The use of head-up displays (HUDs) in Chinese commercial aircraft has made a key advance in China with the decision by one of the country’s three biggest airlines, China Eastern, to introduce the technology into its narrowbody aircraft.
With the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) targeting near-universal use of HUDs by 2025, China Eastern has ordered Rockwell Collins HUDs for 58 Boeing 737s, with deliveries due from mid-2013 to 2015.
Okay Airways, a much smaller carrier, has ordered the same equipment for 10 737s, with similar delivery dates to China Eastern’s.
HUDs are becoming steadily more common in commercial aviation globally because they increase safety and landing opportunities in bad weather by keeping pilots’ attention outside of the aircraft, and they also can help guide the landing. But the CAAC’s policy is making manufacturers optimistic that the Chinese market will mature early.
Thales and Rockwell Collins are well positioned as the suppliers for the Airbus A320 family and the 737, respectively.
The Chinese market alone is considerable. Rockwell Collins, for example, says its HUD, the Head-up Guidance System (HGS), has a catalog price of about $350,000 per set.
On that basis, the two contracts announced on April 2 are worth about $24 million, before discounts.
Shandong Airlines appears to have been the first Chinese carrier to begin using HUDs. It ordered the HGS for 737s around the middle of last decade, says Wen Hailin, director of sales and support for Rockwell Collins commercial systems in China.
China Southern ordered its five Airbus A380s with Thales HUDs. Xiamen Airlines uses Rockwell Collins HUDs on its 737s.