Engineers at BendixKing spend a lot of time thinking about the pilots who fly with their avionics systems, the dealers who sell them and the technicians who install and service them.
“From the moment we conceive a new product, we start considering the requirements of people who will interact with it throughout its lifecycle,” said Jake Maxfield, Sr. Industrial Designer for Honeywell’s general aviation division.
“Our goal is to deliver state-of-the-art avionics systems that are easy and intuitive for users at every touchpoint, from the person who receives the product on the loading dock to the pilot who relies on it to fly safely and efficiently from Point A to Point B,” Maxfield added. “We truly take an end-to-end view of user experience, unlike avionics companies that focus narrowly on one element of the pilot experience.”
BendixKing uses a disciplined approach called the Honeywell User Experience (HUE) to assess the needs of the various personas, fictional stand-ins for pilots and others who will interact with the product. Using various tools – such as voice of the customer, observational voice of the customer and user analysis – HUE professionals can determine what users need from a particular product, test assumptions and refine designs throughout the new-product development process.
Pilots are always top-of-mind at BendixKing and the company has a long history of innovations that improve safety, confidence and situational awareness for pilots at all experience levels. BendixKing engineers are breaking new ground in such areas as cockpit automation, situational awareness, touchscreen technology and connectivity, which will take general aviation avionics to a new level.
A prime example of BendixKing innovation in practice is the AeroCruze 230, general aviation’s first touch-enabled autopilot, which was introduced in 2019.
“The AeroCruze 230 represents a major advancement in autopilot technology and has been extremely well received by the pilot community,” said Mark Peurifoy, Principal Enterprise User Experience Manager for Honeywell. “But, frankly, we had some pretty lively debates within BendixKing about whether general aviation pilots were ready for touchscreen controls.”
With the aid of Honeywell Engineering Fellow Santosh Mathan, an expert in human-computer interaction, the BendixKing HUE team and Honeywell Aerospace Human Factors Engineering conducted an evaluation and human factors study with a number general aviation pilots. The feedback was overwhelming positive, according to Peurifoy.
“It turned out that the touchscreen functionality was not an issue at all, largely because we made sure that it tells the pilot what the autopilot is going to do next, which provides better situational awareness and reduces cognitive workload for the pilot,” he said.
“In follow-on usability studies, more than 90 percent of study participants gave the new autopilot high marks. This provides better mode awareness which pilots like and, of course, everyone already has experience with touchscreens from their smartphones, tablets and laptops,” Maxfield added.
The AeroCruze 230 development effort was a major milestone for BendixKing, Peurifoy noted. “There were a number of naysayers at the beginning and there were assumptions made that later turned out to be inaccurate,” he said. “But, thanks to HUE and human factors methodology, we were able to listen to the real experts – our end users – and gather information that enabled us to make data-based decisions that resulted in a successful product launch.”