Paris Air Show

Astronautics Demos RoadRunner Skills

 - June 21, 2017, 9:58 AM
AIN editor-in-chief Matt Thurber puts the RoadRunner combined attitude and heading indicator through its paces on a demonstration flight from Le Bourget during the Paris Air Show.

As certification for the Astronautics RoadRunner electronic flight instrument (EFI) nears, the company arranged demonstration flights during the Paris Air Show. The demonstrations were conducted in a Regourd Aviation Leonardo/AgustaWestland A109 modified by Aerotec. 

Astronautics' (Hall 4 Stand F18) engineers designed the RoadRunner EFI as a drop-in replacement for upgrading helicopter cockpits to modern, reliable displays. The RoadRunner’s 4.1- by 6.8-inch display is housed in a package that weighs less than eight pounds. Installation is simple, because once the old expensive-to-maintain 5-ATI instruments (mechanical or even electronic) are removed, the RoadRunner’s top half, with a five-inch-deep housing, is inserted into the empty top hole in the instrument panel. The lower empty hole is covered by the bottom half of the RoadRunner display.

Connecting the helicopter’s wiring to the RoadRunner involves making a harness from the old ship’s connector to the RoadRunner connector, using all the necessary interfaces to existing and modern avionics. These include a variety of aerospace and other interface types, allowing the RoadRunner to connect to many types of avionics. The EFI uses existing devices such as AHRS and other units already installed in the aircraft to provide data for attitude, heading, etc.

The avionics dealers that install the RoadRunner will likely specialize in making interface harnesses for particular helicopter models. Aerotec, for example, is an expert on the Leonardo A109 and will make harnesses for those installations, according to Astronautics president Chad Cundiff. Shops might share their harness-making skills with each other, he added. 

The RoadRunner displays the attitude direction indicator on the top half of the EFI, and horizontal situation indicator on the bottom. There are no air data inputs, so no display of airspeed or altitude. 

During the demo flight in the A109, the EFI—a production unit—demonstrated solid, highly responsive operation in all flight configurations, including during the strong vibrations that occur as the helicopter decelerates prior to landing. Controls on the front of the EFI are easily interpreted, with the first row of keys associated with soft labels on the bottom of the display. The menu button provides access to various adjustments, such as setting a decision height (DH), running tests, changing the HSI from arc to compass rose mode, etc.

Two softkeys (up and down) are used to adjust the DH, because this leaves the course and heading knobs free to set the course and adjust heading, a less confusing method than allowing the knobs to be used for both course/heading and DH. The DH can be adjusted as high as 1,000 feet; below 200 feet, the increments are single feet, while above 200 feet, the increments are 10 feet. A simple rocker switch on the top of the EFI is used to adjust brightness.

The EFI can display weather information, if available. Synthetic vision, as a software upgrade, will be an option, likely available in about a year, Cundiff said. Future upgrades can easily be added via software. 

Astronautics will soon submit paperwork for TSO approval, and at the same time, it is applying for an approved model list supplemental type certificate, for both Part 27 and 29 helicopters.