The 787 is a veritable showcase for the latest technology from U.S. avionics and aircraft systems group Honeywell. The new widebody carries the most comprehensive array of Honeywell equipment on any Boeing airliner, including triple-redundant flight control electronics, liquid-crystal display electronic flight instrumentation, next-generation dual flight management systems, an enhanced ground proximity warning system, navigation radios and antennas, integrated air data, attitude/heading and earth reference systems, external cargo and service, as well as internal cabin lighting, engine anti-ice valves and air/oil heat exchangers for oil and generator cooling. The Honeywell offering for the Dreamliner also includes a crew information system with maintenance data storage and retrieval and communications management functions.
According to Honeywell, its avionics suite carries integration and reversionary capabilities to new levels, with the ability to display and control flight management functions on primary flight and multifunction display screens as well on pedestal-mounted control display units. The Dreamliner flight deck has no mechanical circuit breakers. Breakers are all controllable on the flight management CDU screen. The 787 offers operators an RNP.1 autoland capability option for flight down to a 100-foot ceiling.
At a recent presentation of the aircraft near its Phoenix, Arizona headquarters, Dave Douglass, Honeywell vice president for Boeing business, pointed out that the 787 flight control system saves several thousand pounds of weight compared to that on the earlier 777 aircraft. The company achieved this by eliminating long cable runs between flight control electronics and control surface actuators, which also provides greater integration and faster response to control inputs. Also contributing to the weight savings is a higher level of software integration with refined LRU packaging compared to the Boeing 777.
Douglass said the Dreamliner has its own unique avionics system architecture compared to the 777. “There’s some common functionality between the 787 and the Triple 7, but the 787 FMS and FCS give us improved route planning, climb and descent optimization,” he explained.
Another new feature is an engine-out, real-time “diminished aircraft condition” set of displays and annunciations that clearly display systems status and call out appropriate procedures. Crew resource management on the 787 is simplified and enhanced by an architecture and assignment of specific avionics control and programming duties to the captain and first officer, eliminating the possibility of conflicting actions or omitted necessary tasks.
“Both pilots know exactly what they are supposed to do and what not do,” explained Boeing flight test pilot Ed Wilson. “There’s no overlap or redundancy in performance and, most importantly, nothing missed. It really does lower the stress level and, with such a nice control feel, makes the airplane a pleasure to fly.”
A coordinated Boeing-Honeywell effort to achieve automatic flight control system functionality involved the close cooperation of engineers from the Boeing Defense Systems Apache attack rotorcraft facility in nearby Mesa, Arizona, and their Honeywell neighbors in Phoenix. Overcoming schedule challenges, the team met or exceeded first flight schedule milestones, including exercising the autoland capability.