With Entegra Release 9, Avidyne eyes turbines

 - October 1, 2010, 5:34 AM

Avidyne is setting its sights on the lower echelon of the turbine business airplane market as part of a strategy by the Massachusetts avionics manufacturer to broaden the audience for its new Entegra R9 glass cockpit, introduced in the Cirrus SR22 and SR20 piston singles in April last year.

Entegra R9 has won praise from aviators for its simplified interface and ease of use in single-pilot cockpits, where a design philosophy centered on shallow menu structures, predictive entry of flight-related information and a completely new FMS designed from the circuit boards up delivers an avionics system that at times seems to do the thinking for you.

With Entegra R9, flight plan data entry is easier than in the original Entegra glass cockpit thanks to the integration of radios and GPS receivers and the inclusion of a separate FMS controller with a QWERTY keyboard (a first for a cockpit). A series of page-function rocker buttons mounted on the display bezels labeled PFD, FMS, MAP, SYS and CHKL allows pilots to click to the desired function and then scroll through various menu tabs by pressing the rocker left or right. The first time you try it, you realize how great an improvement R9 really is.

A recent flight in a Cirrus SR22G3 Turbo with R9 demo pilot Matt McDaniel highlighted the many reasons why Avidyne’s latest glass cockpit is better than earlier versions–and why Avidyne is positioned to go toe to toe with Garmin and its G1000 avionics systems and Honeywell’s Primus Apex cockpit in the battle for light airplane technology supremacy. Avidyne goes so far as to call its newly designed cockpit the best flight deck in aviation. We’d be hard pressed to disagree based on how easy R9 is to use in the air.

Entegra R9 features high-resolution (1024 x 768) LED-backlit displays measuring 10.4 inches diagonally. Any R9 integrated flight display is interchangeable for use as an MFD or PFD, and an MFD can be reverted to a PFD in the event of a display failure. In addition to the all-new FMS900w, R9 also adds ­Avidyne digital radios and GPS/Waas receivers, new digital transponders, a digital autopilot, traffic sensor and satellite datalink weather receiver that links through WSI.    

Pilots will notice Entegra R9 is different from earlier Avidyne cockpits from the moment they power the system on. In the Cirrus, the first prompt that appears requires the pilot to input the fuel quantity on board by selecting tanks full, filled to the tabs or a specific number of gallons. With that simple task completed, the pilot can dive directly into the FMS flight planning or other systems management tasks without waiting for ADAHRS or other internal systems checks.

Entegra R9 designers have made it simple to add or amend a flight plan by including an FMS page-function button on the integrated flight display and adding a dedicated FMS keypad in a separate controller below the displays. Absent are the push, twist, enter tasks of tiny knobs and buttons that can make a Garmin G1000 pilot’s life difficult (especially on an night IFR flight in bad weather). Instead, pilots flying with Entegra R9 enter waypoints directly into the flight plan using the FMS keypad and can easily insert victor airways, VORs and even holding patterns using handy drop-down menus that are accessible on the integrated flight display.

One nice feature of the FMS900w flight management system is GeoFill, a software tool that simplifies flight-plan entry by predicting and displaying the next waypoint or airport that the pilot is likely to enter, based on the airplane’s position. For example, if a controller were to instruct the pilot to fly direct to rimba intersection, the pilot would need to type only the R and the I before the FMS900w would automatically fill in the rest of the entry. From there, the system is smart enough to give the pilot choices for where he’d like to fly next, such as the V34, V249 or V483 airways.    

Another handy feature of Entegra R9 is Vectors Mode, which lets the pilots deviate around traffic or for some other reason simply by pressing the Vectors button (a V with an arrow through it) on the FMS controller and moving the heading bug to the desired course. On the map display a dashed magenta line shows the pilot how far right or left he should deviate to skirt a storm cell or pass slower traffic. The magic happens on reintercept, when the pilot dials the heading knob back to the original course line and the dashed magenta line calculates a smooth transition to join it.

Avidyne has also developed its own digital autopilots for the Entegra R9 cockpit. The top-of-the-line DFC100 incorporates all of the standard vertical and lateral modes of operation expected to be found in a turbine-class autopilot, including flight director (FD), altitude hold (ALT), airspeed hold (IAS), vertical speed hold (VS), heading (HDG) and navigation (NAV, LOC/GS, GPSS). The DFC100 also includes a “Straight & Level” button, which overrides all autopilot modes, leveling the wings and engaging altitude hold.

The DFC100 also includes built-in envelope protection. As the aircraft approaches a stall, for example, the autopilot automatically reduces bank and vertical speed just enough to keep the wing flying, while annunciating the condition to the pilot.
Overspeed is handled similarly, with a gentle nose-up command. In flight director modes, these actions appear as guidance cues with corrections blended into the V-bar commands.

The next major enhancement to the Entegra R9 cockpit is coming early next year, when Avidyne introduces synthetic-vision visual cues to the baseline package.
Avidyne claims its SVS will offer a better view of the virtual world outside by showing terrain all the way to the horizon based on the airplane’s height above the surface. Cirrus has also introduced an optional MaxViz infrared enhanced-vision system for the Entegra cockpit for presentation of real-world views ahead of the airplane on the MFD.

In addition to the retrofit and factory Cirrus versions, the Entegra R9 cockpit is also offered as an aftermarket upgrade in the Piper Saratoga, Meridian, Mirage and Matrix. As part of its strategy to make inroads in the avionics aftermarket, Avidyne has introduced multiple pricing levels for Entegra Release 9 for Silver, Gold and Platinum packages.

For buyers of the Silver version, Avidyne includes the FMS400, designed for those who don’t need Waas precision approach capability right away but still want to step up to the advanced interface of the FMS900w flight management system. The FMS400 can be upgraded to include Waas capabilities at any time, Avidyne said.
Broken down by price, the Silver version ($39,500) includes a single ADAHRS and FMS400 while the Gold package ($59,000) adds the Waas FMS. Avidyne’s Platinum offering ($72,800) is equipped with dual ADAHRS, FMS900w, the FMS keyboard and will include synthetic vision when available.