Empowering Pilots with Better Views into the Sky

February 23, 2016 | Author: Brian Davis

Here in China the Year of the Monkey began with a busy travel season, with mainland China’s air transportation system carrying nearly 54.55 million passengers during the Spring Festival travel season, up 11 percent from this time last year. Despite these record numbers, there were plenty of weather and air traffic delays that disrupted family plans during the holidays.

But passengers are not the only ones frustrated by bad weather delays. In a recent study conducted by Honeywell Aerospace and Civil Aviation Resource Net of China, nearly half of the 3,019 pilots and cockpit crews surveyed in China shared that weather is their single largest concern about flight safety and efficiency through all stages of flight.

Forty-nine percent of respondents see the greatest challenge coming from “weather hazard, wind shear and other weather factors” during departure/take-off. Fifty-three percent of respondents regard “hazardous/turbulent weather identification” as the biggest challenge during the flight. Nearly two-thirds or sixty-five percent of the pilots and cockpit crews surveyed worry most about “hazardous weather identification” during the approach/landing phase.

The study findings reveal pilots are eager to be armed with the information necessary to make better weather-related decisions right and fast. When asked about advanced technologies that can help improve the awareness of rough weather, sixty percent of those surveyed indicate predictive weather alerts are most important to them.

Pilots would love to receive early warnings about lightning, hail and long-range turbulence. Automatic enroute weather notification comes in second, accounting for nineteen percent of the total feedback. Another nine percent of those responding want continuous 3-D weather scanning and depiction.

As a mechanic and pilot with more than 20 years of experience, I understand the challenges brought by shifting weather, and I’m pleased to see today’s advanced technologies can help pilots fly safer and easier.

“Hawk Eye” and “Super Brain”: More Complete 3-D View of the Weather

Conventional onboard weather radar systems can provide the pilot and flight crews with a 2-D representation of the weather ahead, but the pilot only sees one slice of the sky at a time. That means there is no indication how high storm cells are and where the peaks intersect the flight path. There are also operational limitations – pilots have to spend a great deal of effort to work the radar control knobs to create a mental model of the 3-D weather at a time when they may need to concentrate on more critical decisions.

Honeywell’s IntuVue™ RDR-4000 is a ground-breaking next-generation weather radar. Its “hawk eye” helps provide pilots with a complete 3-D, 180-degree display of weather from the ground up to 60,000 feet, as well as up to 320 nautical miles ahead of the aircraft. The radar pulse-compression technology helps increase range and resolution.

The 3-D volumetric scanning function creates a 3-D database. The processor can analyze this database for hazards as a “super brain” and store weather data from 2 million cubic feet of airspace. With IntuVue, pilots can get an optional vertical profile weather display in addition to the traditional top-down lateral view. This technology enables better planning to avoid bad weather and ensure a safer flight.

“Smart Alert”: Better Situational and Positional Awareness for Runway Safety

While many passengers think primarily about accidents while aircraft are in flight, a bigger concern is safety during takeoff and landing. Runway accidents are often the result of a combination of factors, including limited visibility, poor lighting, bad weather, inadequate paint lines and confusing signs. So it’s no wonder sixty-five percent of those surveyed selected “hazardous weather identification” as their top concern during the approach/landing phase.

Fortunately, Honeywell’s SmartRunway® and SmartLanding® can help improve pilots’ situational and positional awareness to maximize final approach and runway safety once on the ground. Pilots can enjoy quiet cockpits and heads-up operations, knowing audio and visual warnings will alert them. Under normal conditions, no advisories are heard or displayed. But when the aircraft is approaching the runway too fast or too high, a callout and visual advisory is issued.

With Asian airlines forecasted to take delivery of 14,330 new commercial jetliners, the Asia Pacific region is expected to lead the largest projected growth in pilot demand – an estimated 226,000 new pilots – over the next 20 years. It’s important for these pilots to have the right technology supporting them to cope with the challenges brought by continued air traffic growth. I hope the study prompts pilots, airlines and regulators to re-evaluate onboard aircraft systems and adopt next-generation cockpit technologies that ensure greater reliability and safety.

Brian Davis

Brian Davis

Vice President, Asia Pacific Airlines, Honeywell Aerospace.

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