EAA AirVenture

Aspen Avionics To Certify GFC 600 Autopilot Interface

 - July 26, 2022, 10:38 PM

Aspen Avionics this week unveiled new software that will allow its Evolution flight displays to interface with Garmin’s GFC 600 autopilot, without the use of an adapter. At the EAA AirVenture show on July 26, the company also announced that its Evolution displays no longer require a separate electronic or mechanical backup attitude indicator.

With a one-display installation, backup turn and bank, altimeter, and airspeed indicators are still required, but when two Aspen displays are installed, no separate backup is required. “This eliminates one of the most unreliable things on these airplanes, the vacuum pump [that drives mechanical attitude indicators],” said John Uczekaj, president and CEO of Aspen Avionics. “Customers can remove a highly unreliable device, gain the weight that goes with it, and have a reliable display."

Aspen expects the new software—v.2.12, priced at $1,995—to be approved late in the third or early in the fourth quarter of this year. Garmin will own the STC, and Aspen is responsible for meeting TSO standards. The autopilot interface enables full functionality in the Aspen primary flight display (PFD), with altitude, vertical speed, and airspeed selectable on the PFD or GFC 600 control panel. The autopilot includes flight director capability as well. Other v.2.12 features add extended runway centerlines on multi-function display moving maps; selected altitude/airspeed output for Trio autopilots; and better auto brightness levels, something that was requested by customers.

Forming Airo Group Holdings’ Advanced Avionics division, Aspen will play a growing role in designing avionics for the electric aircraft/urban air mobility (UAM) segment. Another Airo division, Electric Air Mobility, is developing the Jaunt Journey slowed-rotor compound eVTOL aircraft. Plans call for Airo to gain certification under existing rotorcraft regulations—both Part 27 and 29—first in Canada in 2026. A test aircraft has logged nearly 500 hours and more than 1,000 takeoffs and landings.

The final configuration of the Jaunt Journey will see it carry four passengers and one pilot. “Air taxi is going to be a big opportunity,” said Airo board member Joe Burns. The airframe is made of thermoplastic materials, which are more easily recycled. A combination of the slowed-rotor and a wing means that the Journey can safely land after a complete power loss. Maximum cruise speed will be 175 mph.

The Jaunt team has now conducted more than 1,000 takeoffs and landings with a technology demonstrator, logging over 300 flight hours. The company aims to start test flights with a pre-production aircraft at the end of 2023.

“Air taxi is going to be a big market opportunity,” he said. The aircraft will also be able to carry palletized cargo.

At AirVenture this week, Aspen is offering a trade-up program for older displays, with a $500 incentive on the upgrade, and $500 off each new display ordered. Aspen has managed supply chain problems is now able to deliver displays in two to three weeks, according to Uczekaj. “We have done what I consider a stellar job with supply chain and we do not have long lead times because of supply chain issues.”

Although it is part of a large holding company with divisions that also serve the military adversary training market and drone operations in addition to UAM and avionics, “Aspen at heart is a general aviation company,“ Uczekaj said. “It will always be that way. We are deeply rooted in the general aviation space. Technology for other markets will find its way quickly into general aviation markets.” This will include traffic-avoidance systems, video detection of traffic, and other UAM-derived technologies. “We should all expect that. The UAM market for general aviation is going to be a conduit, and everyone is getting ready to expand that market.”