Thanks to the proliferation of smartphones, touchscreens have become a staple of our daily lives. But up in the air, thing’s haven’t quite caught up, and many business jet flight decks still haven’t embraced the touchscreen revolution.
The fact is, aside from Garmin’s touchscreen controls in jets with G3000 and G5000 avionics suites, aircraft manufacturers have generally avoided touchscreens in favor of non-touch displays, and all that is starting to change.
We’re now seeing companies like Gulfstream adopt wider use of touchscreen technology with the new G500 and G600. On the overhead console of the Gulfstreams are three Esterline Korry touchscreen panels. Gone are the dizzying plethora switches, knobs, dials and buttons that can be a real challenge to memorize for pilots new to models like the G450, G550, and G650.
In addition to providing a sleek, streamlined look, these touchscreens allow each pilot to manipulate the screens independently at the same time, which speeds up pre-takeoff processes considerably.
The other great advantage of touchscreens is their flexibility when it comes to upgrades. Engineers can easily make changes without having to find a place to mount a new button or control.
But in terms of business jets’ instrument panels, touchscreen displays have been relatively slow to catch on. Why? Some say that touchscreens are better suited for pilots flying “little” airplanes, and that the way flight decks are set up in business jets means pilots are too far away to reach the panel. And not everyone is a fan of touchscreens in turbulent conditions.
Despite this, change does seem to be on the horizon. Nextant Aerospace and Collins Aerospace, for instance, just received a supplemental type certificate for a touchscreen display avionics upgrade for the Challenger 604, part of Nextant’s 604XT package.
The Collins Pro Line Fusion touchscreen upgrade for the 604 is similar to the Fusion avionics system in new King Airs, which pilots have generally been loving. And what’s particularly great about Collins is that they’ve made it possible for pilots to manipulate the avionics with knobs and buttons as well as eliminating the turbulence problem.
With the ever-improving price, capability and flexibility of touchscreens we think it’s just a matter of time before they’re standard on most business jets Especially as younger tech-savvy pilots move up the flying food chain and find themselves at the helm of more sophisticated aircraft.