Challenger 605 cockpit replete with technology

 - December 6, 2007, 5:23 AM
While Gulfstream’s and Dassault’s top models are breaking the traditional mold with their advanced integrated cockpits, the Challenger 605 Bombardier introduced at the NBAA Convention last fall also features one of the more notable flight decks among in-development business airplanes.

For starters, the Challenger 605’s four large-format (10- by 12-inch) glass displays are arranged vertically side by side as opposed to the more common practice of placing LCD screens horizontally. Whereas the Gulfstream G550 with its PlaneView cockpit and Dassault Falcon 900EX with EASy avionics feature a “landscape” arrangement, Bombardier has chosen to orient its displays in a so-called portrait layout. This offers advantages when viewing electronic approach charts on the displays and seems to be the setup Bombardier views as superior.

Another advantage of the Challenger 605’s flight deck is that its Pro Line 21 integrated avionics will use the cabin entertainment file server as a backup to the primary cockpit server, a first for a business jet. Because full sets of e-charts will be loaded onto the cockpit and cabin file servers, Part 135 operators of the 605 can begin flying in a paperless environment almost from day one.

The electronic Jeppesen charts, which are displayed in the cockpit on the MFD, are derived from the main integrated flight information server (IFIS) but automatically revert to the backup cabin entertainment server in the event of a problem with the IFIS computer. The FAA requires commercial operators to have a backup to the main electronic chart computer when transitioning to a completely paperless cockpit.

As was the case in the Challenger 604, Rockwell Collins developed the follow-on 605’s front office. And while the 604 with its six 7- by 7-inch CRT screens was state of the art for its time, the new Pro Line 21 cockpit in the 605 is several generations ahead in terms of capability.

Whether the capabilities match those of the much heralded PlaneView and EASy cockpits Honeywell developed for their respective manufacturers is a topic open to debate, but one thing at least is certain: when it comes to advanced capabilities, the Pro Line 21 system in the Challenger 605 is no slouch.

Much of the design of Pro Line 21 in the airplane was borrowed from the Challenger 300, the 605’s stablemate. The Challenger 300 is where Rockwell Collins introduced its 10- by 12-inch displays, which are also installed in portrait format in the smaller airplane. More important than the displays’ large size is what the LCD technology allows pilots to do with the displays, particularly the multifunction screens in the middle of the cockpit.

“You can show far more information on the LCDs than on the 604’s CRTs because of the liquid-crystal displays’ raster-scanning capability,” said David Wu, director of business and regional jet flight deck systems for Rockwell Collins. “This allows the crew to call up electronic charts, enhanced maps, graphical weather and other information,” rendered in sharp detail on the displays.

Flight-deck Improvements
The most obvious improvement to the 605’s flight deck is an increase in total flight display area, to the tune of about 55 percent. These large displays ensure that flight-related information isn’t just easy to see; it is an integral part of the overall flight experience. Whereas in the past pilots had to hold paper charts in their laps or clip them to the yoke and call up graphical weather maps on the tiny FMS CDU screen, now the displays create a useful visual workspace, which the crew can manipulate using a cursor-control panel.

A series of menus on the displays allows the pilots to call up charts and weather data, and also operate the weather radar, air-data computers and other functions with the cursor controller, which consists of a number of buttons, rotary knobs and a small joystick.

The flight management system setup in the 605 is unchanged, according to Wu, who said that like the 604 the new model will be delivered with a pair of FMS 6000s and can be ordered with a third FMS as an option. Unique to the newer Challenger, however, will be the so-called ChartLink function, which automatically calls up appropriate approach and departure charts for airports based on the flight plan entered into the FMS.

“This way the pilots’ workload is reduced,” Wu said. “They don’t have to go into the system and pick the airport and then choose the procedure. They can skip directly to selecting the appropriate approach.”

Two other advanced features, PrecisionPlus and 3-D flight maps, are being carried over from the 604 to the 605, Wu added. Graphical weather options include Universal Weather’s request/reply datalink system and XM’s satellite-based system. Because the IFIS system routes data from only one system at a time, and because the XM service tends to offer higher-fidelity Nexrad images than the Universal Weather option, XM weather is likely to be the choice of pilots when operating in the U.S.

Close Integration
Wu noted the high level of integration between the 605’s cockpit and the cabin. Rockwell Collins also provides the airplane’s Airshow 21 cabin electronics system, and it interfaces with a separate side-mounted display in the cockpit.

Similar to an electronic flight bag tablet computer, this 8- by 10-inch display is driven by the cabin electronics system. Besides allowing the pilots to control cabin systems, as noted earlier, the setup negates the need for Part 135 operators to install dual IFIS servers to meet paperless requirements because the cabin server acts as the backup.

Electronic charts are loaded into the servers through an Ethernet port using a laptop, which pilots or maintenance personnel must bring on board the airplane. Soon, Rockwell Collins will introduce a concept called eFlight that will enable operators to upload charts wirelessly or by using USB memory sticks.

The automatic flight control system in the 605 remains the same as that used in the 604, a commonality that will allow Bombardier to certify the new model in a relatively short time. A 200-hour flight-test program in Wichita recently got under way, with the Canadian manufacturer anticipating FAA and Transport Canada certification of the airplane in the fourth quarter.