Posted 7 years 172 days ago ago by Admin
noun - the process or result of joining two or more things together to form a single entity.
1999, I was an EMS pilot flying a brand new Sikorsky S76C+. I truly
felt privileged to have an all-glass cockpit, with the exception of the
standby airspeed, altimeter, and attitude indicator dials. With EFIS
displays showing my primary flight data, and multi-function displays
(MFDs) showing aircraft performance data and a moving map display . . .
well, I kind of felt we were on the “bleeding edge” of technology in
will not lie; transitioning from traditional round flight instruments
to all digital displays was not easy. Although I considered myself as
someone who embraced technology, years of scanning habits were very hard
to break. This was especially true when it came to my brain
interpreting airspeed and altitude. Seeing the pointers on a round gage
seemed more intuitive than reading a vertical tape and digital readout.
My transition was becoming an on-the-job experiment in human factors and
ergonomics in the cockpit. After several months, I realized that I was
still relying on the standby instruments, and not looking much at the
data on the EFIS display. No matter how hard I tried, when the workload
was high, the standby instruments were my go-to location when scanning
for primary flight information.
decided that I needed to do something to force my adjustment to the new
technology, otherwise I was just creating more work for myself. If used
properly, technology is supposed to increase our situational awareness
and decrease our workload in the cockpit. So what did I do? I bought
round instrument covers attached by rubber suction cups and temporarily
covered the standby instruments. This forced me to look at the EFIS
display. Within a month I had re-programmed my scanning habits, and my
brain gained the ability to interpret flight data quickly.
forward to late 2010, when I bought my first iPad. It was purchased for
personal use, but I remember thinking even back then, when will this
touch-screen concept intersect paths with with my career in aviation. It
didn’t take long. Useful aviation apps began to surface, and pilots
began dragging their iPads into the cockpit. By late 2013, iPads were
required in the jet and helicopter cockpits of the Fortune 200 corporate
flight department for which I fly.
It was at that point that the writing
(actually “display”) was on the wall; adaptation and evolution were
occurring right before my retinas. New glass cockpits were flat screen,
and tablets were in the cockpit. It was not a matter of if, but when
the two platforms (cockpit instrumentation and touch-screen technology)
would fuse and find there way into helicopters. Well, it’s here
Apple really brought the touch-screen concept mainstream, they were not
the inventors of the resistive touch screen. American inventor Dr. G.
Samuel Hurst developed resistive touch screens almost accidentally in
the 1970s while studying atomic physics.
Not So “Good Vibrations”
of the biggest hurdles to overcome in helicopter touch-screen avionics
has been the high-vibration environment created by the aircraft itself,
along with light turbulence in flight. Most commonly, helicopters use a
cursor with turning knobs to select display data, or they utilize soft
keys along display edges to access functionality.
Collins has developed the Pro Line Fusion Integrated Avionics Display
specifically to offer mission-ready touch-screen avionics for civil
helicopter operations. A first step in that direction, was when in 2012,
AgustaWestland selected the Pro Line Fusion system for use in its AW609
tiltrotor aircraft. With modular options for two-, three-, or
four-screen displays, virtually any size helicopter—from light singles
to large twins—can be accommodated.
Collins has solved the vibration problem with a combination of
technologies. First is the advanced resistive touch-screen technology
that requires slightly higher touch pressures than one might see in a
smartphone or tablet. This reduces the chance of bumping the wrong piece
of data with a finger, and also enables pilot’s use of gloves, which
many missions require. The second technology is an ergonomic function
which uses ruggedized grips on the top and sides of the screens in order
to stabilize the hand being used to provide tactile inputs to the
display. Should the pilot opt not to use touch-screen functionality,
there is also an alternate cursor control and keypad input device that
can be used, much like a mouse and pointer on a computer screen.
Apps, Widgets, and Windows
overarching idea for the Pro Line Fusion integrated avionics system is
to change how pilot’s view and interact with flight and performance
data. In years past, how data was viewed was fixed. Furthermore, if
there were options for changing the format of the data (for example, in a
GPS) a labyrinth of menus would have to be drilled through to change
something. Now, one simply touches the data they want to interact with.
Whether adding an overlay, such as weather radar or synthetic vision
with HTAWS, or changing where data is displayed, it can be done
intuitively by touching.
system includes both primary flight displays (PFDs) and MFDs. The PFD
is the display that would be centered in front of the pilot positions
and provides all primary flight instrumentation. It may be overlaid on
top of synthetic vision and terrain in order to increase situational
awareness. MFDs are typically placed in the center of the instrument
panel as well as on the center console. On MFD-1 you might have a moving
map display with weather and navigation overlays, while MFD-2 could be
configured to a two-window view which might display PFD info, engine
performance app, checklist app, an infrared widget, or a NAV/COM widget.
Tale of the Tape
Pro Line Fusion intuitive layout is adaptable to all helicopter
missions: EMS, offshore transport, and mountain and maritime search and
rescue. It offers a variety of innovative technologies designed to
reduce pilot workload and enhance situational awareness, including:
Large-format, high-resolution liquid crystal displays with advanced graphics and NVG compatibility
Touch-screen or point-and-click navigation
synthetic vision systems with obstacle and terrain awareness on primary
flight display, adaptable to overland and offshore operations
Interactive digital map with relative terrain awareness, airspace overlays, and dynamic charts
integrated FMS with graphical flight planning and radio control via
console-mounted MFD, replacing traditional keyboard-centric control
back on my own experience, making the leap from round gauges to glass
cockpit digital displays was a difficult one. Scanning and data
interpretation were not intuitive at all. Look forward into the future,
the technology culture has shifted significantly. Many of us have glass
cockpits and all of us have been using mobile devices with apps and
widgets for years. The timing could not be better for the fusion of
these technologies. From a human factors standpoint, the transition to
this type of cockpit with a touch-screen workflow will be an easy one,
and I cannot wait for it to land in the cockpit of the next helicopter I