Business & GA, Commercial

Luxury Joins Speed and Flexibility

By David Jensen | June 1, 2000
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Enter the cabin of a Bombardier Challenger and one would expect a plush interior: leather seats, galley, soft lighting, and in-flight entertainment (IFE). And it’s no different with Flight Services Group’s (FSG’s) Challenger 600.

What is different, however, is that in addition to luxury, the interior of the Wellington, Fla.-based company’s corporate aircraft also represents speed and flexibility. Speed in cabin completion work. Speed in cabin configuration modification. Speed in IFE equipment maintenance. And plenty of flexibility in what the aircraft’s passengers can receive from the in-flight entertainment system.

The 1983 Challenger is meant to do much more than transport executives, however. It also will serve as a demonstration aircraft to show potential corporate customers what B/E Aerospace can provide in bizjet interiors and in-flight entertainment. In addition, B/E wants to show how it can provide such an IFE package, or optional packages. Its methodology is quite unique.

The Jig is Up

Simon R. Kay, B/E’s recompletion sales manager, offers some background to explain his company’s methodology. "B/E’s GAV group makes custom conversion exective interiors for airliners–55 to date," he tells Avionics Magazine. "We wanted to break into the high-end general aviation market, so we came up with the Premium Cabin Concepts [PCC] program."

Upon conducting market research, the company decided to focus its PCC program on the Challenger. "We chose the Challenger for two reasons," says Kay. "First, it proved to be a good prospect [for substantial cabin completion sales] with the number of older aircraft being operated, and second, because there is an increasingly limited capacity, especially in the Challenger airframe, for major interior refurbishment programs."

"We wanted to develop a complete retrofit interior package for the Challenger, including cabinetry, lighting, cabin management and IFE," he adds, "and we wanted to radically reduce the time it takes to deliver a cabin completion, recognizing that we’d have to limit customer options.

"We took a cue from the luxury carmakers BMW and Porsche and created a matrix of four floor plans [seating configurations] combined with three equipment packages, designated silver, gold and platinum," says Kay. "These floor plans and options cover 80% of the typical Challenger configurations that we have seen."

Speed in cabin interior installation comes in part from the packaged option concept, but it primarily derives courtesy of a jig in B/E’s Miami facility. The jig is much like the cabin mockup shown at aviation events such as the National Business Aircraft Asssociation (NBAA) show, except this one is precisely the same size of a Challenger fuselage. Thus, the cabin can be fully outfitted in Miami in the jig. The customer can enter the cabin to make sure it is to his/her liking. Then, once the interior is approved, it is installed in modular form in the aircraft. Its fitting will be exact.

"Typically, completion centers require five to six months downtime for the aircraft for an interior," says Kay. "With our program, the downtime for an aircraft is no more than six weeks."

The Premium Cabin Concepts program was launched in March 1999, and B/E flew FSG’s Challenger to last year’s NBAA show to unveil its platinum interior. It offered only a cosmetic appearance, however; the IFE equipment was not fully installed.

Full cabin electrical and IFE installation by East Coast Avionics, in Stuart, Fla., was achieved in time for the updated Challenger’s initial flight, on April 10. B/E contracted East Coast to outfit the aircraft and secure the cabin electronic system’s FAA Supplemental Type Certificates (STCs), which were expected in early May. (Incidentally, the STCs will apply to installations in four Challenger models: the 600 and three variants of the 601.)

East Coast’s engineers are no strangers to the STC process, having secured some 80 certificates over the past three years. The company moved in November from Fort Lauderdale to Stuart’s Witham Field, where its 36 employees occupy an old, renovated Grumman Aircraft hangar–once the production facility for G-1s and Mohawks. The move was to accommodate the company’s expansion as a result of recently becoming a Swearingen SJ30-2 dealership and warranty center.

Climbing Aboard

Avionics Magazine traveled to Stuart to see B/E’s and East Coast’s handy work. Electrically, East Coast integrated a digital cabin management system created by IEC International, Uxbridge, UK, and Honeywell’s OneView AIS-1000 Airborne Information System, which includes DirectTV’s television programming. Above the Challenger’s vertical stabilizer, East Coast, a Honeywell dealer, mounted the DirectTV antenna, produced by EMS Technologies, Ottowa, Canada, which is concealed by an EMS/Norten Technologies radome.

Climbing into the Challenger’s interior and passing the high-tech B/E galley, we saw six leather recliners and and aft side-facing divan in two club seating arrangements, framed by new high-gloss finished wood cabinetry. It is all illuminated by B/E Aerospace Lighting’s indirect, color refractive index (CRI) fluorescent lighting. The cabin’s front and back bulkheads each house a 21-inch (diagonal) high-definition (1,280-by-1,024 lines of resolution) television monitor. These Rosen Products Development flat-panel (2 5/8-inches thick) screens provide enhanced image brightness and wide-angle viewing both vertically and horizontally, according to Kay. Three of the recliner chairs also have individual Rosen 8.4-inch monitors with swing arms.

On the monitors, passengers can view up to 80 video channels–similar a cable TV viewer’s selection–provided by the Honeywell OneView system. Assuring uninterrupted television viewing, a 12-inch (30.5-cm) antenna maintains a bead on the geostationary DirecTV satellite, positioned over the equator south of Texas. The antenna is stabilized by a Honeywell attitude/heading reference system (AHRS) stored in the Challenger’s belly. The AHRS and antenna are aligned within a half degree of the aircraft’s longitudinal axis.

The AHRS data allows the antenna to track the satellite at a rate of 7� per second. The antenna sits on a motorized unit, allowing it to rotate 360� and sweep on the azimuth axis up to 140�, or down to 20� above the horizon in either direction. FSG’s Challenger has just the DirecTV antenna in its tail, but a satcom antenna could be added with no change to the radome.

The L-band direct broadcast satellite (DBS) signals are fed into Honeywell’s OneView MR-400 multichannel receiver/decoder unit (MRU). The MRU splits the signal and can route up to four television channels throughout the cabin. "It’s like watching different channels on TVs in four different rooms in your house," Kay explains.

Take Your Choice

But passengers in the FSG Challenger’s cabin have other viewing options. Its IEC International entertainment system includes a digital versatile disc (DVD) player and multistandard VHS player (VCR). In addition, it includes the Airshow Network, which offers stock quotes, headlines news and sports scores, updated by a ground link every 15 minutes. Interfaced with the flight management system (FMS), air data processor, and GPS receiver, Airshow Network also can present on a moving map display the aircraft’s position and, in written format, its altitude, speed and destination.

"A lot of CEOs like to see ahead when the aircraft takes off or lands," says Mark R. Connell, president of East Coast. Provisions exist, therefore, for a video camera mount in B/E Challenger’s cockpit.

Not interested in staring at a TV monitor? FSG’s Challenger 600 also includes a custom digital sound system that would make a rock star envious. It is hooked to a six-disc CD changer and IEC’s audio-on-demand (AoD) unit. The AoD has 384 songs prerecorded on a hard drive and separated into five music groups: pop, classic, country, etc. Each passenger can listen to different music or can listen to the same song but at different intervals. They can mix the video and sound, which means they can view stock quotes from Airshow Genesis while also listening to the "Two Against Nature" CD by Steely Dan.

The sound, for both video and audio, can be piped into headsets or blasted from the 10 speaker drivers–two 10-inch sub-base units, four tweeters and four mid-range speakers–fitted into the fore and aft bulkheads. (Kay went to the Institute of Sound and Vibration in South Hampton, UK, for advice on speaker positioning for optimum sound quality.) The speakers, according to Kay, are comparable to top-of-the-line car speakers. The FSG Challenger is fitted with conventional stereo but Kay says B/E plans to install Dolby digital surround sound as an option.

From the VIP seat, one can control this entertainment cornucopia, plus the cabin lighting and temperature, using a soft-switch master panel next to his or her leather-bound recliner. The panel has four fixed buttons, plus membrane buttons positioned over a 10.4-inch (diagonal) graphic, liquid crystal display (LCD) panel that allows touch-screen control. Pull the switch panel out and you will see three connectors and 24 relays.

The switch panel is programmable, so functions can be added or modified. It includes sub-menus (no need for the 20+ buttons that some switch panels require) for such functions as stereo sound quality (using a graphic equalizer), window-shade adjustment, and audio programming.

If all this button-pushing still seems cumbersome, the IEC cabin management system was programmed by B/E to have two "macros," which command five or six different systems with a single button push. In the FSG Challenger, there are daylight macros and a TV/movie-viewing macro. For the latter macro, a single command will dim the lights, lower the window shades, and start the DVD or VCR player. It won’t make the popcorn, but that can be done in the galley, which includes B/E NextGen coffeemakers, steam oven, wine chiller and a microwave/convection oven.

The galley also houses another IEC programmable touch-screen master control system. It manages the galley and everything the VIP master panel controls, except for cabin temperature.

Eight smaller IEC soft switch panels are positioned in the cabin. They come with some processing power and control for its respective seat position the window shades, reading lights, audio and video sound volume in head phones, and call. These smaller panels include a single connector and two relays.

Next to the VIP seat, below the control panel is a telephone with extra jack, in case the VIP chooses to boot up his computer to check his e-mail. Another phone is located in the back of the cabin, as is a fax/copier/scanner. The phones are hooked to a terrestrial-based system.

IEC’s cabin management system is digital, not electro-mechanical, which means future enhancement will require only software changes, not added wiring. The system is controlled by a bi-directional RS485 databus, which, too, reduces the need for wire.

"With the databus, we now install about one-fifth the amount of wire required for an electro-mechanical system," claims Kay. "You save money and time in both the system’s installation and its maintenance."

The main processor for the Challenger’s cabin entertainment system is a 133-MHz Pentium I and is located in the galley area.

The FSG Challenger interior, including all electrical systems, is modular for easy installation, maintenance and future reconfiguration. Each B/E Passenger Service Unit (PSU) module–housing a reading light, oxygen and air valves–has quick disconnects and can be removed or reinstalled in just seconds, allowing rapid cabin reconfiguations. No tools are required to replace bulbs. For reconfiguration, the passenger control units can be relocated quickly as well, by simply exchanging the drink-ledge assemblies. Everything overhead in the cabin, from drink ledge to drink ledge–PSUs, valance panels, the headliner, etc.– can be replaced in a matter of minutes, as opposed to the 50 to 100 hours required for a non-modular interior.

The cabin also has six electrical outlets; the galley and toilet each have an additional GFI outlet. All cabin electronics, except for the commercial-type microwave oven, receive their power from the Challenger’s on-board power supplies: 115 volts AC, 400 Hz, and 28 volts DC.

All wiring in the aircraft is shielded against radio- and electro-magnetic interference (RMI/EMI) and was installed according to certification standard DO-160. East Coast tested the radome for vibration and lightning.

If all the equipment on FSG’s Challenger appears like overkill in your Learjet or Citation, you will be happy to know that East Coast, Honeywell and IEC also are collaborating on the development of "scaled down" IFE/cabin management packages.

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