|The KSN 770 displays GPS, WAAS and NAV/COM functions on a 5.7-inch display that offers 640×480-pixel resolution on an intuitive interface.|
For many years, Bendix/King (a division of Honeywell) had a virtual lock on avionics in general aviation (GA). Get in a 20-year-old airplane with a panel that hasn’t been upgraded and you’ll probably find at least one Bendix/King NAV/COM, ADF, transponder or audio panel (on many airplanes, you’ll find a complete Bendix/King radio stack). Even today, many used airplane ads list “King panel” or “King radios” among their selling points.
With the introduction of Garmin’s color GPS/NAV/COM, the GNS 430, all of this began to change. The lure of bright-color displays and the ability to integrate all NAV/COM functions into a single unit proved compelling to most of the GA community. Bendix/King responded with the color KLN 94 GPS, but it lacked Garmin’s integrated NAV/COM functions and didn’t make much of a market impact. Today, when you look at ads for newer airplanes, “Garmin panel” is a huge selling point.
When I mentioned all this to Clark Badie, Honeywell’s product marketing manager for crew interface aftermarket products, he didn’t disagree. But he informed me that Honeywell thinks it has a product that will reverse the situation: The Apex Edge Series KSN 770 provides GPS with WAAS and digitally tuned NAV/COM functions on a 5.7-inch diagonal display offering 640×480-pixel resolution (four times higher than the Garmin GNS 430). The unique, intuitive user interface features optional 16-watt transmitter power (10 watts is standard) and is compatible with a variety of weather avoidance and traffic products, offering integrated moving-map and terrain-awareness functions.
Badie is particularly proud of how easy the KSN 770 is to use. “We spent a lot of time making sure we had the interface done right,” he said. “It includes graphical flight planning based on the flight management systems from our bizjet products, but it’s oriented for single-pilot users. And our product aesthetics are great—it’s a modern-style unit that’s functional in the cockpit.”
One key feature is the KSN 770’s cursor control device, with which, according to Badie, “You can point to any waypoint on the flight plan, click on it and click again to select functions like holding patterns. It’s also used for scroll and pan, and the cursor shows you where it’s focused, be it on the thumbnail or on the main display. It makes operation as intuitive as possible.”
Some competing products have been criticized as difficult to learn, based on the excessive use of programmable “soft keys.” Honeywell is well aware of that issue. Badie says, “We’ve tried to strike a balance between what’s easy to learn and what’s easy to use once you have the system figured out. We’re using a combination of hard keys on the left, context-sensitive hybrid keys on the bottom and soft keys on the right for less regularly used functions. You don’t need to go through three- and four-deep functions, which is nice.” And he confirmed that a software simulator will be available for the product when it’s launched this fall.
Bendix/King has been advertising the KSN 770’s digital NAV/COM as a major feature, and I asked if this meant that it could support VDL Mode 2, as called for by the FAA’s NextGen national airspace plan. Badie responded in the negative: “Currently it’s a digitally enhanced VHF communication radio, intended to provide the best voice quality using the same technology as our Primus Apex series of digital radios.”
The KSN 770 will support a wide range of external weather sources, including a radar transceiver module, Stormscope and XM Satellite Weather via Bendix/King’s KDR 610 datalink module. Badie also reported that Honeywell is “looking at a more robust set of interfaces” that could handle a wider range of third-party weather sources. For traffic avoidance, the unit is compatible with many options, including TCAS 1 and 2 and Mode S/TIS.
Looking ahead, I asked if the KSN 770 could be upgraded to work with Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B), which the FAA plans to phase in over the next decade, ultimately as a replacement for ATC surveillance radar. (For more on this, read Making ADS-B Work.) Badie said the KSN 770 will have hardware hooks to support either 1,090 MHz analog mode, digital universal access transceiver (UAT) mode or possibly both, though a software upgrade will be required to enable ADS-B operation.
The KSN 770 is intended as a retrofit item in existing radio stacks. Regarding whether any wiring could be reused, Badie said, “That depends on what’s in the panel—if you’re installing a center stack or MFD for the first time, you’ll have to wire it from scratch, but if you’re upgrading an existing stack, you can probably reuse much of the existing wiring.” The company is working with dealers to get an idea of how much shop time will be required for installation, but Badie agreed that it would probably be comparable to the time required for other advanced multifunction devices. I asked what kinds of indicators the KSN 770 could be used with, and Badie said, “The 770 has a wide range of analog and digital CDI and HSI outputs, which are pretty standard. If they use standard signals they should be supported.”
Honeywell is marketing the KSN 770 as part of its Bendix/King Apex Edge Series, offering the potential to create a complete glass panel. I wondered if an owner could install the KSN 770 in the radio stack first, then add the KFD 840 PFD later. Badie believed this would be possible and added that the combination of the two units provides a matched panel set. No specific features, however, are required from one to work with the other, so buyers could combine the KSN 770 with a different PFD, or the KFD 840 with a different MFD and radio stack.
The list price of the KSN 770 is $13,995. Honeywell expects to begin taking orders this fall. It will be TSO’d for IFR operation and certificated through an STC with approved model list. For more information, browse www.bendixking.com or call (877) 712-2386.