Hard to believe that new single-engine pistons might have an advantage over a turboprop cruiser like the Pilatus PC–12, but in some respects, it’s true. At least while the PC–12 has awaited delivery of the Honeywell Primus Apex integrated cockpit system—the legacy equipment on PC–12s delivered through the first of 2008 just doesn’t have the wide glass appeal of displays on singles from the Garmin G1000-equipped Beechcraft Bonanza to the Avidyne Entegra-equipped Cirrus SR22.
But one aftermarket option has carried Pilatus owners through the wait: Innovative Solutions & Support has held a supplemental type certificate (STC) for its Cockpit/IP Flat-Panel Display System installation in the PC–12 since 2006. The STC, which offers a variety of display configurations, essentially replaces the original 5- and 4-inch Honeywell Bendix/King electronic flight information system (EFIS) displays with larger primary flight displays (PFDs) and navigation displays (NDs).
IS&S came to the general aviation market from a solid history providing displays and reduced vertical separation minimums (RVSM) data and monitoring systems for the military and commercial aviation markets. In fact, IS&S recently began implementing installation of a similar Cockpit/IP display system on American Airlines’ Boeing 757/767 fleet. The key to their success selling the big retrofit to a busy airline? Turnaround time—which also will translate to other customers. Total time out of service for the upgrade to the PC–12 is typically five days.
IS&S recently announced a retrofit Cockpit/IP system for legacy Cessna Citations, to be distributed and installed at Citation Service Centers. And IS&S is the display provider to the Eclipse 500’s Avio NG integrated aircraft system.
The basic Cockpit/IP system consists of combinations of either 10-inch or 15-inch displays; customers can choose from two 10-inch displays (pilot-side only), four 10-inch displays (pilot and co-pilot), or two 15-inch displays (pilot and co-pilot). Dual air data computers with RVSM modules are included as well. Displays are 3.5 inches deep and are form-fit to drop into the openings left in the PC–12’s instrument panel upon removal of the stock EFIS units. The 10-inch displays can show either a PFD or ND in normal mode; the 15-inch screens are split to show both the PFD and ND at the same time.
To put the 10-inch screen into perspective, it’s large enough and of the same rectangular shape to depict an electronic instrument approach chart at 98 percent of life size. This comes in handy, because a primary benefit to the Cockpit/IP system is its Jeppesen ChartView capability—essentially giving the pilot a Class 3 electronic flight bag (EFB) mounted in the forward field of view. Add a geo-referenced aircraft position icon on the chart, and you have a powerful situational awareness tool.
Other components within the system include control panels for the display, auxiliary functions, and EFB functions. Among other functions, these controls provide access to the Cockpit/IP’s unique Zoom feature, which automatically expands an area of the display to twice its normal size when the pilot makes an input affecting that area. For example, when the pilot changes the heading (using a dedicated course/heading knob), the heading box on the horizontal situation indicator display enlarges. This expansion accomplishes two things—first, it makes the heading input even easier to read and therefore harder to enter incorrectly; second, it makes it instantly obvious what the pilot is changing—even from across the cockpit.
Even though charts appear at near-life-size, readability on a screen is still less than that of a paper chart (and you can lean in only so far to read the details). So EFB functions include the ability to highlight areas of the chart (shown with a blue box and shading) for magnification, broken down into the com, plan view, profile view, and minimums areas of the chart. IS&S is working with Jeppesen on geo-referenced en route charts; when these are available the aircraft’s own-ship position can be depicted on the en route chart.
As of this writing, the Cockpit/IP integrates with the Garmin GNS 430, 530, and 480 GPS/VHF navigators, as well as the Bendix-King KLN 90B, Pegasus, and CMC navigation and flight management systems. The system is also compatible with Honeywell’s IHAS 8000 (found on many PC–12s from the factory) and enhanced ground proximity warning system (EGPWS) sensors.
We took the company’s demo PC–12 up for a test flight in the local Frederick, Maryland, area. With ragged low layers in the area, we filed with Potomac Approach to get on top and for a block altitude and area in which to do some maneuvering before setting up for an approach back into Frederick.
Demonstration pilot Eric Smedberg, who has flown the PC–12 for the bulk of his career as a corporate and charter pilot, pointed out the system’s various functions as I focused on the displays. It was bright enough on top to get a good sense of the crispness and readability of the display elements, as well as the smoothness of the display in pitch and roll. Range controls increase and decrease the display range smoothly rather than staggering at set increments.
The dual-cue flight director display (with magenta needle-like crosshairs rather than a chevron) on the PFD’s attitude director indicator (ADI) kept me on my toes all the way down the ILS. Centering the tiny box in the middle all the way to the ground would probably mean a touchdown on the centerline at the fixed-distance markers—it’s small, and it’s sensitive.
Overlays on the map side of the display (or on the separate ND if using a dual 10-inch-screen system) include radar, terrain awareness and warning system (TAWS), and EGPWS. We brought up radar on the display, given the shower activity in the area during our flight.
I found the control panels fairly intuitive—and particularly like the dedicated course/heading knob, a feature I long for on current integrated glass cockpit systems in many new-production light GA aircraft. The system will be a snap to transition to for pilots accustomed to flight management systems and EFIS—and only a little bit more work for those who aren’t, although so far IS&S hasn’t targeted that far down the food chain yet.
But plans for a 13-inch display system aimed at the light piston market are in the works, according to Michael Glover, director of flat panel programs for IS&S. Current equipment cost for the PC–12 upgrade is roughly $140,000 plus installation, depending on the configuration.
E-mail the author at [email protected].
Contact: Integrated Solutions & Support 610-646-9800