Field Aviation has completed the first major modernisation of the flightdeck of a Bombardier Dash 8 turboprop. The company is confident the modification programme will be taken up by other operators.

The aircraft that underwent the upgrade is owned by the Icelandic coastguard.

Designed by Field Aviation to extend the useful life of older examples of the Dash 8-100, -200 and -300 aircraft, the modification was developed in co-operation with Universal Avionics.

Universal was responsible for tailoring and certificating the five flat-panel displays and interface software for the Dash 8. The programme has also involved Ametek, which developed the Dash 8's dual-channel engine interface unit.

Field Aviation Dash 8 flightdeck
 © Field Aviation

Upgrade of the Dash 8 required removing more than 30 old instruments and indicators from the instrument panel and was completed at Field's facilities at Toronto Pearson International airport.

Four of the new high-definition liquid-crystal displays provide navigation information, while a fifth, centrally mounted, provides engine information. Information can be switched between the displays and there is an option to feature alternative information, such as charts and weather data.

"The result is less weight and a significant reduction in equipment failures, improved dispatch reliability and reduced maintenance costs," said Field.

On 12 April, Transport Canada issued a supplemental type certificate for the cockpit upgrade, and the process to obtain equivalent US Federal Aviation Administration and European Aviation Safety Agency certification is under way.

Field says the aircraft was handed back to the coastguard on schedule.

David Jensen, vice-president of business development, says the company's first customer "has fully endorsed the benefits" of converting to Universal's EFI-890R flightdeck display.

"First and foremost there is the improvement in situational awareness for the flightcrew, but also a much easier flightcrew transition from, and into other aircraft types which tend to have more modern flightdecks than the 'classic' Dash 8s," he says.

Jensen points out that the early Dash 8s entered commercial service in the mid-1980s, but the flightdeck technology has remained static.

"The aircraft remains very popular, and the fleet is good for many more years in service," he says. "We believe that many operators will implement this flightdeck upgrade as part of extending the useful life of the Dash 8 aircraft, whether their primary reason is safety, reliability or maintainability or a combination of all."

Source: Flight International