Rockwell’s Fusion sparks much interest

MEBA Convention News » 2008
November 16, 2008, 5:05 AM

The launch of the super-midsize Gulfstream G250 in October added yet another program to the growing list of contract wins for the Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion avionics system, an advanced cockpit now under development by the U.S. firm that is due to start appearing on the flight decks of new airplanes in 2011.

Pro Line Fusion has won the vast majority of business jet cockpit avionics competitions in the last year and a half. Four aircraft manufacturers have selected the Fusion cockpit to fly aboard seven business jet models, including the Bombardier Global 5000 and Global Express XRS, Cessna Citation Columbus, Learjet 85, Embraer Legacy 450 and 500 and, now, the G250.

Next year will be an important one for Rockwell Collins (Stand No. 521) as developers begin the serious work of shepherding each of these cockpits through the certification process, along with other versions of Pro Line Fusion destined for the new Bombardier C Series and Mitsubishi MRJ regional jets.

While the G250 is the latest Pro Line Fusion program disclosed by Rockwell Collins, officials noted that it was actually the first program win for the system, selected more than a year ago by Gulfstream, but publicly announced only two months ago.
The version of Fusion for this airplane is being branded as the PlaneView 250 cockpit, in keeping with the nomenclature of the avionics systems flying aboard Gulfstream large-cabin business jets. Officials noted that PlaneView 250 will have a “look and feel” similar to that of the PlaneView avionics in the larger airplanes, despite the fact that those systems are based on Honeywell’s Primus Epic avionics system.

The basic PlaneView 250 avionics system features three high-resolution 15.1-inch-diagonal LCD flight displays (the same as those selected for the other Pro Line Fusion cockpits) split into multiple windows that pilots interact with using a sidewall-mounted cursor-control device. Borrowing from the avionics in the new Gulfstream G650, two standby multi-function controllers (SMCs) installed in the glareshield will incorporate the G250’s standby instruments, display control and remote information display on a 5.3-inch LCD screen.

Dual flight management systems (FMS) and graphical flight planning interfaces are standard in the G250, as is Collins’ MultiScan weather radar, a fully automatic radar that detects, analyzes and displays weather hazards from the nose of the aircraft to 300 nm ahead. Dual integrated flight information systems provide electronic charts and enhanced maps on the main displays, while a system for controller-pilot datalink communications and graphical weather retrieval will also be standard, as will a traffic surveillance system with automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast capability.

Rockwell Collins has erected test rigs at its headquarters in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to accommodate each of the versions of Pro Line Fusion about to enter the certification pipeline. Some flight testing has been conducted by Bombardier in Wichita, but by and large the avionics are still in the early stages of development.

A major focus for developers of Pro Line Fusion centers on the avionics’ synthetic-vision system (SVS), a technology that recreates a digitized version of the world ahead of the airplane on the cockpit flight displays. Collins flew a number of SVS test flights with the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 2005 and has been honing its terrain database ever since to provide an as true-to-life presentation of the earth’s surface as possible.

The highest resolution SVS data is reserved for depicting the areas around airports, with lower-fidelity data used to fill in the rest of the world. Much of the data used in the Collins SVS database came from NASA’s Space Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM), which gathered elevation data globally to generate the most complete, high-resolution digital topographic database of earth ever created.

During a recent SVS demonstration behind the controls of the advanced flight deck simulator, Rockwell Collins systems engineers dialed in a 30-knot wind to show how the synthetic presentation handles conditions that might be typical for a real-world flight. On the primary flight display the SVS view showed mountains, bodies of water and a grid pattern on land that provided a good sense of movement above the terrain.

While all of the various Fusion cockpits will use the 15.1-inch displays with LED backlighting, their configurations will vary from model to model, as will the information they portray. But there are also a number of technologies that could be applied across all the platforms as pilots and engineers work to establish which concepts make the most sense.

For example, airports entered into the FMS in the flight deck sim (in this case Park City, Utah) appeared with a translucent dome over them that is intended to serve as a clue to pilots flying in a high workload environment. Nearer the airport, runways appear, complete with runway numbers and centerlines. Flight path marker and flight director cues mimic those included on the head-up guidance system.

Collins does not yet offer highway-in-the-sky (HITS) guidance indicators, which are still being investigated. While HITS guidance boxes are useful when the airplane is within their boundaries, Collins engineers believe they can confuse pilots when flying outside of them. Remedies for this potential shortcoming are being studied.   

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