Business & GA, Commercial

Product Focus: Displays

By Barry Rosenberg | April 1, 2009
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By taking advantage of commercial advances in glass and graphics generators, display manufacturers are able to design and manufacture lightweight, low-cost cockpit displays that also have the functionality and symbology necessary for flight governed by Required Navigation Performance (RNP) and Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B).

That’s certainly the case with one of the airline industry’s most extensive cockpit upgrade programs — GE Aviation’s contract to upgrade the flight decks of Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-300 and -700 aircraft (Avionics, February 2009, p. 10). What made the program attractive to Southwest was GE’s ability to leverage the cost savings and next-generation technologies being generated by commercial electronics.

"In the display world, the challenges that the industry is facing are utilization of COTS devices and materials like commercial glass technology and commercial graphics engines," said Andrew Carlisle, business development manager for GE Aviation (the former Smiths Aerospace). He added that GE has turned to commercial graphics engines rather than proprietary ones for its latest display.

"The commercial market for graphics is driven by the gaming industry, automotive and infotainment," Carlisle said. "Certainly the gaming industry has taken graphics engines to a new level with the capability for more throughput."

New glass that has been developed for high-definition television and laptop computers is bringing other benefits to new displays, particularly readability/brightness and larger viewing angles.

The Southwest cockpit upgrade is the first application of GE Aviation’s 15.4-inch SDS-6000 large area, primary flight display. The airline and GE had been discussing the retrofit program for about five years, according to Carlisle.

"Southwest wanted simplicity," he said. "They wanted pilots to have similar symbology from the NGs to the Classics in order to reduce pilot training costs. When considering symbology on a next-generation platform we needed to find a simplistic way to display information that is intuitive to use."

Such at-a-glance symbology will become increasingly important as displays are called upon to deliver the capability of RNP and ADS-B.

"Some of these future mandates will drive the need for cockpit upgrades," said Carlisle. "ADS-B is the driving force; it is all about graphics processing and the ability to redraw and refresh the graphics to show all the traffic around you. Some aircraft will struggle in reaching that capability, so we’re looking at lots of different platform opportunities (for retrofit)."

For such future programs, GE Aviation will employ what Carlisle calls "model-based design techniques, where we can use graphical modeling tools to quickly develop formats and symbology for displays."

He explained: "Traditionally, we would develop hardware and software to reside on the display. A model-based design philosophy lets us quickly get to a design solution in as little as two months, versus 18 months the other way. Symbology changes can occur at the beginning of the development cycle rather than at the end."

As airline operators transition from the traditional 6-inch by 8-inch displays (two for the pilot; two for the co-pilot) to a single, larger display like those developed by GE Aviation for the 737 or the 15-inch displays designed for the Boeing 787 by Rockwell Collins, the need for redundancy becomes a key driver in design and development of such systems.

"With a 6 x 8 display, if one fails you have to operate the other in compact mode, which increases pilot workload," explained Carlisle. "So for our single display, we created a dual-channel system with two electronic and power channels, each of which can provide 100-percent functionality on the display. Having both channels hot is novel and unique in the marketplace, and the reason we think there is significant potential in the retrofit market across different platforms."

The Southwest contract is GE Aviation’s largest display development program. The company was in the first phase of symbology validation with Southwest and Boeing, which is serving as lead integrator of the flight deck upgrade. Prototype hardware is expected to be available late this year or early next year, with Boeing certification planned for late 2010. First installation is planned for 2011.

Touchscreen Growth

When all is said and done, 2009 might just be the year that touchscreen displays begin to make a real impact on flight decks. The affordability of COTS touch screens has brought the technology to the fore. Techniques for ruggedization, avionics-grade coatings and sunlight readability have made it available to aviation.

"Last year, touchscreens were something that we thought were interesting; now they’re moving into a number of products," said Rob McKillip, senior director of the Rockwell Collins Head Down Display Center.

The key to sunlight readability is optical bonding, said Vince Marzen, Rockwell Collins principal engineering manager. "Traditionally you have a glass-to-air interface, which has a certain index of refraction in which light gets reflected off the surface," he explained. "With optical bonding, we physically attach the touchscreen to the LCD with index matching adhesive, which minimizes the reflection."

Rockwell Collins is taking advantage of its expertise in that area to start a new product line — electronic flight bags (EFBs). Last September, the company announced an agreement with Airbus to provide side displays and docking stations for a new Class 2 EFB for the A320 family. The Rockwell Collins system includes two touchscreen, large-format displays integrated in both sides of the cockpit and two docking stations, each capable of hosting a laptop running EFB application software.

Touchscreens for the Rockwell Collins EFB products will be force activated. They will be different than the touch screens on an Apple iPhone, for example, in that functions can’t be activated by a slight touch or accidental brush.

Operators are particularly interested in using EFBs to give the flight crew greater situational awareness of ground traffic. Synthetic vision also falls under the category of improved situational awareness, and all the major avionics manufacturers are working on synthetic vision systems (SVS).

"The challenge is making sure we have all the flight-relevant obstacles such as antennas," visible to pilots, said McKillip. "The databases available are good at terrain because mountains don’t move. But buildings can be built."

Last year, Honeywell delivered its Synthetic Vision-Primary Flight Display (SV-PFD) for Gulfstream 350/450/550 business jets.

"It replaces the cues the pilot gets when looking out the window when he is on instruments — all the terrain, his angle approaching the runway," said Chad Cundiff, Honeywell vice president of crew interface products. "We went through a number of flight test programs to hone the symbology, and used the symbology developed for head-up displays and put it on the head-down display. We also tried to utilize the symbology to give the pilot a sense of altitude and speed, which they pick up naturally without having to scan for it."

Honeywell’s goal is to spread SVS technology to other aircraft types in the next year or two. Already, Dassault Aviation has chosen the company’s Integrated Primary Flight Display (IPFD), the foundation of the SV-PFD, for the next iteration of its EASy flight deck.

Synthetic vision capability was also part of a technology demonstration program that Honeywell conducted to combat brownout situations for helicopters landing in sandy, desert environments. Called "Sandblaster," the approach combines synthetic vision with enhanced visual sensors to provide pilots a more complete picture of the landing zone, and the towers, cars and other obstacles on the ground.

Like other manufacturers, Honeywell is adding its own aerospace expertise to COTS products to design displays that are lighter and more reliable, with enhanced functionality.

Said Cundiff: "The next generation will consist of smaller packages — the back end of the display — and larger display areas. Besides weight and size, you want to keep installation simple. You also want fewer displays and new types of interfaces such as voice recognition and touchscreens."


Cost efficiencies developed in the commercial electronics sector and transitioned to aerospace are expected to help some airlines make the business case for installing head-up displays in aircraft for which they may not have done so before. That’s what BAE Systems had in mind when it developed the Q-HUD for transport and business aircraft.

Rather than projecting an image onto the surface of the HUD, the patented technology manipulates light using holographic waveguides to generate the symbology within the glass. Such a configuration maximizes headroom, and reduces size, weight and cost.

One of the key performance features of the HUD is the size of the head-motion box, the area on the face of the glass where a pilot can move his head and still see the entirety of the image.

"With Q-HUD, because the image comes out parallel from the combiner, the pilot has more movement than with a projector-style HUD," said Paul Childs, BAE technology lead for the program.

The total viewing area of Q-HUD, Childs said, is 15 times greater than a conventional HUD. "The enabling technology is the waveguide technology," he explained. "When you inject the image into the side of the glass, the image propagates down the glass, hits the hologram and is released to the eye of the pilot."

Q-HUD was demonstrated for the first time in October at the National Business Aviation Association convention in Orlando. A second generation B-model is expected to be completed by this summer, according to Ric Morrow, BAE director of commercial avionics business development, followed by a flyable demonstrator next year.

The holographic technology for Q-HUD was developed originally by BAE as a monocular helmet-mounted display for Army helicopter pilots that is called "Q-Sight."

"One of the benefits of Q-Sight over a HUD in a rotary application is that you can develop a tracked version that gives you a low-cost helmet tracker so the pilot can cue a sensor or weapon system off axis," said John Nix, BAE vice president of business development for defense avionics. "We have the capability for a tracked Q-Sight already."

Avionics Magazine’s Product Focus is a monthly feature that examines some of the latest trends in different market segments of the avionics industry. It does not represent a comprehensive survey of all companies and products in these markets.


Aerosonic Corp.
Applied Display Technology
Argon Corp.
Aspen Avionics
Astronautics Corporation of America
Avalex Technologies
Avidyne Corp.
Avionics Support Group, Inc.
BAE Systems
CMC Electronics, Inc.
DAC International
Dallas Avionics, Inc.
Elbit Systems Ltd.
Flight Display Systems
Garmin International
GE Aviation
IDD Aerospace Corp.
Innovative Solutions & Support, Inc.
Interface Displays & Controls, Inc.
JP Instruments, Inc.
Kollsman, Inc.
Korry Electronics
L-3 Communications
Luma Technologies
Luxell Technology
Meggitt Avionics
navAero, Inc.
Page Aerospace
Paramount Panels, Inc.
Rockwell Collins
Sagem Avionics, Inc.
Sandel Avionics
Teledyne Controls
Terma A/S
Thomas Electronics, Inc.
Universal Avionics Systems Corp.

Market Moves

Following are some recent developments announced by aircraft display manufacturers.

  • Aspen Avionics, Albuquerque, N.M., announced in January that it has received European Technical Standard Order (ETSO) authorizations for its Evolution EFD1000 primary flight displays. The ETSOs allow Design Organizations certified by the European Aviation Safety Agency to pursue aircraft-specific approvals for installing the Evolution system in aircraft registered in Europe.

  • Avidyne Corp., Lincoln, Mass., Southern Star Avionics, Mobile, Ala.; and Crownair Aviation, San Diego, late last year received a supplemental type certificate for retrofit of Avidyne’s Entegra integrated flight deck on Cessna 210 and T210 series single-engine piston aircraft.

    The Avidyne Entegra suite is part of Crownair’s "Centurion Edition" refurbishment that includes the dual-display Entegra Glass Flight Deck, S-TEC 55X autopilot, Hartzell Scimitar Heated Prop, WAAS-capable GPS systems, extensive engine modifications and J.P. Instruments digital engine monitor.

    In a separate release, Avidyne and American Aviation, Brooksville, Fla., announced the completion of American’s third Alliant integrated flight deck retrofit in a Beechcraft King Air 200 series turboprop. The Alliant Integrated Flight Deck package includes dual-redundant Avidyne Entegra EXP5000 10.4-inch primary flight displays and an EX5000 multifunction display, the S-TEC IntelliFlight 2100 digital autopilot and Mid-Continent Instruments two-inch standby instruments.

  • Barco n.v., Kortrijk, Belgium, in February announced a new milestone with the attainment of an 80th reference platform for its display technology. Barco will supply custom DU-875 displays for the Honeywell Primus 2000XP flight deck of the Falcon 900 business jet.

    The retrofit displays, designed to DO-178B and DO-254 level A standards, offer functionality for advanced charts, maps and graphics. They can accommodate options such as XM graphical weather, Jeppesen charts and maps, and video.

    In December, Barco announced European ETSO-C113 certification of its CDMS-3000 Control Display Unit. The CDMS-3000 succeeds Barco’s Control Display and Management System (CDMS), and is available as a complete product family, including the civil CDMS-3739 (ARINC 739), military CDMS-3753 (combination ARINC 429 and Mil-Std-1553) and CDMS-3702.

    The CDMS-3000 has been selected for the Sikorsky S-76D, French Air Force C-130s and French Navy Atlantique 2 patrol aircraft, among other platforms. Barco also won a contract to deliver a variant of the CDMS-3000 for the U.S. military’s C-27J Joint Cargo Aircraft.

    In October, Barco announced its selection by Eurocopter to provide its MDU-268 Mission Displays Unit for French Navy AS 565 Panther helicopters. "After a thorough analysis, Barco’s MDU-268 Mission Displays Unit proved to be the best choice for this project because of its excellent optical performance under all conditions along with its flexibility toward FLIR cameras, daylight video cameras, moving maps, computer information and radar data," Barco said.

  • Esterline CMC Electronics, Ville Saint-Laurent, Quebec, announced Jan. 13 that it will invest $149.4 million over the next five years in research and development of the "FronTier" integrated cockpit and communication system for airliners, business jets and helicopters. The Canadian government is supporting the initiative with a repayable $52.3 million investment.

  • Flight Display Systems, Alpharetta, Ga., in February announced FAA Parts Manufacturing Approval (PMA) for its "Flipper" 5-inch cockpit LCD. The thin display flips into position when needed and can be viewed by both pilots. The Flipper, priced at $4,995, originally was introduced in 2006. PMA approval was granted to Flight Display Systems from the original STC holder, OneSky Aviation, of Anchorage.

    The PMA covers the two hardware components of the Flipper — the FD90AID (Flip Down LCD) and the FD90AID-DEB-SM (Detached Electronics Box).

  • Innovative Solutions & Support (IS&S), Exton, Pa., unveiled its "IS&S Vantage" system for business aircraft at the NBAA convention in October. Vantage is an open architecture flat-panel display system capable of interfacing with most third-party avionics.

    IS&S also launched a Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) program with Lateral Precision with Vertical Guidance (LPV) for its PC-12 Cockpit/IP Flat Panel Display System. WAAS capability is now being offered for both single-side and full-cockpit display architectures, allowing PC-12 operators to fly precision approaches at smaller airports.

  • Rockwell Collins, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, announced the completion of the first Pro Line 4 to Pro Line 21 upgrade on a Falcon 50EX business jet by Duncan Aviation. The retrofit program, first announced in November 2007, uses existing Pro Line 4 equipment along with key Pro Line 21 equipment to provide upgraded functionality.

    Duncan Aviation has certified Pro Line 21 installations on the Falcon 50, Hawker 800A, Hawker 800XP and Astra 1125 business jets. The company also plans to complete the Pro Line 4 to Pro Line 21 upgrade on a Falcon 2000 this year.

  • Sagem Avionics Inc., Grand Prairie, Texas, announced three recent FAA-certified applications of its Integrated Cockpit Display System (ICDS) — on the Robinson R44, Sikorsky S-61 and Eurocopter EC 130B4 helicopters.

    FAA granted Carson Helicopter Services a STC for installation of a five-display ICDS configuration in the S-61. The glass panel solution, comprising four 10-inch AMLCDs mounted in portrait mode and one in landscape mode, was integrated by Vector Aerospace in Langley, B.C.

    Sagem Avionics also announced recent ICDS orders placed by the Anaheim and Riverside, Calif., police departments, for Eurocopter AS 350B2 helicopters, and the Los Angeles City Fire Department, for a Bell 206 upgrade. The ICDS was featured on 13 aircraft during Heli-Expo 2009 in Anaheim, Calif., in February.

    Last year, Sagem Avionics announced receipt of FAA supplemental type certification for the ICDS on the Commander 690 turboprop.

  • Terma A/S, Lystrup, Denmark, selected the VxWorks real-time operating system from Wind River, Alameda, Calif., as the foundation of an Advanced Threat Display (ATD) for jets, helicopters and transport aircraft, Wind River announced. The ATD is a dedicated, 3ATI self-protection display providing a real-time correlated threat environment picture to the pilot.

  • Thales, Neuilly-sur-Seine, France, noted the completion in December of the 50th U.S. Army UH-72A light utility helicopter. As a first-tier partner to EADS North America, Thales is supplying the Meghas avionics suite of the UH-72A. The Meghas system provides primary flight display, navigation display, multifunction display and vehicle and engine monitoring display within a modular architecture

    Airframer American Eurocopter, which is producing the helicopter in Columbus, Miss., expects to deliver a minimum of 352 aircraft to the U.S. Army by 2018.

    Also last December, Thales announced the "power-on" sequence of the new ATR 42/72-600 pre-series regional aircraft, which features a Thales five-display glass cockpit.

    The first flight of the Sikorsky S-76D corporate helicopter, featuring a Thales TopDeck avionics suite, took place Feb. 7 this year at Sikorsky’s West Palm Beach, Fla., flight-test facility.

  • The Universal Avionics EFI-890R Flat-Panel Display now is an option for Gulfstream Astra 1125 (G100) flight deck upgrades. The FAA Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) was awarded to Columbia Avionics, of Columbia, Mo., and includes the Universal glass displays, Vision-1 Synthetic Vision System, Application Server Unit (ASU) and dual Radio Control Units.

    Universal Avionics, Tucson, Ariz., earlier announced the addition of the BAe Hawker 700A to the list of aircraft with EFI-890R installations. The upgrade was completed by Mid-Canada Mod Center at Toronto Lester B. Pearson International Airport in Canada.

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