Epic on board

Inside Honeywell Aerospace

March 1, 2013


Photography by Mike Fizer

When hangar flying with other aviators, conversations frequently involve comparisons of one aircraft manufacturer or model against another. But what about what lies under the skin? Where do the brains and the brawn come from? Aircraft manufacturers, or original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), generally rely upon their suppliers to develop, certify, and produce the components that make an airplane work. Honeywell International has the unique distinction of not only being one of the leading business and commercial aviation avionics manufacturers, but one of the top turbine engine manufacturers as well.

Honeywell’s history in aviation is as long and varied as the products the company produces. It all began in 1904 when Mark Honeywell was improving his plumbing and heating business. Today, after dozens of acquisitions and mergers involving notable companies such as Garrett, Sperry, Bendix, King Radios, Lycoming (its turbine engine division), AlliedSignal, and many more, Honeywell has successfully maneuvered through the ups and downs of the cyclical aviation industry.

It is no trivial task to wrap one’s mind around the breadth of Honeywell’s aviation interests. Honeywell Aerospace products and services include fully integrated flight decks, engines, auxiliary power units, wheels and brakes, fly-by-wire control systems, and flight planning/logistics, just to name a few. Honeywell is arguably one of the most broad-reaching aviation suppliers in the world. To put it in perspective, Honeywell has developed products that can be found in everything from a Cessna 152 single-engine trainer to an Airbus A380 superjumbo—and just about everything in between. It also has been a key supplier to every space mission since the dawn of NASA.

During a recent visit to Honeywell Aerospace’s global headquarters in Phoenix, I not only received a tour of its impressive facilities, but we also had an opportunity to fly three very different Honeywell-equipped aircraft, manufactured by three very different OEMs: Pilatus, Dassault, and Gulfstream.

pilatus pc-12 apex panel EASy gulfstream

Flying the PC–12NG

Our Honeywell flight test starts with the Swiss-built, single-engine Pilatus PC–12NG turboprop, equipped with the Honeywell Apex cockpit. Certified in 2008, Apex was launched on the PC–12NG as the company’s first fully integrated flight deck solution for the FAR Part 23 light aircraft segment. Complete with four LCD screens—two primary flight displays (PFDs) and two multifunction displays (MFDs), arranged in a T configuration—and a centrally located keypad, a tremendous amount of information is available to the pilot or pilots with just a couple of button-pushes. Synthetic vision—which Honeywell dubs SmartView—also is available, as is INAV (interactive navigation), which allows graphical flight planning functions, electronic charts, systems synoptic pages, and radio frequency management. Recently, a trackball cursor control device (CCD) was added to the optional equipment list, making navigation of the Apex system even easier.

One of the core features of SmartView is what Honeywell calls the acceleration chevron. The acceleration chevron is different than speed trend vectoring found in Garmin and Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21-based flight decks. The acceleration chevron is used in concert with the flight path marker (FPM) and is particularly useful during climb and descent. Proper use of the acceleration chevron and FPM allows pilots to instantly know whether the energy state of the aircraft is as desired, high, or low. Remember when your first instructor taught you “Power for altitude, pitch for airspeed”? Well, now the acceleration chevron, together with the FPM, does the job of your first instructor—only digitally.

Although Apex is designed for the Part 23 community, the backbone software of the Apex system is the same as that found in Honeywell’s Primus Epic flight deck, installed in much larger Part 25 Transport category aircraft such as the Falcon 900EX and the Gulfstream G550.

Flying the Gulfstream G550 with Honeywell PlaneView

After we completed our evaluation of the Apex, it was time to experience the other end of the Honeywell spectrum in a 91,000-pound, 6,750-nautical-mile-range Gulfstream G550 equipped with the Honeywell Primus Epic-powered PlaneView cockpit.

My test flight of the G550 took us to Rifle, Colorado (RIL), where the weather was low, the sun was setting, and the conditions were generally deteriorating. Surrounded by mountainous terrain and dynamic weather conditions, Rifle can test the skills of even the most experienced aviators. Wanting to demonstrate the capabilities of the Honeywell system, we set up for the RNAV (RNP) Z Runway 8 approach at Rifle. This particular approach requires not only the highest level of navigation equipment certification (RNP 0.1), but also special aircrew authorization.

Throughout the approach, situational awareness was spectacular. The combination of SmartView, head-up display (HUD), and auto-flight capability—including autothrottles—takes out so much of the guesswork when you’re flying in a valley surrounded by 11,000-foot peaks. And I was surprised at how much of the knowledge gained from flying the PC–12NG carried over to flying the G550.

Descending from 17,000 feet and turning toward the airport on the continuous turning leg of the approach, the PlaneView representation on the PFD displayed our desired runway in front of us highlighted in cyan, together with an extended
centerline overlaid on top of the terrain. A nice feature unique to Honeywell is the conformal range rings displayed on the PFD over the terrain used to help judge distance from the airport.

As I approached minimums, I was able to see through the clouds using the enhanced vision system (EVS) infrared camera system. Images from EVS are superimposed on the HUD and the MFD. With the runway made, I was prompted to initiate a missed approach by activating the go-around switch on the thrust levers. Then the auto-throttles take over, applying go-around power, sequencing the FMS to the missed approach holding fix, and the Honeywell systems maneuvered us out of the valley and toward the missed approach holding pattern. Automatically.

After a turn in the hold, it was time to get back to Deer Valley near Phoenix and try the French-built, Honeywell-equipped Dassault Falcon 900EX.

“Let there be no mistake, Honeywell is as committed as ever to general aviation.” —Shane Tedjarati


Flying the Dassault Falcon 900EX with EASy II

Easing behind the controls of the three-engine Falcon 900EX will get any passionate aviator’s heart rate up. Dassault Falcon Jet’s implementation of Honeywell’s Primus Epic cockpit—branded as EASy II by Dassault—projects a very modern and slick look. The screens are arranged similarly to those in the PC–12NG, with two large PFDs and MFDs stacked in the T configuration. Dassault opted to use a trackball controller for managing the Primus system, as opposed to Gulfstream’s implementation, which uses a custom cursor control device located near the outboard armrests of each pilot seat. The Falcon 900EX is not only equipped with a Honeywell cockpit, it is also equipped with three Honeywell TFE-731 engines and a Honeywell APU. With more than 12,000 TFE-731s built, it is one of the most successful business-jet turbofan engines in production.

Honeywell builds three of the most prolific turbine engines used in general aviation: the TPE-331 series of turboprop engines, the TFE-731 series of small turbofan engines, and the HTF-7000 series of medium turbofan engines. These three engine families power approximately 13,000 general aviation turbine aircraft. The HTF-7000 recently was selected by Embraer to power the upcoming Legacy 450 and 500 and is currently installed on the wildly successful Bombardier Challenger 300 and the recently certified Gulfstream G280.

After an hour or so of testing the Falcon 900EX, it was time to return to Deer Valley. To the credit of the human factors teams at both Honeywell and Dassault, I was struck by the simplicity and elegance of the EASy II cockpit. Clearly Honeywell’s emphasis on human factors was visible across all these platforms.

Staying Competitive

In a world of continuing corporate consolidation and buyouts, there are currently three first-tier flight deck manufacturers in general and business aviation: Honeywell, Rockwell Collins, and Garmin.

Honeywell and Rockwell Collins have been competing head-to-head for many years. However, Garmin has become a formidable competitor, and has become the sole avionics provider for all newly designed Cessna Citations, Embraer Phenoms, and Bombardier Learjets. It is noteworthy to point out that Garmin was founded by two former employees of Bendix/King (now a subsidiary of Honeywell): Gary Burrell and Min Kao, hence the name Garmin.

Despite Garmin’s success, Honeywell executives made clear that they are not rolling over and giving up on avionics that serve the lighter end of general aviation. Says Shane Tedjarati, Honeywell’s president, Global High Growth Regions, “Competition is great for the industry. It forces innovation in the most powerful of ways. However, let there be no mistake, Honeywell is as committed as ever to general aviation. We have and will continue to make investments to further our value proposition across the entire aerospace product line to remain a market leader.”

In line with Tedjarati’s statement, Honeywell has reinvigorated company efforts to bring Bendix/King back to the forefront. In early 2012, Bendix/King set up an independent business operation functioning within Honeywell in Albuquerque. Says Bendix/King President Kevin Gould, “This new business model gives us the independence and flexibility we need to respond to the unique needs of light aircraft owners and pilots.”

While we wait to see what the new Bendix/King has to bring forward, it’s worth contemplating how far all avionics companies have come in terms of improving the safety of flight. It’s hard to quantify the global impact that technologies such as airborne and datalink weather radar, lightning detection, GPS navigation, traffic alert and collision avoidance systems (TCAS), and enhanced ground proximity warning systems (EGPWS) have had on saving lives and protecting aviation as an industry. To a Mark Honeywell in 1904, this would all seem like the wildest
science fiction.

Cyrus Sigari is president/CEO of jetAVIVA, a leading light jet sales, training, and technical firm. Sigari also is a flight instructor type rated in the Citation Mustang, Citation CJ series, Phenom 100, Eclipse 500, and Boeing 747.

dassault falcon