Anyone who has spent time transitioning from flying so-called “steam gauge” flight instruments and a conventional radio stack to the new integrated glass panels already knows this: The learning curve is very steep—until a system’s underlying design philosophy is understood.
Call it the “Zen” of an integrated panel—if you don’t “get” it, you’ll work extra hard to perform even the simplest tasks.
Once “enlightened,” though, nothing ATC throws at you will matter.
Enter Esterline CMC Electronics, and the company’s SmartDeck integrated flight control and display system.
When CMC late last year licensed the technology from L-3 Avionics Systems, company President Greg Yeldon said, “We plan to build on the current SmartDeck technologies using our experience in Part 23 and Part 25 cockpit certification to grow SmartDeck into various adaptable solutions for all types of aircraft.”
Progress on display
Those plans are moving forward: This year, in its first appearance at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, the company is displaying a Cirrus SR22 fitted with a SmartDeck panel.
As implemented in the SR22, a central control unit separates two large screens equipped with soft keys.
An avionics control panel mounted in the center console between the seats mounts all buttons and switches necessary for selecting the appropriate frequencies, autopilot/flight director modes, and for operating the transponder.
A synthetic vision system forms the PFD’s background, while conventional vertical tapes present airspeed, altitude, and vertical speed information.
Superimposed on the terrain in the background are an HSI (canted forward to enhance the synthetic vision’s utility) and glass-panel-standard symbology depicting aircraft attitude and flight director cues, if any.
The avionics control panel is where flight plan information is selected or entered.
It’s a slick installation, and cleans up the SR22’s panel even further than when it left the factory.
But, the real “smarts” in the SmartDeck system is its simplicity.
For example, CMC says the system’s user interface—based on a “three-clicks-or-less” philosophy—results in SmartDeck’s ability to deliver the same information and features of other integrated glass panel systems from, say, Garmin or Avidyne—but without nearly as many button pushes or knob twists.
The demonstration AirVenture Today received bears this out: No function or feature was deeper than three menu levels down.
Esterline CMC has its roots in the Canadian Marconi Company, founded in 1903, and is no stranger to the avionics industry; its products fly aboard a very broad range of platforms, including the Boeing 747, Lockheed Martin C-130, and Hawker Beechcraft T-6B.
Meanwhile, SmartDeck has earned its TSO and is STC’d for Cirrus singles.
And the company hints at soon inking some deals with airframe manufacturers.
For now, no easy upgrade path to SmartDeck is available for the average piston-single owner looking to eliminate his steam gauges.
But look for CMC’s SmartDeck to be factory-installed on some GA aircraft in the near future.
Competition is good, and it’s likely their pilots will have a much flatter learning curve than those flying Brand G or Brand A. AVT