With several certifications now in hand, Astronautics (Stand N29) is expanding its market and already incorporating enhancements for the AFI4700 RoadRunner drop-in replacement electronic flight instrument. RoadRunner won U.S. FAA technical standard order and supplemental type certificate (STC) on its initial platforms, the Leonardo A109/119, early last year. Since then, Astronautics has obtained European Union Aviation Safety Agency and Brazilian ANAC nods for the Leonardo models, and just last month added India Directorate General of Civil Aviation approval for the A109E. Other approvals are in the works.
Designed as a lower-cost, easy-to-install replacement for legacy attitude director and horizontal situation directors, RoadRunner provides the functionality of modern electronic flight instrument systems such as enabling LPV approaches and display of H-TAWS, synthetic vision, weather, and other information. The units also enable significant weight savings.
As the RoadRunner units begin to enter the field, the upgrade is receiving strong interest, already capturing about 40 percent of the A109 market in the U.S. and starting to reach into the markets where the helicopter is most prevalent, such as South America and Europe. Work is also underway to install RoadRunner as part of the UH-60L Firehawk upgrade that Arista Aviation has undertaken for the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.
Next up is STC on the Bell 212, 412, and 214 models. Astronautics has completed its submission for the STC and is anticipating approval shortly.
In addition, the Milwaukee, Wisconsin-headquartered electronics specialist is working with Canadian firm Maxcraft Avionics and Canadian Helicopters for RoadRunner retrofit on Bell 212 and Sikorsky S-61 helicopters. Maxcraft's design approval organization (DAO) will develop the required STCs for the installations.
“[With] the modification of EFI displays, we are easily bringing cockpit reliability and improved functionality to the pilots,” said Maxcraft Avionics CEO Daryl MacIntosh. “The additional connectivity to a multitude of avionics in the cockpit increases situational awareness and redundancy.”
Meanwhile, in line with the vision to continually build on its product lines, Astronautics is implementing its next round of upgrades for RoadRunner displays. The first was implemented last fall, and now the company is improving integrations with H-60 platforms as well as enabling support for additional military functions such as tactical air navigation systems (TACAN).
As a smaller company with strong engineering capabilities, president Chad Cundiff said Astronautics has the flexibility to move forward on these upgrades more swiftly than a larger company typically could. “It’s hard to find a good retrofit program that can address TACAN for instance,” he said. “So, we're able to go now in and add those enhancement packages to the RoadRunner.”
A third upgrade is already in the works, he added. “It's just about listening, seeing what the customers like about the product, and trying to make sure that we build on that.”
RoadRunner is one of a number of new product initiatives Astronautics has in the works. Another product family coming to fruition was unveiled last spring, the Ibex “semi-smart” display designed to fit needs of special-missions operations, which may need the ruggedness of a system that can withstand wide temperature swings and high altitude but may not need all of the processing capability. Astronautics already has the first customer for that family and has begun to field the initial units.