Kieran Daly/LONDON

UNITED AIRLINES has decided to hush-kit its Boeing 727 fleet and some of its 737-200s, allowing the aircraft to remain in service into the next century.

The carrier, which earlier cancelled its options on a second batch of 50 Airbus A320s, is also looking for an extensive cockpit upgrade. United says that it has yet to select avionics or hush-kit suppliers, or decide the time scale for installation.

United operates more than 80 Boeing 727s and nearly 70 737-200s which will fall foul of noise regulations by the year 2000.

A senior flight-operations manager says: "The decision has been made on hushkits for the 727s and 737-200s. We would like to make the cockpit ready for FANS [Future Air Navigation System]. That gets us into the next century."

Early in 1996, a United 727 will be flown with a Sextant Avionique head-up display (HUD), Lear Astronics millimetre-wave radar, and FLIR Systems forward-looking infrared sensor in the world's first demonstration of an enhanced-vision system (EVS) on a commercial airliner.

The tests are part of the US Government/industry Autonomous Landing Guidance programme and does not commit the airline to buying the equipment.

The United manager says, however, that the HUD/EVS or automatic-landing system are the only options for reducing the Category II landing-minima to which the aircraft are now restricted.

He explains: "It is strictly a dollar trade-off issue. We think we know how much it can save. So, provided that it works and we can get the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] certification, then we will pursue it."

The only automatic-landing system previously used on the aircraft is out of production, leaving the HUD/EVS an attractive option.

United has issued a request for information to avionics vendors. The request seeks a common solution to the 727's cockpit needs. Like other carriers, it is coming to the conclusion that any aircraft retained after 2000 will have to have at least some compatibility with the FANS. Responses from industry are due by April 1996.

Source: Flight International