Coming Up in Corporate Cockpits

By James W. Ramsey | October 1, 1999
Send Feedback

Here’s what is happening in business jet cockpits:

  • Integrated avionics and liquid crystal displays (LCDs) are becoming standard equipment;

  • Head-up displays (HUDs) are gaining in popularity; and

  • Enhanced vision systems, data link communications, and fly-by-wire controls are just around the corner.

This information is important to know, considering the anticipated size of the bizjet market: nearly 5,000 aircraft worth $62 billion to be sold over the next decade. Partially fueling this red-hot market are the rapid advances in avionics technology and ongoing improvements in cockpit design.

To investigate new developments in cockpit design, Avionics Magazine surveyed several manufacturers of business jets and of the avionics designed for bizjet use. Here is what we uncovered:

Gulfstream: HUD Joined with EVS

Improved pilot situational awareness, a phrase synonymous with safety, is the number one factor cited by bizjet manufacturers and avionics suppliers in the design of new cockpits. This has meant installing larger displays, presenting more information on demand, and uncluttered cockpits with fewer instruments and controls. The goal is to simplify the pilots’ workload.

"When you say safety, and you talk about avionics and pilots, situational awareness is the area where we think some steps can be taken," Pres Henne, senior vice president for programs at Gulfstream Aerospace, tells Avionics Magazine.

Gulfstream is taking what Henne calls its "next big step, near-term," which is an enhanced vision system (EVS). Combined with a HUD, EVS uses a forward-looking infrared (FLIR) camera provided by Kollsman. The camera "looks through" haze or fog, enhancing pilot vision during low minimum approaches and while flying or taxiing at night.

The system’s developmental flight testing aboard a company G-V was scheduled to begin in August, with certification targeted for early next year. Gulfstream plans to display an EVS-equipped G-V at the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) convention this month (October).

Gulfstream provides as an option on its G-V and G-IV, non-EVS HUDs made by Honeywell and GEC Marconi. The Savanah, Ga.-based corporate jet manufacturer reports that 85% to 90% of its G-V customers elect the HUD option, as do half of the G-IV buyers. HUD has been certified for more than a year on the G-V and for more than two years on the G-IV model.

Henne lists continuing improvement in reliability as the next area of focus.

When does cost become factor?

"We worry about reliability, then negotiate the cost," Henne replies. "When we find components having high removal rates, we’ve focused programs with the suppliers to make improvements."

Bombardier: Clean Continental Cockpit

John Taylor, vice president-product development for Bombardier Aerospace, sees "clean, uncluttered cockpits, very functional with a deal of reversion capability" as essential in new flight deck design. Bombardier’s newest aircraft, the mid-size Continental, will have four large, interchangeable 10-by-12-inch LCD displays.

"If you lose one tube, you can move information from another and virtually retain all your essential visibility. You can dispatch with one display system inoperative." Because of the small number of displays and their similarity, cost is reduced, he says.

"Our cockpit layout is pretty standardized," Taylor adds, "in terms of where you put an FMS, where you put a radio tuning unit."

Bombardier tends "not to have too much on the overhead," he says. "On the Continental, there will be no overhead panel."

The Continental will feature Rockwell Collins’ Pro Line 21 avionics suite, providing 380 square inches (2,450 m2) of usable display area. The Collins traffic alert collision avoidance system (TCAS II) will be standard, and there will be an enhanced ground proximity warning system (EGPWS), although the specific unit has not been determined. Bombardier’s Continental will be the first business jet to have both TCAS II and EGPWS standard, according to Taylor.

"The main instrument panel has only displays on it," he says. "The flight director and majority of displays are immediately in front of you—at eye-level on the glare shield—so you don’t have to go head-down."

As at Gulfstream, Bombardier finds head-up displays growing in demand, but the Canadian manufacturer still offers them solely as an option. "We want to offer a capable baseline airplane," Taylor explains. "There is still a need for head-down flying."

While prevalent in military jets and in some commercial airliners over the last several years, fly-by-wire has not yet entered the business aircraft field. But Bombardier is about to test it on a Challenger, and in another five years, it expects to fit it into business jets.

"Certainly fly-by-wire is the next step in business jets," Jim Dwyer, project pilot on the Continental and the Lear 45, tells Avionics Magazine. "It improves safety and operational capability and allows the building of lighter, more agile aircraft."

While safety is the prime goal in cockpit design of the Continental and other new business jets, cost is still a key. "Unless you can offer a product at a price someone is prepared to pay—no matter how great the cockpit—no one is going to buy it," says Taylor.

Like other airframe manufacturers, Bombardier uses a customer advisory panel, including corporate management, pilots and maintenance personnel. They "advise us on things they find in real-world operations that we can improve," says Dwyer.

Bombardier is a strong Collins customer, using the Pro Line 4 on its Challenger. But it installs Honeywell avionics on its long-range Global Express and smaller Lear 45, and Sextant on its Dash-8-400 turboprops.

Cessna: Safety and Functionality

Cessna, too, emphasizes pilot situational awareness. "Everything we want to do derives around functionality and safety," says Alan Bergfeld, manager of Citation marketing/technical support. "We’re putting the controls in front, pushing the primary displays further up on the panel, so the pilot spends less time looking down and more looking up."

Meeting regulatory requirements is a factor, Bergfeld says, and the company is working to have the newest version of its CitationJet, the CJ1, certified for single pilot operation. The CJ1 features a "glass cockpit" supported by Collins Pro Line 21 avionics. The cockpit features on its left side two 8-by-10-inch LCDs: a primary flight display and multifunction display. Standard flight instruments reside on the right side.

On its larger Citation X, Cessna has installed the Honeywell Primus 2000 autopilot/flight director system with five 8-by-7-inch displays, including an engine indication and crew alerting system (EICAS). These displays are cathode ray tube (CRT), not LCD.

Cessna’s nine-passenger Sovereign, announced at last year’s NBAA show and now under development, will feature Honeywell’s new Primus Epic CDS (control display system)," says Bergfeld. "On the Sovereign, we’re looking at different levels of integration.

"We want to give [the pilot/operator] the most room, lower his cost of operation, make the cockpit smarter. We may not embrace the latest technology in the market, but we want to give him the best value we can."

Cessna has looked at HUD technology but has not perceived a strong customer interest, according to Bergfeld. "Right now, HUD systems seem to be in a price range—and especially in a size range—that would be difficult to put in our size business jets. Even with our largest jet—the Citation X—when talking about how much it costs to certify and sell to the marketplace, [HUD] has a very low demand at this time."

In fact, most operators of Cessna-type business jets don’t operate below Cat I minimums, precluding the need for a HUD. "Very few operators are even interested in Category II," says Bergfeld. "We would have to see more interest in Cat II—some regulatory changes or [a penalty] due to limited access to airports—before we place a lot of developmental effort in HUD."

Regulatory changes, however, have impacted the use of TCAS II in smaller jets like the Citation. So far, the demand for TCAS II on smaller bizjets has been rather cool (it is mandated in the U.S. only on aircraft carrying 30 or more passengers). The European system—ACAS, or airborne collision avoidance system—when mandated with the Change 7 update for aircraft weighing more than 15,000 kg, will affect the Citation X. Cessna is offering the Honeywell TCAS 2000 and the AlliedSignal CAS 67A as options on the Citation X and is leaning towards TCAS 2000 on the new Sovereign. Smaller jets are being equipped with TCAS I or the BFGoodrich Skywatch, a similar collision avoidance system.

Without regulatory prodding, the EGPWS has become a popular item for even the smaller corporate jets. Cessna puts AlliedSignal’s EGPWS in nearly every aircraft type—almost 100% in the Citation X.

Sextant, incidentally, plans to enter the lucrative EGPWS arena by soon offering its ground collision awareness system.

Dassault FalconJet: With Cat IIIa HUD

Dassault is the one business jet company that also produces dedicated military aircraft. With defense experience, Dassault officials believe, the company has been able to push the envelope in cockpit design for its Falcon business jets.

Its latest aircraft, the Falcon 2000, for instance, offers the Flight Dynamics HGS 2850 head-up guidance system as an option. With crew qualification, Dassault claims, the 2000 thus is the first business jet to allow Category IIIa approaches with a 50-feet decision height and 700-feet runway visual range (RVR). About 50% of Falcon 2000 buyers opt for the HUD, says John House, communications director for FalconJet. The Falcon 2000 also features the Collins Pro Line 4 EFIS (electronic flight instrument system) and the Sextant EIED (engine instrument electronic display).

Beginning next year, Dassault looks to certify the Flight Dynamics head-up guidance system on the Falcon 900EX to Cat III capability. The 900EX has Honeywell’s Primus 2000 avionics suite

FalconJet offers AlliedSignal’s EGPWS and TCAS II as options and provides an Aero I satcom system by Sextant. Dual flight management system (FMS) with dual Global Positioning System (GPS) is standard on all newer aircraft. In addition, Dassault offers dual inertial reference system (IRS) on its business jets, including the 900C, which recently won French certification.

Avionics Suppliers: Two Diverse Views

Honeywell and Rockwell Collins provide the avionics suites for the new business jets, while Sextant currently concentrates on the air transport market and on communications and other products. AlliedSignal, with its dominance in the enhanced GPWS market, and Universal, with its advanced data link systems, also are strong contributors.


"The new cockpit will be much more integrated than today," says Larry Clark, manager, Next Generation Team for Honeywell. Because of processor capability, we now can do more things on the aircraft.

"We’re getting involved in aircraft utilities: fuel, electrical, anti-skid brakes. On any bizjet today, there are hundreds of control boxes; we now use the avionics displays to ‘see’ systems and control them."

Honeywell’s new Primus Epic avionics suite was developed for business aircraft and helicopters, as well as regional jets. First sale of this new product line was for Raytheon’s new Hawker Horizon, slated to first fly next year, followed by the Augusta-Bell AB139 helicopter, the Fairchild-Dornier 728, and Embraer’s 170 and 190 regional jets. The system features from two to six LCD displays.

Clark credits the new LCD technology for being able to expand the type and volume of information being presented in cockpits. "Using CRT displays, you couldn’t get bright enough images, enough lighting time on screen to put up all the images you wanted to put up. Now that limitation is gone.

"Another limitation was processing power. In earlier systems, using custom-built processors was very expensive and very slow. Now we use off-the-shelf commercial equipment like the Pentium processor and can get it FAA-approved and into a product. We have developed our own operating system. With one processor, Primus Epic can do six different things simultaneously at different criticality levels."

Honeywell announced at the Oshkosh Air Show in July that it was offering a new low-cost SCS-1000 Mini-M Aero satcom system intended for small-to-medium-size business jet operators. Honeywell says its cost is significantly lower than of other satcom systems and its components are small and lightweight, allowing for flexible installation options.

Over the next five to 10 years, Honeywell plans to grow its Epic systems by upgrading processors and displays. But the system will not require a whole new architecture, Clark affirms.

The system will likely evolve in other ways, too. At its Primus Epic simulation facility in Phoenix, for instance, Honeywell has been using voice command for the past three years, for tuning radios and activating emergency transponder signals.

Rockwell Collins

Meanwhile, Rockwell Collins stresses cost reduction. "The key issue for our customers [OEMs] is to simplify—find ways to contain or reduce the cost of developing an aircraft," says Hardin Abrams, Collins’ manager of advanced concepts and planning, Business & Regional Systems. "We must find ways to reduce the number of things to install and maintain."

With the trend towards fewer and larger displays, technology has made it possible "to bring up the information you need, as you need it. This prevents an overflow of information you don’t need," says Gene Schwarting, director of strategic management.

Rockwell Collins’ first new Pro Line 21 advanced avionics system, which it bills as the "industry’s first all-LCD cockpit," has been delivered to Raytheon for the new Premier I. The system is certified and has been flying for a year on the Premier I. It is also on Cessna’s CJ1 and CJ2, although aircraft availability is still nine months away. And the system has also been ordered for the Bell/Augusta 609 tiltrotor helicopter, also not yet in production.

In the future, Rockwell Collins sees "three-dimensional media" as a means for pilots to visualize the flight plan. Collins is a team leader working with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on a synthetic vision program, with a VFR-like display.

At the Paris Air Show last June, Collins officials outlined their efforts in the CNS/ATM (communications, navigation and surveillance/air traffic management) Free Flight realm of the future. They announced that the company will design digital communications transceivers, multi-mode receivers, and airborne surveillance equipment essential for Free Flight operation.

The Pro Line 21 system is expected to include a new line of digital radio sensors, including VHF-4000 voice/data transceiver, NAV-4000 multi-mode receiver, and DME-4000 distance measuring equipment, which are lighter and smaller than the Pro Line radios they will replace (Avionics Magazine, June 1999, page 38).

First installation of these Pro Line 21 CNS sensors is expected to debut on the Continental business jet in 2002.

Receive the latest avionics news right to your inbox