Rockwell Collins HGS

Smaller components lead to wider applications, enhanced capabilities.

By Grant McLaren

Bombardier Global Express XRS Global Vision flightdecks will feature Rockwell Collins HGS6600 beginning in 2011.

What began as novel head-up display (HUD) "fog buster" landing technology in the 1980s has evolved into the industry's leading head-up guidance system (HGS) for corporate, commercial and military aviation.

Capabilities and functionality have evolved from a manual Cat III landing system, used initially by Alaska Airlines, to full-phase-of-flight technology designed both to improve situational awareness (SA) and expand flightdeck capability.

Today, Rockwell Collins HGS systems are available, or in planning for, the Boeing BBJ, Bombardier Global, Cessna Citation Columbus, Dassault Falcon 900DX/900EX/ 2000/2000EX and 7X, Embraer Lineage 1000, Gulfstream G350/ G450/G500/G550/G650 and G150 as well as Bombardier Challenger 605/850 and Learjet 85 platforms.

On the non-corporate side Rockwell Collins HUD systems are on board, or available for, the Boeing 727/737/787, Bombardier CRJ, CSeries and DHC8-Q series platforms, Embraer 170/190 and Lockheed C130 Hercules.

So successful has Rockwell Collins been with this technology since acquiring Portland OR-based Flight Dynamics in 1999 that it has virtually cleared the field-at least in the corporate aviation arena-of competition.

"In 2 years from now the only HUDs manufactured for the corporate world will be ours and we see many exciting future opportunities for this technology," says Senior Dir HGS Commercial Systems David Austin.

"The trend is toward smaller, lighter and more reliable digital HUD technology with embedded sensor and video capability to support enhanced flight vision systems (EFVS), synthetic vision systems (SVS) and surface guidance systems (SGS).

We're now moving this technology into midsize aircraft-including the Bombardier Learjet 85 and Gulfstream G150-and dual HUD applications promise to become major game changers in future."

Compared to the initial HGS1000 offering, at 60 lbs and 6 line-replaceable units (LRUs), the latest HGS6000 series, at 43 lbs and just 3 LRUs (29 lbs and 2 LRUs if integrated with Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion flightdeck), these new-generation digital systems provide greatly expanded capability.

Future opportunities are compelling. The US Air Force has dual HGS3000 certified as primary flight displays (PFDs) on the C130 and the Embraer 170/190 are Cat III dual HUD certified. So there's no reason why the same benefits cannot be applied within the corporate aviation marketplace.

"With dual HUDs certified as PFDs operators will be able to dispatch with one of more head-down PFDs out," says Dir Engineering HGS Commercial Systems Robert Wood who's been with the division since the early Flight Dynamics days.

"This opens the door to utilizing head-down displays differently-perhaps using PFDs as additional multifunction displays (MFDs)-and will improve overall situational awareness." There have been hurdles in developing the latest incarnations of HUD and challenges remain in fine-tuning technology for smaller flightdecks.

Shrinking HUD to adapt to midsize and smaller corporate jets, with acceptable price points and functionality, remains an ongoing effort. "We're working on multiple technological solutions in adapting HUD to smaller aircraft at suitable price points," says Principal Mgr Corp HUD/HGS Programs Tom Geiger.

"We think there may be a place for universal HUD technology aboard all corporate jets." Developing effective SVS capability on HUD was an initial challenge although it's now surmounted.

Dassault Falcon 7X HGS5860 uses LCD projection technology for increased display flexibility while reducing weight and improving reliability over traditional CRT-based systems.

Projecting photorealistic renderings of SVS image data on the HUD combiner lens began as a project with NASA 5 years ago. FAA has now accepted Rockwell Collins SVS HUD imagery. "The challenge early on was not being able to see through the combiner with SVS imagery and we don't want to block the outside world," says Wood.

"These issues have now been resolved and all our digital HUDs are being built EVS and SVS capable." To find out just what Rockwell Collins has been doing recently with HUD technology, and glimpse into future possibilities for this technology, Pro Pilot went to Portland OR to visit HGS research and production center.

Now that BAe Systems and Thales Group have dropped out of the corporate HUD market-with the exception of Thales HUD for the Airbus A320 series-just what is Rockwell Collins planning for the future? HUD production at Flight Dynamics had been just 4 units per year in the early days and it's now up to over 350 systems annually.

Total real world field experience of Rockwell Collins HGS is in excess of 20 million flight hours. Where do we go from here? Does Rockwell Collins aim to have HUD bundled in with all Pro Line Fusion flightdecks, and how long will it be before this technology is available industrywide?

HUD evolution and capabilities

A HUD takes critical flight information from onboard sensors and nav systems and projects the image onto a semitransparent sheet of glass called a combiner. The combiner is usually 6-12 inches away from the pilot's eyes and symbology is projected such that it appears to be more than 200 ft in front of the aircraft.

By providing most of the information necessary to fly the aircraft on the HUD, pilots can spend more time with their "head up." HUD also imparts inertial flightpath data to the pilot, conformal to the outside world, with indication of where the aircraft is actually going, rather than where it's pointing.

HGS displays guidance information and cueing, allowing hand-flown Cat III and Cat II low-vis approaches and landings. HUD provides other critical information to the pilot, such as tail strike awareness, TCAS advisories, runway distance remaining, deceleration cueing and unusual attitude recovery.


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