EBACE 2011: Honeywell Primus Apex Upgrade Comes to Pilatus PC-12NG

Honeywell’s latest version of its Primus Apex integrated flight deck–Build 7–offers new functions and options for operators, which the company demonstrated at EBACE in a flight on a Pilatus PC-12NG, one of the aircraft models featuring the avionics suite. The Primus Apex is a derivative of the Primus Epic fight deck that Morristown, New Jersey-based Honeywell developed for large cabin business jets, optimized for single-pilot operations.

“We spent a lot of time working on simplifying this, and reducing the number of [required] button pushes,” Victor Valente, Honeywell’s vice president, Business & General Aviation for Europe, Africa, Middle East & India, said before the flight.

Apex system components include a primary flight display (PFD) and two center-panel multifunction displays (PFDs), a flight management system (FMS) and control panel, and a cursor control device (CCD). The CCD controls the movement of a cursor among and within the display screens and fields, enabling quick data input and selection.

The new features of Build 7 include a sunset and sunrise table, a vertical situation display (VSD) of flight plan and terrain and a display of airspace constraints on iNAV, along with software fixes and improvements. The upgrade is free to operators and, in the PC-12NG fleet, is installed during this aircraft’s required 100-hour inspections.

What further separates Build 7 from its predecessor are its optional upgrades: dual charts and maps enable charts and maps to be displayed on both or either MFDs; a second FMS, automatically synchronized in a master/slave configuration, provides redundancy in the event of primary FMS failure; coupled Vnav provides vertical guidance to a profile or flight path in all phases of flight; and video input enables video images–for example, from an enhanced vision system (EVS)–to be shown, and can be displayed on either MFD.

Flying the Primus Apex

The complex airspace and high terrain surrounding Geneva make this an ideal environment for seeing this latest Apex version in action. Pilatus test pilot Theddy Spichtig in the right seat quickly loaded a flight plan to Les Eplatures Airport at La Chaux de Fonde, some 60 nm distant, into the FMS. One of the MFDs displayed the crazy quilt of controlled airspace above and around us and showed their upper and lower limits numerically (Build 7’s airspace constraints on iNav function), a big assist when planning or making a VFR flight.

With the input of the weight of passengers and luggage, the Apex accounted for fuel onboard and calculated the optimum ascent profile (the coupled Vnav option), which was translated to the command bars on the flight director after takeoff from Runway 5 on our IFR flight.

Leveling at 11,000 feet, a solid overcast to the east was broken only by the Alps’ snow-covered peaks, but the new VSD function showed our vertical separation from the terrain along our flight path on one of the MFDs. The Apex also gave us the option of displaying satellite weather, radar and stormscope data in any combination on the PFD. Meanwhile, its TCAS I displayed surrounding traffic and our vertical and horizontal separation.

With the autopilot engaged the Apex took us over our waypoints, culminating in a coupled NDB Rwy 24 approach to Les Eplatures (LSCG). The only inputs required were throttle adjustments. With overlay capability, we could see the aircraft’s position on the approach chart displayed on one MFD.

The coupled Vnav handled our descent, continuing through the procedure turn inbound until the Final Approach Fix, Bomec, became active, at which point the Apex automatically switched to Vertical Guidance Path (VGP) mode. As we broke out well above the valley floor, the runway was directly ahead, nestled into the surrounding town. Executing the missed approach slightly above the minimum descent altitude (MDA) of 4,380 feet, and all we had to do was push the go-around button on the throttle and advance it full forward, and the Apex started flying us back to Geneva.

Pilatus will provide customers with pricing information on the Build 7 upgrade options. The Primus Apex is also factory installed in China’s Harbin Y-12 twin turboprop and the Viking Twin Otter, but upgrades to Build 7 for those aircraft have not yet commenced.

Buyers purchasing new PC-12NGs have two flight-deck packages available. The Premium package combines the basic Apex with additional options most requested by U.S. and international customers, and is priced at $345,285 (U.S.). The Elite package is similar to the premium but eliminates options that European customers may not need, such as the capability to receive satellite weather, which is currently unavailable in Europe, and is priced at $319,831 (U.S.). The purchase price of the Pilatus PC-12NG includes ground at flight training (provided by SimCom in the U.S.).

As the flight to Geneva and back amply demonstrated, the Apex provides commercial aircraft level safety and redundancy to aircraft certified for single pilot operations, and the Pilatus PC-12NG makes an ideal platform for its capabilities.

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