How do you improve your favorite airplane when that airplane is a Cessna Citation CJ3? Fast, capable, and enjoyed by its owners and pilots, the latest avionics upgrade is to the Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion suite promises to make a great aircraft even better.
One of the most popular jets of the CitationJet series, the CJ3 was first introduced in 2005. Originally equipped with the Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 avionics suite (and later with the Garmin 3000 in the CJ3+), it provides a perfect platform to install the new avionics.
While the Pro Line 21 equipment
was state of the art when it was developed in the early 2000s, and updated since then to WAAS, graphical XM weather and other features, it doesn’t offer some of the capabilities of contemporary systems such as the Garmin G3000/G5000 series or Honeywell APEX in the Pilatus PC-12.
The Flight Management System (FMS) flight planning capabilities in the Pro Line 21 equipment is considered to be one of the best by pilots, thanks to its advanced flight planning functionality. In addition to the power of its FMS, the Pro Line 21 also offers not only GNSS and VOR navigation functions, but also backup position information from up to three VOR/DME ground stations automatically during flight. In the scenario when you may lose GPS signal, or our military selectively degrades the signal, the pilot still has backup navigation that will automatically attempt to provide your position. This power is also present in the Pro Line Fusion equipment.
With ADS-B requirements rapidly approaching, operators of all aircraft are evaluating their upgrade options. One of the selling points of the Pro Line Fusion upgrade program is the new system includes WAAS (not installed in all Pro Line 21 aircraft) and ADS-B Out. Owners can upgrade to the latest avionics and become ADS-B out compliant at the same time.
At one time, Cessna offered an upgrade on the CJ2+, also a Pro Line 21 platform, to the Garmin 3000. To date Cessna has only installed one system in a CJ2+ and does not have currently have upgrade path for the CJ3’s to the latest Garmin system, unless the owner purchases a new CJ3+.
Rockwell Collins first offered the Pro Line Fusion avionics in 2012 and now has installed it in 10 additional aircraft including the Gulfstream G280 and Global 5000 and 6000, Embraer Legacy 450 and 500, C Series aircraft and others. These aircraft utilize Fusion avionics without touch capabilities, controlling the system with Cursor Control Panels (CCP) and Multifunction Keyboard Panel (MKP). With the introduction of the Pro Line Fusion in the new Beech King Air 250 in 2015, Rockwell Collins implemented touch-screen technology. With that system successfully implemented, the company looked at other aircraft for installation, which leads us to the CJ3.
With more than 400 Citation CJ3-aircraft produced since 2004, the market is a great platform for the upgrade. In addition, since other aircraft utilized the same Pro Line 21 platform, including other Citations, Bombardier Challengers among them, the potential sales numbers look even more promising.
Rockwell Collins used the King Air Fusion system as the basis for the CJ3, enabling them to complete the entire certification process in just under one year. A friend of mine loaned his CJ3 to Duncan Aviation (in Lincoln, Nebraska and Rockwell Collins, to be the test bed for the STC. Duncan Aviation, working with BHE & Associates, Rockwell Collin and Textron Aviation, had the system operational for test flights in six months. It took a few more for test flights and certification.
The Fusion cockpit consists of three touch-enabled displays, called AFDs (Active Flight Display), two CCPs (Cursor Control Panel) and one MKP (Multifunction Keyboard Panel). In addition to these primary components, there are dedicated controls for baro-metric setting, radar operation and autopilot controls. Pro Line Fusion also uses some of the same Pro Line 21 remote mounted components located in the nose compartment. Since most CJ3s also had a Garmin GNS 500 as the second FMS, that unit is removed during the upgrade.
The AFDs are able to act as a PFD or MFD, similar in concept as other avionics such as the Garmin 1000 or 3000/5000 series. This cross—-functionality greatly eases the capability for reversion modes when one of the displays fails for any reason. The unique combination of touch screens and dedicated controls (which can operate the entire system without touch) sets this system apart for others.
The PFDs have “hot zones” where touch is enabled. If the pilot forgets which areas are sensitive to touch, they simply touch the screen and those zones are highlighted. For example, if the pilot wants to input V speeds they touch the airspeed tape. If the pilot wants to split the screen to show other information, they touch the “gear,” icon which provides access to a number of functions. In keeping with Rockwell Collins’ philosophy, there are also multiple methods to complete these functions.
The MFD is one of the most versatile displays in aviation. In addition to splitting the screen into multiple panels, the pilots can control the display through dedicated buttons on the MKP (keyboard), offering quick access to FMS, MAP, CHART and other features. This allows the pilot to quickly change the display to match their needs.
One of the unique features of the system is the ability to store eight display profiles for quick access using the MEM key on the MKP. Two memories (User A and User B) can be set by the pilot and the remaining by an avionics facility. Profiles include: Emergency, Taxi, Takeoff, Cruise, Descent, Approach and two user settings.
In keeping with the power of touch, pilots can easily access flight functions by touching the screens. Whether it is loading a flight plan through the FMS panel, or setting their weights and performance in the setup screen, you have complete control. In addition to setting these values you can also simply touch the appropriate icon on the screen. If you have a crossing restriction at a fix, touch the waypoint on the FMS (either Flight or Fly pages) or touch the waypoint on the screen. The pilots are presented with a simple menu to do all flight operations associated
with the point.
Flight Planning is one of the many areas where the Pro Line Fusion excels, offering both a planning page (Plan) and detail page (Fly). Pro Line 21 also has these functions, which are named Flight Plan and Legs, respectively. Airways are entered through the Plan page, with generally the Fly page used for the detail. Easy to read and use, the Fly page is the one I use the most. If you have a crossing restriction, just touch the area to the right of the waypoint and a submenu appears giving you a number of options for that fix.
Rockwell Collins, with their acquisition of ARINC, now has an iPad app: ARINC Direct is designed to complement and communicate with Pro Line Fusion. It has robust flight-planning capabilities, as well as performance calculations utilizing APG (Advanced Performance Group) data for optimized departures. Pilots will be able to stream flight plans and performance data to the Fusion panel systems using the included Wi-Fi system module currently dedicated to these communications. My initial experience with the app, and the associated website, reveal it to be extremely robust.
Duncan Aviation did the initial installation for the STC and now Textron Aviation has joined them in offering upgrades. The price of the upgrade is approximately $325,000, plus options such as a second GPS sensor, CPLDC (Controller Pilot Data Communications) and other features.
Operators can expect their airplane to be down for four to six weeks for the complete installation. Some owners are taking advantage of the scheduled down time to do other maintenance, or paint and interior upgrades.
Our airplanes are becoming technology platforms, and we are dependent upon the equipment manufacturers to keep us current and functional. This upgrade offers the operators confidence that their airplanes can incorporate new functions over time, especially since the Fusion platform is a strategic direction for Rockwell Collins. Rockwell Collins has also started the certification of the Fusion system in the Bombardier Challenger 604 with an expected completion date of summer 2018.
The pending acquisition of Rockwell
Collins by United Technologies (UTC) should not change that plan. In fact, they are retaining the Collins name known by pilots for years: The division will now be named Collins Aerospace.