Embraer reselects Honeywell as avionics supplier for next E-Jet

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Embraer has re-selected Honeywell to supply a revamped avionics suite for the second-generation E-Jet, despite the incumbent's struggles to deliver the original Primus Epic system on time for the E-170 more than a decade ago.

The decision adds another critical piece to the evolving supply chain for the re-engined and re-winged E-Jet family that will appear in 2018, but leaves several questions still unanswered.

The second-generation E-Jet is expected to be formally launched this year after more of the suppliers are selected for the landing gear, fly-by-wire, auxiliary power unit and electrical systems, says Luis Carlos Affonso, who heads Embraer's new programmes unit.

So far, Embraer has chosen to change engine suppliers by switching from General Electric to Pratt & Whitney, but keep the original E-Jet's avionics supplier.

Despite its incumbent position, Honeywell appeared vulnerable. Software problems integrating the Primus Epic avionics suite in 2002 delayed entry into service of the E-170 by more than a year.

In subsequent years, Embraer appeared to move away from Honeywell, selecting Rockwell Collins to provide the avionics for the KC-390 tanker/transport and the Legacy 450/500 business jets. Garmin was selected as the avionics supplier for the Phenom 100/300 light jets.

Embraer's decision to keep the avionics suite standard with the original E-Jet will help minimise transition training costs for existing customers to upgrade to the second-generation E-Jet.

"Commonality was a big factor, for sure," Affonso says. "But of course we wanted avionics that were modern and that would allow for future growth and flexibility. It was really a balance."

There was another consideration in Embraer's decision to select the Primus Epic II, and it clearly involved avoiding the development delays that plagued the original product.

"We wanted to have a good solution and avionics suite that had all the capability you'd expect, and yet common [with the original E-Jet] and, more than that, mature," Affonso says.

The avionics selection was cheerfully received at Honeywell. "I can tell you you're talking to one very enthused person," says Mike Rowley, Honeywell's vice president of worldwide sales, who has shuttled between Arizona and Brazil for 14 months to win the campaign. "You have to work very hard to convince someone that even as the incumbent that you're the right one."

The Primus Epic II is based on the same avionics suite already in service with the Gulfstream G650 as the Planeview II and on the Dassault Falcon 7X as the EASy II.

For the second-generation E-Jet, the suite replaces five, portrait-style 8in by 10in displays with four 13in by 10in landscape screens. Updated software allows for new functions as options, including synthetic vision and electronic charts.

Embraer has decided to incorporate dual head-up displays in the second-generation E-Jet, but has not yet selected a supplier. "That's still being evaluated," Affonso adds. Another potential change is moving from a track-pad-based cursor control device on the original jet to a track-ball, Rowley says.

Other new features, such as a next-generation flight measurement unit and RD4000 weather radar, are also retrofittable to the current E-Jet fleet, and will be integrated into existing production around 2015.

Embraer is expected to lead the integration of the still un-selected fly-by-wire system with the Primus Epic II, Rowley says.