Announced at AEA: new avionics extend cockpit capabilities

 - April 1, 2011, 8:45 AM

Among the new products introduced at the Aircraft Electronics Association (AEA) International Convention & Trade Show on March 23 were Honeywell’s new KSN 770 touchscreen navigator, the new GTN 650/750 touchscreen panel-mount navigators from Garmin and something that many have been waiting for, voice capability for Aircell’s Gogo Biz airborne telecom system, along with a new Aircell Android-based cabin smartphone. (The full AEA report will be featured in AIN’s May issue.)

Gogo Biz is Aircell’s airborne broadband network, but until the new voice capability goes live later this year, Gogo is primarily an airborne Internet access system. The voice capability will be combined with Gogo Biz in a single equipment package, according to Aircell, delivering high-quality voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP) telephone service along with broadband Internet access at speeds equivalent to many ground-based Internet services.

Unlike satcom-based voice services, Gogo Biz’s voice service doesn’t limit the number of users per available channel; VoIP essentially could allow an almost unlimited number of calls because phone calls–like all Internet traffic–are digitized into packets routed in the most efficient manner.

Aircell last month announced an improvement to its air-to-ground network, with data delivery speeds of up to 10 megabits per second to the aircraft, about four times faster than the previous system. “Voice takes less than a thousandth of that,” said John Wade, Aircell executive v-p and general manager of business aviation services. “This is VoIP, but a number of technologies have been introduced that optimize quality,” he added. “[This is] an extremely efficient but extremely high-quality voice service.”

In conjunction with the voice announcement, Aircell unveiled a new smartphone handset that runs the increasingly popular Android operating system. “What we’re introducing is the first smartphone specifically designed for airplanes,” Wade said.

The long-awaited successors to the 14-year-old Garmin GNS 430/530 navigator series are finally here, and the new GTN 650/750 panel-mount navigator/radio units usher in the era of touchscreen displays. The new GTN 650 and 750 are already certified–the first certified touchscreens–and installable under an FAA-approved model list certification scheme for most Part 23 aircraft.

Key features of the new navigators are larger and higher-resolution displays, graphical flight planning, low- and high-altitude airways/jet routes, remote transponder and SafeTaxi airport charting with own-ship position. The GTN 750 also offers a remote audio panel and electronic chart display.

The GTN 650 fits the necessary electronics and larger 4.9-inch screen into a box with the same exterior footprint as the GNS 430W, an interesting clue to how much frontal real estate the touchscreen opens up. The GTN 650 has 53 percent more screen area than the 430W. With a 6.9-inch screen, the GTN 750 spans 98 percent more display real estate compared with the 530W and has enough room for full-size approach plate display. Both have greater resolution, too, with five times as many pixels as the older units.

Garmin promises intuitive ease-of-use features, which shouldn’t be a surprise for today’s gadget-gaga Internet mavens, and it appears that design elements of the touchscreen controller for the G3000 avionics suite have migrated into the GTN units. A fingerboard on the screen bottom and a finger-anchoring bezel around the display will help pilots maintain a steady hand on the touchscreen, but buttons and knobs are also available for data entry.

Garmin has already begun shipping the TSO’d GTN 650/750 series. Retail prices are $11,495 and $16,995 respectively, plus another $2,995 for the remote-mounted GMA 35 audio system.

At the AEA show, Honeywell surprised attendees with its announcement of the KNS 770, which it is bringing to market  in partnership with Aspen Avionics by year-end. The KSN 770 features a high-resolution 5.7-inch screen, Waas LPV capability and the ability to display radar, EGPWS, datalink weather, traffic, approach charts and maps. 

Honeywell and Aspen will integrate the KSN 770 with Aspen’s Evolution flight display systems, said Rob Wilson, president of business and general aviation at Honeywell Aerospace, “creating a range of display options for our customers beyond those provided by the KFD 840.” o