The cockpit upgrade is meant in large part to give pilots the same or better situational awareness than visual flight, while gaining Air Iceland entry into the next-generation air transportation system that is slowly but surely coming to this country of 320,000 on the southern edge of the Arctic Circle.
Field has not yet coined a catchy marketing phrase for the refresh on Dash 8 Q100/200/300s, though it completed the upgrade on three aircraft and has two new conversions on tap, one in flight test and one not yet started.
Included in the TF-JMK's cockpit are two Universal Avionics flight management systems (FMS) with wide-area augmentation system (WAAS) capability, five 8.9-in. Universal Avionics EFI-890R back-lit LCD displays featuring optional Vision 1 synthetic vision system (SVS), an Ametek engine interface unit to take the engine gauges into the digital age, and an L-3 Communications advanced standby unit that is an independent backup source of attitude information, air data and VHF navigation.
The upgrade replaces more than 40 serial number components, boosting reliability and cutting the number of spare parts on the shelves.
Reliability is paramount as Air Iceland, a regional carrier and sister to the international Icelandair, uses its two upgraded Q200s both domestically and for five longer-range routes (400-800 nm) to Greenland, an increasingly popular tourist destination in the warmer months. The carrier's six Fokker 50 twin turboprops, with legacy avionics, are largely used for passenger and cargo routes within Iceland.
Equipped with extended-range fuel tanks, the Q200s are an ideal platform for Greenland operations, given their capability to land on “very short runways down to 700 meters (2,300 ft.),” says Jonas Jonasson, Air Iceland chief pilot. “The Fokker 50 is not capable of that.” Jonasson says the carrier has 63 pilots on staff, with the Q200s logging about 2,500 hr. per year.
In terms of navigation, the cockpit upgrade gives Air Iceland the tools it will need to take advantage of the growing number of GPS-based required navigation performance (RNP) procedures and precision approaches coming to Iceland and Greenland, where today approaches are largely handled by non-directional beacons (NDB), a ground-based radio signal type of approach being phased out for accuracy and cost reasons elsewhere in the world. Precision approaches generally allow an aircraft to descend closer to the ground before either seeing the runway environment or aborting.
“To be able to fly GNSS approaches down to RNP 0.3 [0.3-nm accuracy], . . . we needed to upgrade our flight management systems to have WAAS capability,” he says. “Field approached us with this idea of the EFI-890R. The aircraft we bought had old electromechanical instrument systems. Maintenance costs of the old instruments were definitely higher and there were problems getting spare parts. After we sat down and did some math, we found out that this [Field upgrade] would be our future aircraft.”
Jonasson says initial training for pilots includes two days of ground instruction, 2 hr. of hands-on training in the cockpit and 6 hr. of flight training (the carrier does not have a simulator). Refresher training is provided yearly.
Iceland continues to put more GNSS procedures in place to augment or replace traditional ground-based infrastructure, says Jonasson. Only two airports in the country have full instrument landing systems (ILS); most have only NDB aids.