Exploring the "Black Technologies" of Honeywell Aerospace

May 9, 2016 | Author: Cheng Chen

This is an excerpt from the first article I posted on my new public account in February 2016. This excerpt is not an editorial for Honeywell. I wrote this article because I got the chance to visit Honeywell and I love and respect this aerospace company that emphasizes innovation. Hope you like it!

Honeywell Aerospace manufactures aircraft components ranging from auxiliary power units (APUs) to aircraft landing gear, including jet engines for corporate aircrafts. Some people even say that the company builds everything for flight!

When I went to Honeywell Aerospace’s headquarters in Phoenix, Arizona, with a group of fellow journalists, I was dazzled by all of the advanced or “Black Technologies” we saw. “Black Technologies” are devices, products or solutions that are far more advanced than what we currently experience. The best part of experiencing this view is that we got to see things that might become reality within the next decade or so. Everything we saw during this trip was far more advanced than anything I’ve witnessed in other areas such as Seattle, Washington or Toulouse, France. 

All Ideas Welcome

How did Honeywell research and develop these technologies? Honeywell’s staff showed me one meeting room with hand-painted drawings hanging all over the wall. At first, I did not pay much attention but I eventually realized that it is a freakish and fantastic place where pilots and engineers propose (or sketch) their unrestrained ideas and thoughts. Any fancy ideas, once feasible, would be eventually put into practice and tested on aircrafts by Honeywell’s engineers.

People could say that aircraft technology is getting more and more advanced but nothing about the actual exterior of the airplane is changing. Well, what I learned during my visit to Honeywell is that that’s because it’s all happening on the internal plane structure! 

Flight Management Software for iPads

iPads have become part of our everyday lives - a fact not missed by the aviation industry. Honeywell launched a flight management program for iPads. Data can be displayed on the screen just like on the Flight Management System (FMS) on airplanes. The only variation is that the iPad simulation interface is operated through traditional buttons. Honeywell’s engineers then told me that this was the case because FMS technology is one of the most common tools that pilots operate and they often have certain ways of using it. And if the new generation interface completely abandons the standard approach, pilots might not easily adjust to the new tool. Just another example of the focus on the Honeywell User Experience (HUE)!

To better understand the detail to which the user’s experience is factored into the development of tools and solutions, my tour guides asked a pilot to perform regular operating tasks (in a cockpit simulator) and collected that data. Based on this information, the iPad was installed into the cockpit at the right height and in the correct place to align with the pilot’s operating habits.

Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System (EGPWS)

Since pilots can’t see wingtips during aircraft taxiing, they could encounter obstacles on the ground. Therefore, Honeywell developed its most advanced passive wingtip protection system. After installing a small component in the cockpit, information about obstacles of the world’s main airports would be imported into the current airplane database. Based on a plane’s overall dimensions, the system alerts the pilots if the aircraft is about to hit something.

The passive wingtip protection system can help reduce accident rate by 25 percent and prevent collisions between airplanes and buildings and other obstacles,” said one engineer from Honeywell. “Furthermore, its greatest strength is that there is no need to install new equipment and input new route information. Basically, the EGPWS is improved with only one software installation,” he added.

Air-ground Data Transmission Platform

Honeywell also showed us its advanced Air-ground information transmission platform. With so many airports designed differently, it is often challenging for pilots to know how to navigate each location. Honeywell developed a ground taxiing guide system which directly transmits air traffic controller’s taxiing instructions to the cockpit display making navigation of a particular location clearer for pilots. Based on airports’ maps, pilots would know exactly which runway to get off, which taxiway to make turns, which intersection to pass, and which gate position stop, just like driving a vehicle with GPS. 

Honeywell’s dedication to innovation has allowed it to be part of many industry firsts. From what I saw during my visit, I believe there will be many more.

Cheng  Chen

Cheng Chen

Chen Cheng,the aviation reporter from Sina.com, also known as “Super Flanker” on China social media.

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