Rockwell Collins is back at Oshkosh after more than a decade. And it’s back with a splash as a platinum sponsor, adding its name to the air show and to the renamed Rockwell Collins Hangar C exhibition hall.
What prompted this change of heart?
“We don’t serve the single-engine propeller market, but there are aspiring aviators at AirVenture, and business jet owners and operators are there in spades. Our OEM partners are there, too,” says Colin Mahoney, vice president for sales ad marketing at Rockwell Collins commercial systems. “We’ve been a grass roots aviation company for 75 years, so we said why not be there to show our many firsts and to help shape the vision of the future?”
Collins serves business aviation with avionics from the King Air C90-sized aircraft through to the Bombardier Global Express. It’s Pro Line Fusion cockpit was recently certified for the Bombardier Global 6000, and that system will equip many types of business jet and regional airliner in the years to come.
Its large display here will show Fusion’s many features, and provoke discussion on future developments that already seem technologically possible.
“The flight deck of the future, especially for single-pilot operation, is out there,” said Mahoney, “but there’s a roadmap of regulatory acceptance.”
That future cockpit, over time, could include a “panic button” or “digital parachute” that a pilot would press if he or she lost situational awareness. The avionics would level the wings, maintain a safe speed via the autothrottle, and fly the airplane to a safe area away from weather or terrain.
There could also be a dual-engine-out descent mode that would guide a pilot to a safe landing. “We could even land it autonomously,” said Mahoney, but it will take years for the regulators to buy into autonomous operation.
Collins has already demonstrated autonomous landings in a modified Beech Bonanza, with three crewmembers as backup, “so we know we can do it,” he said.
Also on show here, as part of Collins’ philosophy to keep the pilot’s eyes out of the window instead of peering into the cockpit, is a mockup of its HGS-3500 Head-Up Guidance system, the first in the industry small enough to equip light-to-medium sized business jets.
The HGS-3500 will be available in about five years time with a price point around $150,000 exclusively for aircraft equipped with Collins Pro Line Fusion avionics.
The self-contained, lightweight HGS is LED driven and does away with the usual overhead roof-mounted projector. Instead, it uses breakthrough technology in substrate guided optics to project the forward field of view through the heads-up display via an optical waveguide.