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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Bigger, Faster, Safer, Smarter

Equipped with enhanced PlaneView II flight deck based on Honeywell avionics and Thales fly-by-wire controls, Gulfstream’s new G650 is a standard setter

Ron Laurenzo

Bigger, stronger, faster is a motto that aptly describes, but only in part, Gulfstream’s goals for its new G650 ultra long range business jet, slated for market entry in 2012.

The G650 will also be safer, smarter, quieter, cleaner, easier to fly and more comfortable to live in while sprinting from one side of the planet to the other, outdoing its older siblings in all categories.

The latest in a line of luxury business aircraft that for decades have set standards for performance and sheer aeronautical beauty, the G650 will have a larger cabin and longer legs — a maximum range of 7,000 nautical miles at.85 Mach — than any other purpose-built business jet. With a top speed of.925 Mach, it also will squeeze Cessna’s Citation X out of first place as the fastest non-military aircraft in the world.

In the avionics department, the new plane from Savannah will break ground in several areas. Admittedly, a G550 with PlaneView flight deck, computer-generated 3-D synthetic vision, enhanced vision via infrared camera and head-up display, is a tough act to follow. But Gulfstream has done so by continuously seeking improvements inside the company and from its subcontractors as well as listening to feedback from pilots and customers.

At the heart of the G650 avionics suite is the new PlaneView II flight deck, an evolution of the current PlaneView suite, Gulfstream’s own application of the Honeywell Primus Epic avionics system for its large-cabin business jets. PlaneView II further cleans up and refines the G650’s front office, reducing the number of displays and creating more space in what was already a spacious cockpit.

PlaneView II features Honeywell’s "IntuVue" RDR 4000 weather radar and Next Generation Flight Management System (NGFMS), both large-aircraft systems making their debuts in the business jet sector. Furthermore, the G650 will be the first Gulfstream with a fly-by-wire flight control system, developed by Thales, and only the second business jet after Dassault’s 7X so equipped.

Gulfstream lays claim to being the first Part 25 aircraft manufacturer to provide both enhanced and synthetic vision systems. The G650 will be equipped with the Kollsman EVS II enhanced vision system, working in concert with Honeywell’s Synthetic Vision-Primary Flight Display (SV-PFD).

Rockwell Collins is providing HUD II head-up displays, in addition to pilot controls and Horizontal Stabilizer Trim System as standard equipment on the G650. The HUD II features Rockwell Collins’ HGS-6250 AMLCD display technology and provides the industry’s brightest image over the widest HUD field-of-view, with a 50 percent improvement in head clearance, the company says.

The Honeywell NGFMS, slated for initial certification on Boeing’s 747-8 freighter, will allow immediate use of the latest space-based navigation technologies and the growth capability for whatever comes next in air traffic management. Fundamentally, that means it’s ready for the FAA NextGen and European SESAR flight environments as they come into being. Among other things, the NGFMS will enable Required Time of Arrival (RTA) and curved path transitions, follow-on Required Navigation Performance (RNP) capability, from RNP 0.3 down to 0.1, and 4-D trajectory management.

"Flight management systems and the way people operate aircraft change," said Chad Cundiff, Honeywell vice president for Crew Interface Products. So it’s natural that software updates will be necessary as the situation evolves. For example, Cundiff said, there will likely be enhancements for performance in order to make the extremely precise calculations necessary to hit waypoints within plus/minus six seconds on RTA arrivals.

"As the FAA defines concepts of operation and those types of things, there may be some software tweaks down the road, but they’ll be minor updates from everything we see," Cundiff said.

Right out of the box, the NGFMS will comply with all software regulatory requirements, including Gulfstream’s "Certification Foxtrot," scheduled for FAA approval this summer.

Certification Foxtrot is the latest in a series of Gulfstream initiatives that involve FAA at an early stage to define regulations and guide development of new products, which prevents nasty, time-consuming surprises from regulators. For example, the Honeywell SV-PFD, as part of Certification Echo, was demonstrated as a prototype to FAA two years prior to approval. As FAA formulated requirements for the new system, Gulfstream and Honeywell incorporated them directly into the system, streamlining the certification process.

"We have an excellent relationship with the FAA and share our plans in advance to ensure if special requirements or regulations are needed they are identified early," said Mike Mena, Gulfstream director of Advanced Cockpit programs.

Certification Foxtrot includes a number of advances that will allow PlaneView-equipped aircraft to take advantage of the newest features of satellite navigation. Among them are GPS Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) and Lateral Precision with Vertical Guidance (LPV), which can allow Instrument Landing System-type approaches to remote airports that don’t have ILS ground equipment.

Other elements of Foxtrot are Controller-Pilot DataLink Communications (CPDLC), complying with the Future Air Navigation System 1/A protocol, a much better option than HF radio for aircraft crossing oceans; XM satellite weather information displayed on moving maps, and automatic transition between FMS navigation and ILS.

Cundiff said experienced Gulfstream pilots who fly the G650 will notice lots of little improvements. However, despite the changes, Gulfstream intends for the G650 to share a type certificate with current aircraft (the G350/G450/G500/G550 and GV), and require only minimal differences training.

"When pilots start flying it," Cundiff said, "they’re going to say, ‘wow, this is better than what we have today.’"

Intuitive Radar

One aspect of the G650 that qualifies as a major improvement is swapping out the Honeywell Primus 880 weather radar for IntuVue radar, now in service or slated for service on the Airbus A380 and Boeing C-17 Globemaster III.

As the name IntuVue suggests, the radar takes the theory and guesswork out of traditional radar usage, making the process of building an accurate picture of the weather far more intuitive for pilots.

The radar automatically scans from the nose of the aircraft out to 320 miles, and from sea level to 60,000 feet, combining that picture with data from Honeywell’s global Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System database to account for terrain features.

The combination of highly precise scanning with the terrain information allows pilots to automatically remove all ground clutter, so they know that a red radar return is a thunderstorm, not a mountain top, a city or whatever else. Separating terrain from weather, especially in mountainous or built-up areas, can be very tricky with older radars, but IntuVue does it with the flick of a switch.

This 3-D "buffer" is displayed on the PlaneView II’s 14-inch LCD displays, presenting pilots with a picture they can dissect however they want, examining both the vertical and horizontal profiles of clouds and convective cells. Icons and color coding indicate areas of turbulence and potential windshear.

"It makes the pilot’s job to get that weather picture very straightforward," Cundiff said. "It gets you out of some of those little scanning algorithms that you had to pre-program as a pilot into your head."

Judging from user feedback, the IntuVue radar is 50 percent better at detecting weather in the form of convective cells than current systems, Cundiff said.

"Tilt management is a real art with the older radars," Cundiff said. "Someone who can do it well can get a great picture of the weather in front of them; someone who doesn’t do it very well may miss some big cells in front of them."

And that could mean a very bumpy ride or worse for passengers who likely want their $50 million-plus investment to fly around as many weather hazards as possible. The range and precision of IntuVue should also pay dividends in time and fuel bills by allowing more efficient reroutes around weather.

In the category of smaller but nice-to-have changes of the PlaneView II flight deck, Gulfstream and Honeywell noted, are the Standby Multifunction Controllers (SMC). These active matrix LCDs replace monochrome cathode ray tube displays, which although good, do not provide the flexibility of the new units, Mena said.

In addition to providing redundancy in case of a main panel failure for primary flight information such as attitude, altitude, heading, airspeed, bearing and distance, the SMCs also provide redundancy for each other, because the bright, full-color, high-resolution displays are visible across the cockpit, which was an FAA requirement. They are also bigger and easier to read than the older units.

If following a primary flight display failure, a G650 pilot’s day goes from bad to unimaginably worse when his standby display croaks, he can fly using his partner’s display. Levels of protection are a hallmark of Gulfstream design, and the additional redundancy sits atop an already very low probability of losing the primary displays, which Mena said is the same as on the G450/G650 series.

The Honeywell boxes sit above the instrument panel in about the same place the display controllers are now. They eliminate the standby electronic attitude director indicator and electronic bearing distance indicator that were previously installed in the center instrument panel below the primary displays.

Additionally, the SMCs display functions for other systems such as cabin pressure and weather radar, which allowed Honeywell to remove two dedicated panels from the crowded center pedestal, creating more space between the pedestal and the pilot seats, which are now easier to get in and out of.

Fly By Wire

Thales will provide a full, three-axis fly-by-wire (FBW) flight control system for the G650, marking the first departure from traditional flight controls for a Gulfstream. Among business jets, only the Dassault 7X is so equipped. Thales produces the FBW systems currently found on most Airbus airliners, as well as for later-model and new Bombardier Global Express business jets and the CRJ700, 900 and 1000 regional airliners.

The FBW system on the G650 will meet Gulfstream engineers requirements for safety, envelope protection, weight savings and handling through a wide range of speeds, according to Thales, while also fulfilling Gulfstream’s desire to keep the traditional control yokes for the pilots and provide the kind of control feedback that comes with mechanical flight control systems. That is a departure from installations on many FBW aircraft, especially the sidestick-equipped Airbus, which cannot transmit "feel" for the aircraft back to the pilots.

The yokes on the G650 will also be mechanically interlinked, so they move identically when only one is manipulated by the pilot or even when the autopilot is flying and neither pilot has a hand on the controls. This feature improves situational awareness and fosters the idea that the crew is flying a "real" airplane instead of a computer.

Thales said this is the first time it is providing both primary and secondary computers for a full FBW system. The system deployed in the G650 represents the latest evolution in Thales’ quad-dual flight control computer architecture, exceeding safety and redundancy requirements for certification and dispatch reliability, the company says.

There are two, dual-channel primary flight-control computers and one emergency backup unit that can also control flight in all three axes. The primary and backup systems have their own power sources for added redundancy. Each channel can independently control all flight surfaces. Thales said the system will reduce weight, occupy less space and reduce electrical consumption.

Launched in May 2005, and unveiled to the public in March 2008, the G650 program has been holding to a tight development schedule that will see the start of an 1,800-hour flight testing regime with several aircraft this summer. Certification in the United States and Europe is expected to follow in 2011.

"The G650 has a very rigorous flight test plan and a very rigorous avionics test-out plan," Cundiff said. But considering their working relationship with FAA and continuous progress on initiatives like Certification Foxtrot, he believes the avionics package will meet users’ high expectations.

"That gives us and Gulfstream a lot of confidence that when this hits the market, not only is it going to have a lot of great technology, it’s going to be ready to use and reliable," he said.

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