In it for the Short Haul

May 6, 2015

There has been significant press coverage recently on the re-ignited battle for dominance in the narrowbody aircraft market, with Airbus’ A320neo and Boeing’s 737MAX going head-to-head to win favor with the world’s short and medium haul carriers. While order values still dominate the headlines in the same way as those for the likes of the A350 and the 787 do, we tend to read less about the technology that goes into these narrowbody aircraft. Those sorts of stories seem to be reserved for the transcontinental long haul jets where many might assume the hottest tech emerges first.

The fact is, however, that both the A320neo and 737MAX are incredible feats of engineering, as several exciting technology announcements from Honeywell this month are showing. In April, we announced that Southwest Airlines has selected some of our most advanced aircraft technologies for its new 737MAX fleet. Today we announced that IndiGo has selected a suite of our avionics technology which will enable pilots to better monitor the surrounding airspace and provide greater situational awareness; be sure to keep an eye on our newsroom and Twitter feed for news on other airlines who are making similar investments.

So what are these technologies that are redefining the capabilities of today’s narrowbody fleets? Honeywell supplies advanced flight systems to aircraft of all sizes, so while the latest long range widebody jets may steal all the technology headlines, it’s fair to say that here at Honeywell we are also very much in it for the short haul. Let’s take a look at a selection of our technologies that are available for the A320neo and 737MAX:

Starting at the back: The Honeywell 131-9 Auxiliary Power Unit
An APU is a small turbine engine located in the tail cone of an aircraft that provides auxiliary power for main engine start up and cabin electrics. Honeywell brought the first civil APU to market in 1963 and in doing so, opened up commercial air travel to airports that did not have their own ground power. In 1991 we introduced the 131-9 APU on the MD-90 and today it is one of the most widely used, reliable and capable APUs in the industry, flying on some 7,500 aircraft and boasting well over 100 million flight hours. The 131-9’s two-stage axial turbine, active cooling system, easily accessed replaceable components and high fatigue grade alloy all help to lower maintenance costs for operators. The system’s power advantage results in a cabin warm up/cool down time that’s up to two minutes faster than competing units. And the design makes for one of the quietest commercial APUs on the market today, below current ICAO requirements.

Putting Safety Up Front: Honeywell EGPWS
In 1974 the FAA mandated that all turbine and turbojet powered aircraft must be fitted with a Ground Proximity Warning System, a technology introduced by Honeywell a few years earlier and one regarded by many as the most important milestone in the history of aviation safety. The modern Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System (EGPWS) uses inputs such as position, attitude, air speed, glideslope, and an internal terrain database to predict potential conflicts between the aircraft and terrain or an obstacle. Honeywell’s database contains continuously updated information on more than 30,000 runways at over 12,000 airports, and the latest Honeywell EGPWS box -- the MKV-A -- features windshear analysis, USB and Ethernet support for database updates, a faster processor and a 15 per cent weight reduction.

A Safer Approach with SmartRunway/SmartLanding
An EGPWS software upgrade, Honeywell’s SmartRunway/SmartLanding was introduced in 2003 and is flying on nearly 3,000 aircraft today. Over the last five years, 70 percent of commercial jet accidents have involved the take-off and landing phases of flight. In fact, there is one runway incursion or excursion accident a day somewhere in the world, costing the industry a staggering $100million a year in total. Designed to tackle the problem, SmartRunway/SmartLanding constantly monitors the aircraft to ensure it is configured for a stable, safe landing and taxi procedure. The software is capable of alerting pilots to over 25 potential errors in aircraft set up, alerting them if dangers such as “long landing”, “improper flap setting”, “taxiway landing” or “insufficient runway length” are detected.

Pegasus Flight Management System - The Airplane’s Brain
The FMS is to an aircraft what the brain is to a human. Stored within the FMS is, the flight plan and other data designed to keep the aircraft stable, on track, efficient and on time. The world’s first civil FMS - the Honeywell TERN 100 - was certified for the Boeing 727, 707 and ultra long range 747SP in the 1970s, but rapidly growing demands on worldwide airspace called for another technology step-change. In response Honeywell brought to market its Pegasus FMS in 1995.

Today’s Pegasus FMS is one of the most sophisticated pieces of equipment you will find on an aircraft. Integrating with a wide range of separate avionics systems, it can offer crews optimum altitude data, FANS datalink support for improved aircraft-to-ground communication and Required Navigation Procedure (RNP) for complex approaches and holding patterns.

Navigating in congested airspace with SmartTraffic TCAS
Honeywell’s SmartTraffic Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) is designed to minimize the risk of mid-air collisions by monitoring the location of surrounding aircraft up to 120 nautical miles away. The latest Honeywell SmartTraffic TPA-100C computer supports Automatic Dependent Surveillance - Broadcast (ADS-B) messages to provide greater monitoring integrity and increased interrogation range. Other benefits include Change 7.1 resolution advisories for pilots should a collision be imminent and oceanic In-Trail Procedure (ITP), allowing aircraft fly at optimum altitudes over oceans.