EASy II offers major upgrade for Falcon fliers

 - May 26, 2011, 4:10 AM

As Honeywell’s Falcon 900 equipped with the new EASy II avionics upgrade flew solidly down the glideslope to Runway 23 at Morristown Airport in New Jersey, the two pilots and I (sitting in the jump seat) could see a clear view of the outside world on the PFD’s SmartView synthetic-vision system (SVS) display. Outside the world was murky white and it stayed that way down to minimums. Inside the cockpit, the pilots had all the information they needed to make a safe approach to the fog-shrouded runway, including SVS, a head-up display, Honeywell’s SmartRunway and the approach chart front and center on the MFD.

EASy II is a major upgrade from Dassault Falcon’s original EASy cockpit configuration based on Honeywell Primus Epic avionics. New functionality for EASy II adds features that business jet pilots have been longing for (and many that have long been available in the Part 23 world). The upgrades include SVS, satellite-based augmentation system (SBAS) approaches, ADS-B out, required navigation performance authorization required (RNP AR) capability, auto descent mode, SmartRunway (Raas), XM WX graphical weather, electronic charts, FMS improvements, autothrottle takeoff and go-around improvements and more.

In the Honeywell Falcon 900, the EASy system’s four 14.1-inch DU1310 displays are mounted in a T layout, with PFDs in front of each pilot and two MFDs stacked in the center. The layout is designed as a “circle of influence,” with the center displays and FMS controls showing shared strategic information so each pilot can see what the other does. “The center workspace is an important concept,” said Honeywell test pilot Sandy Wyatt. “Actions won’t be done by one crewmember without the other knowing what was done.” Each pilot’s PFD displays tactical information, and each pilot has a cursor control device (CCD). Neither pilot can manipulate any data in the other’s PFD. In the common work area in the center, the last CCD to move in that area gets priority.

Each display is customizable to a certain degree, split into windows that pilots can set to their liking. The windows are two thirds and one third of the total display, using four segments. On the PFDs, there are two large segments (two thirds) on the outboard side and two small (one third) on the inboard side. The MFDs have the two large on the left and small ones on the right. The idea is that the large segments should be used for key information and the smaller ones for monitored data. All of the segments on the MFDs are switchable, while only one of the one-third segments on the PFD can be changed.

Display Changes

The big change for EASy II is the way SVS is portrayed on the PFDs. Honeywell EASy has a traditional ADI on top, HSI on the bottom, with the horizon line stretching only to the edges inside the airspeed and altitude tapes. EASy II’s ADI shows the horizon all the way across the width of the display, and data tapes and symbology are transparent. Turning on the SmartView SVS shows the synthetic view of the outside world on the entire display, behind the transparent symbology. To make sure the real horizon is obvious, a zero pitch reference line extends across the width of the display. The bottom of the display shows the HSI and can also show radar images and other information.

Instead of the gee-whiz highway-in-the-sky boxes surrounding the route or approach path, Honeywell elected to avoid that clutter and went with energy cues that help the pilot fly a precise path while retaining the big-picture view of the outside world. A conformal flight path marker (FPM) symbol tells the pilot where the airplane is going and is useful during approach and landing–just put the FPM on the touchdown point. And an acceleration chevron next to the FPM instantly feeds back to the pilot whether the energy state is spot on, high or low. For example, too much energy, but FPM in the right spot? Reduce power. What this does is help the pilot arrive at the decision altitude on speed and with the correct flight path. According to Honeywell, the FPM and acceleration chevron are key elements in how it plans to obtain credit for lower approach minima using SVS.

SmartView SVS uses Honeywell’s EGPWS terrain database to paint the colors on the outside synthetic view. Terrain is color-shaded to indicate relation to elevation. The FMS-selected destination runway is highlighted in cyan, and a runway lead-in line (extended centerline) shows runway alignment. As the aircraft gets closer to the runway, detailed runway symbology becomes clear, including runway numbers, centerlines and even runway pavement texture that gives the pilot the feeling of moving over the ground. Conformal range rings and gridlines on the terrain display help with judging distance to various features and viewing topography.

Honeywell designers took extra care when showing the SVS view flying over water. In the distance below the real horizon, the water doesn’t end abruptly as it meets the sky. (The zero pitch line is above the water/sky interface, as the real horizon would be looking outside if you could see that far.) Rather, it gradually blends into unfocused blueness, similar to the real-life view, but that blueness is darker than the sky so it’s easy to tell the contrast between sky and water. The attention to detail continues for the view during an unusual attitude, with much of the terrain detail removed to ensure a clear view of the sky versus ground.

While SVS is a useful and compelling addition to EASy II, pilots will likely enjoy the additional utility from EASy II’s new approach capabilities. This includes not only Waas LPV and European Egnos approaches (and in the future other countries’ SBAS system approaches) but also RNP AR approaches. RNP AR approaches (also known as Saaar) aren’t included in the EASy II database, but will be added after Honeywell has validated the selected approaches. Pilots must also be trained and the flight department or operator must receive operational approval for RNP AR approaches. Honeywell provides the operational approval service to help operators obtain the OpSpec for Saaar approaches. EASy II also has barometric Vnav temperature compensation, which compensates for altitude constraints during arrivals, approaches and departures.

User-friendly Improvements

EASy II has many new features that make it a great leap forward from the original EASy cockpit. Amending flight plans is much simpler, for example. Objects on the MFD have an action menu that pops up when the cursor is placed on it. Routes can be amended easily to intercept from any ATC-assigned vector using the cursor. “The beauty of the [graphical user interface],” said Wyatt, “is you don’t have to remember everything.” To set a crossing altitude at a point, say, 20 nm ahead of a waypoint, instead of having to recall arcane FMS steps, it’s a simple matter of opening the cross dialogue for that waypoint, then inserting the information. When displaying graphical XM WX, the CCD can easily be used to move waypoints to alter a flight path around storms.

Another EASy II option is autopilot auto descent mode, which automatically flies the airplane at maximum velocity (10 knots less than Vmo/Mmo) to a safe altitude (15,000 feet) in the event of a cabin depressurization at high altitude.

There are some features of EASy II that still need work and hopefully will be resolved in the future. One is that there is no “nearest” function on the MFD, something that is common in smaller aircraft glass cockpits. A “nearest intersection” tool would be useful to help pilots find intersections assigned by ATC but that are not easy to decipher or find on a chart. And “nearest airport” is also helpful in emergency situations.

While EASy II displays graphical XM WX weather data, it doesn’t take advantage of XM’s textual data to display the weather when pulling up airport information from the database. On Easy II, textual weather such as Metars and TAFs is delivered via AFIS, not by XM, which makes sense for those traveling outside North America where XM has no coverage. But it would be useful to be able to take advantage of XM’s textual weather data while flying in the continental U.S.

An interesting difference between EASy II and almost every other light aircraft glass cockpit and even Gulfstream’s PlaneView is that EASA has prohibited airborne geo-reference (own-ship position) display on approach charts for EASy II. “It’s there,” said Wyatt, “but it’s off.”

That this feature was missing became apparent during our approach into Morristown. While the approach chart was displayed beautifully on the MFD in high-resolution sharpness, it was just that, a static chart. That is, until we touched down, when the airplane symbol suddenly popped up to show us on Runway 23 and taxiing to the Honeywell hangar. It is difficult to understand EASA’s reluctance to allow geo-referencing, especially considering it is allowed on Gulfstream’s PlaneView system, which is also Honeywell-based.

EASy II is due for certification for the Falcon 900 in mid-2011, followed by the Falcon 2000 and 7X by the end of 2012. . o