Flight trials of Dassault EASy cockpit under way

 - May 15, 2008, 9:11 AM

The first Falcon business jet with the EASy (enhanced avionics) flight deck from Honeywell took off February 21 from Bordeaux-Mérignac (France) Airport for its maiden flight. The EASy-equipped Dassault Falcon 900EX, S/N 97, is now in the development test phase.

Although this first flight was about two months late, EASy program manager Christine Courault told AIN that customer deliveries will begin on time in the second quarter of next year. Along with the new cockpit, the development aircraft was carrying upgraded pressurization, braking, fuel and oxygen systems.

For this first flight, EASy program flight-test pilot Jean-Louis Dumas and Philippe Deleume, Dassault’s chief test pilot for civil aircraft, were at the controls. They first climbed to FL 150, where they checked engine data, flight controls and the anti-ice system, Courault said. The pair then accelerated to Mach 0.7 at FL 170 to check the upgraded pressurization system. Other checks included avionics tests, 30-deg bank turns and decelerations to stall speeds, both in clean and extended-flap configurations. The flight lasted almost two hours.

“The EASy system performed flawlessly,” Dumas said. This came as a surprise for Courault, as “pilots are usually very demanding and new avionics systems almost always have teething problems. “So far the test pilots have given us no feedback that would imply a major change to the EASy cockpit,” Courault told AIN. The week after  the maiden flight, the development aircraft performed four two-hour flights, she said. During the fourth flight, the Falcon was ferried to Dassault’s flight-test center in Istres.

Courault explained that Dassault has taken the opportunity of the cockpit upgrade to include improvements in the aforementioned systems, though they are mainly computer changes. “For instance, pressure control laws are more advanced in the upgraded pressurization system,” she pointed out. In addition to a new computer, the braking system also features “a circuit redesign to increase reliability.” Certification will include both the EASy cockpit and the refined systems. But “EASy can fly without these improvements,” Courault emphasized.

Last October Dassault was expecting the maiden flight before the end of the year. Asked for the reason of the delay, Courault said software development took longer than expected. For the upgraded Falcon 900EX, the development phase should last until July or August, and the certification program should begin in September or October and last until year-end.

The targeted certification date for the EASy-equipped Falcon 900EX has been delayed accordingly and is now expected early next year. According to the program manager, the first EASy-equipped Falcon 2000EX should fly early next year, and certification of the twinjet is pegged for early 2004, with deliveries following that summer. The schedule for the upgraded 2000EX has been slightly rearranged, as it initially called for certification during the second half of next year and entry into service in the second half of 2004.

The EASy cockpit is built around a Honeywell Primus Epic avionics suite. It has four 14.1-in. screens, upon which the pilot can prioritize displayed information. Among other features, a cursor control device (CCD) enables the pilot to make quick changes to the flight plan.

In the EASy cockpit, information is centrally located between the pilots. The displays are based on a T layout, with each pilot managing three of the screens: his own, directly in front of him, and two central multifunction displays. These are divided into a number of scalable windows that are not unlike standard desktop PC operating systems.

Typical control-display and radio-tuning functions have been eliminated, and are available instead through direct graphical access on the displays. Using a trackball CCDs or alphanumeric keypad, pilots plan flights, complete checklists and manipulate synoptics diagrams for most aircraft systems right on the displays.

The trackballs allow either pilot to move his individual cursor, a large crosshair, among the three displays. The cursor slides seamlessly from one screen to the next, with a main benefit of keeping the pilots’ eyes nearly always looking forward at the displays, rather than down at an FMS CDU. Since the common displays, keypads and CCDs are all located in the center of the cockpit between the pilots, crew communication tends to take place in the center, allowing each crewmember to keep tabs on what the other is doing, which Dassault believes will help reduce errors.