For a bit of fun between chalet meetings or a break during a rainstorm, consider a visit to the Rockwell Collins stand (Hall 2b D108) to fly the Pro Line Fusion flight deck in a helicopter simulator. Rockwell Collins brought the helicopter demonstrator to the Paris Air Show for the first time to highlight the advanced flight deck’s graphical interfaces, intuitive icons and reconfigurable multifunction display windows, including the large displays’ touchscreen technology.
Pro Line Fusion touchscreens are already in operation on Beechcraft King Air turboprops and are the default avionics package for new versions of the King Air 350, 250 and C90GTx. Retrofit versions for the King Airs are also available.
In the helicopter market, Rockwell Collins is offering Pro Line Fusion primarily for civil applications for both light and heavier twin-engine helicopters, with features designed for two-pilot cockpits. The demonstrator is equipped with normal helicopter collective and cyclic controls, and the copilot position is designed to fulfill a mission-assistant-type role. This would include manipulating the touchscreens, modifying flight plans, pulling up charts, checking system synoptics and other functions while the pilot maintains both hands on the controls and focuses on flying the helicopter.
Avionics Interface Design
The demonstrator, first unveiled earlier this year at the Heli-Expo show, illustrates Rockwell Collins’s approach to avionics interface design. Pilots can choose either to manipulate the touchscreen displays or use buttons and knobs to make the same changes.
The touchscreen philosophy is simple: touch what you want to change, and the screen shows exactly what can be done to the touched item. Touching a waypoint, for example, shows as one option the ability to select a hold at that waypoint. The hold can either be a published hold, if one exists, or customizable. “Since Heli-Expo, we’ve had interest from every major helicopter OEM in learning more about the Pro Line Fusion system and what it brings to a helicopter,” said Andrew Jetton, Rockwell Collins manager of global strategic marketing for civil rotary wing.
A distinct difference between traditional flight decks and Pro Line Fusion with touchscreens is that the flight management system (FMS) control-display unit (CDU) can be eliminated. All of the FMS functions are hosted in the touchscreen displays, making the interface far more intuitive for pilots. The Pro Line Fusion FMS for helicopter applications also contains helicopter weight-and-balance, performance, transition-to-hover and other rotorcraft-specific functions.
To further accommodate pilots’ needs, especially in helicopters, a cursor control device can be added. For helicopters, this could be mounted on the cyclic or collective so the pilot always has full access to all of the avionics functionality, without having to reach forward to touch a display or down between the seats to press buttons or turn knobs. This also has the added benefit of allowing the pilot to fly heads-up and not having to look down to manipulate the avionics.
There are other functions that can easily be added to Pro Line Fusion, such as search-and-rescue missions and airborne radar approaches, which are ideal for oil-rig operations. “We’ve continued our strategy of engaging with pilots and operators to make sure we get the design of the Pro Line Fusion [human-machine interface] right for the helicopter operator,” he said, “optimizing for the mission needs of the helicopter and not just adapting a fixed-wing system.”
While Rockwell Collins is working with helicopter manufacturers on forward-fit applications for Pro Line Fusion and touchscreens, AgustaWestland’s AW609 tiltrotor is already equipped with a Pro Line Fusion flight deck with touchscreen features. AgustaWestland’s AW169 also has a touchscreen control, which replaces the FMS CDU. “Our launch program for Pro Line Fusion in the vertical lift market–the AW609–has renewed emphasis from [AgustaWestland] and the industry and is making steady progress towards its targeted 2017 FAA certification date,” said Jetton.