Honeywell has launched a brand-new flat-panel avionics system that looks like it’s intended to reestablish the company’s avionics lineup as a premium solution across multiple segments, from urban air mobility to commercial airliners. It’s an incredibly ambitious undertaking, but the company is making some gutsy calls with Anthem, incorporating a number of innovative features and seemingly moving beyond the old ways of doing avionics, at least in some respects.
It’s likely that this push is intended to help Honeywell win back business from industry leader Garmin International, which was started by former Bendix/King employees and has, in the past 30 years, seized a huge market share in the light GA segment while getting some important wins in the bizjet world, as well. At one point that dominant market presence was Bendix/King, now a Honeywell brand. The gold standard was a Bendix/King panel, and its flight, radio and autoflight products were all leaders, and for good reason. It was and remains great stuff.
Today, Honeywell makes one of the most advanced flight decks in the world, with its Symmetry system in all the latest-generation Gulfstream business jets. Symmetry, which I got to “fly” in Gulfstream’s iron bird a few years back, integrates touch control seamlessly throughout the avionics system, and the UI is world class. The company also makes avionics systems for commercial airliners, a market segment it has a big share of. So, there’s zero doubt that Honeywell has the chops to pull this off. The question is, how long will it be before we start seeing (and flying) the hardware?
Anthem has several cutting-edge approaches to doing the avionics thing. For one, it’s cloud connected, so pilots can upload their flight plans to the flight management system before they show up at the airport. It also features some safety utilities you’ve probably never heard of before, including a landing assist function (which in testing is strikingly effective at helping pilots achieve consistently smooth hand-flown landings), a runway overrun awareness feature, which I can’t wait to see, and extensive 3D features, including airport environment 3D moving maps, something we’d have loved any number of times for arrivals at unfamiliar airports in the dark.
Ed Manning, a Honeywell test pilot, described flying behind Anthem in a video presentation. He said it made flying easier and more fun, in part because, “…we make it smarter, make it suggest things at the right time…[make] it look and feel like your mobile phone so somebody can sit down at the flight deck and they go and intuitively touch a button and quickly move through their tasks without an afterthought.”
That Anthem is scalable is the holy grail for flat-panel systems, if indeed Honeywell can pull it off. To be able to field avionics solutions for multiple aircraft in multiple segments by leveraging a mature technology would be a huge win for Honeywell. The company hopes it will help it put Brand H in a lot of new airplanes.
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