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Saturday, November 1, 2008

Rotorcraft Report: R&W Test Flies Honeywell’s Primus EPIC

PRODUCTS

Morristown, N.J.-based Honeywell Aerospace brought its AgustaWestland AW-139 to Dulles International Airport (IAD) outside of Washington, D.C., to demonstrate one of its latest avionics products: the Primus EPIC. Editor-in-chief Ernie Stephens took the aircraft aloft on a one-hour flight to evaluate EPIC’s capabilities.

EPIC integrates automated flight control, communication, navigation, flight management, maintenance monitoring and data recording into one system. In the company’s medium twin-engine AW-139, information is displayed on two sets of two, multi-function displays (MFD). Crewmembers on either side of the flight deck can call up a variety of screen combinations based on varying needs throughout the flight. Systems controls are primarily located around the face of each MFD, with additional activation, deactivation and slewing controls conveniently mounted on the cyclic, collective and other places within easy reach of the pilot.

EPIC offers the pilot-in-command an easy-to-read display screen that presents information in color, as well as in a logical manner. Navigation between menus and submenus is accomplished through drop-down lists controlled by panel-mounted thumb switches.

Depending on which features the pilot wishes to bring online at any given phase of the flight, EPIC can take four-axis control over the aircraft and fly point-to-point, landing approaches, missed approaches and holding patterns. It can also fly routes using GPS and radio navigation.

During the demonstration, which began on the ground at IAD, an instrument approach into Frederick Airport (FDK) 27 nm away was selected from the system’s onboard database of approach procedures. Shortly after takeoff from IAD, EPIC was brought online and immediately took four-axis control of the aircraft. Following the published approach for runway 5, it flew directly to the initial fix, turned inbound, intercepted the glide slope, and smoothly adjusted speed, track, descent and trim all the way down to the touchdown point. Had a missed approach been commanded, the system would have automatically called up the appropriate procedure, brought in climb power, and steered toward the designated holding point.

Honeywell chose the AW-139 as the demonstration bed for EPIC because of the aircraft’s growing popularity as a search and rescue platform. With those missions in mind, the system allows the pilot to designate a point on the ground, then have EPIC take control, fly to that point and enter into a hover above that location until commanded to do otherwise. The system is capable of doing the same over water, but also has the ability to maintain a fixed altitude above the surface of the water, adjusting the vertical position of the aircraft to match the rise and fall of waves up to 20 ft in height, thus dramatically reducing the onset of fatigue, and the inherent dangers of flying above featureless seas.

For situations requiring hoist work, EPIC can tie a limited amount of flight control to a hat switch in the aft cabin near the side door. Called the "Winchman’s Trim," the winch operator can make minor adjustments to the horizontal position of the aircraft as needed to place or retrieve a suspended load.

Honeywell’s EPIC has seen more than 1.5 million flight hr on several different aircraft produced by various manufacturers. Its modular architecture supports future upgrades and rapid component repairs through the company’s worldwide support program.

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