Pro Line Fusion enters certification home stretch

 - May 25, 2010, 10:00 AM

About 50 hours of test flying remains before Rockwell Collins will submit the certification paperwork to the FAA for its Pro Line Fusion integrated cockpit, which will serve as the baseline avionics system for Gulfstream’s G250 and Bombardier’s Global Express XRS and Global 5000 when approvals are completed next year.
Collins test pilots traveled to Alaska this winter to put the synthetic-vision portion of the Pro Line Fusion cockpit through its paces in one of the most demanding flight environments in the world. Flight-test crews braved the cold, darkness and winter turbulence, flying dozens of low-visibility approaches into Alaska airports in the company’s Challenger 601 test bed. The point of the exercise was to evaluate the SVS’s capabilities in areas of challenging terrain before bringing the technology to the cockpits of the Global Express and G250.

Greg Irmen, vice president and general manager for commercial systems at Rockwell Collins, said Pro Line Fusion has logged about 350 hours aloft as part of a test regimen that the avionics maker expects to complete by year-end. Three airplanes have joined the certification program, with the Collins Challenger 601 logging the bulk of hours aloft (about 200) since the shakeout flights started last fall. “We’re getting down to the crunch phase now as we look to wrap up certification test flying,” he said.

OEM test pilots are also evaluating Pro Line Fusion in the Global Express and the G250, although only the Global is equipped with SVS so far, testing for which has been limited mainly to the flatlands of central Kansas. Gulfstream plans to offer SVS to G250 buyers as an option, but for now the focus has remained on testing Fusion’s core capabilities, including an all-new flight management system that relies heavily on graphical flight-planning tools.

Irmen said Collins will first seek a supplemental type certificate for Pro Line Fusion in its Challenger, a step that is expected to ease the certification effort for the OEMs that have selected the cockpit. “We’re going through the certification in the Challenger as a risk-mitigation move,” he said. “It should make the follow-on certification process much smoother for our customers.”

Rockwell Collins has installed Pro Line Fusion in its own corporate Challenger 601 on the right side of the cockpit, leaving in place the original Pro Line 21 cockpit system on the left. Most of the Alaska testing, Irmen said, was flown into Juneau International Airport, infamous for the extreme terrain surrounding the approach through Gastineau Channel and unceasing turbulence. Test pilots flew multiple low-visibility approaches through the channel using both the head-up guidance system and the head-down SVS display. Rockwell Collins engineers are now going over data from those test flights as well as others at airports in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, Irmen said.

SVS uses a massive database of the earth’s terrain, obstacles and airports to create a 3-D image on the pilot’s primary flight display that is intended to replicate on the computer screens the same view out the window that would be seen on a perfectly clear day. Each manufacturer adds its own nuances to the concept, and Rockwell Collins is no exception. For example, airports in the distance appear on the Fusion SVS display first as translucent domes. As the airplane approaches, the dome slowly disappears, leaving a computer-generated view of the runways.

Irmen said Pro Line Fusion testing in the Challenger is about “70 percent complete,” meaning the avionics manufacturer will need to fly another 50 hours or so before submitting paperwork to the FAA for the STC. He said Bombardier and Gulfstream have each flown about 60 hours with the cockpit so far.

Bombardier is conducting Pro Line Fusion flight tests in the Global Express in Wichita, while testing in the G250 is under way at Gulfstream development partner IAI’s base in Tel Aviv, Israel. In the Global series, Pro Line Fusion is being branded as the Global Vision cockpit. Gulfstream has opted to call its version of the avionics the PlaneView 250 cockpit, in keeping with the nomenclature of the avionics in its larger models.

Those airplanes fly with PlaneView cockpits based on Honeywell’s Primus Epic avionics system, which already incorporates SVS. Universal Avionics, Garmin and Chelton also offer SVS, making Rockwell Collins one of the last major avionics manufacturers to offer the technology.

In addition to the Globals and G250, Pro Line Fusion has been selected for the Learjet 85 and Embraer Legacy 450 and 500 as well as the Bombardier C Series and Mitsubishi MRJ regional jets, making the cockpit the top seller among new business jet market entrants since being announced in 2007.