Dealers delight in new avionics at AEA’11

 - April 29, 2011, 4:40 AM

The annual Aircraft Electronics Association International Convention & Trade Show is a showcase for avionics dealers, the people who sell, install and repair the products that fill the cockpits and cabins of all types of aircraft. And as such, the avionics manufacturers at the AEA event are laser-focused on showing how their products will benefit the end user.

Dealers at the AEA show seemed cautiously optimistic about the next big avionics mandate, the requirement to install ADS-B Out equipment in most aircraft by 2020. Tim Shaver, FAA avionics maintenance branch manager, warned about the massive amount of work that is coming. “It’s not an option whether we equip or not,” he said. He added that the FAA initially will require ADS-B installations be done under supplemental type certificate (STC) and not field approvals. This is because, he said, “each aircraft is a node,” meaning that ADS-B-equipped aircraft share data about their location with other aircraft and accuracy is thus critical. “The integrity of the entire system depends on the weakest link,” he explained. The FAA should allow these installations under approved model list STCs and may even allow field approvals as more is learned about ADS-B installation issues, according to Jens Hennig, v-p of operations for the General Aviation Manufacturers Association.

There are some 165,000 general aviation aircraft subject to the ADS-B Out mandate (Class I and II aircraft that generally fly below 18,000 feet), Shaver told the avionics dealers. (The total fleet that needs ADS-B by 2020 is 250,000 aircraft.) “If you start installing ADS-B Out today, that’s 16,000 [Class I and II] aircraft per year. It looks like it’s a long time off, but it isn’t. You guys’d better start hiring.”

FreeFlight Systems is early out of the gate with low-cost ADS-B systems and will offer its two-pound Rangr package for $4,995. Rangr is targeting the Class I and II market, which transmits data using the 978-MHz UAT signal instead of the 1090-MHz extended squitter designed for larger aircraft that fly in the flight levels.

Any display will be able to show information received by the Rangr system, according to Jamie Luster, director of marketing and sales, including the free traffic and weather that are key benefits of ADS-B In. FreeFlight expects the Rangr to be the first 978-MHz ADS-B system to receive an FAA TSO, and that should take place in the third quarter.

Garmin’s Touchscreens

At this year’s AEA show, Garmin International introduced the long-awaited successors to the GNS 430/530 navigator series, the new GTN 650/750 panel-mount navigator/radios. And in a surprising move, Garmin obtained FAA TSO certification of the GTN series and approved model list certification for installation in most Part 23 aircraft before making the AEA announcement. The new GTN 650 and 750 are the first certified aviation touchscreens. Prices are $11,495 for the GTN 650 and $16,995 for the 750. An optional remote audio control system, the GMA 35, costs an additional $2,995.

The new navigators are not drop-in replacements for the GNS series but expand significantly on the display real estate, something made possible by adoption of the touchscreen. 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, and the 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 than 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.

The larger and higher-resolution displays make possible added features such as graphical flight planning, low- and high-altitude airways/jet routes and SafeTaxi airport charting with own-ship position on taxiways and runways. Both units work with a remote transponder, and the GTN 750 also offers the GMA 35 remote audio panel and electronic chart display.

The GMA 35 remote audio panel will eventually incorporate Garmin’s 3-D spatial audio and voice control features (introduced in the GMA 350 audio panel), which will be available via software upgrades. Buyers who opt for voice control will also need to have a push-to-command button added to the aircraft’s yoke. The GMA 35 is controlled via the GTN touchscreen and automatically adjusts cockpit speaker and headset volume according to cockpit noise. A record/playback capability helps with copying clearances.

A fingerboard on the GTN screen bottom and a finger-anchoring bezel around the display help pilots maintain a steady hand on the touchscreen, but buttons and knobs are available for data entry, as is an alphanumeric on-screen keyboard. The touchscreen allows pilots to modify flight plans by tapping or dragging a finger on the screen or by “rubber banding” a route around thunderstorms or to comply with ATC changes.

With the big screen on the GTN 750, Garmin was able to add on-screen orientation of approach charts. Instead of just presenting the full approach chart in portrait mode, which the GTN 750 can do, the chart is overlaid on the moving map, oriented to the moving-map features.

The GTN series includes a terrain database, and Class B Taws alerting is an option. Also included is Waas LPV approach capability and course deviation and roll steering outputs for certain autopilot systems. Other options include XM WX satellite weather and radio and traffic services.

The com radio in the GTN 650/750 transmits at 10 Watts, but a 16-Watt version is available. Later this year, Garmin will release the GPS-only GTN 625 and 725 and the GTN 635 with VHF com.

Aircell’s Android and Voice

At the AEA show, 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,” said John Wade, Aircell executive v-p and general manager, business aviation services. Aircell will begin delivery of the smartphone by year-end.

Aircell’s Android-based smartphone combines some unique features with a device that is useful not only for voice communications but also for controlling cabin management systems. The handset includes a 3.8-inch touchscreen display with the typical Android controls plus a telephone keypad. The buttons on the keypad respond to the user with haptic feedback and also light up when pushed. A camera mounted on the display side of the handset will facilitate video conferencing. Aircell has incorporated noise-canceling technology in the handset, which lowers the background noise in the cabin, making it easier for callers on the ground to hear the airborne caller.

Operators with an Aircell Axxess system already can replace those flush-mount handsets with the new smartphone, which is a drop-in replacement.

Also later this year, Aircell will fill the missing link in its air-to-ground communications system with voice service for the Gogo Biz broadband air-to-ground network. Gogo Biz’s broadband airborne Internet access service is provided by Aircell’s network of sky-oriented antennas and offers speeds equivalent to typical home high-speed Internet access. Aircell will combine the voice capability with Gogo Biz Internet in a single equipment package, which will provide both high-quality voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP) telephone service and broadband Internet access.

Gogo Biz’s voice service won’t limit the number of users per available channel because VoIP allows an almost unlimited number of calls. Voice traffic is digitized into packets that are routed in the most efficient manner, and thus voice calls can be made simultaneously with Internet access. “This is VoIP,” said Wade, “but a number of technologies have been introduced that optimize quality,” he added. The new Aircell smartphone works with the Gogo Biz voice service, too. Owners of Aircell ATG 4000 and 5000 systems will be able to upgrade to the voice service.

Universal SBAS Augmentation

The recent activation of Europe’s Egnos satellite-based augmentation system is great news for flight management system (FMS) manufacturers such as Universal Avionics Systems. “With Egnos being turned on officially,” said Dan Reida, Universal vice president of marketing, “we hope to start seeing a stronger interest in space-based augmented FMS. We look forward to implementation of more approaches [in Europe].”

The European Geostationary Navigation Overlay System (Egnos) “Safety-of-Life” signal was formally declared available to aviation on March 2, after a stringent certification and verification process. Now European operators equipped with suitable avionics can use the Egnos signals for vertical guidance precision instrument approaches at airports where specially designed approaches are available. Aircraft flying Egnos approaches must also be equipped with certified avionics that can take advantage of the more accurate lateral and vertical guidance available. Egnos is similar to the wide area augmentation system (Waas) in the U.S. Japan has a similar system called Msas, and India’s Gagan system will also be available soon.

Universal Avionics has included Egnos, Msas and Gagan in its Waas-capable FMSs. During installation of the FMS, the installer has the option to turn on each region’s space-based augmentation capability, according to Reida, so if an operator plans to fly in the U.S., Europe, Japan and India, all four capabilities can be available.

Universal’s third-generation datalink system, the UniLink UL800/801 communications management unit, will begin deliveries in October. The UL800/801 units meet the new requirements under Eurocontrol’s Link 2000+ program. Basically, this means that aircraft will need a datalink with controller-pilot datalink communications capability (CPDLC). For retrofit installations, this capability will be mandatory after Feb. 5, 2015, for flight above 28,500 feet. New aircraft delivered beginning this year need a compliant system on board when delivered, according to Reida. “The whole idea is to drive away from voice communications.”

The UniLink UL800/801 are compliant with future air navigation system (Fans) 1/A and, in addition to CPDLC, offer ADS-C (contract) capabilities as well as VDL Mode 2 network communications. VDL Mode 2 is a digital communications network with 13 times the message capacity of the current Acars system. The UL801 includes a built-in internal VHF data radio (VDR), while the UL800 works with an aircraft’s onboard VDR. Both units interface with satcom systems using the Iridium and Inmarsat networks. The VDR can be used for airline operational and administrative communications and flight information services messages. In addition to ADS-C, CPDLC enables receipt of departure clearances, FMS flight plans and textual/graphical weather reports.

The advantage of installing Universal’s third-generation UniLink now is that when it is coupled with the FMS, it can meet Fans 1/A requirements over the North Atlantic. If an operator is Fans 1/A-compliant by Jan. 1, 2014, then it has already met the Link 2000+ requirements. “If you’re Fans-approved by that date, you’re grandfathered in,” said Reida. This means being able to meet the Phase 1 Fans mandate in 2012, which lowers lateral spacing on two core tracks over the North Atlantic from 35,000 to 40,000 feet. “You won’t be allowed access to those two core tracks at those altitudes without compliance,” he explained. “Then in 2015, they plan to do that for all MNPS airspace, not just the tracks. Obviously datalink is an important requirement that’s coming. If you’re going to Europe or [operate] in Europe, datalink is going to help you a lot. Otherwise you will have to stay below 28,500 feet.”

Heads-Up Cabin

Heads-Up Technologies introduced a new cabin entertainment system at the AEA show targeting small to midsize aircraft. Two systems will be available, the Premier, supporting up to four passengers, and Executive, for up to eight passengers. The company’s goal was to develop an affordable and tightly integrated cabin entertainment system for smaller aircraft. Parts count is up to 40 percent lower than that of traditional systems, according to Heads-Up. Thin passenger control panels are designed to fit easily into cabin interiors. The Heads-Up system supports satellite radio, gaming equipment, Blu-ray players and personal audio/video devices. The first installation of the new Heads-Up entertainment system is being done in a Part 25 aircraft, and deliveries began during the second quarter.

Honeywell Taps Aspen

At the AEA show, Honeywell surprised attendees with its announcement that the Bendix/King KSN 770 navigator/navcom will be a touchscreen device and that the unit is being brought to market in partnership with Aspen Avionics. The KSN 770 is scheduled for certification and deliveries by year-end. Honeywell originally announced the KSN 770 in 2007 and expected certification in 2008. Aspen’s job is to help Honeywell complete the development of the KSN 770, according to John Uczekaj, Aspen president and CEO. “It makes sense to enter into a relationship with Honeywell to broaden our product portfolio and take the Aspen Evolution to the next level.”

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. In addition to touchscreen control, pilots can use a cursor control device as well as buttons and knobs to operate the KSN 770.

Aspen’s Evolution EFD1000 PFD and MFD systems don’t contain their own GPS sensor or radios, so the KSN 770 adds those capabilities. Aspen’s products have focused on replacing the six-pack instrument cluster but not the center stack of radios. “This accelerates our ability to have the center stack and new technology,” Uczekaj said.

From Honeywell’s standpoint, said Mike Rowley, vice president of worldwide sales, “We looked at how to get to market quickly at the right price. The best way is to team with a partner that does that.”

In other Aspen news, the company demonstrated its synthetic vision solution for the Evolution PFD at AEA and plans to roll it out to customers in the second quarter.

New Rockwell Certs

Rockwell Collins is adding capabilities to business jets equipped with older versions of its Pro Line avionics and recently received new certifications for the Falcon 50/50EX and Beechjet 400A/Hawker 400XP.

The company’s recently granted FAA STC for the Falcon 50EX equipped with CRT-based Pro Line 4 avionics covers the upgrade to a Pro Line 21 system with 10- by eight-inch LCDs. The benefits of the LCDs include the ability to display features of the Rockwell Collins Integrated Flight Information System. The Pro Line 21 upgrade also includes an FMS upgrade with wide area augmentation system localizer performance with vertical guidance (Waas LPV) GPS approaches, and the system is upgradeable to add ADS-B and datalink capabilities in the future.

For the Falcon 50 equipped with Pro Line 21 avionics and Beechjet 400A and Hawker 400XP with Pro Line 4 systems, Rockwell Collins is offering an STC to add Waas LPV satellite-based augmentation system approach capability. Rockwell Collins now has 22 Waas LPV STCs. The avionics manufacturer will add a Pro Line 4 to 21 STC for the Falcon 2000/2000EX next.

The Rockwell Collins GPS-4000S receiver is approved under an STC for aircraft equipped with Pro Line 4 and 21 systems, making the GPS upgrade complementary to the LPV upgrades. The GPS-4000S is qualified for primary means of navigation, eliminating the check for receiver autonomous integrity monitoring. Another benefit of the GPS-4000S is compatibility with other countries’ satellite-based augmentation system networks such as Europe’s Egnos and Msas in Japan.

Flight Display’s iPad Mount

Flight Display Systems is seeing growing interest is mounting systems for Apple iPads, both in the cabin and the cockpit. The new FDARM-IPD sells for $2,533 and allows viewing an iPad in portrait or landscape mode in a cabin setting. Features of the iPad arm mount include power supply for the iPad, easy removability when not in use and no wiring changes needed when used with a Flight Display Systems base mount.

Pilots want to use their iPads for display of charts in the cockpit, and Flight Display Systems now offers a yoke mounting system (see AINtv video at Gulfstream jets are the first aircraft for which the new yoke mount is available, using a standard Gulfstream yoke fitting that slots into the back of the iPad mount. Once installed, the mount rotates horizontally or vertically and locks into either position. A padded clamp holds the iPad securely so it can’t fall out of the mounting system. The mount includes a power supply that reduces the aircraft’s 28-volt power to the iPad’s 5-volt needs. The iPad yoke mounts costs $2,994 and will be available to fit other aircraft types. It is available at a lower price without the power supply.

For aircraft needing a cabin management system upgrade, the low-cost ($25,000) Club CMS provides a moving map with worldwide database, two seven-inch displays, four OLED switch panels that can control up to 12 audio sources, plugs for a headphone jack, a volume control, optional DVD player and iPod adapter. While the Club CMS is targeted at smaller aircraft such as turboprops and light jets, it is expandable. The Club CMS is going to be standard in the Pilatus PC-12, according to Healey.

A new Flight Display Systems DVD player includes USB and SD card slots and RCA jack connections. To cut down on the cabin wiring, a new three-channel wireless 900-MHz transmitter and larger, more comfortable three-channel wireless headset are now available.

TrueNorth Telephony

TrueNorth Avionics manufactures cabin communications products that work on a variety of airborne telecom networks, including Iridium, Inmarsat SwiftBroadband and Aircell’s U.S. air-to-ground network. At AEA, TrueNorth announced a new STC for the $10,995 TrueNorth Express BlackBerry messenger for the Falcon 900EX. TrueNorth Express enables BlackBerry devices to send and receive e-mail via the Iridium satcom network. Apple’s iPhone will work with TrueNorth Express, but not as well as the BlackBerry, which uses less bandwidth for e-mail.

TrueNorth’s Simphone OpenCabin airborne SwiftBroadband system now offers almost unlimited voice channels using VoIP, and an ISDN interface that provides a high-quality voice channel, improved faxing capability and a boost in broadband data performance.

Another recent development is receipt of the first FAA TSO for the high-capacity lithium-ion battery in TrueNorth’s wireless telephone handset. The handset also passed flammability and environmental testing standards set by the FAA and other regulatory authorities.

The new Master Communications Console is “the industry’s first touchscreen graphical telecom display,” according to TrueNorth. The console helps operators manage all telecommunications functions from one station. Also available now is TrueNorth’s new Stage2 broadband data router, which uses data compression, acceleration and traffic shaping technology to boost a current 432 Kbps SwiftBroadband connection to 1 Mbps.

Iridium Cert for ICG

International Communications Group (ICG) showed AEA attendees its latest products, including the NxtLink ICS-400, which received approval to operate on the Iridium satellite network. Selected as the satcom for Embraer’s Lineage 1000, the ICS-400 includes four Iridium transceivers and a cabin telecommunications unit, which “offers global voice service coupled with telephone services similar to those found in contemporary office PABX systems,” according to ICG.


EMS Aviation covers a wide range by serving OEMs and the retrofit market as well as end users such as helicopter and fixed-wing utility operators. EMS manufactures equipment for Aircell, Honeywell, Rockwell Collins and Thales. The company’s products are split into three major lines: eNfusion, with large-aircraft satcom equipment operating on the Inmarsat SwiftBroadband and Swift 64 networks; Aspire, cabin equipment, including handsets, for small and midsize aircraft using Iridium or Inmarsat and Android-based handsets that can also operate cabin systems; and Sky Connect, which serves the EMS, offshore oil and gas and firefighting segments with tracking, text and voice services.

John Broughton, EMS v-p of product development, believes it won’t be long before all new aircraft leave the factory with high-speed data communications built in. Developments like the new constellation of Iridium satellites that will offer much higher data rates and Inmarsat’s new Ka-band network will lead to even better satcom service and lower prices, he said. “There will be a price point where you may be able to consider all-you-can-eat pricing,” he said. He also expects SwiftBroadband to be used for safety services beginning in 2012. EMS’s eNfusion line will be the first home of Ka-band products, he added.


New for Avidyne is the announcement that it is working with Aspen Avionics on an interface between the Avidyne DFC90 digital autopilot and Aspen’s Evolution retrofit cockpit displays. The Aspen Evolution interface for Avidyne’s DFC90 will be certified later this year and pricing for the Aspen interface will be announced soon. Aspen’s Evolution displays include an integrated air data and attitude heading and reference system (ADAHRS), so the combination of the Aspen display and the Avidyne DFC90 autopilot delivers an all-digital solution for avionics retrofits.

The DFC90 is a slide-in replacement for the S-Tec 55X autopilot system in Cirrus airplanes equipped with Avidyne Entegra flight displays. DFC90 features include improved stability, indicated airspeed hold, straight-and-level button for one-touch unusual-attitude recovery and Avidyne’s new flight envelope protection and alerting system.

In February Avidyne received FAA technical standard order (TSO) and supplemental type certification for its DFC100 digital flight control system. The STC covers installation in the Cirrus SR20 and SR22. The DFC100 adds new features for Entegra-equipped airplanes, including redundant attitude inputs provided by both flight displays, full FMS integration allowing coupled Vnav descents, approaches and missed approaches and full-time envelope alerting, which works even when the autopilot and flight director are not engaged, according to Avidyne. The DFC100 also includes the straight-and-level button.

The autopilot’s full-time envelope alerting system warns pilots of underspeed, overspeed or excessive bank conditions via aural and text alerts even with the autopilot off. When the autopilot is engaged, the protection system not only provides alerts but also actively intervenes and prevents the airplane from stalling or flying too fast. The DFC90 flight control system offers both these capabilities, but the DFC100 also offers full-time envelope alerting, which works all the time, not only when the flight director is engaged. 

Other unique DFC100 features include the VNAV mode, which automatically starts descent at the computed top-of-descent point and climbs to and levels off at the target altitude during a missed approach. The DFC100 also works with the R9’s FMSVectors feature. This allows the autopilot to follow the dashed magenta vectors line on the HSI display–after the pilot pushes the HDG button–and then automatically intercept nav legs or approach procedures (when the magenta line is drawn to intercept the leg or procedure).