the Eclipse 500 production line in October. Eclipse plans to release a schedule by June 1 for when in-service Eclipses will receive the latest avionics updates, although customers will receive the GPS 400W upgrade “at Eclipse’s expense,” the company noted.

New features that will eventually be available once the GPS 400Ws are incorporated include “en route and terminal navigational guidance with Avio NG autopilot coupling; wide area augmentation system [WAAS] capability for coupled autopilot localizer performance with vertical guidance [LPV] approaches; flight path overlay integrated on Avio NG’s navigational displays; and integrated navigational source selection. Coupled with the Eclipse 500’s integrated performance computer, weight-and-balance tools and moving map, the GPS 400W units enable delivery of flight management system [FMS] functionality.”

One FMS function that the GPS 400W doesn’t offer, however, is displaying airways data, a feature that GPS navigators are generally not able to offer.
The full Avio NG capabilities will not all be available when the GPS 400Ws are installed. In the fourth quarter, Eclipse expects to add more features to Avio NG, including digital moving map, XM weather display on the moving map, display of IFR approach procedures, autothrottle, WAAS approaches and optional equipment, some of which won’t be available until next year.