Graham Warwick/WASHINGTON DC

NASA has awarded Avidyne and AvroTec a contract to develop a low-cost glass cockpit for general aviation aircraft. Team members Lancair and Raytheon will handle aircraft certification issues, and both AlliedSignal and Rockwell Collins will help with symbology development.

The "highway in the sky" contract is one of the last elements of NASA's Advanced General Aviation Transport Experiments programme, which is being wound up because of cuts in the agency's aeronautics research funding (Flight International, 10-16 February).

The two-phase contract calls for development of a low-cost, dual-screen electronic flight instrument system, initially presenting conventional attitude director and horizontal situation displays. This is scheduled for certification by June 2000, to be followed a year later by an "easy-to-fly" highway-in-the-sky display.

Portland, Oregon-based Avro-Tec will lead the team and provide the computing and display hardware - two 250-300mm (10-12in)-diagonal liquid-crystal displays. Lexington, Massachussetts-based Avidyne will develop the software. President David Schwinn says the company will evaluate "at least a dozen" existing highway-in-the-sky displays before selecting a format for certification.

The system is targeted to cost around $40,000, including an attitude and heading reference system to be developed by Seagull Technology and an air data computer. This compares with around $60,000 for the cheapest display-only electronic flight instrument system available today, he says.

Under the three-year, $4 million, cost-sharing contract with NASA, the team will develop and deliver certification guidelines for a low-cost glass cockpit. Phase 1 will use existing standards, Schwinn says, while a draft standard for the highway-in-the-sky display will be produced in Phase 2.

The Phase 1 effort will result in certification of the system architecture, while Phase 2 will involve a software update. Schwinn says the second-phase system will include charts, traffic and weather display software developed by Avidyne for its Flight Situation Display.

AvroTec, which uses Avidyne's software in its FlightMonitor situational awareness display for the Lancair Columbia 300 light aircraft, says the company plans to have hardware ready by the end of this year with flight testing of the low-cost equipment getting under way early next year on the Columbia and a Raytheon Beech Baron. Electronic flight instrument displays should be available for installation by early 2001.

Source: Flight International