Pro Line Fusion Citation CJ3 First Flight
A State-of-the-Art Avionics Upgrade
- August 7, 2017 – new content and videos on flight planning, navigation, and weather.
Note: Due to the size of the photos, their resolution in the blog is scaled down. To view higher resolution images, most photos link to higher res with a click. This is a very long blog! I tried to keep it short, however Pro Line Fusion is a very capable avionics suite and even at this length, I only barely touch the surface!
I had been looking forward to flying the CJ3 with Rockwell Collins’ new Pro Line Fusion avionics systems since the upgrade program was conceptualized 2 years ago. The CJ3 jets were originally outfitted with the Pro Line 21 avionics suite which is a extremely capable system, but as with all technology, didn’t match the full capabilities of newer aircraft avionics. Cessna has been delivering the CJ3+ with Garmin 3000 avionics since 2015 which offers the latest Garmin technology, but until Fusion was announced there were no advanced system upgrades for the CJ3, other than WAAS and other enhancements to the Pro Line 21. The Garmin 3000 is a great system, offering touch controllers, high resolution displays, and other enhancements over previous Garmin systems such as the G1000, which in itself was a transformative change when released.
Rockwell has been using the Fusion system in other platforms for a short time, and recently had installed them in the venerable Beechcraft King Air, which now offers them as a factory installed system. It was this system that Rockwell elected to customize for the Citation CJ3.
The Pro Line Fusion is unique in many ways, including the incorporation of touch screen technology in the PFD (Primary Flight Display) – a first for the aviation industry. While others have utilized touch controllers (G3000) or touch sensitive navigation displays (Garmin GTN series) this was a bold move by Rockwell to explore this technology.
I attended a brief system familiarization course at Textron’s Tru Simulation and Training Proflight center in a King Air 250 FTD (Flight Training Device). While helpful for basic familiarization, nothing is like flying and teaching in the same aircraft model
The upgrade program engineering is extensive, and took over a year for Rockwell Collins and Duncan Aviation to design, install, fine-tune, fly, and obtain FAA approval for this system. A CJ3 owner graciously gave up use of his airplane for a year, so it could be used as a test bed. On Friday April 21, 2017, the FAA granted the approval STC to Rockwell Collins for the CJ3. It was only a few months later than anticipated, however it was worth the wait.
On April 26, Dave Lenz picked up his airplane at Cedar Rapids and made a few flights with Dale McPherson one of the Rockwell test pilots. After they landed it was now up to Dave and I to explore the aircraft. It was great to have the opportunity to teach, and fly, the first CJ3 with Fusion. Our first flight was short – Cedar Rapids IA (CID) to Madison WI (MSN).
It was helpful to have read the 838 pages of the Fusion Operating and Installation Manuals prior to the flight, but trying to remember everything was a challenge and clearly wasn’t possible. Rockwell Collins has a few YouTube videos explaining some of the basic functions which are helpful. While it is clearly a different technology architecture, previous experience with Pro Line 21 provided the basis for many of the FMS (Flight Management System) features, outside of that is is vastly different.
After 40 hours with the Rockwell Pro Line Fusion installation, I’m still learning about all of its capabilities. My intent with this review to offer you a glimpse into this powerful suite, not to cover every aspect of its operation. My goal is to constantly update this blog as I teach, and fly the CJ3 over the next several months.
The System Architecture
The Fusion system is comprised of 3 Adaptive Flight Displays (AFD). Rockwell Collins also names them Display Units (DU), in case you get confused like I do sometimes. Each AFD (DU) can serve as an MFD (Multi-Function Display) or a Primary Flight Display (PFD), depending upon configuration. This also is useful when an individual display is not functioning, the other displays can show the information from the inoperative display.
All of the data is entered on the AFDs, either by utilizing touch on the displays themselves, or through actions using the Cursor Control Panels (CCP) and Multi-Function Keyboard Panel (MKP). These multiple methods of entry are one of the most powerful features of Fusion.
The CCPs (one for each pilot) and the MKP (which pilots share) are located on the center pedestal. This is the same location that previously housed the FMS display and Keyboard for the Pro Line 21. The location of these controls is a natural reach for both pilots and enables the pilots to use either these controls, the touch screens directly, or both in conjunction for screen navigation and entry. The most optimal method for me is to first touch the AFD field I want, then use the CCP and MKP to do my data entry. As you can see in the photos, the autopilot CRS, ALT, and HDG controls have moved to the top of the pedestal, still in easy reach.
Cursor Control Panel (CCP)
The CCPs have several functions that can mimic, or enhance, touch functions on the AFDs. The controller (RC terms this a Multifunction Knob) serves as a joystick for movement on the AFDs, selection of fields for data entry, and select list data – hence the name. Pilots rotate the controller to tab between fields (using the outer knob) and move to select a field within a scrollable list (more on that later). Pushing on the knob also serves as one of several ways to confirm entry of data.
These panels also have a number of other keys that provide quick access to functions such as; TCAS enablement on HSI (TFC), context-sensitive menu operation (MENU) that displays various menus depending upon the location of your cursor, frequency management (TUNE/Swap, COM 1/2 for select the radio to tune), MFD and PFD buttons to select which AFD to be controlled by the Multi-Function Knob on the CCP.
Since both pilots have access to the MFD, the system needs to know which pilot is navigating the MFD AFD. On each CCP there is a ‘MFD’ key, which selects the active pilot CCP. A great feature is when the Pilot selects MFD, their cursor shows up as a 4-Pointer, while the Co-Pilot would be a 3-Pointer.
Multifunction Keyboard Panel – MKP
The Multifunction Keyboard Panel (MKP) is extremely powerful. In addition to the keyboard – which is now in QWERTY format, the MKP contains a number of quick access function keys, and joystick. Pro Line 21 pilots will see familiar keys such as CHART, however many are new. The EXEC (Execute) function which enables the pilot to commit a flight plan change, after reviewing the potential change on the screen, works the same as in Pro Line 21. The EXEC function is also available on all AFDs, more on that later.
MKP Short Cut Commands
Two very cool features are the Quick (QIK) Tune (I call it the Magic Key) and the Memory keys. The Quick Tune function is simply awesome! When you enter a frequency or transponder code into the scratch pad – the system intelligently determines if that number is a COM, NAV, or Transponder code. For example, if you enter 11975 it will ‘propose’ it is a COM frequency (119.75) ; conversely if you enter 114.00 it is a NAV, and if it is 4576 – a Transponder code. If it is an ambiguous frequency, then it provides numerous options. It’s proposed selection is displayed on the lower portion of the MFD (the center AFD). Of course you could also enter the frequency directly into each radio by touching the screen or use direct tune knobs on the CCP, but this is very cool especially when you are busy.
The cursor and zoom functions are now combined into one knob, facilitating navigating around the MFD maps. The Direct To button also has additional capabilities beyond those present in Pro Line 21. Selecting the Direct To button brings the Direct window to the foreground of the MFD.
Each AFD, whether it is the pilot’s or co-pilot’s PFD or the MFD, can be split into ‘panes’. You can display different data in each pane, however as I found out there are some configurations that are not possible. For example you can’t display an FMS above a Map, the FMS must have it’s own pane. When you want to split the AFD, you can select the Gear icon on the PFDs, or the Home icon on any AFD. This presents you with a dialog pop-up to select the desired configuration. Some features such as Checklist or Video are not currently implemented in Fusion. The Video option would be useful for Enhanced Vision or FLIR.
Another great feature is the Display Memory function. In the Pro Line 21, we had 3 memory storage locations used to configure the MFD display. Generally pilots would use 1 for the FMS, 2 for personal configuration, and 3 for weather. With Fusion, Rockwell Collins has given the pilots 8 configurable memory locations to store the AFD display configurations. This feature is extremely powerful – setting the configuration of not only the MFD but also the PFDs. Six are preset at installation (EMER, Taxi, T/O, Cruise, Descent, Apr), and 2 can be easily configured by the pilot (User A and User B). In working with the system we found how to program all 8, which makes sense rather than restricting the pilot to only 2 configurable memory locations.
We also found that as experience with the system progressed, different configurations were more appropriate. Depending upon whether you fly the CJ3 Single Pilot or Crew, you may wish to have different display configurations. The Memory Screens are just for quick access, of course you can change the configuration to any one of dozens of options at any time.
Another great feature are the Quick Keys on the MKP for MFD display selections. The MAP, FMS, CHKL (Checklist), CHART, D, SYS, CAS, DEP/ARR, TUNE/DLNK keys are a direct method of select that function for display on the MFD. For example, pressing MAP once brings the window to the front of a split display, pressing it again will fill the screen. Pressing it a third time will return to a split display. I found that I used this function frequently when flying and desiring direct access to that feature. One thing I would like to have is a direct quick link to the Weather. One option would be to program one of the User display memories for that use.
Pro Line Fusion has introduced additional instrument panels controls for the system. They have added Control Inhibit switches. So why would you need to turn off the touch controls? Well, the screen do get overloaded with fingerprints and to clean them with the system on, you simple disable the touch sensitivity and use the cleaners. In addition, if for some rare situation where the touch system is creating problems you can turn it off, and operate the system solely by use of the CCP and MKP.
The other switches Revert the displays in the case of emergencies.
Rockwell Collins also included side mounted switches to control the Checklist function, which isn’t operative in this software release. The system also now includes dedicated Baro and Radar Tilt controls on the panel.
Navigating the Displays
Unique to aviation is the incorporation of certified touch-enabled PFDs that are a key component of the Pro Line Fusion. While some avionics manufacturers may also offer touch screen MFDs, the Fusion system offers some unique capabilities. Since only portions of the PFD are enabled for touch, you may forget which ones. It is simple to find out, just touch the screen on the side and the ‘hot spots’ appear on the PFD to show you the active regions.
One example of using the hot spots is for V-Speed entry. V Speed Entry is manual in the Fusion system versus the using the performance database in Pro Line 21. Touching the Airspeed tape will bring up the V-Speed/Mins dialog. This can also be activated by pressing the ‘Gear’ icon at the bottom of the PFD and configuring via the PFD Config Dialog Box.
On to the Flying
Now that I’ve given you a brief introduction to the architecture, it is time to pre-flight the system and fly!
First – Check Status – Initialize System
One of the first steps is to check the status of the system (Databases, GNSS, Position, etc), initialize our weight and fuel, calculate performance parameters, and load a flight plan. These functions can be accomplished using the Ground Clearance switch which powers up PFD1, required minimum systems, GNSS1, and COM1, which allows for configuration utilizing minimal battery power. Alternatively the same functions can be completed using any of the AFDs on the Setup Page in the FMS Window.
While the Pro Line 21 system automatically sensed the fuel load on board the aircraft and pre-entered the data into the setup page (Perf Init in Pro Line 21), Rockwell Collins elected not to provide this function in the initial release. The Pro Line 21 system also computes the takeoff and landing performance parameters (V Speeds, crosswind components, runway performance, etc) while Fusion does not at this time, requiring the pilot to manually enter the data. While manual calculation is not onerous, it is much more efficient and accurate to incorporate these functions within the avionics. Rockwell has stated they will release it in a later version, however it would have been nice to have the same functionality as the Pro Line 21 at release.
Loading The Flight Plan
The Pro Line series excels at flight plan data entry, and the Pro Line Fusion is no exception. As mentioned, you can load flight plans using either Plan or Fly pages – however only Plan will support Airway inclusion directly. Once the Airways are loaded, you can see the full waypoint detail in Fly, and of course modify as needed.
The Scratchpad, a hallmark of the Pro Line 21, is still present in Fusion. For the pilots who have used it, and the ones that haven’t yet, the Scratchpad is very powerful for quick data entry. It is very useful for entering intersections defined by crossing radials – e.g. MZB 293 and SLI 148 is simply entered MZB293/SLI 148 and Paste the value. If you need to cross 30 miles before JLI – then JLI/-30 and Paste the value.
Here is a relatively simple flight plan – KMYF (Montgomery Field) to KTOA (Torrance) with a clearance of: After Departure Left to 270, Radar Vectors MZB 293 radial to intercept SLI 148 radial, SLI direct TOA – with an ILS to RW29R. The MZB 293 – SLI 140 radial is entered in the scratchpad as MZB293/SLI140 and pasted into the Flight Plan, which shows as MZB001 – a temporary waypoint.
The Flight Plan page does not show all of the waypoint detail for airways or approaches. That information is visible on the Legs page.
Of course – you need to Execute the flight plan by pressing EXEC. The system prompts the pilot on the AFDs as well as illuminates the EXEC button at the bottom of the FMS pages in yellow.
Departure and arrival procedures, including approaches, are loaded into the flight plan using the Dep/Arr button The photo below show a curved departure, GROMO 4, on a recent flight from Yakima Washington (KYKM). While initially the departure looks somewhat complex, the Fusion system makes it simple. Since it is an RNAV departure, the Flight Director and Auto Pilot greatly facilities flying it, and it was fun flying the arc.
Complex Flight Plan – Denver to Chicago
Setting up a complex flight plan into one of the world’s busiest airports takes just a few minutes with Fusion. With this scenario, we are departing Denver (KDEN) with a clearance that contains a departure, joining an airway, then an arrival into Chicago O’Hare (KORD). Our flight plan is:
KDEN 34L.EEONS5.WYNDM DRABS J60 IOW TRIDE SHAIN1 KORD
To show you how the same flight plan, and initialization, would be accomplished in the Pro Line 21 I’ve created the video below. The initialization process is simplified in Fusion, however the flight plan logic is very similar with enhancements in Fusion that make the process easier. In addition, of course you can program the flight plans on any of the AFDs (PFDs or MFD).
CJ3 Pro Line 21 – Initialization and Flight Plan Entry
Pro Line Fusion provides what seems an almost unlimited number of display options, offering the pilot a wide variety of flight plan management capability and situational awareness configurations.
One advantage of a long cross county with Pro Line Fusion, is you get a chance to explore all of the display options and features! Sometimes it is even more important to just look outside and appreciate the unique opportunity to pilot such aircraft at 45,000 feet.
Entering Crossing Restrictions (e.g. 10 miles east of JLI at 10000) is easy with Pro Line 21 and Fusion offers even additional methods. Here are some of techniques to enter the data.
- Graphically on the Map. You can touch the waypoint on your map, and the Waypoint menu appears – Select Crossing and the Crossing options shown below.
- Waypoint Icon – Plan or Fly Page. Touch the Waypoint ICON (Note- it is easy to forget and touch the Waypoint name) for the Waypoint menu, Select Crossing and the Crossing options appear in another pop-up dialog/menu.
- Waypoint Field. – Flight Plan or Fly Page. This is the easiest – just to the right of the Waypoint is a field – touch it and you can directly access the Crossing menu.
NOTE: If the Crossing Restriction requires a specific distance from the waypoint, you must first enter a temporary waypoint ‘Along Track’, which is shown in the photos below. This example is creating a descent point, for my own planning, of a temporary waypoint 10nm west of Missoula (KMSO).
Direct To Navigation
Always during a flight, the pilot is directed – or requests, to fly direct to a waypoint. Pro Line Fusion offers multiple methods to achieve the same objective. Pilots can use the dedicated Direct To button on the MKP, which then displays a waypoint window on the MFD, or use touch in a variety of methods. The video below demonstrates some of these techniques.
Position Information – Winds Aloft, Nav Progress, and the Kitchen Sink!
Fusion introduces a great method to obtain detailed information on your flight’s progress as well as current information at your position. Fusion adds additional flight progress information to what was available on Pro Line 21. The Pos Report page, accessible from the Fly icon, provides a great status of your progress, including DTG (Distance to Go), Course, Fuel, etc. A very useful feature is the Current Position Status (my term). By touching the aircraft icon on the MFD, a status window appears. As you can see in the photo (remember to select the photo for higher resolution image) you see detailed winds aloft, temperatures, RNP, track detail, and other information. I haven’t seen a system that can display so much information on a flight concurrently on one screen.
Arrival and Approaches
As with so many other features of Pro Line Fusion, there are a large number of methods to select an approach or arrival at an airport. As shown above for the departure, you can select the Dep/Arr button on the Plan or Fly pages.
Perhaps a very unique method is to access arrivals by selecting the ‘feathers’ on the runway approaches depicted on the MFD at the airport icon. As you can see by the MFD photo below, there are ‘feathers’ that depict instrument approaches to runways. Rockwell Collins has displayed the feathers using the orientation of the runways – a great way to spatial orient a pilot to the airport. While we have always been taught to visualize the runways at an airport, this method is far superior to guide the pilot. With Fusion, you can simply touch one of the arrows and the available approaches appear on a pop-up dialog box. I found it very useful when evaluating alternative airports along the route, or when I simply wanted to pick an approach at an airport.
Detail view of Approach
With the Fly page (previously known as Legs page in Pro Line 21), the pilot sees additional detail that isn’t available on the Plan page. You also have the option of collapsing, or expanding all of the detail. I found it was useful to expand the detail and also use the ‘Window’ function on the MFD, which superimposes a progress window in the bottom center of the MFD. Here is a photo of a Fly page showing the detail of our approach into KMSN.
While previously available on other avionics platforms for a number of years, the inclusion of high resolution Synthetic Vision (Syn Vis) with Fusion is a welcome addition to the Pro Line series. The Fusion synthetic vision is also coupled with sophisticated graphics that greatly add to situational awareness for the pilot on approach. The photos below show a comparison between Syn Vis graphics on the PFD and the external view. As you can see there is a high degree of clarity with the Syn Vis, including buildings. It is so clear on this flight in Madison Wisconsin (KMSN) that you can almost make out the UW campus!
The PFD also displays a runway extension, flight path markers, acceleration markers (the horizontal caret) and well as distance markers (10,5) that help the pilot determine the distance to the threshold. Also note the fingerprints!! A critical cockpit resource is a screen cleaner!
The Pro Line Fusion system has an extremely detailed, and powerful, terrain warning system. It offers both absolute, and relative, terrain awareness. With Relative Terrain display settings Fusion colorizes terrain based upon the clearance risk level, rather than absolute heights. This assists the pilot by alerting them to terrain that poses the greatest risk of impact. Below is a photo of the terrain while on the ground at Scottsdale (KSDL) which shows the great detail of the display.
Placing the Terrain in TOPO mode removes the TAWS color levels. In any case, the TAWS will always alert the pilot of impending collision with terrain. The photo below also shows the VFR Theme which displays airspace.
One of the coolest features of Pro Line Fusion is the outstanding number of weather display options. In addition to onboard Radar, XM/Sirius Weather, you can also add the optional Datalink Request system for weather. I’m only describing the tip of the iceberg, if you can forgive the weather pun! Fusion provides an amazing number of display options, and you can only begin to explore them all over several cross country flights.
Configuring Weather for Display
The pilot can display weather on any one of the AFDs, either as an overlay on the MAP, or a dedicated Weather window to display graphical or text weather. While the Pro Line 21 suite offered a robust list of weather options for display on the MFD, usually be accessing the menu through one of the MEM keys, the Fusion pilot must configure their display. As noted earlier, this would be a great use of one of the Display Memory keys – perhaps User A or User B.
Splitting the PFD for Weather
These photos show how to split a PFD to select and display the text Weather selection.
Below is a video showing how to split the PFD screen into multiple windows with weather and onboard weather Radar.
Simultaneous NEXRAD and Onboard Radar
One of the great enhancements is the ability to see NEXRAD weather along side the onboard Radar on the PFD. You can split the PFD and display the images along side the aircraft Radar. For some pilots it may be too much information on the PFD, however this is one of my favorite configurations when flying through weather. Of course you can also overlay weather on the MFD.
Additional Weather Displays
Data Link Weather
The Datalink system, an option, is useful if you are flying in an area that is not covered by XM/Sirius Weather services. It is an air-to-ground system that uses a dedicated antenna to obtain weather, Digital ATIS and CPLDC (Controller Pilot Link Data Communications) information. . You simply submit a request through Fusion for a wide variety of weather products, which is then transmitted to the ground and the reply is displayed after a short interval on the screen. Datalink services can also be used to obtain Digital ATIS and other data.
You can display weather in a number of windows, and overlays. Graphical weather is easy to understand, however a handy legend does help to decode the colors.
The photo below shows the XM Winds Aloft data along with computed winds aloft information from the onboard Air Data Computers in a separate window on the PFD. You can also overlay any weather on the MFD. It provides a convenient method of comparing forecasts with actual flight conditions.
TCAS – Traffic Collision Avoidance System
Both Pro Line 21 and Fusion offer robust TCAS II systems. Their audio warnings and commands are the same, however their graphical representation of how to avoid conflicting traffic differ. Pro Line 21 provides vertical deviation commands on the Altitude Tape, providing a green bar for the pilot to maintain. The Pro Line Fusion provides an even more complete graphical reference for the pilot by showing red areas to avoid, and a green box within which the pilot keeps the airplane. Also note the difference in pitch ladder resolution between the two systems.
We all hope that our avionics continue to operate, however in the rare case that one display fails Pro Line Fusion will automatically fail over the data from the inoperative display to another one. Simulating a pilot PFD failure, Fusion puts the MFD into Reversionary Mode – combining the information from both displays.
I don’t know if there is a conclusion! After spending a lot of time with Pro Line Fusion, taking 1400 photographs of the system, and a large number of hours writing, I could still spend more time exploring its capabilities. A pilot familiar with Pro Line 21 can learn the system in a few days and operate the system proficiently, however they will only discover its full power over time, similar to some of the more advanced avionics now available to pilots.
Pro Line Fusion is definitely an significant jump in capability over Pro Line 21. I still enjoy flying the later system, however the Fusion system is definitely worth evaluating this upgrade path. For those CJ3 Pro Line 21 operators anticipating adding WAAS and ADS-B out to their existing aircraft, upgrading to Fusion at an approximate cost of $325,000 which includes those functions is worth evaluating.
I worked on the software for the first HUD for Flight Dynamics, later to be purchased by Rockwell Collins. I would love to see that system integrated into Fusion.
While I enjoy using Fusion, there are still some issues that Rockwell Collins will need to resolve, such as Vspeeds, Performance, ADS-B in, and some usability changes. Of course, I’m very particular and I can always find ways to improve aircraft systems!