The Thales engineering team in Toulouse is developing a new flight deck for the -600 series ATR family, featuring five six- by eight-inch LCD displays and a configuration that is generally lighter in terms of hardware. At the same time, to keep the price down, the French electronics group has made some high-technology functions optional.
According to Gil Michielin, general manager for commercial aircraft solutions, Thales designers are helping to ensure the new turboprop responds to market demands that it be durable, easy to maintain, ecologically friendly and economic. “For durability, we use mature technologies only,” he commented.
The number of line replaceable units for the new cockpit has been reduced, adding to durability and ease of maintenance. “The aircraft can be dispatched even with one failed display,” marketing vice president Michel Orman emphasized. The remaining displays can be reconfigured to show all necessary information.
The flight management system (FMS) offers another example of integration. The interface, with its small display and keyboard, appears ordinary, but the FMS uses the main flight display computers rather than its own. Thales draws this architecture from its integrated modular avionics concept already employed in the A380 super-large airliner, which helps keep the acquisition cost low, according to Orman.
Michielin insisted the new flight deck will contribute to the aircraft’s environmental performance. “New functions in the FMS optimize the flight path to reduce fuel burn–the RNP 0.3 certification allows more direct trajectories,” Michielin said. In addition, the smaller hardware requires less electrical power and is lighter, resulting in less fuel burn.
A number of functions are available only as options or provisionally. The new cockpit has provision for datalink communications between the crew and air traffic control, for example, which is standard in the existing Top Deck suite. It also provides for a trackball interface for the FMS, again standard on the Top Deck.
Similarly, the standard Thales autopilot is single channel, but on the -600 flight deck a provision for a dual-channel autopilot allows for an increase in navigation precision to RNP 0.1, for example. Cat 3A performance for all-weather capability is optional.
There is provision for ADS-B with traffic information display, as well as for vertical situation display with terrain profile. Asked why such a safety feature is not standard, Michielin again answered that the price constraint was very tight.
Standard features do include WAAS/EGNOS capability, which provides greater accuracy in satellite-based (GPS) navigation. “This is especially useful to regional aviation as not all the airports have working instrument landing systems; some have none,” Orman noted.
Jeppesen airport charts are available on the main displays. They show the aircraft’s position, as do maps in the navigation system. The crew alert system features do-lists that accompany each alert.
On the five vertical displays, the center one is dedicated to engine information and crew alert. The remaining four can show primary flight information, navigation and system pages.
The cockpit will be certified for 120-minute extended twin-engine operations in standard configuration.
Thales is scheduled to deliver the first ground-test flight deck next December, and both ATR and Thales will share it as an integration bench.
The firm expects the contract to generate around $400 million over a 10- to 12-year period.