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March 29, 2012
By Thomas B Haines
While most pilots could easily identify Garmin as the No. 1 provider of new general aviation avionics, few might realize that Bendix/King is No. 2 in the market. A new management team at the former market leader hopes to capitalize on that position.
While Bendix/King was the powerhouse avionics producer in the 1970s, 1980s, and much of the early 1990s, it went quiet after a series of mergers and acquisitions that ultimately led it to being a subsidiary of Honeywell Aerospace. Today, under the leadership of a new president, Kevin Gould, formerly of Piper Aircraft and various other aerospace companies, along with a new management team, Bendix/King plans to wipe the dust off that iconic brand while earning the trust and market share of a whole new generation of pilots.
The first step in the revitalization was moving the company out from under the corporate overhead of the giant Honeywell brand. As a new, separate business unit headquartered not in Phoenix with Honeywell Aerospace, but in Albuquerque, N.M., Gould said the company is prepping for a comeback.
He has hired two new vice presidents, including Roger Jollis as vice president of marketing. Jollis, formerly of Garmin’s automotive division, is, like Gould, an active GA pilot. “We have to have the focus and accountability in this market," Jollis said. "We plan to be a major supplier of technology for this segment.” Jollis sees the enormous installed base of Bendix/King products as a lucrative business opportunity, but he listed five attributes the company must adopt if it is going to be successful in winning back pilots: Innovation; intuitive interfaces; reasonable costs for products and support; world-class customer service for dealers and retail customers, including superior tools to help pilots learn new systems; and reliability, an attribute that Bendix/King has maintained for decades—evidenced by millions of products still in the field decades after they were manufactured.
Gould said the Honeywell relationship provides a level of financial stability not available to smaller companies while also providing a ready stream of technology developed and paid for by Honeywell’s high-end avionics development efforts.
He offered up the long-delayed KSN 770 flight management system, navigator, and communicator as an example. The heart of the FMS is the same as the one in the Apex avionics suite at home in numerous turbine airplanes. While the KSN 770 project was delayed under the old management structure, Gould sees it accelerating under the new Bendix/King and its relationship with Aspen Avionics, which is under contract by Bendix/King to develop the interface. The new product is scheduled to ship by the end of the year.
Meanwhile, Jollis promises numerous additional new product announcements in the coming months that will showcases the company’s commitment to the GA market and will also show off the company’s ability to be fleet and fast to market.
Gould, enthusiastic about his new assignment, says he is seeking other active GA pilots for his team. He needs to hire vice presidents of engineering and customer service and some 100 other positions over the next year, having already filled 50 positions in the company.
AOPA Editor in Chief Tom Haines joined AOPA in 1988. He owns and flies a Beechcraft A36 Bonanza. Since soloing at 16 and earning a private pilot certificate at 17, he has flown more than 100 models of general aviation airplanes.
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