Boeing AvionX to Develop Flight Controls, Navigation Technology Under New President

Brendan Curran will lead Boeing AvionX, an organization formed last year to pursue the development and production of avionics and electronics systems. (Photo: PRNews/Boeing)

Boeing officially unveiled the name and leadership of its new avionics manufacturing division, AvionX, on Monday. Brendan Curran, former president of Crane Co., has been appointed the president of Boeing AvionX.

Here’s everything we know so far about Boeing AvionX and what to expect from the company.

Boeing stood up its AvionX division in July 2018, which the company confirmed in an internal memo to employees that was obtained by Avionics. The new business unit is focused on the development and production of avionics systems for navigation, flight controls and information systems, a representative for Boeing said.

Both in-production and aftermarket opportunities are being researched by AvionX. The new subsidiary will be located in Plano, Texas, the headquarters for Boeing Global Services, which will oversee AvionX.

"The success of Boeing AvionX depends on aftermarket technologies and innovations that exceed our customers' needs, as well as developing avionics products that add value to our commercial and government platforms," said Boeing Global Services CEO Stan Deal, to whom Curran will report.

Prior to serving as president of Crane Co., Curran was a VP at two United Technologies Corp. businesses: Pratt & Whitney and Hamilton Sundstrand.

The hiring of Curran and the public unveiling of AvionX reflects a shift toward increased vertical integration in the development of Boeing's commercial and military aircraft. That was a point that Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg discussed on the company’s recent second-quarter earnings call.

When asked how Boeing is trying to balance development costs of a new aircraft model and non-recurring engineering in areas such as nacelles, auxiliary power units (APUs) and avionics, Muilenburg said the company is focused on “a few key verticals.”

“We don't need to be vertical everywhere, but there are a few areas where when we look through a customer value lens, it's clear that we can add value,” said Muilenburg, adding that avionics is “another area” where Boeing feels it can provide value on the airplanes they’re manufacturing.

While Boeing still has not confirmed a launch date for its new mid-market aircraft (NMA), Muilenburg said they’re projecting a 2025 entry into service for the new aircraft type if and when they decide to launch it.

Would that mean then that Boeing plans on developing the flight controls, navigation and information systems completely independently for the NMA? That is unclear, but CFO Greg Smith did discuss the company bringing more production in-house in the wake of displeasure surrounding the 787.

If the avionics configuration on the 777X is any indication of what the NMA’s avionics would look like, there would still be a lot of external supplier opportunities for it. The 777X features touch-screen displays supplied by Rockwell Collins, a common core system and remote data concentrators from GE Aviation, flight controls from BAE Systems and an onboard network system from Teledyne Controls.

Boeing’s recent ecoDemonstrator program also featured a FedEx 777 freighter that provided flight testing of avionics supplied by a number of third-party suppliers. These included an automated flight information and reporting system from FLYHT and a clear air turbulence detection light detection and ranging (LIDAR) system supplied by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). Boeing uses its ecoDemonstrator program to flight test technologies that will be considered for integration into in-production and future aircraft models.

At the 2018 Farnborough International Air Show, Mike Sinnett, Boeing’s VP of product and strategy confirmed that the use of LIDAR could be included in future Boeing passenger and cargo carrying aircraft.

However, in the immediate future, in his new role, Curran will work across Boeing’s commercial, defense and services businesses to “further define the aftermarket strategy,” according to Boeing.

By 2019, Boeing wants its AvionX division to be fully staffed with a total of 600 employees. It is still currently in the process of adding to the division.

Receive the latest avionics news right to your inbox