Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based Astronautics is nearing supplemental type certificate (STC) approval and has begun pre-production shipments of its RoadRunner drop-in replacement electronic flight instrument (EFI). The Roadrunner EFI line is part of a busy product development effort under way at Astronautics as it moves to expand production to three display families this spring and prepares for the launch of its next-generation suite.
Anticipating technical standard order shortly, Astronautics (Booth C2810) recently completed quality testing on the RoadRunner EFI and is testing initially for an STC aboard the Leonardo A109 light twin. STC flight trials, to take place in Minneapolis, are anticipated in upcoming weeks. The testing will validate required capabilities for all phases of flight, including LPV approaches, as well as the display of other functions such as GPS mapping and radar, the company said.
Designed to reduce operating and maintenance costs, the RoadRunner is made to replace five-inch ADI and HSI electromechanical units. The unit is embedded with increased safety functionality that is found on modern EFIS, including HTAWS and synthetic vision. This comes with a “really big weight savings,” said Astronautics president Chad Cundiff, estimating that it could amount to 15 pounds per flight deck.
One of the key aspects for the RoadRunner is that it was designed for ease of installation. It comes with an wiring adapter harness and fits into existing slots for electromechanical units. “You are not cutting panels or running wires all over the aircraft,” Cundiff said, adding that the installation could take place in a day or two.
Astronautics will own the initial STC on the A109, but already has begun pre-production shipping to customers and/or installation centers for development of STCs on other aircraft, he said.
The company has lined up a worldwide network of 16 dealers, some of which will be working on STCs. He believes the initial STCs will involve aircraft such as the Bell 212, 412, and 214, as well as the UH-60L Firehawk. United Rotorcraft selected the AFI 4700 RoadRunner EFI for two of its Firehawks operated by the Ventura County Fire Department.
Along with shipping pre-production units, Astronautics is preparing for full-scale production with plans to begin shipping production units this spring to customers. Simultaneously, Astronautics plans to begin production of another new display family, called Ibex, this spring.
In the works but kept under wraps for a little more than a year, the Ibex displays are designed for special-mission needs. These scalable displays will support touchscreen or bezel button configuration and provide “semi-smart” functionality. Targeting special-mission platforms such as fighters and trainers, the units will be designed for flexibility to adapt with back-end architecture used to support the missions.
Cundiff noted that this line builds on Astronautics's experience with rugged displays that can operate in multiple environments and at high altitudes of 70,000 or 80,000 feet.
At the same time, Astronautics is expanding its portfolio of customers for its fully integrated Badger electronic flight instrument system, with new helicopter customer announcements anticipated soon. The company recently announced an order from Lockheed Martin to upgrade primary flight and navigation displays on the P-3 Orion Long Range Tracker and Airborne Early Warning aircraft with four six-by-eight multifunction displays. U.S. Customs and Border Protection operates these aircraft.
Cundiff said that the Badger EFIS fits well with the special-mission applications because it provides smart displays certified to helicopter standards with high reliability. Driving part of that reliability is a passive cooling system, which “really is doing a great job keeping temperatures under control.” In fact, he noted that Astronautics has not had an “out of box return” on the system in the past eight months.
As it increases its portfolio of customers for the Badger EFIS line, Astronautics is getting ready to launch the third generation. Details are anticipated in upcoming months, but Cundiff said it will involve a flexible system with adaptable and scalable technology that incorporates the latest in graphics and touchscreen capability. The new system will have an open-interface architecture while integrating additional functional and navigation features. Key to the system will be its smaller size and lighter weight.