by Larry Anglisano
While the Bendix/King division of Honeywell has continued to bring fresh new products to market in a world seemingly dominated by Garmin, many of our readers have come to regard them as a company that caters to the high-end market. This is true of the IHAS (Integrated Hazard Awareness System) line but in an avionics world where anything goes, IHAS has proven equally suited for Citations and Skylanes.
Since Cessna resumed the building of single-engine piston aircraft in 1997, Honeywell and the IHAS suite have been center stage in the avionics stack. In some models, including the 206 and 182, theyre being replaced by the Garmin G1000 PFD. As weve reported previously, the components that make up an IHAS system are capable, reliable and quite easy to operate.
But the average package is far from cheap and going with full-bore IHAS is a tight squeeze in many airplanes; panel space is almost always a problem. The KMD550 (non-radar) and KMD850 (radar replacement) MFDs are the focal point of all IHAS systems and as with any big-screen MFD, available space for these boxes in the panel is often an obstacle, which has meant lost sales for Bendix/King.
Honeywell is out to change this and make up for lost sales increasingly being won by Garmin. Enter the new, budget-priced ($3990 list) freshly TSOd KMD250 MFD, which has similar utility to the bigger and higher-priced KMD540 without stripping out the higher-end capability. The KMD250 is an official member of the IHAS suite, since it will accept most of the same sensors that the larger KMD550 MFDs will.
Please the Right Crowd
Despite the fact that light aircraft nav management systems such as the Garmin AT CNX80 and Garmin GNS430 have been hits in recent years, there still remains the growing need for an under $5000, easy-to-use standalone navigator that can perform all the tricks.
Sales trends prove that TIS traffic, Stormscope overlay, basic terrain mapping and real-time weather top the wish lists of avionics buyers. The key to making sales in this arena is offering a box that pilots can grow with, as skill and mission requirements change, while keeping initial buy-in costs under control.
In a sour economy, owners are seemingly reluctant to spend a casual $15,000 on a panel, as they did when the market was booming. Now, the average upgrade is dwindling to $5000 and owners want more for less. The KMD250 appears to meet this requirement and the timing might be perfect.
Honeywell has traditionally been successful in the airline and corporate sector and Bendix/King does the same for the light aircraft crowd, with rugged, reliable boxes. The KMD250 continues that tradition with its high-quality appearance, button feel and operating logic. With many less mature manufacturers displays currently on the market, its refreshing to note that Bendix/King gear still has its own character and seemingly copies little from other makers. The intent is to keep the operating logic simple, particularly when multiple inputs are interfaced for overlay.
Users of the IHAS suite consistently rave about the straightforward operating logic, compared to other products they have flown. One Malibu owner told us IHAS is a get-in-and-go-without-a-manual system and we cant argue with that. That said, however, as with most modern MFDs, the KMD250 is a deep system and a new user will have a lot of information to absorb. But Bendix/King has done a great job of keeping each function simple to access and use.
The unit has a full-color, high-resolution, 3.8-inch diagonal active-matrix LCD display which, at first blush, is obviously a smaller version of the KMD550. The dimensions of the chassis, including front bezel, are 3 X 6.25 X 7.5 inches in depth and the weight is 3.5 pounds. The KMD250 will operate with all aircraft input voltages from 10 to 33 volts as well as 12-, 24- and 5-volt lighting voltage. Internal to the KMD250 is a cooling fan-a much welcome and well-thought-out feature.
The MFD accepts a variety of inputs via ARINC429 and RS232, all through one 78-pin D-type main connector for interface, with optional remote sensors. Its important to note that none of these external devices are standard equipment with the basic unit but are add ons, including the L-3 Avionics WX-500 Stormscope, L-3 Skywatch and Skywatch HP traffic systems, Ryan TCAD 9900BX traffic system, Honeywell KTA870 traffic system, Honeywell KDR510 FIS datalink weather, Honeywell KT73 TIS traffic and even the Honeywell TCAS I and TCAS II collision avoidance systems. If thats not enough for you, the KMD250 accepts airdata input as well as XYZ heading formats.
One of the things that impressed us when we reviewed the larger KMD550 was its intuitive controls and on-screen symbology. Not much has changed with the KMD250 as the operating logic is similar, if not a bit more straightforward. The left side of the bezel, starting at the top, houses the function select buttons starting with MAP, which selects multiple base maps for IFR and VFR. Keys for calling up flightplan data, a WX key which toggles from displaying Stormscope and FIS traffic, graphical and textual weather products and a designated key for TAS/TIS/TCAS traffic products follow in vertical sequence down the left side of the bezel.
A simple on/off/brightness rotary knob lives in the lower left corner. Buttons for on-screen soft keys are on the right side of the bezel along with map ranging, system menus and the familiar joy-stick control for stepping through menu items and moving an on-screen mouse around the map. The Jeppesen aviation and land data cartridge is front loaded through the bezel at the upper right and also contains the units operating software.
Function status icons make the interpretation of multiple sensors easy. For instance, if the WX-500 Stormscope, traffic and FIS weather products are installed and operating, theyll be shown as active icons at the lower left corner of the screen.
When workload gets high, you should be able to make quick interpretation of the status of all sensors. These icons change color, depending on the state and current function of each sensor. Pop-up help displays will come alive if a function select key is held for longer than 2 seconds. In a world where pop-ups are annoying, these are actually helpful.
Pressing the MAP key brings up three available map pages: VFR map, IFR map and relative terrain map. The VFR map presents terrain contour similar to VFR sectional charts. An on-screen terrain legend can be called up, pointed to and executed with the joystick pointer for interpreting the terrain.
The IFR map contains no terrain data. The relative terrain map has a similar look to a GPWS presentation, where topographical and obstruction data is color coded relative to the aircraft present altitude. The terrain mapping feature uses altitude data from either an altitude encoder, the remote GPSs altitude input or baro-corrected altitude. Unlike a certified TAWS system, none of these terrain features can be used for sole means of avoiding actual terrain but with proper use, theyll keep your butt out of the rocks and towers.
Displayed map data is updated every second-a quick draw-and auto-zooming appropriately scales the map in and out, depending on where youre headed. Or you can manually zoom in and out with range keys. Feeding the map an XYZ heading signal from an HSI or appropriate DG keeps the map in the same direction the aircraft is headed and is almost essential for proper terrain interpretation.
True heading synchronization seems imperative in the era of super-accurate mapping capability and most interfacing, including traffic, will be limited without it. The Jeppesen database feeds airspace and other aviation and topographical data to the map and if the GPS feeding the KMD250 is the Honeywell KLN94, the map will play DME arcs, procedure turns and holding patterns.
Youll be disappointed to learn that you wont see holds, arcs and procedure turns drawn on the KMD250 map if you arent using a KLN94 or other GPS that doesnt feed enhanced RS232 data. In that case, youll still see waypoints and position and track data, but not the curved segment of the procedure. It seems many pilots insist that holds be depicted on the map and we know of some owners who have replaced recent vintage GPS and map displays just to see the darned holds.
Weather, Traffic, GPS
The FIS (flight information service) datalink weather functions are displayed much the way they are on the larger KMD540 systems and theres a ton of weather data that can be accessed on the KMD250. (Theres too much of it to explain here but see our last report on datalink in the February, 2003 issue of Aviation Consumer.) When interfaced with the KDR510 receiver, the KMD250 will display METARs, SPECIs, TAFs, PIREPs, AIRMETs, SIGMETs, (including convective SIGMETs) as well as the full range of graphical products including the everyone-has-to-have NEXRAD base reflectivity. Half of the KMD250 pilots guide runs through the operation of the FIS weather products.
Working with the on-screen displayed traffic-driven from TIS, TCAS, Skywatch or TCAD remote sensors-is intuitive. Pressing the altitude volume soft key toggles between altitude volume of traffic above, below, normal or unrestricted. Theres also a soft key for flight level, which the user can view the relative altitude or absolute altitude of the painted traffic symbology. An absolute tag will only be shown for 15 seconds and then the system returns to the relative altitude traffic tag. This offers flexibility for closely eying conflicting traffic and Honeywells experience in traffic alerting gear over the years is apparent.
The KMD250 accepts input from most popular GPS and NMS systems for its positional reference although the KLN94 is obviously the preferred remote GPS interface, particularly if you want holds, as we explained.
But, as a future option planned at the time of this writing, the KMD250 can soon be purchased with a built-in VFR GPS for $4490, a real bargain. This option opens the door to an entire new market. While the typical mission for the IHAS suite is round-the-clock hard IFR, the KMD250 might also be focused toward the VFR pilot who motors around in good weather. The VFR-only GPS is operationally limiting but it cuts down costs and required panel space and might be desirable for VFR-only homebuilts or as a secondary system to backup an existing GPS. At this point, theres no map display as capable as the KMD250 in this price range and the fact that its unique in having its own onboard GPS will seal the deal for some buyers.
Since the KMD250 displays traffic, terrain and weather, many FAA FSDOs will eye its installation closely and field approval is a requirement in many districts. We would like to see Honeywell obtain multiple-aircraft STCs for this and other IHAS products. Multiple-aircraft approval eliminates the time consuming, installation-delaying FAA approval process.
Many traffic and weather gear installation approvals need to go to the FAA regional offices where it could take months to get approval. With nearly 700 aircraft models covered under other manufacturers displays (Avidyne and Garmin AT, for example) we believe there will soon be a time when ease-of-certification issues will persuade owners to pick one product over the other. The installing shops already feel this way and for good reason.
To date, the Bendix/King KMD150 MFD-trickle down technology from the UK-based SkyForce-product has failed to draw high demand mainly because, in our view, it lacks the very capability that the KMD250 offers. The KMD150 accepts only WX-500 Stormscope input so many potential owners consider it a limited-growth product, even if they dont plan to buy the remote sensors now.
In our view, the KMD250 offers more growth potential than the KMD150 and with a built-in VFR GPS, it caters to the lower and mid-level market, just as Bendix/King intends. Even the VFR-only pilot will benefit from many of the sensors the KMD250 will accept. You dont have to be an IFR whiz to utilize datalink traffic and weather so we suspect that the KMD250 will have great appeal to a wide variety of pilots and will give the MX20 display a run for its money. And at $3990 list price, we think the KMD250 will appeal to just the target audience Honeywell/Bendix/King has in mind.
Contact – Bendix/King, 877-712-2386, www.bendixking.com
-Larry Anglisano is Aviation Consumers avionics editor. He works at Exxel Avionics in Hartford, Connecticut.