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Cockpit Avionics: What’s New
A Brief Overview of the latest instruments and retrofits.

One of the perks of living in the 21st century is that technology is rapidly changing around us. How many of us can remember looking for the nearest phone booth because we just got paged on our “New” beeper which we though at the time were really impressive?

Today it is not unusual for the average teenager with a cell phone to be able to type over 100 words per minute- with two fingers! That’s impressive - even allowing for the fact they rewrote the language rules of spelling as they typed. In aviation too- we have come a long way- even in the short space of 10 years. Cockpit steam gauges are fast becoming antiquated as newer aircraft move onto the market. Here’s food for thought: today a new Cirrus aircraft has more cockpit capability than a Learjet 24 built over 30 years ago.

Of course it is much easier- and substantially less costly to design and build new systems for general aviation aircraft than for corporate turbine and turboprop aircraft- but nevertheless- we are very close to entering a new era of aviation- where “State-of-the-Art” is available to all users of aviation. Certainly as that “State-of-the Art” era approaches- these new systems are becoming less expensive.

Following is a short round-up of what’s new in avionics for turboprop and turbine aircraft. We are all aware of the big boys in this industry- along with their ‘new toys on the block’ - Honeywell with its FMZ-2000- PlaneView- Primus Epic and Elite series- for example- and Rockwell Collins with its ProLine Fusion 21 and 4 series among others. But within the remit of this article- we will also discuss what is new from some of the other players in the field.

The majority of systems featured here have initially been developed for new aircraft installations - but more are now being offered in some form or another as a retrofit or upgrade option too.

In general- the systems we will look at are considered “display and situation awareness instruments”- and include functions such as moving map technology- weather- traffic and terrain advisory and/or warning- PFD (primary flight display)- EFIS (electronic flight instrument system) and EICAS (engine indicating and crew alerting system) in some form or another. Without further ado- here are some of the latest and greatest to airplane cockpits:

Avidyne began in 1994 with the vision of upgrading general aviation avionics to reflect more modern systems being utilized in commercial and corporate aviation. Until recently the company remained focused on the smaller end of GA- but is now tapping into new markets (Piper Meridian- King Air 200 for example).

The latest offering from Avidyne is the 10.4 inch Entegra Release 9 display system. This system is fully integrated for maximum situational awareness for the pilot.

More information from www.avidyne.com

Garmin started in 1989 with small handheld GPS units; grew to provide multi-function displays for general aviation; and is now making the leap into the turboprop and small jets market. Needless to say Garmin was an innovator in bringing glass technology to the piston aircraft world en route to where it now stands.

Today’s owner of a new Cessna or Cirrus piston airplane (to name but two) enjoy Garmin display units that will outshine the average turbine cockpit for capability. The latest offerings from Garmin are the G1000 and G3000 integrated avionics systems.

G1000 retrofits are now approved for the Cessna CitationJet (built between 1993 and 2000)- the King Air C90 and 200 series turboprops. This dual system includes the latest WAAS navigation and LPV vertical approach capabilities- and is also available with the Garmin 3-D synthetic vision 10.4 inch display- with autopilot (full FMS integration).

As a matter of fact- the King Air 200 can also be certified RVSM compliant with this system.

More information from

Honeywell with its Primus system now has evolved the Epic and Elite series to the new Apex avionic suite. The new Primus Apex will feature its new SmartView synthetic vision system. Expect to see the new system installed on the new Viking Twin Otter Series 400 and Pilatus PC-12NG.

For the retrofit market- operators have a couple of options in the form of the Primus Epic CDS/R (control display system retrofit)- or one of the systems being offered by the Bendix King division of Honeywell - try the updated KMD 550 and KMD 850 5-inch MFD for turboprops not flying above 35-000 feet. Combine the unit with the KFD 840 PFD and you now have an aircraft with many of the capabilities of the best of them.

These systems combine the latest in situational awareness including flight positioning- weather- traffic and terrain avoidance- moving map- etc.

More information from www.honeywell.com

Even though this is technically not an avionics company this may well be the future. What makes the iPad worth mentioning is its pure strength in the world market. Since its inception just a few months ago there are already 200-000 apps available- and with some research we already found a good dozen geared directly towards aviation - although we’re sure our preliminary research has overlooked a host of others!

Following is a shortlist of good apps that a crew member could take with them in to the cockpit: World Aviation Weather from iTunes to allow you to quickly check aviation weather anywhere and whenever you desire. For flight preparation and EFB there is Beacon North America- Flight Guide iEFB- SkyCharts- FlightPrep- Sporty’s E6B- ForeFlight Mobile 3 HD and Jeppesen. For logbooks and such- check out Logbook Pro- i-Flyte TC- LogTen Pro- and Hangar B-17. Among the fun iPad apps- check out PlaneFinder HD- WingX and X-Plane.

More information from

The particularly interesting item from Rockwell Collins at this time is its ProLine 21 IDS (integrated display system) with high resolution 8x10 inch displays- which is- generally speaking- a scaled down ProLine 21 system made available for retrofits or upgrades.

The IDS system is configurable in a two-- threeor four-display system- dependent on aircraft or preference. Due to its flexibility- this system can be tailor made to fit a wide range of budgets. Current STCs for the ProLine 21 IDS are available for Hawker 700- 800 series- Astra- Avanti P-180- Cessna CI and CII- Falcon 20- 200 and 50- GIII- King Air C-90- 200 and 350 aircraft. The ProLine 21 is also being offered on new Challenger 300’s- King Air C-90GTi- B200GT- 350- Cessna CJ4- Encore- XLS- Hawker 750 and 900XP aircraft.

More information from

Universal has designed and developed the EFI-890R system specifically for the retrofit market. Its application can be configured for a two-- three- or fourpanel suite.

As with the others vendors and systems mentioned it also contains the required PFD and MFDs in light-weight 8.9 inch displays. Currently it is available for a wide range of turboprops through corporate turbine aircraft.

More information from

From the beginning of corporate aviation- the selection for avionics was quite limited and relatively expensive. Even for retrofit and upgrades the costs associated were high- and the work involved was labour intensive.

Now- though- new aircraft are designed and built around the ARINC system which allows various units to essentially “talk” to each other - permitting endless variations that can be utilized- updated- upgraded and retrofitted.

More product competition has resulted in more selection and cost differentiations - so take a good look at what’s out there for your aircraft- making sure you’ve weighed up all of the options you have available to retrofit into your aircraft. While this article’s scope was merely to scratch the surface- the selection is much greater than you might realize.

John Brodeur is an Aviation Consultant with experience in Completion Management- Interior Design- Maintenance- Sales and Acquisitions- along with being a Pilot and A&P for business aircraft. Mr. Brodeur can be contacted at Tel: +1 647-448-4748 (cell) or Email:

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