An anemic market for business jets and the recent loss of a major customer will have no effect on the flight test schedule or certification of the Pro Line Fusion integrated avionics system, according to manufacturer Rockwell Collins.
Cessna’s sudden decision to “suspend” the super-midsize Citation Columbus program deals a setback to Rockwell Collins by eliminating what looked to be a promising platform for the next-generation Fusion cockpit, which was announced a year and a half ago as a major enhancement of the Collins Pro Line 21 avionics system.
Development of other Pro Line Fusion-equipped business jets and regional airliners is proceeding on pace as OEMs bet the economy will turn around well before their airplanes enter production. Pro Line Fusion has been selected for the Bombardier Global Express XRS and Global 5000; Learjet 85; Embraer Legacy 450 and 500; and Gulfstream G250, as well as the Bombardier C Series and Mitsubishi MRJ regional jets.
“We think our customers will be coming to market at a great time,” said Greg Irmen, vice president and general manager of business and regional systems at Rockwell Collins. “Once this current economic downturn is behind us, buying activity will resume and put the OEMs that have selected Pro Line Fusion in a very good position.”
The first Pro Line Fusion-equipped airplane to cross the certification finish line, in 2011, is predicted to be the super-midsize G250. Workers recently joined the test airplane’s forward, center and aft fuselage sections as Gulfstream prepares the first G250 for its maiden flight, scheduled for later this year. The milestone will mark the start of Pro Line Fusion trials in an all-new airplane; Rockwell Collins has been flying Pro Line Fusion in its own Challenger 601 test airplane for several months.
Bombardier is preparing for the first flight of its so-called Global Vision cockpit in the Global Express XRS and Global 5000 this summer. Both airplanes were originally certified with Honeywell Primus 2000XP avionics systems based on older CRT display technology. Switching to the Pro Line Fusion-based cockpit, also targeted for 2011, will bring large LCD displays to the Global family and finally give Bombardier a potent answer to the Honeywell-based Dassault EASy and Gulfstream PlaneView cockpits.
The certification timeline for Bombardier’s Learjet 85 is somewhat less certain after last year’s collapse of Germany’s Grob, which was tapped to help design and build the prototype’s composite airframe. Bombardier has started fresh on the design and publicly remains committed to delivering the first airplanes in 2012.
Embraer, meanwhile, plans to start deliveries of the Legacy 500 in the second half of 2012 and the Legacy 450 in the second half of 2013. The customer timelines give Rockwell Collins a nicely staggered lineup of programs that should help to ensure the company doesn’t become overwhelmed by overlapping certification work. The Citation Columbus was scheduled to enter production in 2012 before Cessna pulled the plug on the program.
Featuring 15-inch-diagonal flat-panel displays, the Pro Line Fusion avionics system will make heavy use of graphical flight planning tools and cursor-control devices. The cockpit will also include the Rockwell Collins MultiScan weather radar and enhanced- and synthetic-vision systems. Collins eventually plans to “fuse” the infrared enhanced computer-generated synthetic views into a single image presented on the primary flight displays.