l“Beauty is only skin deep” goes the phrase. And while the manufacturers of crossover narrowbody jets will claim that their aircraft lives up to Geoffrey de Havilland’s maxim of “If it looks right, it is right,” they know that what is under the skin makes a huge difference to performance. 

Development in avionics systems in particular, has enabled these aircraft to operate more efficiently, whether through the avionics’ own functionality, decreases in size, lower heat generation or a variety of other attributes. 

Two of the clean-sheet crossover jet designs—the Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) and Bombardier C Series—opted for the Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion suite. For the former, working from a blank page “enabled the MRJ engineering teams to design around the latest technologies instead of being constrained by existing system architectures,” a company spokesperson notes. “The Pro Line Fusion system is simple to operate and flexible enough to accommodate future airspace enhancements.

“The suite integrates all aeronautical, navigation, communication, surveillance, and engine indication and crew-alerting system information into one large, graphically rich display system,” the spokesperson adds. “This integrated flight deck technology clearly displays essential flight information to the crew, enabling an intuitive, reduced-workload flying experience.” 

Antonio Ficca, director of product marketing at Bombardier Commercial Aircraft, explains, “Working with Rockwell Collins, Bombardier invested countless hours of human factors development to produce a finely tuned human–machine interface that leads to reduced cost through increased operational efficiency and reduced pilot training time.” 

Referring to the suite’s functionality and flexibility, Ficca adds, “Pro Line Fusion avionics allows crews to transition easily from other aircraft types into fully intuitive and graphical interfaces. The interface is easily accessible by the control-cursor device and other well-located control panels such as the radio tuning panel on the glareshield. Clutter on displays and panels has been significantly reduced. Harmonization prevails throughout the various interfaces, including flight symbologies in the primary flight display (PFD) and the head-up display. And the scalable architecture allows for future growth with minimal requirement for additional components.” 

According to Ficca, Pro Line Fusion also brings weight and power savings due to the higher integration of the cockpit, thus minimizing the total number of components. “For instance, the five LCDs are fully interchangeable and can accommodate information from multiple systems, reducing the need for additional components,” he observes. 

Mitsubishi and Bombardier have similar reasons for selecting the Rockwell Collins suite. The former notes the value of “four 15-in., side-by-side displays [that] are coupled with a number of quick access keys, allowing pilots to easily view important information.” The company spokesperson also highlights the importance of “the advanced graphical flight planning that eases pilot workload when navigating around weather or modifying complex flight plans.” 

Ficca believes a major differentiating factor in Pro Line Fusion’s favor is that it blends naturally within the broader flight deck design of the C Series, which is based on “a user-centered design process that enhanced situational awareness, optimized crew workload and prevented interface-related errors.” 

Bonnie Berg, principal marketing manager of business aviation for Rockwell Collins, also highlights the integration of functions into the large LCD displays and adds, “They are significantly lighter than CRT avionics displays of the past, and provide greater situational awareness for the pilots through feature-rich, icon-based controls.” 

As for its advantages over competing systems, Berg remarks, “Pro Line Fusion delivers a comprehensive set of functionalities that enables flight crews to complete their mission anywhere in the world. [Its] ability to adapt as new features are developed and airspace requirements change is a great benefit for our customers.” 

The Sukhoi Superjet 100 has a Thales Avionics suite which, coming from the same manufacturer, is very similar to most Airbus cockpits, although Superjet International senior vice president for commercial Stewart Cordner believes the SSJ100’s suite “is slightly more advanced.” However, there is enough commonality for an Airbus pilot to make the transition to an SSJ100—each have a sidestick and fly-by-wire controls—with only a short amount of training. 

While all three aircraft types mentioned are clean-sheet designs, for its E-Jets E2 family, Embraer clearly was not going to change the double-bubble fuselage it so painstakingly designed. Under the skin is a different story. The company went back to Honeywell to select the new Primus Epic II avionics suite. 

E2 Program Director Fernando Antonio Oliveira, explains why: “Primus Epic II utilizes next-generation flight-management technology, providing greener operations with more direct flights, ultimately using less fuel,” he begins. “The integrated architecture allows for future functionality growth, periodic technology refresh and future communication, navigation surveillance/air traffic management requirements. 

“The current five 8 X 10-in. displays in current E-Jets were replaced by four 13 X 10-in.-large landscape displays with advanced graphics capabilities supporting optional functions such as synthetic vision, chart and maps, graphical flight planning and both volumetric and graphical weather information,” Oliveira adds. “The larger displays mean more information can be grouped into a single screen while maintaining the pilot’s situational awareness.” 

Marc Herdegen, senior product marketing director of cockpit systems at Honeywell Aerospace, says the E2 brings some of the most advanced avionics features available on today’s best-in-class business jets to airline operations. Like Oliveira, he cites Honeywell’s SVS (synthetic vision system) as an example, as it “brings industry-leading situational awareness to airline flight crews.” 

Herdegen points out that his company’s GLS (GPS landing system) Category I has not yet been implemented on a small airliner, but it is an option on E2 models. “Additionally, the flightpath and speed management optimization provided by our next-generation [flight management system] allows E2 operators to reliably fly the best profiles for minimum fuel or maintenance cost, improving airline profitability,” he emphasizes. 

“eCharts brings the capability to fly paperless, streamlining airline operations support while allowing airline crews to seamlessly display high-quality charts on the PFDs,” Herdegen continues. “The Advanced RAAS [Runway Awareness and Advisory System] reduces the probability E2 flight crews will ever operate with reduced takeoff or landing safety margins without warning. Overall, Honeywell’s Epic system brings 99.9% or better reliability to airline operations.” 

Oliveira adds his take on the Epic II’s advantages. “Commonality with the current fleet is clearly a relevant factor for this decision, reducing transition cost from the current fleet. It was the best suited for the E-Jets E2, allowing the flexibility for continuous innovation in flight deck features, while offering a mature system,” he concludes.