United to Equip Boeing 737 MAX Fleet With Honeywell Avionics

United Airlines Boeing 737 MAX. Image courtesy of Boeing

Visual and audio alerts about unstable approaches, a connected weather radar and more advanced avionics will be part of a fleet of more than 150 new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft coming to United Airlines. The international carrier is equipping its new fleet with an assortment of avionics from Honeywell Aerospace.

Boeing first announced United’s order for a new fleet of 737 MAX airplanes at the 2017 Paris Air Show. The airline later confirmed the fleet would include a total of 61 MAX 9s and 100 MAX 10s. Now, Honeywell has confirmed that the fleet will include a package of its cockpit avionics featured in the Boeing 737 MAX catalogue.

Included in the order for United are Honeywell’s IntuVue RDR-4000 weather radar system, SmartRunway/SmartLanding software package and an integrated multi-mode receiver.

According to Greg Francois, a senior technical sales manager for Honeywell Aerospace, the SmartRunway/SmartLanding technology is a software upgrade for the enhanced ground proximity warning system (EGPWS) MK V-A version, which is standard fit on Boeing aircraft.

“We simply have to activate it onto the [line replaceable unit],” Francois told Avionics.

“Boeing offers a subset line fit version as well, and then we can augment that with additional advisories for things like unstable approach monitoring, and then other items like if they’re approaching and not lined up with the runway,” he added.

A 2016 report from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) on unstable approaches noted that approximately 65% of all recorded accidents occurred in the approach and landing phases of flight, and unstable approaches were identified as a factor in 14% of those approach and landing accidents.

The SmartRunway/SmartLanding capability provides audible alerts to pilots within their headsets and the aircraft’s cockpit speaker. It also includes a textual message on the navigation display if the approach is at risk of being unstable or will cause a long landing.

In selecting the IntuVue weather radar system, United has the opportunity in the future to start using what Honeywell describes as the “connected radar” concept. The radar system is able to detect and predict lightning, hail, wind shear and turbulence using volumetric 3-D scanning and pulse-compression technologies.

Those weather conditions can then be aggregated from the onboard system and downlinked to airline ground teams and flight crews flying the same route as the reporting aircraft to provide a more accurate view of airborne weather conditions, a capability Avionics profiled in GCA Link last year.

John Ashton, VP of Honeywell Aerospace U.S. airlines division, told Avionics that the company used an innovative approach to demonstrating how the connected radar concept would work.

“What the group did is they pulled all the constituents together for United, finance, the pilots, the mechanical group, everybody together. Then they had the pilots fly to our facility and test the system out, while we provided video of the test, and everybody could talk to each other back and forth. It was a great way to get everybody on the same page and have everybody see the total value,” said Ashton.

United will begin taking deliveries of its first 737 MAX airplanes in April.

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