Avionics News from Oshkosh

Aviation International News » September 2011
August 23, 2011, 6:05 AM

Rockwell Collins Returns

At EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, Rockwell Collins welcomed visitors to its pleasantly air-conditioned pavilion to share new technologies that are coming soon to cabin-class cockpits, including a touchscreen interface for the Pro Line Fusion avionics suite.

Rockwell Collins tested the touchscreen concept extensively with focus groups, with the goal of providing a way for pilots to keep their eyes forward instead of buried in a center console when manipulating avionics. The Rockwell Collins touchscreen PFD and MFD Pro Line Fusion system is targeted at a wide sector of the market, from single-engine turboprops and light jets to Part 25 jets.

The touchscreen system is designed to appeal both to older pilots who prefer inputting using knobs and buttons and younger pilots who find touchscreens more natural. The moving map allows pilots to touch any point on the map and select that as a new waypoint. The Fusion system then automatically incorporates the rerouting into the flight plan in the FMS. CAS messages are treated in a new way by the Fusion touchscreen. When a CAS message lights up, the pilot can touch the message and Fusion automatically pops up the applicable synoptic and checklist. Other touchscreen features include easy access to full performance calculations, weight and balance, fuel planning, V speeds, checklists and approach and en route charts.

iPad Synthetic Vision

On the other end of the avionics spectrum are the ever-proliferating applications for Apple’s iPad tablet computer. In a demonstration of the extreme capabilities of the iPad, Hilton Software’s latest Version 6.0 upgrade to its WingX Pro7 navigation and chart display app went live on Apple’s AppStore during AirVenture, offering synthetic vision (SV) display on the iPad. Now, said company founder Hilton Goldstein, “you can look through the weather and see the runway in front of you.”

There are two ways to display SV on the iPad in WingX, either with or without an attitude heading reference system (AHRS). Without the AHRS, WingX’s SV is static, displaying the animated view of the outside world including mountains, obstacles and so on, but without pitch and bank. With an AHRS, the horizon tilts and banks, just like synthetic vision on a panel-mounted display.

SV for WingX resulted from some fortuitous meetings, first between Goldstein and Bruce Shankle, founder and CEO of BA3, a Raleigh, N.C., software developer. Shankle had been trying to develop SV software on mobile devices since 1998, after losing his instruments during an IFR flight in a Cessna 172, but the computer hardware available then wasn’t up to the task of running an SV platform. “When I got down, I said, ‘this has got to be solved, it’s just too unsafe,’” Shankle said. “I had been following the development of WingX, so when I approached [Goldstein], we had been thinking the same thing all along.”

Ananda Leon, a mechanical engineer and pilot, and her father, Ruben, an aerospace engineer and pilot, were at the Sun ’n’ Fun show in April, displaying their company Levil Technology’s wares. Levil makes AHRS-driven flight displays running on PC-based hardware, and the Leons had also developed tiny battery-powered AHRS units. The AD-Mini G provides data for attitude, magnetic heading, airspeed, pressure altitude, vertical speed and turn coordinator for $995. The Mini G without air data is just $795, and both can communicate via Wi-Fi with an iPad and allow WingX’s SV to pitch and bank.

At Sun ’n’ Fun, Ananda visited all the iPad developers to see if they were interested in the Mini G. Goldstein and Shankle jumped on the opportunity, and the result is the AHRS-driven WingX SV, which costs $99.95 a year (in addition to the $99.95 cost of WingX Pro7).

WingX SV uses the high-resolution terrain database derived from NASA’s Space Shuttle ground imaging program. In WingX SV, a zero-pitch line shows the aircraft’s attitude in relation to nearby terrain. And terrain and obstacles above or slightly below the airplane’s altitude are color-coded red and yellow. Pilots can position WingX at any airport and use SV to “look” around an airport to get a preview of the terrain.

Useful App

GlobalAir.com’s new fuel price iPad/iPhone app delivers up-to-date avgas and jet-A prices in a simple and intuitive format. Unlike many other aviation apps that try to cram in as many features as possible, FBO Fuel Prices has only one purpose: to help you find the lowest 100LL and jet-A prices at airports in the U.S.

The app, which went live in Apple’s AppStore during AirVenture, sells for $3.99. You can search for airports using airport IDs or by city and state. A range selector lets you see fuel prices at nearby airports. After the user enters the airport, the app outputs a list of airports within the selected range, including the lowest price at each airport as well as its longest runway, the distance from the selected airport and whether the fuel is full or self-serve. The airports appear in two formats on a split screen. The top shows a Google map with push-pin symbols next to each airport, and you can touch the pin to pull up that airport’s information. The bottom of the split screen shows the listed airports.

The list itself is a handy feature; you can quickly see that flying an extra 10 miles from a major metropolitan airport will save you dollars per gallon. Touch the airport, and the next screen shows the FBOs at the airport and their fuel prices, including the last date that prices were updated. Each FBO has a contact button so you can email the FBO with arrival plans or questions about services, ramp fees and so on.

While FBO Fuel Prices needs to connect to the Internet to update the data and to connect to the Airport Resource Center, the app’s developer cleverly made it work offline, too. As long as you update the data before you take off, you can use FBO Fuel Prices in the air to pick a reasonably priced destination.

Touchscreen Trend

Avidyne also signaled that it is joining the push into touchscreen avionics control with the launch of the IFD540 FMS/GPS/navcom system. The IFD540 is a plug-and-play replacement for Garmin’s GNS530 navigator, slotting into the Garmin tray and taking up the same panel real estate. The 10-watt IFD540 will begin shipping in the second half of next year and retails for $16,995. A 16-watt upgrade costs $4,995. Integrated Taws-B will be available for $7,995. The IFD540 weighs exactly the same as the GNS530, thus no change to the weight-and-balance form is needed, although the equipment list and logbooks will need updating.

In keeping with the goal of making its avionics easy to use, Avidyne retains dedicated buttons and line select keys in the IFD540 so pilots can use either the touchscreen or physical controls. “You can do virtually all functions in either mode,” said Avidyne president and CEO Dan Schwinn. “We realized that dual-mode is a useful thing and think it’s going to be an advantage.”

The IFD540 is part of a suite of plug-and-play avionics offered by Avidyne, which also includes the AMX240 stereo audio panel, AXP340 mode-S extended squitter transponder and attitude-based DFC90 digital autopilot.

The new AMX240 replaces the Garmin GMA340 and PS Engineering PMA800 audio panels. AMX240 features include marker beacon receiver, Bluetooth music and full-duplex cellphone interface, dedicated pilot, copilot and passengers intercom volume controls, a replay button for repeating the last ATC communication, and dedicated split button so one pilot can transmit on Com 1 while the other pilot can transmit on Com 2. Priced at $2,395, the AMX240 will begin shipping early next year.

Avidyne’s new mode-S AXP340 transponder is a slide-in replacement for the popular Bendix/King KT76A and KT78A Mode A/C transponders. Retailing for $5,995, including connector kit and mounting tray but not antenna, the AXP340 will be available in early 2012.

Connecting to Aspen

Aspen Avionics and AvConnect demonstrated a new way of entering flight data into and extracting information from avionics systems at AirVenture. AvConnect (an AvFusion company) partnered with Aspen to launch the Connected Panel technology, which will allow pilots to use mobile devices to communicate with avionics systems.

The new system’s hardware consists of the CG100 Connected Panel unit, which will be mounted behind the instrument panel. The CG100 has USB ports and Bluetooth connectivity and flash memory storage. Aspen and AvConnect are inviting third-party companies to develop hardware and software applications that work with the Connected Panel technology.

The first application is Aspen’s Connected Pilot, which sells for less than $2,500 and includes the CG100 box and the Aircraft Manager iPad app from AvConnect. App maker ForeFlight will release a new ForeFlight Mobile version for Connected Pilot, which pilots can use to synchronize flight plans between the iPad and the Honeywell Bendix/King KSN 770, wirelessly. When looking up airport information on ForeFlight with the iPad, pilots will also be able to populate that airport’s frequencies into the KSN 770 radio’s standby frequency window.

The Connected Panel is intended to be an open system, for which other companies can develop products. Some that have committed to building Connected Panel-enabled products include Avidyne, Jeppesen, JP Instruments, Parrot, Pinnacle Aerospace, PS Engineering, Seattle Avionics and Sporty’s Pilot Shop. Connected Panel is also designed to work with mobile devices using the Android operating system.

Aspen hoped to have its new synthetic vision software certified by AirVenture, but “the development and certification process has taken longer than we anticipated,” said vice president of marketing Brad Hayden. Certification was imminent, and the synthetic vision for the Aspen Evolution displays will sell for $2,995, “the lowest-priced certified synthetic vision,” he said.

Aspen did receive FAA TSO and STC certification on July 25 for Version 2.3.1 of the Evolution display software. The new software is free for Aspen PFD and MFD owners, but dealers will have to do the installation. Features added in 2.3.1 include improved display of taxi diagrams, approach charts, metars and TAFs, knob functionality improvements, one-button reversionary PFD setup, user setting retention improvements and a feature that will make Aspen displays more appealing to turbine aircraft operators, support for Vmo and Mmo redline and Mach number display.

Experimental ADS-B

Garmin announced a new ADS-B transponder targeting the experimental market, another sign that the inexorable move to meet the 2020 ADS-B out compliance deadline is well under way and at an affordable price. The new GTX 23 ES is a mode-S 1090ES (extended squitter) remote-mount transponder designed to work with Garmin’s G3X glass cockpit. Priced at $2,199, the GTX 23 works at any altitude and in any country where 1090ES will be required. With 250 watts of power output, the GTX 23 offers auto standby, traffic information services interface and ability to transmit aircraft flight ID, position, altitude, velocity, climb/descent, and heading information. The advantage of the GTX 23 ES is that it combines the transponder and ADS-B out capabilities, eliminating the need to install a separate mode-S transponder and 978 UAT ADS-B out transmitter.

A Heaping of Headsets

It wouldn’t be AirVenture without a headset manufacturer upping the ante on active noise reduction (ANR) headset design. This year, Sennheiser raised the stakes in the high-end (ANR) headset wars with the release of the S1 Digital. And Lightspeed brought out a new version of its Zulu line, the Zulu 2.

Regular price for the S1 is $995 for the rest of this year, after which it will increase to $1,095. The S1 Digital will run for 25 hours with Bluetooth on, using two lithium AA batteries, or 40 hours with Bluetooth off. The S1 Digital includes built-in Bluetooth for wireless connection to mobile phones and music players. Music mutes automatically during communications with ATC. BMW Group DesignworksUSA partnered with Sennheiser on the S1 design.

The S1 Digital incorporates many new features that should appeal to pilots who are looking for that just-right headset. Chief among these is the S1’s adaptive ANR NoiseGard technology, activated by a “Smart Update” button on the outside of the left ear cup. Each time the user pushes the button, the headset measures then adjusts to the existing noise environment, maximizing the noise cancelation. A pilot might, for example, push the Smart Update button during takeoff, then push it again after leveling off in cruise.

Sennheiser engineers placed two microphones on the outside of the ear cups and two on the inside, which allows for optimum noise canceling in a variety of noise environments. Most ANR headsets use analog filters, according to engineer Heinrich Esser, and these filters are static, which can be optimized for certain noise circumstances. With powerful digital signal processors, noise-canceling can be adjusted using carefully designed algorithms.

Because the S1 Digital is designed for a larger variety of head sizes, it has to be more adjustable to fit comfortably on every head. The headband has three ear cup contact-pressure adjustments on each side, ranging from five to seven newtons. For older pilots with some high-frequency hearing loss, a control offers three steps of treble boost, which can help improve speech intelligibility.

Lightspeed Aviation’s new Zulu 2 with LightComfort design adds new comfort, clarity and quiet to the ANR headset arena, using patent-pending acoustic technology. The analog Zulu 2 sells for $900, and Lightspeed offers a trade-in program for any brand of headset. The traded-in headsets are either refurbished and donated to missionary pilots or destroyed.

On the subject of digital-versus-analog ANR, Lightspeed president Allan Schrader said that pilots should judge for themselves by testing the headsets. Digital headsets have been around for more than a decade, he said, but the way the design is implemented has a greater effect. “In each case there are advantages and disadvantages. In the end, we’re trying to create consistent noise reduction.”

Last year, the Lightspeed Aviation Foundation donated $100,000 to 20 nonprofit aviation organizations. When buying a Lightspeed headset, buyers can designate which organization will receive $50 of the purchase price. Pilots are also invited to vote for their favorite aviation charity, and the top five vote-getters each receive at least $10,000.

Jeppesen Mobile FliteDeck

Jeppesen’s Mobile FliteDeck adds new functionality to the iPad, including en route charts and geo-referenced (own-ship) position display on GPS-equipped iPads. Mobile FliteDeck is a complete cockpit paper replacement, ousting all Jeppesen paper charts in an Airway Manual subscription, worldwide. Jeppesen plans to add more features later this year, including flight planning and graphical and textual weather data.

CMC Electronics

Esterline CMC Electronics brought the original Cirrus SR22 equipped with the SmartDeck avionics suite to AirVenture, although the company currently has no plans to offer an upgrade program for the Cirrus airplanes. SmartDeck offers the latest technology, including synthetic vision, and is easily upgradeable to ADS-B requirements. While touchscreens are suddenly popular with most avionics manufacturers, CMC is still studying touchscreens and how they would effectively fit with SmartDeck, according to Patrick Champagne, v-p of cockpits and systems integration.

Baron Mobile Link

The long-awaited capability to add XM WX satellite weather to the iPad is over, and Baron Services is now selling the Mobile Link device that connects an XM receiver with mobile devices (iPad and Android). The Mobile Link box costs $199.99 and works with any XM WX receiver, including those available from Heads Up Technologies. A bundled Mobile Link with XM receiver sells for $1,124. Developers of Android and iPad apps are already working on incorporating the XM feed, and these will include popular apps like ForeFlight Mobile HD, WingX Pro7, RMS Technology and others.

GE Innovations

GE Aviation sponsored the EAA Innovation Center at AirVenture, where electric aircraft technology took center stage. GE also highlighted other technologies that it has developed, including its aircraft health management (AHM) system as well as performance-based navigation (PBN) as part of NextGen air traffic management systems. At the Innovation Center, GE experts gave presentations and used exhibits to explain these new technologies and their benefits.

The artificial-intelligence-based AHM “is a big effort,” said Pranav Patel, chief marketing officer with GE Aviation Systems. AHM was launched last year in AgustaWestland’s AW139 and GE expects to announce a business jet customer later this year. AHM taps into the entire aircraft, including engines, systems, avionics and airframe, to detect problems and predict potential failures. For a large fleet operator such as NetJets, for example, Patel estimates AHM could save as much as $120,000 per airplane per year. “That’s enough in 10 years to buy a new aircraft,” he said.

Steve Fulton, technical fellow at GE’s Naverus division, has been working on PBN issues for many years. Too much of the general aviation industry’s focus on NextGen has been on ADS-B, he said. “That just tells me where I used to be. You can’t manage traffic unless you know where you’re going, what’s your intent. Intent is the key.” While many are confused by the complex concepts surrounding NextGen, he added, “if you engage this community and start iterating all these concepts, plugging in with iPads and firewalled interfaces with certified avionics, you get this community engaged, it will take off.”

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