August 2012

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Southwest 737-300s to get new glass flight deck

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GE737-flightdeck.jpgSouthwest Airlines awarded a $40M to General Electric to retrofit its entire fleet of 737-300s with twin 15.4-inch SDS-6000 glass displays to enable RNP (Required Navigation Performance) operations across the overwhelming majority of its 737 fleet. 

Boeing will be responsible for the design, installation and integration of the new hardware and software, as well as flight testing and certification. The first production model is expected to be delivered in early 2011.
The integrated large area display suite and flight management system controls the aircraft track to an accuracy of 10 meters and the time of arrival to within 10 seconds to any point in the flight plan. Benefits include the ability to fly shorter flight paths and idle-thrust descents which reduces fuel consumption, thereby lowering emissions and community noise levels. Software and hardware updates provide the latest technology to continue to meet the needs of the world's evolving airspace requirements, offering safe and efficient improvements to aircraft operations.
According to Flight's ACAS database, Southwest operates 186 737-300 aircraft, though GE says only up to 150 -300s will receive the upgrade.

The 737-700 fleet are already equipped with the necessary hardware to carry out RNP operations, which are expected to launch on certain routes in the fourth quarter of 2009.

Boeing spokesman Bob Saling declined to speculate if future customers were in the pipeline, but added that "as Southwest is a leader in the low cost model, I think this is something other airlines will be looking at."

In addition, Boeing said it "didn't have any info at this point" if similar large glass displays would make their way into production standard Next Generation 737s in the form of a blockpoint change. Yet, as a narrow body replacement program moves farther to the right, a fresh flight deck (and a new engine) may serve as the basis for a 3 1/2 generation 737.

Image Courtesy General Electric

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