Rockwell Collins delivers King Air makeover to US Federal Aviation Administration

Washington DC
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Rockwell Collins has completed an avionics overhaul on the first of 18 Beechcraft King Air 300 flight inspection aircraft operated by the US Federal Aviation Administration. Under the next phase of the $32 million project, Collins will deliver a "complete turnkey solution" of the engineering, installation and certification aspects of the Pro Line 21 retrofit package to FAA technicians who will perform the remaining 17 installations at FAA facilities at the rate of three-to-four aircraft a year.

The retrofit is similar to other upgrade programmes completed and under way at Collins, including new integrated avionics systems for the Dassault Falcon 20 and Falcon 50, Hawker 800A and Piaggio P180, as well as for other King Air models.

In each case, Collins has found it more efficient to take the leading role in acquiring the supplemental type certificate and the associated intellectual property. "We realised there a lot of nuances with the configuration of each aircraft," says John Peterson, manager of aftermarket marketing for Collins. "To be efficient, Collins owns the STC. That way if there are subtle differences [between aircraft], we can change the STC, which makes for a lower cost for the dealer and the owner."

For the FAA, Johnson says the choice came down to upgrading its King Air 300s or spending $90 million to replace them with new King Air 350s, aircraft that come with Pro Line 21 cockpits. "They asked us how much it would cost to retrofit [the Pro Line 21 in the existing fleet]," says Johnson. A cost-benefit analysis showed the government would save $58 million by recycling the aircraft and installing the integrated avionics. Johnson says the aircraft, once upgraded, will have the airframe life and necessary features to operate at least through 2020.

The FAA uses the aircraft, along with longer-range Bombardier and Hawker aircraft, to evaluate the adequacy of electronic navigation signals in US airspace.