Success Stories - CMC Electronics

The Company

CMC Electronics (CMCe), a wholly owned subsidiary of Esterline Corporation, is a leader in the design, manufacture and sale of communication and electronics products for the aviation and global positioning market. CMCe is known in the industry for its niche product lines including navigation and flight management systems, enhanced display and vision systems, communications technologies (antennas) and custom electronics. They are also a growing player in the field of cockpit systems integration. The company employs over 1,200 individuals and has locations in Montreal, Quebec; Ottawa, Ontario and Chicago, Illinois.

The Project

The main objective of this 5-year SADI FronTier™ project was to develop leading-edge technologies that can be incorporated into an innovative Integrated Cockpit and Communications System designed for the civil aviation market. The impetus for the project was the opportunity to capture market demand for cockpit modernization, which was required to meet more tightly integrated aircraft systems, growing data volumes and pending international regulatory mandates.

Development projects of this scale in the aerospace industry are very expensive to undertake, particularly due to costs associated with verification, certification and the need to meet stringent requirements set forth by regulatory bodies. SADI's on-going support was instrumental in allowing us to maintain this level and depth of R&D focus

Daniel Guertin, CMCe's Manager of Government Affairs


CMCe successfully completed a comprehensive research and development project that will contribute to both the depth and breadth of CMCe's avionics product portfolio. The FronTier™ project allowed CMCe to successfully leverage their military experience in systems integration to create an innovative integrated civil certified cockpit and communication system for the business jet market as well as the general aviation market that offers unique advantages in comparison to what is currently on the market. More specifically, CMCe developed and enhanced a wide array of individual technologies to support the cockpit system including new satellite antennas, Advanced Flight Management Systems, enhanced Global Positioning Systems, next-generation Advanced Vision Systems and improvements to the electronic flight bag.

With the development of these new innovative products and enhancements comes a variety of benefits to potential aviation customers including improved reliability and maintainability across all components as well as the availability of more information/data than in a conventional style cockpit system. Higher levels of automation offer pilots additional support in navigation and system monitoring and improved user interface makes the overall cockpit system more accessible and easier to use. This ultimately leads to the optimization of speed, flight path, arrival times and fuel consumption (taking into account weather conditions and air traffic control constraints) allowing for more efficient aircraft and airport operations as well as improved safety.

As such, CMCe has a significant competitive advantage as there are no other Canadian companies developing integrated cockpit and communication systems and very few competing in the global market place (Honeywell, Rockwell Collins, Thales and Garmin (for small aircraft)). However, CMCe is significantly smaller than these competitors which can work to their advantage as they can be more agile in addressing changing market conditions. CMCe was also able to improve their core skills and competencies and increase the depth of their technical skills in key areas including system integration and testing capabilities, signal processing, vision systems and the integrity of airborne GPS receivers.

As well, the FronTierTM system is unique in that it was designed to support an open architecture platform that allows insertion of best-in-class technology" from any vendor. CMCe views this as a unique approach to the market since in the past, the traditional concept involved operators returning to cockpit suppliers for upgrades and maintenance. CMCe believes this will give manufacturers more flexibility as technology evolves as well as lower the cost of ownership.

CMCe's Integrated Cockpit and Communications System

CMCe's Integrated Cockpit and Communications System

CMCe has achieved this success by developing long-term collaborative relationships with Ontario and Quebec-based universities and technical institutions. These collaborative arrangements allow CMCe to address the technology gap within their own skill set as well as draw on the extensive leading edge expertise available within each institution. CMCe's interaction with their collaborators took numerous forms during the SADI project including the sponsorship of close to 100 interns to undertake engineering work on the FronTierTM project, contract research with universities, support for on-site research labs at five academic and technical institutions as well as ongoing annual scholarships awarding academic excellence in the engineering field.

In addition, CMCe has identified other broader benefits that could result from the SADI project including improved energy efficiency and reduced environmental impact. The FronTierTM cockpit system offers the expectation of reduction of fuel consumption with a corresponding reduction of pollution through better route management by aircraft operators. FronTierTM technologies also support improved safety and operational efficiency at airports allowing planes to land with better precision and approach thus improving predictability of arrival times and reduction of risks associated with poor weather conditions.

In Summary

With SADI's contribution, the FronTierTM integrated cockpit and communications project has attained its ultimate goal which is to offer customers a suite of leading edge avionics products that meet and exceed aircraft operators' requirements while reducing cost of ownership, improving safety, increasing capacity and reducing environmental impact of the aircraft. With these competitive advantages in place, CMCe is currently positioned as the sole Canadian supplier of the next generation of highly integrated cockpit systems, which is now accepted as the technological standard for future avionics systems, and will support Canada's tradition of leadership and innovation in the aerospace sector.