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One instrument, many possible faces

The Wichita, Kansas, company billed the new Flex MD23 Series as a “first-of-its-kind” Custom Function Display in a February 22 product announcement, noting the CFD is not to be confused with a multifunction display. The Flex is designed to be customized for factory installation or retrofit, enabling a huge range of installation options, rather than being preprogrammed to serve particular functions, as MFDs generally are.

“Flex is a two-part solution: the base hardware and software are fixed, while the configuration and digital display are flexible. Each unit is customized through a unique code, specific to the application,” said Mid-Continent Vice President of Engineering Brett Williams, in the news release.

The hardware and software are certified via multiple technical standard order approvals and the unit, which fits in a standard 2-inch cutout, also meets the RTCA Inc. standards for avionics software (specifically, RTCA DO-178C, Design Assurance Level A), the company said.

The MD23 Custom Function Display comes with a 26-pin data port on the back, and optional pitot-static connectors (left). Photo courtesy of Mid-Continent Instruments and Avionics.

The Flex MD23 accepts a broad range of standard data inputs, including ARINC 429, RS-232, analog, absolute and differential pressure (direct pitot-static inputs are optional), and temperature. That means it can be programmed to display just about anything, and serve as almost any instrument, ranging from a basic annunciator (landing gear, master caution) to sophisticated instruments such as a radar altimeter display, angle of attack indicator, altimeter, or airspeed indicator, to name just a few of the “virtually limitless” options. It has a daylight-readable, high-definition LCD display and a push-and-turn control knob. A USB interface allows software updates in the field.

Mid-Continent Director of Communications Julie Lowrance said in an email exchange that pricing is highly dependent on configuration. The hardware, including base software, will range between $2,000 and $4,000, though a Custom Instrument Definition file is also required to fully implement an installation, and that can cost a great deal more, “from $12,000 to six figures, depending on the complexity of the instrument,” Lowrance wrote. The Flex can even serve as multiple instruments in one, depending on wiring requirements and other installation details. The company does not plan to market the device directly to pilots or individual aircraft owners, at least not initially. Instead, the company expects to sell the Flex to aircraft makers or avionics installers who can work with the company’s engineers to craft specific installations.

“This is next-level glass technology for creative avionics solutions,” said Matthew Harrah, the company’s senior vice president of technology and products, in the news release. “We set out to improve systems integration and effectively eliminated the complex and costly product development process for aircraft manufacturers and fleet upgrades.”

These are just a few of the many possible configurations of the MD23 Custom Function Display. Image courtesy of Mid-Continent Instruments and Avionics.

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