Time waits for no man- the line goes. In business aviation- you could paraphrase the same sentiment this way: “Tech waits for no plane.” Thanks to technologies that advanced avionics faster than aircraft engines or airframes- this technological progress means owners can often find a way to give their old wings capabilities equal to those of the new business aircraft shipping today. This month we’ll ...
Tech Marches On In Bizav!
WAAS- new retrofits- new capabilities
Time waits for no man- the line goes. In business aviation- you could paraphrase the same sentiment this way: “Tech waits for no plane.” Thanks to technologies that advanced avionics faster than aircraft engines or airframes- this technological progress means owners can often find a way to give their old wings capabilities equal to those of the new business aircraft shipping today.
This month we’ll examine a few of those advances for some of the more common aircraft flying in business aviation. Thanks to the rapid pace of aircraft avionics advancements- we’ve limited the scope of the items we explore to those that made news at or since the National Business Aviation Association convention last fall - and that leaves us a fairly extensive list considering it covers just about six months.
And with technologies like GPS- WAAS and ADS-B destined for ever greater roles in using the airspace- you can- at the same time- gain new- worthwhile capabilities and prepare yourself for the future.
We’ll also touch briefly on just how easy it can be to cover the costs of an aircraft avionics facelift and how much less expensive it can be compared to buying a new airplane just to acquire those new technologies.
The capabilities alone may be enough to start you itching to upgrade the business jets airplane- even when you thought you couldn’t afford to fly state-of-the-avionics-art.
Aircraft age- wear and tear mean more maintenance for older systems- including the array of electromechanical instruments- spinning-mass gyro instruments- air-data gauges and engine instruments. In parallel- new capabilities derived from new technologies require new hardware to fully embrace – but this can be difficult by partial upgrade.
And upgrades can save not only in aircraft maintenance- but in comparison to trading aircraft for no other reason than to acquire a more-modern flight deck.
Fortunately- the businesses supporting aviation continue to develop ways to update the older fleet. Whether such an upgrade is attractive and cost-effective for you can depend on a number of factors. But for any operators with several years of ownership already invested in an aircraft with an otherwise long life ahead- the best path may be affording an upgrade to leverage the aircraft- itself.
According to Al Lange- Midwest region vice president of Dorr Aviation Credit- the aircraft is a flexible asset that can qualify the owner for enough finance power to perform a raft of upgrades. “Remember- upgrading an older aircraft to make it more modern- more reliable and to get new capabilities also increases the market value of the aircraft-” Lange explained.
“By using any equity available in the aircraft- the owner can add those capabilities and get access to the best terms and lowest interest rates- without risking any other assets. The key is to identify what your equity is in the aircraft- the package you want and the investment needed to get that package – then you can start shopping for the best finance deal before you even pick a vendor.”
So for the corporation or company with a business aircraft- that aircraft can be the ticket to its own improvement and longer life.
New and Attractive: WAAS adds utility to GPS
For years now- aircraft equipped with approved aviation GPS navigators in approved installations enjoyed the ability to file flight plans using the so-called “Slash Golf” suffix behind the four-character aircraft designator.
With Slash Golf- or /G- in the flight plan- the pilot can legally navigate on IFR flight plans directly between the departure and arrival points- maneuver through Standard Instrument Departures and Standard Terminal Arrival Routes- and fly GPS non-precision approaches using GPS as the sole navigation source- as long as certain conditions were met – the main one being an ongoing monitoring of- and accuracy predictions on the GPS signal itself.
Receiver Autonomous Integrity Monitoring- or RAIM- has been an element of IFR approved GPS hardware standards since the first TSO was written for the first IFR GPS units more than a decade ago.
The Wide Area Augmentation System- or WAAS- eliminates the RAIM requirement- enhances the capabilities of non-precision GPS approaches- and opens the way to the all-new LPV approach - LPV stands for Localizer Performance with Vertical guidance- an exciting new class of procedures.
What is it about WAAS and the LPV approach that excites pilots and airport operators- alike- though? With no ground support save from a correction signal from a ground-based WAAS transceiver- LPV approaches offer accuracy equal to that of the ground-based Instrument Landing System and similar minimums of 200 feet in ceiling at airports that possess the configuration to qualify.
Think about that. At an airport with a VOR approach and 500 foot- one-mile minima- WAAS provides a correction to the WAAS-enabled GPS that makes the unit accurate to within about 5 feet horizontally and even better vertically – good enough to bring the minima down to under 300 feet and a half mile at many airports and 200 and a 3/8 of a mile at the best-equipped airports.
Thus- we bring news of a few WAAS advances available to business aircraft operators to bring more utility to their existing avionics.
From GPS innovator Garmin comes an upgrade to its highly popular GNS line of all-in-one GPS/Nav/Com/Display products. About 75-000 of the GNS 400 and larger GNS 500-series boxes are installed in thousands of aircraft covering about 980 makes and models- many of them business turboprop aircraft.
Garmin’s WAAS update- which is just becoming available- gives the upgraded units a faster 5-Hz update capability- faster map redrawing- coupled and guided procedure turns and holding patterns- enhanced weather-product content from vendor XM- as well as the capability to fly LPV approaches. The cost for the upgrade is about $1-500 per unit.
Elsewhere on the WAAS front comes Rockwell Collins- with an all-new GOS receiver with WAAS capability built in. The GPS-4000 WAAS-enabled GPS receiver is approved for primary navigation through approaches- which imparts LPV capabilities to the unit- as well.
The new GPS-4000 is due to be shipping- along with a parallel upgrade for the flight-management systems used by Collins’ Pro Line 4 and Pro Line 21 avionics needed so those units can use the LPV capabilities.
Panel upgrades continue in popularity
The leading reason cited to upgrade older aircraft given by operators is to bring a modern panel and new capabilities in place of the antiquated “steam gauge” technology originally installed in the cockpit.
With these upgrades generally come new capabilities such as live datalink weather- more-reliable instruments- moving navigation maps- synthetic or enhanced vision capabilities- and new instrument-approach opportunities. Read on and you’ll get a hint of what this means.
Universal Avionics- for example- expanded its EFI-890R retrofit panel program last fall with STC projects with IFR aircraft Avionics and Premier Air/West Star Aviation to fit this glass-cockpit system to three popular mid-size jets- the Gulfstream II- Gulfstream III and Falcon 50.
System configurations available include the Vision 1 synthetic-vision system- TAWS- electronic charts- and other work to integrate the system with airborne weather radar and flight management systems (FMS).
At the same time- Premier Air/West Star Aviation in Grand Junction- Colorado- started its Falcon 50SV retrofit program that puts a five-screen EFI-890R system in the three-engine business jet- along with synthetic vision- datalink weather- TAWS- FMS WAAS with LPV capabilities- and electronic-engine monitoring package and electronic charts.
Another popular business-turbine aircraft receiving a major panel facelift if the Beechcraft King Air 200 line. The Alliant Integrated Flight Deck is a joint project of Avidyne and S-Tec that gives the big propjet twin a panel to rival the newest turboprops. With one for each pilot seat the Alliant system includes a pair of the 10.4-inch Envision integrated primary flight displays- the EXP5000 with dual ADAHARS- an Avidyne EX500 MFD- and S-Tec’s cutting-edge IntelliFlight 2100 digital autopilot- as well as a standby instrument package from Mid-Continent Instruments.
In addition to replacing the antiquated mechanical gyros and air-data instruments installed in these King Airs- the Alliant System also brings new capabilities for weather datalink and color radar readouts.
From Sagem Avionics and General Dynamics Aviation Services comes a panel-retrofit package targeting FAR 25 business jets. Among the aircraft this glass-panel update targets are the Challenger 600 business jets and Challenger 601 aircraft- Falcon 20 jet aircraft and Falcon 50 business jet aircraft- Gulfstream II aircraft and Gulfstream III business jet aircraft- and the Hawker 700 business aircraft and Hawker 800 aircraft.
Included in the upgrade package are five 10.4-inch displays servicing as dual PFD and MFD stations- one for each pilot- and a center-mounted EICAS engine-data display. Sagem’s upgrade gives owners the option of sticking with the aircraft’s existing attitude heading reference hardware or updating to the company’s fiber-optic gyro reference hardware.
General Dynamics Aviation Services is the installation partner for the package- and by the time of certification- the GDAS facility should be able to handle the upgrade.
Late last year Landmark Aviation won its STC to install Rockwell Collins’ Pro Line 21 IDS system in the Falcon 50- providing yet another avenue for retiring older mechanical instruments and adding new capabilities to this still-popular mid-size jet.
The Pro Line 21 IDS upgrade allows a choice between using three or four 10.4 inch displays- without replacing existing hardware- such as the autopilot- FMS- flight-director hardware- radios- gyros- or transponders. At the same time- the upgrade adds capabilities such as graphical weather displays- moving maps- FMS overlays and electronic charts. The operator also has the option of adding new attitude heading reference hardware and TCAS to the update.
From Duncan Aviation comes word of installing Honeywell’s Primus Epic Control Display System/Retrofit (CDS/R) in a customer Gulfstream III. This particular upgrade employed a three-display version of the Honeywell package- bringing new capabilities to the GIII- while lightening the aircraft and adding new capabilities.
Finally- Cessna is apparently developing an in-house program to bring the benefits of the glass cockpit to some of its 4-000 owners of older Citations. Cessna tapped Innovative Solutions & Support to supply the flat-panel displays to be used in the program. IS&S already holds an STC for retrofitting its flat-panel technology in the Pilatus PC-12 propjet single.
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