Rockwell Collins' new flagship offering - Pro Line Fusion - has been selected for eight new platforms, but the manufacturer has yet to decide if it will be available for the retrofit market
Major makers of avionics and cabin electronics systems are putting substance over style at EBACE this year, focusing on the core values that have made the corporate aircraft a force multiplier in the business world.
"For us it's getting back to basics, the equipment our customers are flying every day," says Rob Wilson, president of Honeywell's business aviation unit. "That means retrofits, modifications and upgrades." Topping the list of requested applications for those upgraded cockpits, says Wilson, are flight efficiency optimisers like required navigation performance (RNP), enhanced GPS approaches (WAAS LPV) or NextGen features such as controller-pilot datalink (FANS 1/A).
In response, Honeywell is introducing flightdeck upgrades that will put "glass" display upgrades into legacy cockpits while introducing the advanced navigation, communication and surveillance (CNS) features to a large variety of existing and new Gulfstream models.
Along with flight management system upgrades that support WAAS LPV, FANS and RNP special aircraft and aircrew authorisation required (SAAAR) down to 0.1nm (0.18km) separation, Wilson says the retrofit package will also offer legacy cockpits the growth potential to add synthetic vision and paperless terminal charts. Based on the Barco-built DU-885 liquid crystal displays with LED backlighting, Honeywell will offer the package for legacy GIV, GIV-SP, G300, G400 and GV family aircraft.
For products that already has synthetic vision - the G350, G450, G500 and G550 - the company has readied a software enhancement that provides paperless terminal charts and range rings for the synthetic vision system. Wilson says the new system is in flight test in a customer Gulfstream IV.
The company is also offering all equipped operators its Go Direct Service with the upgrade, providing operators help in earning RNP SAAAR operational approval.
Similar enhanced capability programs are under way in Dassault aircraft with Primus Epic EASy and Primus 2000-equipped cockpits, as well as in Bombardier Challenger and Global Express models with Honeywell cockpits.
"We're working the specifics on how the upgrade will come to market," says Wilson, "but our desire is to have supplemental type certificates held by as many avionics shops or modification houses as possible."
Rockwell Collins unveiled an upgrade programme in 2007 that augments legacy Pro Line 4 cockpits with Pro Line 21 features. Duncan Aviation, the STC holder, has completed two such conversions on Dassault Falcon 50EXs. The upgrade interfaces existing Pro Line 4 sensors, radio and autopilots, to Pro Line 21 displays, which offer graphical weather, electronic charts and airport diagrams, display of enhanced vision system video and other features. Along with the Falcon 50EX, Duncan also holds STCs on the upgrade for the Hawker 800A, Hawker 800XP and Astra 1125, and is developing one for the Falcon 2000. Constant Aviation will obtain an STC for the same conversion on the Beechjet 400A later this year.
Rockwell Collins is also working toward making WAAS LPV available as part of the package. The company in December certificated the capability on a Challenger 604 with an upgraded Rockwell Collins flight management system and GPS-4000S wide-area augmentation system (WAAS) unit. Using the equipment, pilots can fly GPS-guided near-precision approaches to airports, in some cases down to Category 1 (200ft/60m) minimums with localiser performance and vertical guidance (LPV) in the cockpit. A plan to incorporate synthetic vision into the Pro Line 21 flightdeck is in the works, potentially to be announced at the NBAA exhibition later this year.
The avionics manufacturer has not yet decided whether its new flagship offering - Pro Line Fusion - will be available for the retrofit market. Selected for eight new platforms so far, including the Global Express Global Vision upgrade and Gulfstream G250, Fusion will offer increased situational awareness through synthetic and enhanced vision as well as multi-scan weather radar on 15in (38.1cm) LCD displays, the largest in the industry.
"We're at the half-way point in development," says Rockwell Collins vice- president and general manager for business and regional aviation, Greg Irmen, of the Pro Line Fusion programme. Along with shipping the first flight-ready Fusion software to one of its customers for an upcoming debut flight, Rockwell Collins has begun flying the system in one of its own aircraft, a corporate Challenger 604 (N601RC) which has been made into a flight-test aircraft for the certification effort, a move Rockwell Collins says will "reduce risk going forward".
The aircraft has a legacy Pro Line 21 layout on the pilot's side and Fusion on the right, a design that will help customers perform a true one-to-one comparison on demonstration flights. Rockwell Collins is displaying an interactive display-based demonstrator that shows off Fusion as if the system were in flight. Irmen says first certification is on track for October or November 2010. "Then there will be a raft [of certifications] every eight months or so," he says. "We're not ruling out an aftermarket version either."
Keeping the door open for retrofits is Rockwell Collins' belief that the used aircraft market will be first to recover from the downturn. "We think there will be significant activity in the next 12 to 18 months," says Irmen, "as the economy begins to turn and used aircraft begin to be consumed."
Cabins on those aircraft will be revamped. Rockwell Collins says the focus of the upgrades will be productivity. "There's some sensitivity of the use of a private jet," says Andrew Mohr, manager for cabin systems marketing for Rockwell Collins. "Because of that, there's an increased focus on productivity uses, ensuring that the time in the aircraft is of the maximum benefit."
The mandate is driving improvements to the company's Tailwind 500 and 550 direct broadcast satellite television system. The company on Monday announced new free-to-air access over India and Russia, the first for a business jet. "TV is used as an information source as much as for an entertainment source," says Mohr. Rockwell Collins continues to develop its next-generation high definition Venue digital cabin system, which it has been testing with Cessna on a CJ4. Fully functioning versions of the system, selected so far for the CJ4, Hawker 450 and King Air 350i, are on display at the Hawker Beechcraft and Cessna booths. Entry into service for Venue will be by year-end on the King Air 350i, says Mohr.
In the cabin, Honeywell is giving customers lower-cost connectivity through an upgrade to Ovation Selection that will allow passengers to send and receive Blackberry messages and pay only by the size of the message.