GEC-Marconi Avionics appears to be heading for a surprise last-minute victory in a crucial battle to supply American Airlines with head-up-display (HUD) systems.

A contract was on the verge of being signed with Flight Dynamics in late December when GEC- Marconi, which was thought to be out of the running along with fellow competitor Sextant Avionique, emerged with a new proposal.

The Rochester, UK-based firm confirms that it has dispatched a negotiating team to Seattle. It had earlier visited Boeing's assembly line in Wichita, Kansas, to demonstrate how its HUD, based on the HUD 2022 system due to be certificated on the Gulfstream V this month, could be fitted to the 737 installation mock-up. GEC business development manager Dean McCumiskey says that Boeing needed re-assurances that adopting its HUD would not add to its current production problems.

Industry sources say that the new GEC-Marconi proposal is based on a "very ambitious schedule" with the first of 75 Next Generation 737s on order due to be delivered to American in January 1999.

McCumiskey says that the company's original plan was to certificate the system entirely on a leased 737-200. This proved insufficient for American and only last-minute pressure from the UK firm's parent, with which Boeing has several defence and civil contracts, persuaded Boeing to provide the test assistance required to meet the American schedule.

It seems that American has taken things further and is applying pressure on Boeing to begin formally offering the UK-made HUD as a factory-installed option on the 737, which would cut costs. McCumiskey says that certification flying with the leased 737 is due to start in February, and the company will be racing to gain Next Generation 737 certification by year-end.

GEC-Marconi had recently been beaten by Flight Dynamics, in the race to supply Delta Air Lines' new Next Generation 737s with head-up systems.

Source: Flight International