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Aspen Teams Avidyne, Bendix/King, and S-TEC

By Mac McClellan, Editor-at-Large, EAA 747337
Aspen Evolution

March 24, 2011 — Aspen’s core avionics product is the Evolution series of primary flight displays (PFD) and multi-function displays (MFD) that are sized and priced for the entire range of GA aircraft. Because the Aspen equipment contains both attitude and directional gyros, and an air data computer to show airspeed, altitude, and so on, it must certify to the highest standards because all of that data is absolutely critical to safe flight. Now, Aspen will team with other avionics makers to help integrate their equipment with Aspen and get it all certified for installation by the FAA.

Even though it is still a fairly new company Aspen has developed great expertise in building, and maybe more importantly, certifying critical avionics systems to retrofit into existing airplanes. Now, Aspen will team with other avionics makers to help integrate their equipment with Aspen and get it all certified for installation by the FAA.

Aspen’s core avionics product is the Evolution series of primary flight displays (PFD) and multi-function displays (MFD) that are sized and priced for the entire range of GA aircraft. Because the Aspen equipment contains both attitude and directional gyros, and an air data computer to show airspeed, altitude, and so on, it must certify to the highest standards because all of that data is absolutely critical to safe flight. Now Aspen will use that experience in hardware development and FAA certification to integrate with other equipment.

Probably the biggest new project for Aspen is teaming with Honeywell’s Bendix/King division to complete development and earn FAA certification for the KSN 770. The integrated KSN 770 is a full-capability GPS navigator that also has com and nav radios and a large display to show maps, traffic, weather, and charts. It will be a direct competitor for the highly successful GNS 530, and now the new GTN 750 from Garmin. But the KSN 770 development has lagged after being announced almost four years ago.

A key to success for Aspen and Bendix/King will be in making the KSN 770 work with all sorts of other equipment already installed in the airplane, or on the wish list of the airplane owner. Because Aspen’s PFD systems have had to work with whatever other avionics are in the airplane the company knows how to make avionics boxes of various capabilities play together. Gaining FAA approval for the equipment combinations can be even more difficult, and is what Aspen has learned how to do. The two companies hope to complete KSN 700 development and certification by the end of the year.

In another example of this integration capability Aspen announced that it will coordinate with Avidyne to link the Avidyne DFC90 digital autopilot to the Aspen PFD electronic gyros and also display autopilot modes. The DFC90 has envelope protection capability so that if it is engaged it will not fly the airplane beyond its high speed limits, and more importantly, it will not allow the airplane to stall. The DFC90 will verbally and visually warn the pilot that the airplane is flying too slowly and the pilot needs to take action. But if the pilot doesn’t add power or change the rate of climb, the DFC90 will slowly lower the nose trading altitude for airspeed while continuing to yell at the human pilot to correct the situation.

Aspen also announced a new cooperative effort with S-TEC autopilots. The ASPEN PFD has worked with the S-TEC autopilots from the beginning, but in some cases the pilot had to enter data in each system separately. For example, if you set the assigned altitude in the Aspen PFD altitude alerter it did not automatically transfer to the altitude capture function of the S-TEC autopilot. Now, the two systems will work together.

None of the teamwork projects Aspen announced this week are certified, and it is impossible to predict just how soon FAA approval can be granted. But Aspen has demonstrated that no company is better at earning FAA certification for advanced equipment in a wide range of airplanes. The cooperation between these avionics companies will certainly give owners of a wide variety of airplanes many new options for upgrading their avionics capabilities.

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