EBACE Convention News

Anthem Avionics Suite Preps for Prime Time

 - May 22, 2023, 12:27 PM
Honeywell Aerospace used a Pilatus PC-12 test aircraft for the first fully operational flight test of the Honeywell Anthem integrated flight deck. (Photo: Honeywell)

Honeywell’s in-development Anthem integrated avionics suite is well into the flight-testing phase onboard the company’s Pilatus PC-12 testbed, in preparation for some likely airframer announcements that are expected soon. The PC-12 has logged more than 120 flight-test hours with various Anthem systems and less than two weeks ago it flew for the first time with the complete integrated flight deck and also fully managed by the system, according to Honeywell. The milestone flight in the Phoenix area was piloted by test pilots Ed Manning in the left seat and Bill Lee in the right seat, with support from flight engineers Paul Carter and Will Quinn.

So far, two advanced air mobility companies—Lilium and Vertical Aerospace—have selected Anthem for their aircraft, and this illustrates one of Anthem’s core features: it is scaleable from small aircraft to large and anything in between. It is also designed for both forward-fit applications on new aircraft and retrofits to existing aircraft.

“There are a lot of big milestones coming in the PC-12 testbed in the next few months,” said Andrew Barker, Honeywell v-p of integrated avionics and general aviation. “It’s continuing to move forward at a really nice pace and fly a lot in our aircraft. We’re getting more eyes on it both in and out of the company.”

Anthem is Honeywell’s sixth-generation avionics suite and will not only move the company beyond its current Primus Epic integrated avionics but also create an avionics ecosystem that can take a pilot from the smallest general aviation airplanes or even advanced air mobility aircraft into business turboprops and jets, military aircraft, and airliners. In other words, Anthem pilots will not have to learn a new avionics system every time they move into a different aircraft type, similar to what Garmin has accomplished with its G1000 through G5000 family.

However, Anthem is pushing the avionics envelope and adding some new technologies that will help pilots fly more efficiently and safely. Not all the capabilities will be available for every size aircraft, but that makes sense as the cost has to scale up and down with aircraft size. “The core product offering fits in all these different verticals [market segments],” Barker explained. “The objective is to not have significant change across markets. Scaleability is the core of Anthem and what we’re trying to do.”

The main human-machine interface for Anthem is the pilot interface display unit (PIDU), and the number of these will depend on the size of the airplane. A small aircraft, for example, might have one PIDU and one display, while larger aircraft would have more of each.

“Along with hardware scalability,” Barker said, "software features are also scaleable.” For example, a small aircraft operator (at least for the near future) won’t need controller-pilot datalink services. “Maybe the screens and the general look will be the same but some stuff will be different at different levels,” Barker said. The PIDU is a touchscreen avionics controller, but the main displays will also be touchscreens.

One of the most interesting new Anthem features is the secure cockpit browser, which allows users to run vetted software on an Anthem display, with full functionality and connectivity. Anthem is cloud-connected, which is an enabler of many of its features but requires careful attention to security, hence the philosophy behind the secure cockpit browser.

An example of software that can run on the secure cockpit browser is the web version of ForeFlight, but almost any web-based software could work.

Honeywell engineers are fine-tuning Anthem’s human-machine interface features. “We’re getting them exactly right so they will be familiar to pilots flying in the widely available systems today,” Barker said. “We want people flying Epic to be able to use this seamlessly.”

Other Anthem features include more detailed 2D and 3D airport surface depictions with advanced runway notifications and a taxi-assist feature that helps with routing on the ground.

In the air, Anthem’s 3D waypoints on the synthetic-vision display look like points suspended in the air instead of just drawn on the ground. The conformal synthetic-vision system clearly shows the flight path so pilots can see whether the aircraft will clear the terrain. “Those are core capabilities,” Barker said.

Along with Anthem, aircraft manufacturers might opt for Honeywell’s compact fly-by-wire product, designed to bring the benefits of fly-by-wire to smaller aircraft. Lilium has selected this system to go with its choice of Anthem. “If you add compact fly-by-wire to Anthem,” he said, “then you get two products that were designed to work together. You get a lot of capability and additional safety.

“There really are lots of opportunities,” Barker concluded, “and it’s exciting to see what’s possible. This is aviation 2.0, the next generation.”