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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Modern Bizjet Question: Upgrade, or Replace?

Business aircraft providers are continuing to equip their planes for NextGen and European mandates, but some operators are still pondering when and how to replace or upgrade their avionics systems. We look at the efforts by both aircraft OEMs and avionics suppliers to help pilots adapt to NextGen’s higher-workload environment.

by James W. Ramsey

Although in the U.S. NextGen is still six years away and European mandates are speculated to be less-than-firm, long-range jet providers like Gulfstream, Dassault and Cessna are equipping their new production aircraft with the capabilities to handle the new requirements. Operators are reaping the benefits of GPS-guided Wide Area Augmentation System/Localizer Performance with Vertical Guidance (WAAS-LPV) approaches and landings at many airports without traditional Instrument Landing System (ILS). In the retrofit market, activity is slower, with operators putting off their equipage, even though avionics upgrades are available for older models.

Aircraft OEMs

Dassault Falcon Jet is delivering new aircraft with the EASy II flight deck (based on the Honeywell Primus Epic system) with the capabilities to meet all NextGen requirements, according to Falcon Jet’s Director of Avionics Programs and Pilot Training Woody Saland. “EASy II provides for WAAS/LPV minimum approaches, ADS-B Out (in the FAA’s new DO-260B configuration) and FANS [Future Air Navigation Systems], as well as the Aeronautical Telecommunications Network [ATN] version [and] Controller Pilot Datalink Communications [CPDLC]. Those are the three lynchpins for pilots that we’re talking about with NextGen,” says Saland.

As for retrofits, “we would like our entire fleet of EASy-equipped airplanes to upgrade to EASy II, and that is happening as we speak.” Saland points to a 15 aircraft per-month conversion rate at authorized service centers. “Our customers are doing it as fast as parts are available from Honeywell,” he says. For older aircraft (before EASy) Saland cites Rockwell Collins and Honeywell programs, designed to achieve compliance with retrofits.

Use of Future Air Navigation Systems, or FANS, has been growing in the oceanic regions and is required in several mandates. “As we go out to 2020, I think you are going to see a requirement to use FANS-1/A [a range of FANS products] over the Atlantic,” Saland says.

FANS provides direct datalink communications between the pilot and controller, including control clearances, pilot requests and position reporting. Because of the European mandate, which has now slipped, Dassault “rushed to have whatever Honeywell had available for the FANS-1/A or for the ATN CPDLC. It wasn’t our long-range plan to do that. In fact, for our next generation of EASy, we’re going to FANS II (as Honeywell calls it) and we are doing a much more graphical interface,” Saland says.

Gulfstream

“We’ve had FANS (with datalink capability) available now for a few years on our long-range business jets,” says Jim Ward, advanced flight deck program manager for Gulfstream Aerospace. “Some 300 G450s and G550s are equipped with FANS-1/A and some 200 with ADS-B packages for automatic position reporting... currently flying the North Atlantic.” All G650s have both FANS and ADS-B, according to Saland and, in addition, about 150 of the classic Gulfstream IVs and Vs have been equipped with ADS-B.

As for the newer Link 2000+ CPDLC, technically called ATN-B1 (baseline 1), certification is under completion for the G450s, G550s and G650s. “Eurocontrol has revised the enforcement of that mandate at this point, because their ground network is not up to speed. So we will have that package available for our customers within a month or two — it’s just a software update.... There is not a FANS datalink available yet for the legacy GIVs and Vs, but that is in the works,” he says. As for ADS-B, the first version is standard on production aircraft now, Ward says, and Version II will be standard on production models when the European mandate takes effect. “

Most of the customers who opted for FANS bought an “enhanced navigation package” that includes Required Navigation Performance (RNP) and WAAS/LPV. The package is optional on the G450/G550s and standard on the G650. Some 40 G450 andG550 operators are currently approved to fly the RNP-AR (authorization required) approaches, Ward says. Cessna reports that ADS-B Out and WAAS/LPV are included as standard equipment on the three newest Citations: Citation X, Sovereign and Citation M2. Link 2000+ (CPDLC) will be included as standard in the X aviation suite and offered as an optional datalink package for the Sovereign and M2, according to Jesus Salinas, Cessna’s director of aircraft systems engineering.

The company is “on target to certify the new Citation X in early 2014 with Garmin’ G5000 advanced glass cockpit, and after it has entered service, we plan to certify it for RNP-AR and make this a standard capability. FANS-1/A+ will be certified shortly after and will be offered as an optional datalink capability,” Ward says. Cessna certified the recently announced M2 last December, and today it includes ADS-B Out and WAAS/LPV as standard navigational capability that is part of the G3000 avionics suite. M2 customers can opt for the Link 2000+ (CPDLC) datalink and upgrade their navigation capability to RNP -0.3 if desired, Salinas says. As for the CJ3, Cessna plans to start working on the certification of Rockwell Collins’ ProLine 21 upgrade after completion of certification on the Technical Standard Order (TSO) for their transponder.

Avionics Suppliers

Garmin’s G3000 cockpit “is kind of a scaled down version for smaller business jets, but has many of the same features as the G5000,” according to Bill Stone, Garmin’s senior business development manager. Garmin products have also been successful in the after market, Stone points out, offering G1000 retrofits for the entire fleet of KingAirs.

Universal Avionics Systems Corp. has been supplying WAAS/LPV capabilities through its FMS product line, including the UNS-1Fw and 1Ew with more than 3,000 aircraft equipped with this system. “Our WAAS FMS has the accuracy needed for the new ADS-B requirement,” says Carey Miller, UASC’s manager of business development.

As for FANS, “you have to have a datalink system to ‘talk’ to Air Traffic Control [ATC] — that’s started over the Atlantic. Then Europe is following with its Link 2000+ mandate,” he says. Universal is providing its UniLink UL-80X Communications Management Unit (CMU), which is FANS-1/A+ compliant. “We got our first Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) on a Falcon 50 with one of our dealers and we have quite a few STCs in the works right now for various platforms.” He envisions the largest market to be for the Gulfstream IVs and Vs.

UASC has been successful with retrofit packages “because we’re able to offer all of these new technologies that are coming out as mandates, and we’re able to offer them today,” Miller says. He highlights the EFI-890R upgrade package for the Falcon 900B that is being installed by Duncan Aviation in Lincoln, Neb. The package adds WAAS/LPV, FANS-1/A and ADS-B capability; the upgrade costs about $1.35 million, including changing the radio-tuning units, says Gary Harpster, avionics sales manager for Duncan Aviation, an authorized Dassault Falcon Jet service center. Another option for the cockpit is the GH-3100 standby attitude indicator, made by L-3, which replaces three mechanical gages with one electronic instrument at an additional cost.

Replace or Upgrade?

“If the airplane is 25-30 years old, they may not have received any information from the manufacturer or the avionics supplier as to what methodology is going to upgrade that aircraft to meet the [upcoming] requirements,” Harpster says. “Right now there are more Falcon 900Bs (one third of the fleet) on the used market than ever before, and a lot of these people are selling the airplanes because they don’t know if they can meet the mandates for flying the Atlantic.”

Harpster feels more customers will opt in the future for the Universal/Duncan upgrade solution. Other operators are waiting for Rockwell Collins ProLine 21 solution to upgrade to ADS-B “which will probably be in the July/August timeframe,” he adds. “They’re waiting for that to do a total solution — changing the transponders and adding annunciators in the cockpit on the pilot and copilot side. And the GPS receivers will have to be upgraded.”

Elliott Aviation, an authorized service center for Beechcraft, Embraer and Hawker, based in Moline, Ill., (with facilities in Minneapolis and Des Moines), has completed more than 100 Garmin G1000 avionics installations on the KingAir and will also be offering Garmin’s G5000 integrated avionics suite, with graphic weather, SV and traffic and terrain avoidance systems.

Rockwell and Honeywell

Rockwell Collins expects to have ADS-B Out for its newest avionics suite, ProLine Fusion, certified by the end of this year for the Bombardier Global 5000 and 6000. WAAS/LPV and FANS capabilities are currently available on those aircraft, according to Chuck Wade, Bombardier’s principal marketing manager for avionics. Wade explains that the Globals are not yet certified to the DO-260B version required in U.S. and European mandates. Collins Fusion system is also onboard Gulfstream’s G280, which entered service in 2012. Between the Globals and the G280s, Collins has delivered Fusion systems for more than 120 aircraft; by the end of the calendar year, ADS-B Out will be certified for those platforms. Its next entry into service is expected on the Embraer Legacy 500 later this year.

The FAA reports that, as of February, 2014 there were 3,375 WAAS LPV approach procedures serving 1,665 airports, and there are currently also 533 Localizer Performance (LP) approach procedures in the U.S. “The LPV part of it has been well-received domestically,” says Wade. “The FAA has been very aggressive in publishing LPV approaches.”

To update ProLine 21, Collins is working out the best way to do certification and bring the updates to market, such as in the case of WAAS GPS.“It is very critical to the FMS [Flight Management System], to the RNP [Required Navigation Performance], to the WAAS/LPV, to the ADS-B — it is all centered around that WAAS/GPS receiver.

In retrofitting Honeywell’s systems, the company feels that it has an advantage. “We own the whole cockpit. It is easy for us to put the right information at the right displays and make it more graphical,” says John Beckwith, director of marketing and product management for Honeywell Aerospace. “Our pilots are coming to us with higher expectations for this graphical user experience because of what they get on their iPads, home computers and phones.”

Honeywell’s SmartView Synthetic Vision System (SVS) was originally designed to enhance situational awareness, but following up with the Falcon EASy II cockpit, it has focused on safety, according to Thea Feyereisen, Honeywell engineering fellow, advanced technology. In the roadmap for NextGen and SESAR, she says, Honeywell is looking to give operational credit for SV — now called SVGS (Synthetic Vision Guidance System) — toward lower landing minimums at airports that might not have equipment to support Cat II or Cat III ILS. Honeywell also provides integrated FANS-1/A+ through its FMS for Primus Epic equipped aircraft, and it has implemented what it calls FANS-2 functionality to supply seamless handovers between the FANS and CPDLC regions. In addition, the company will support FANS-1/A+ for legacy jets using the Mark II CMU [Communications Management Unit] and the FMS 6.1.

“Things we are seeing a demand for are definitely cockpit display of traffic information and ADSB-In functions — applications that create operational and safety benefits,” he points out. Surface traffic and incursions on the runway are one of the safety concerns since pilots have stated the taxiing process as a ‘very high workload’ part of their flight, so providing a usable display showing the traffic situation is an area we are seeing some interest in,” says Beckwith.


James W. Ramsey wrote for major newspapers and a wire service. He served as a jet interceptor pilot in the USAF, and has written for Avionics Magazine since 1998.

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