Despite some distressing recent accidents, the level of safety in the ranks of professionally flown aircraft has never been better, and it is likely that modern avionics have a lot to do with that. Although discussions about too much cockpit automation inevitably crop up in relation to these accidents, the pace of technological change in cockpit avionics has accelerated, and avionics manufacturers continue to focus their engineers toward new designs and ways for pilots to interact with the increasingly complex aircraft that they fly.
TAG Aviation introduced paperless cockpits throughout its aircraft fleet in Geneva, following approval by Switzerland’s Federal Office for Civil Aviation. The company equipped crews across its managed fleet with Class 1 iPad-based electronic flight bags that will replace hundreds of pages of documents. Its iPads are loaded with Vistair DocuNet, which allows crews to download and read operational flight-deck documents, and the Jeppesen Mobile FliteDeck e-chart application.
Look, it could happen to any of us. Landing at the wrong airport is not that hard.
It happened again Sunday evening, when a Southwest Airlines 737-700 made a relatively short landing at M. Graham Clark Downtown Airport (KPLK) in Branson, Mo. (actually one mile south of downtown Branson), six miles north of the destination airport, Branson Airport (KBBG). This is the second recent wrong-airport landing by a large commercial airplane. A Boeing Dreamlifter cargo carrier operated by Atlas Air landed at the wrong airport in Wichita in November. They were headed for McConnell Air Force Base (KIAB) but landed at smaller Jabara Airport (KAAO), nine miles northeast of the intended destination.
Operators flying Bombardier Global 5000 and 6000 jets can now take advantage of Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) and Single European Sky ATM Research (Sesar) capabilities such as required navigation performance authorization required (RNP AR) 0.3. Rockwell Collins also added to Pro Line Fusion its vertical situation display so pilots can see a profile view of their aircraft relative to obstacles and terrain; FMS automated speed selection and takeoff and landing calculations; and an interactive feature that allows users to create their own electronic checklists.
Humans’ attempts to interact with cockpit automation have provided fodder for pilot anecdotes for years, and the recently released Operational Use of Flight Path Management Systems offers a precise roadmap for where the industry needs to focus. The 34-member research team responsible for compiling the report comprises members of the Performance-based Aviation Rulemaking Committee’s (PARC) flight-deck automation working group, which evolved not long after the 1995 American Airlines accident in Cali, Colombia.
One man and his team think they may have an answer to the problem of over-reliance on automation by pilots who are insufficiently trained to handle an aircraft when the technology falters.
Esterline CMC Electronics (CMC) is displaying its Cockpit 9000 upgrade solution for C-130 and other transport aircraft at this year’s Dubai Airshow (Stand 1451). The integrated avionics system can extend the service life of a 20- to 40-year-old aircraft by another 30 years at a fraction of the cost of a new aircraft, the company contends.
Universal Avionics (Booth No. N6108) is presenting the company’s new FMS control display unit (CDU) emulator iPad application for its FMS Trainer software at this year’s NBAA convention.
Thales is here at the NBAA show (Booth No. N216) exhibiting its Avionics 2020 flight deck demonstrator, a human-machine interface designed to preserve pilots’ cognitive resources, thus enabling them to focus on what they are good at: making decisions. In other words, according to its promoters, this is a cockpit designed for airmanship. The development schedule of Avionics 2020 should suit a business jet program aiming at a 2020 entry into service.
Honeywell Aerospace continues to develop improvements and add-ons to its SmartView synthetic-vision system (SVS), including a 3-D taxi system and the capability to use lower Category II landing minimums on Category I ILS and GPS-based LPV approaches. Both new features, while not yet products, offer the promise of increasing pilot situational awareness and flight safety during different phases of flight.