American Airlines is set to receive its first Boeing 737-800 equipped with a Marconi HUD 2020 Visual Guidance System (VGS) this month, following US Federal Aviation Administration certification of the head-up display (HUD).

The aircraft is the first of at least 103 737-800s due to be fitted with the VGS, developed with Honeywell. The system is to be installed in up to 400 extra 737s on which American holds purchase rights, plus possibly in other types in the airline's fleet, such as the Boeing MD-80 and 757-200.

American expects to retrofit the VGS into 22 737s which have been delivered, plus another eight due for delivery over the next four months. All retrofits will be carried out at the rate of one a week by Marconi Flight Systems at Mojave, California, where the flight tests were carried out. The balance of the fleet will be equipped by Boeing at Renton, Washington, from around the first quarter of next year, says American Airlines' VGS programme manager, Brian Will.

Certification was originally expected around the end of July, but was "victimised by a paperwork exercise" and delayed by the expiration of a lease on a 737-800 which was being used as the testbed for the VGS. "However, the performance of the HUD during certification flying was superb, and the bulk of the flying was achieved in five days rather than the three weeks we expected," says Will.

American is working with Marconi on a subsequent modification to the VGS, which will enable it to be driven directly off the Honeywell versatile integrated avionics (VIA) 2000 system at the heart of the 737-800 avionics.

"We have a digital interface so we can tap into the VIA, and remove the display guidance computer from the electronics bay," says Will.

Source: Flight International