System will be certificated across fly-by-wire families

Thales has been selected by Airbus to supply head-up-display (HUD) systems for all its models, Flight International can exclusively reveal. The selection comes after a close competition with Rockwell Collins Flight Dynamics.

According to industry sources, the decision, originally expected in 2002, means Thales HUDs will be offered as a standard option across the Airbus fly-by-wire families. Airbus will certificate the system on each model as part of the aircraft's type certificate, making it unlikely that operators will find it cost-effective to seek competing HUDs.

BAE Systems, originally expected to be the other main contender, along with Rockwell Collins, is understood to have negotiated a last-minute teaming arrangement with Thales. The move is believed to have tipped the scales in favour of Thales. Until as recently as early March, Airbus was thought to be leaning towards Rockwell Collins.

Airbus, BAE, Rockwell Collins and Thales declined to comment on the HUD selection.

The decision marks an about turn for Airbus, which signalled its intent to adopt HUD technology last May. Airbus was prompted to reverse its "no-HUD" policy by corporate users who called for it in the A319 Corporate Jetliner, and by carriers like Qantas which requested it for the A330. Observers expect the A320 family will be first to be equipped, helping the A319CJ compete against Boeing's HUD-equipped 737 Boeing Business Jet, and similarly equipped larger corporate jets.

The option makes it possible that A320 family operators such as JetBlue Airways and Frontier Airlines, which have lobbied for the change, will now be able to retrofit HUDs.

Despite the HUD contest, Thales had long been viewed as the de facto incumbent. In its earlier existence as Sextant Avionique, Thales first fitted a limited number of HUDs to Air Inter (now part of Air France) A320s in the late 1980s.

Airbus has been reluctant to adopt HUDs because it had developed a sophisticated Category 3B autoland capability for all its models. Its action now acknowledges, however, the situational awareness enhancement and other potential safety benefits of HUDS, as well as the greater operational flexibility it provides to both airline and corporate operators flying into Category 1 capable-only airports.

Source: Flight International