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Corporate-aviation customers will be of intense interest to the avionics suppliers at Paris.

Graham Warwick/Atlanta

While public attention will be captured by the Paris debuts of the latest commercial airliners and military aircraft, including the Boeing 777, Northrop Grumman B-2 and Bell Boeing V-22, the avionics industry will be looking elsewhere - at the business- and regional-aircraft sectors, where prospects for new business are higher.

Paris will see the European debuts of the Bombardier Canadair Challenger 604, cessna Citation X and Dassault Falcon 900EX business-jets. The 604 features Rockwell-Collins' latest satellite-based avionics, while the Citation X and Falcon 900EX have Honeywell's Primus 2000 integrated avionics.

Bombardier is expected to announce avionics selections for the planned de Havilland Dash 8-400 and Canadair CRJ-X regional-airliners at Paris. Demands from potential customers for commonality with existing Dash 8s make Honeywell the favourite on the stretched, 70-seat -400; while Collins' incumbency on the Canadair Regional Jet makes it the likely supplier of avionics for the stretched, 70-seat CRJ-X.

What is certain is that the chosen supplier on each programme will be required by Bombardier to take on the risk-sharing system-integrator role Collins' already performs on the Challenger 604, and that Honeywell fulfils on the Canadian company's upcoming Global Express long-range business-jet.

The highly competitive nature of the avionics business is highlighted by the fact that Dassault stayed with Honeywell for the improved Falcon 900EX, but switched to Collins for the upgraded Falcon 50EX, launched a few weeks ahead of the Paris show. As Bombardier has cautioned, an extremely competitive rival bid could overcome the common benefits of staying with existing suppliers, on the Dash 8-400 and CRJ-X.

With Raytheon Aircraft now talking about launching a new business-jet later this year, the company is expected to balance its long association with Collins on Beech products with its experience of Honeywell avionics on the Hawker business-jet line.

Technological rivalry between avionics manufacturers is intense, and increasing, as companies such as France's Sextant Avionique try to break into the systems-integration market. AlliedSignal Aerospace is also developing a systems capability through its work with Russia's NIIAO on the cockpit for the Beriev Be-200 amphibian.

The Honeywell-equipped cockpit of Boeing 777 represents the first commercial-aircraft application of liquid-crystal flight displays. The US avionics manufacturer has already notched up its second application - for the next-generation Boeing 737. The aircraft manufacturer's desire for cockpit commonality could lead to eventual use of the same displays on the 757 and 767.

Collins' first application of liquid-crystal flight displays will be on a new development of its Pro Line 4 integrated-avionics for business and regional aircraft. AlliedSignal is developing LCDs for the Be-200, and for military-retrofit programmes for the Lockheed C-141 transport, Boeing CH-46 helicopter, and Argentina's McDonnell Douglas A-4 attack aircraft.

The light-weight and low volume of LCDs has particularly attracted helicopter manufacturers and flat-panel engine-instrument displays are featured on the Agusta A.109 (Ametek), Bell 430 (Rogerson Kratos), Eurocopter EC.120 (Sextant) and McDonnell Douglas Explorer (Canadian Marconi). Rogerson also supplies the engine display for the Bombardier Canadair CL-415 water-bomber, which will be displayed at Paris.

The prospect of replacing thousands of conventional mechanical flight and engine instruments in a wide range of aircraft with low-maintenance LCDs has attracted other players to the display business, including Parker Hannifin's Gull Electronic Systems division and Smiths Industries Aerospace. Several major airlines are considering LCD upgrades.

LCDS FOR MILITARY AIRCRAFT

An increasing number of military-aircraft programmes are adopting LCDs for reasons of increased reliability and readability. This includes the Aero L-129 (AlliedSignal); V-22 and Lockheed F-16 (Honeywell); Boeing Sikorsky RAH-66 and Lockheed C-130J (Litton Systems Canada); Lockheed/Boeing F-22 and MDC F-18E/F (Kaiser Electronics; and Dassault Rafale and Eurocopter Tiger (Sextant).

Similarly hot competition is brewing in the civil head-up display (HUD) market, which Collins/Kaiser company Flight Dynamics has so far dominated with systems for the Boeing 727 and 737, Regional Jet, Dash 8, Falcon 2000, Dornier 328 and Saab 2000. Honeywell has begun flying its HUD for the Gulfstream IV and V business-jets on a Citation testbed. The display is produced by military-HUD specialist GEC-Marconi Avionics.

Business jets are expected to be a major market for safety-enhancing head-up displays. Bombardier has selected Sextant to supply a HUD for the Global Express and Flight Visions' low-cost HUD has been installed on the Citation II, Falcon 50 and 900 and Gulfstream IV.

Another "hot" new market is that for global-positioning-system (GPS) avionics, and particularly GPS landing-systems (GLS). GPS receivers approved for non-precision approaches, including those from AlliedSignal, Garmin International and Trimble Navigation, are being used increasing in the USA, principally by helicopter operators.

CATEGORY I STEP

The next step, to Category I precision approaches, is expected to be taken by the end of 1995, when the first local-area differential-GPS ground stations are due to be certificated. Honeywell, teamed with Canada's Pelorus Navigation Systems, has sold ground stations in Australia, Canada and the USA, while Interstate Electronics, with Airport Systems International, will be involved in a Swiss trial beginning in September.

The ultimate GLS goal is full Cat 3 automatic-landing capability using GPS. Several trials are under way, the most influential of which is expected to be a Boeing evaluation beginning in August, using a NASA 757, equipped with four competing GLSs. Airborne/ground-equipment teams taking part are: Collins/Daimler-Benz Aerospace, Honeywell/ Pelorus, Interstate/Airport Systems and Litton/Wilcox.

The move to satellite-based communication, navigation, surveillance and air-traffic-management (CNS/ATM) is expected to create a demand to upgrade existing aircraft to take advantage of the resulting "free-flight" airspace system. Manufacturers are positioning themselves to tap the potentially massive retrofit market.

When Collins unveiled the AVSAT line of satellite-based avionics in 1994, it emphasised that systems would be developed for modern aircraft equipped with flight-management systems (FMSs) and for the many non-FMS aircraft in service.

The first AVSAT application is the new Challenger 604 business-jet, which uses a combination of the FMS-6000 and the GPS-4000 receiver, but versions are planned which will combine the GPS (ultimately GLS) and FMS in a single box. Collins is working closely with airliner-FMS specialist Smiths Industries.

Interstate already markets GPS-only and GPS/FMS products for airlines, the IEC 9001 and 9002, respectively, and Litton has teamed with Universal Navigation to offer GPS/FMS systems, the LTN-400 and -450, aimed at the retrofit market. These combine Litton's LTN-2001 GPS receiver with Universal's widely used UNS-1 flight-management system. Honeywell says it is working on products for the retrofit market.

Regional airlines promise to produce a major, but extremely price-sensitive, market for GPS-based avionics. Trimble has packaged its TNL-2000/3000-series GPS navigators in panel- and Dzus-mounted forms, to cover the range of regional-aircraft applications. GPS manufacturer Magellan Systems has joined forces with airline-datalink provider ARINC to develop the CNS-12, which combines both GPS receiver and ACARS VHF-datalink unit, in a single $10,000, CNS box. Sales are pending, Magellan says.

The military retrofit market shows signs of increased activity as air forces adjust to lower budget levels. Northrop Grumman is flight-testing an extensively upgraded F-5 and already has an agreement with Taiwan to refit several aircraft for resale. The company's F-5 upgrade includes Westinghouse radar, Honeywell inertial-navigator and multi-function displays, GEC-Marconi Avionics HUD and AlliedSignal air-data computer.

Northrop Grumman is expected to be one of the leading bidders in the forthcoming contract to upgrade more than 400 Northrop T-38 advanced jet trainers with systems including head-up and multi-function displays.

Lockheed Martin is flight-testing the firstF-16 to be refitted under the multi-national mid-life update (MLU) programme. European operators plan to update 301 F-16A/Bs with improved Westinghouse radar, Texas Instruments mission-computer, Hazeltine identification system, E-Systems GPS, datalink, and British Aerospace-developed digital-terrain system. The improved cockpit features a GEC-Marconi wide angle HUD and Honeywell colour displays. Other F-16A/B operators are interested in the upgrade, Lockheed Martin says.

SLOW SOVIET START

The market to retrofit Soviet-built combat-aircraft with Western systems got off to a slow start. Mikoyan's upgrade of Indian MiG-21s will have a strong Western content, with key systems to be supplied by French companies Dassault Electronique and Sagem. Mikoyan is also working with prime-contractor Elbit, of Israel, on Romania's MiG-21 update.

France's links with Mikoyan extend to the Russian design bureau's new MiG-AT advanced jet trainer, rolled out in May and scheduled to have its public debut at Paris. Sagem is supplying avionics, including head-up and multi-function displays for the MiG-AT. As Collins, avionics integrator on the Westernised Ilyushin Il-96M airliner, will attest, however, patience is required when waiting for such East-West ventures to become profitable.

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