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Updated: Jun 14, 2021

Stevens Aerospace recently became one of the first in the business jet services segment to install the new Garmin G5000 Integrated Flight Deck Upgrade on a Citation XLS. Executed in our Greenville (GYH), SC facility, the avionics upgrade was part of a comprehensive refurbishment project on the 15-year-old aircraft.

The G5000 integrated flight deck features three high-resolution flight displays with split-screen capabilities, a digital Automatic Flight Control System, emergency descent mode and many other features. The technology offers pilots extraordinary situational awareness, reduced cost of operation and enhanced safety.

Customizable High Resolution Touch Screens

According to James Feminella, Stevens’ avionics lead on the project, the synthetic vision on the G5000 is major step forward. “High resolution touch screens are the new thing, particularly for larger cabin aircraft. The G5000 screens are clearer, cleaner … significantly higher resolution. Navigating with these screens is going to be much smoother and easier to use.”

Sub-screens on the G5000 avionics suite give pilots instant access to critical data, such as TCAS, weather radar and SiriusXM data link weather. Garmin has engineered the technology so that pilots can customize the data they want to access in their profiles. “Pilots simply select their profile and load their preferences into the system,” says Feminella. “The screens are uncluttered and customized for each crew.”

Simplified Software Updates

From a maintenance perspective, Garmin has streamlined G5000 software upgrades. “Software designed to fix a little bug or address an opportunity for improvement can be downloaded online from Garmin’s resource center,” notes Feminella. “It’s a great time-saver to execute these tweaks right here in the field. We can download it and instantly upload it into the aircraft, instead of having to send the unit in and waiting two weeks to get it back. It’s a lot like bug fixes for an iPhone or Android; the same type of technology.”

According to Feminella, Garmin stays well ahead of the curve in integrating future software updates into the system hardware. “For instance, terrain databases are getting bigger all the time. Before, maintenance teams had to send hardware units to the OEM because the memory wasn’t large enough in the unit to accept the new databases. Today, Garmin provisions for this in advance. Now, the software can be easily updated in the field, but hardware doesn’t change. So, we’re not pulling units in and out all the time, which costs time and money.”

Working Like a Pit Crew to Make This Happen

What made this project so unique for Stevens and Garmin was handling a complex avionics upgrade while the aircraft was being prepped for complete interior refurbishment and exterior paint. Inside the aircraft, Stevens created a crisp new environment with tailored seating, carpet, sidewalls and stylish mahogany trim accents.

But the bigger story was the continuous coordination between departments.

For instance, the Stevens paint team had to strip the Citation XLS and immediately return it to Feminella’s avionics crew to keep the G5000 modification on track. Once the wiring harnesses were installed, work centered on the flight deck. As the touch screen panels were integrated, the interior team began assembling the cabin.

“It was like a pit crew waiting for us to get out of their way to bring everything into the aircraft,” says Feminella. “Everyone was working together to make this project happen.”

Add to that the day-to-day communication with Garmin’s aviation engineering team, and it made for a project Feminella’s team will never forget. “Service letters were coming out saying you need to do this, as opposed to how it was written in the original document. We were actually in the process of improving the STC itself, and that made this a little hectic at times. We just had to be ready to change in a moment’s notice. In truth, that kind of flexibility and cooperation is what Stevens is known for. At the end of the day, what we did for that 15-year-old aircraft was nothing short of amazing!”

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