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How Do You Panel Your Airplane?
Upgrade options continue to expand- in numbers and capabilities.

One large- new exhibit sent a few shockwaves among the Business Aviation crowd attending July’s AirVenture Oshkosh 2011. There - adjacent to some of the many home-built aircraft types that gave birth to the Experimental Aircraft Association - was Rockwell Collins. Rockwell Collins- Embraer- Pilatus- Hawker Beechcraft- Rolls Royce- Cessna- Cirrus and more…they come to Oshkosh because approximately one in every ten American pilots visit each year - flying approximately 6 percent of America’s entire general aviation fleet. Indeed- these exhibitors know that most of those pilots and aircraft owners are hungry for new and better aviating technology.

Many satisfied that hunger this year- offering some interesting new options in the cockpit avionics arena for everything from the simplest Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) to some of the world’s top business-turbine hardware. These are components desirable for their functionality and the operational improvements they can bring to an aircraft. With each year that passes- the options to upgrade cockpits are numerous with a wide range of prices and possibilities available to those in the market to find one befitting their needs.

Aspen Avionics- for example- offers several glass-cockpit options to the market. Launched in Albuquerque in 2004 with a single product (the AT300 Hazard Awareness Display designed and TSO’d as a replacement for a mechanical vertical speed indicator) the initial unit provided a standalone- multi-purpose electronic display that helped the company set a foundation from which it launched arguably one of today’s most flexible- and most utilitarian systems in avionics: the Evolution 1000 series of primary flight displays (PFD) and multifunction displays (MFD).

For many an older propjet with a standard six pack of flight instruments- a three-screen Aspen package can provide a full-featured PFD- a full-function MFD (which can back up the PFD) and a second MFD ready to play charts- plates- and serve as back-up to the primary MFD.

The three units literally fit into the openings for the existing instruments; and the options available give the package as much depth as any system available: synthetic vision - for example- the attitude sensing for an autopilot- weather and lightning displays- plus traffic (the latter dependent on the needed sensors).

Aspen’s STCs for its Evolution 1000 series include: virtually all Cessna piston singles- twins- propjet twins and the Caravan 208; virtually all Hawker Beechcraft products (carried over from Beech Aircraft- including the Baron and other piston twins and the King Air 90- 100 and 200- series); Daher-Socata’s TBM700; plus many other Piper and Twin Commander models.

The options for commanding an autopilot give new depth to upgrading to digital attitude sensing in concert with some of the most-popular systems used today.

The integral GPS and back-up batteries of the MFD 1000 and PFD 1000 give new redundancy to older aircraft. And the company’s collaboration with Bendix/King and Honeywell to certify the KSN770 integrated safety navigator display brings into the mix a new touch screen-driven digital Nav/Comm radio package- a full WAAS GPS navigator – fulfilling a component of an ADS-B Out package – plus TCAS and uplink weather.

The 5.7' touch screen and point-and-click Cursor Control Device (CCD) of the KSN770 provide simple access to commonly-used functions- and a graphical flight planning functionality similar to that used by other popular Bendix/King navigators.

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The year 2011 has produced a flurry of new avionics- new navigators- new integrated packages- new technologies – and none in more of a flurry than with touch screen-controlled systems... Read on.

In 2009- Garmin introduced its new G3000 widescreen integrated panel package designed as a follow on from the highly successful G1000- and targeted at the light-turbine aircraft segment. The G3000 system introduced the new high-definition-monitor-style 16:9 ratio wide-screen displays (14.10-inch diagonal) in several combinations- with the new glass-touch screen GTC 570 as the primary control for the package.

At the NBAA convention in 2010- Garmin introduced the G5000 - an OEM-oriented system. Then- this past spring Garmin unveiled its new GTN750 and GTN650- respectively as replacements for the company’s GNS 430 and GNS 530 - the first all-inone- large-screen IFR GPS/VHF Nav/VHF/Comm/Loc/GS package offered for light aircraft panels.

The new units offer more integration directly input as well as knobs and buttons - but unlike the G3000 and G5000- the boxes’ main screens- themselves- serve as the touch-screen controller. Already Duncan Aviation has completed a dual GTN750/GTN650 installation in a Pilatus PC-12. With several hundred PC-12s utilizing old GNS 530 and GNS 430 boxes- expect to see more of these new- more-capable GTN retrofits. Garmin’s newest transponder- incidentally- is offered as a solution that fits into the need for an ADS-B Out system.

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In late July- the trend for touch screen technology erupted with several more new products from several other manufacturers. All are candidate avionics for the panel of a business-turbine aircraft owned or flown by a frugal flyer. Avidyne- for example- introduced a replacement for the GNS 530 that it calls the IFD540.

Like the GNS models- the IFD540 is an all-in-one unit- with a full-function FMS- WAAS GPS- plus VHF Nav and VHF Comm - all fronted by an intuitive touch screen-control system. One easily grasped explanation of how the IFD540 works came from a fellow pilot versed in using Avidyne’s highly capable Entegra Release 9 (R9) package: “It’s easier to use with the touch screen interface- and as intuitive as R9…but without the PFD.” No PFD? No problem. Avidyne offers several approved PFD solutions that would pair nicely with the IFD540 in the panel of a turboprop or light jet.

We would be remiss to not mention Avidyne’s new AXP340 Mode S/1090ES plug-and-play transponder replacement for old Bendix King KT76 and KT78 units- too- which is eligible to serve as the transmitter link for an ADS-B package (as the IFD540 is). It even has a self-contained altitude data source and is among the most-affordable 1090ES/Mode S units available.

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Next: an old- familiar name coupled to a newer- familiar name - Bendix/King by Honeywell and Aspen Avionics. This summer- the duo announced their joint efforts to certify the long-overdue KNS770- the Bendix/King branded companion to the KFD840 PFD. At AirVenture Oshkosh the two companies further announced that the KNS770 was getting the touch screen-touch.

Another all-in-one MFD-fronted solution to the need for WAAS GPS- VHF Nav and Comm- the KNS770 holds excellent promise with Aspen’s ideas for improving the interface and easing its use- while providing it with all the best accoutrements in external inputs – traffic- for example- from ADS-B In- or a stand-alone CAS- or TCAS- with built-in TAWS functionality and inputs for lightning and weather datalink.

More information from
www.aspenavionics.com or www.bendixking.com

Esterline CMC has an agreement with L-3 to offer licensed sales and support of the breakthrough SmartDeck integrated system. While TSO’d and STC’d for retrofit in the Cirrus SR22/SR20- L-3’s efforts to land the package in the cockpit of OEM aircraft suffered from launch customer issues (Cirrus and its SJ50 Vision Jet).

Esterline CMC continues the effort to place the SmartDeck system- and according to a story emanating from AirVenture CMC is nearing its goal. At least one other turbine operator was considering the package- now licensed to CMC. Future developments are worth keeping a look-out for.

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Rockwell Collins is giving the touch screen-touch to its Fusion System- as well as offering a compact Head-Up Display for the cockpits of smaller business aircraft. Debuted at AirVenture Oshkosh – where the big Rockwell Collins display was an all-new presence – the touch screen aspects of the Fusion system are held as the salvation of more than a few cockpit crews.

Rockwell Collins had not yet received an OEM order for the touch screen interface- but it expects that to change- and it is on-track to win approval for the system in 2013. The Pro Line Fusion package is being launched on Bombardier’s Global 5000 and Global 6000. A host of other OEMs should follow- including Embraer- Gulfstream- Learjet and Mitsubishi.

With Rockwell Collins targeting the touch screen PFD and MFD Fusion system at a wide spectrum of business-turbine aircraft- from single-engine turboprops to light jets- don’t be surprised to see this package offered under STC.

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Outside upgrades offering the Garmin packages- Avidyne’s PFD selection and Aspen’s growing market penetration- Rockwell Collins and Honeywell both offer upgrade packages for turbine aircraft already sporting their older electronic panels. For example- Rockwell Collins’ Pro Line 21 IDS package can be retrofitted into the Falcon 50- among several models - ditto for Universal Avionics- which offers packages for aircraft right up to the Boeing 737.

Honeywell’s Primus Epic Control display System/Retrofit is available for more than a dozen airframes- and Innovative Solutions & Support (IS&S) offers flat-panel display retrofits too. Panel upgrades exist for everything from early Cessna Citations to Gulfstreams- Challengers and the like.

Chances are- if you’re flying an aircraft- there’s a package or set of components that can go into the panel in place of the old technology. Between flat-panel displays- PFD and MFD systems - and all-in-one GPS/Nav/Comm options- some can be custom worked with field approvals while others may require a full STC.

With the aviation world moving forward on several levels toward the FAA’s NextGen Air Traffic Management environment and the ADS-B requirement underpinning it- what was an attractive- cost-effective option a year ago may today be only a place-holder to something newer unless it meets requirements that move the airplane toward ADS-B Out compliance.

Many of the components highlighted here will fulfill one part or another of an approvable ADS-B Out package - and while some experts caution patience while more options develop- the question for an operator who needs some better avionics today has to be how urgent that need is? If an airplane upgrade is coming in the next few years- doing nothing may work – but if not- doing nothing at all now will serve only to deprive the operator of a level of access and utility that will grow in importance moving toward 2020.

Some of the new options may encourage you to upgrade elements of the cockpit equipment- such as trading old traffic awareness equipment in favor of new equipment more capable of integrating with new displays.

An upgrade should never be considered without first looking ahead: how long is the airplane expected to stay in your ownership- and how do you use it? Is international travel essential to you? Just how well does the airplane fit with your current needs? You will need to solicit specialist advice before you shop around and decide on an upgrade.

If you haven’t upgraded to a GPS with WAAS (Wide-Area Augmentation System) capability- it is definitely time to make a plan. You will not only need it (or an equivalent)- you will likely want it when you get the full picture.

Through a network of ground stations and two geostationary WAAS-dedicated satellites- WAAS enables position precision capable of supporting precision approaches - and- because of this accuracy level- the FAA included WAAS GPS navigators (approved under TSO-C145a and TSO-146a) as approvable position sources for ADS-B under TSO-196.

TSO-approved panel-mounted WAAS navigators are currently the least-costly options for meeting the 2020 mandate for ADS-B Out- but the advantages of WAAS GPS go beyond it’s eligibility to serve as the position source for an ADS-B Out package. In the past five years the FAA has implemented new WAAS-based approaches at a dizzying rate with today’s total hovering near 2-500 – more than twice the number of ILS systems in use.

Dominating this number is the LPV approach. Almost 500 of the 2-400-plus LPV approaches offer minimum descent heights of 200 feet – as good as the best ILS approaches. Most others are 300 feet or lower. And these numbers don’t count a couple thousand other approach types in the LNAV/VNAV and LNAV category which are- themselves- all new or new improvements on hundreds of old non-precision approaches- typically with lower minima.

The goal: to have precision-level or near-precision-level approaches to both ends of more than 4-100 runways on the FAA’s lists.

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