Taking a Fresh Look at the Aircraft Cockpit
Taking a Fresh Look at the Aircraft Cockpit
Next time you board a commercial airliner or business jet take a quick glance over your shoulder. The flight deck has changed a lot over the last couple of decades. So if you’re expecting to see a cockpit cluttered with lots of dials, gauges, switches and artificial horizons, you’ll be surprised.
Today’s pilots get most of the information they need to fly the aircraft on a few sharp and clear liquid crystal displays. They use 3D weather radar, collision avoidance systems and other technologies to avoid hazards. They control every aspect of flight with flight management systems, navigate with GPS and inertial technologies, file flight plans on tablets, and send and receive messages and data with satellite communications systems. And that’s just for starters.
Yes, avionics have changed dramatically over the years. What hasn’t changed is the fact that avionics boost the performance of civilian and military aircraft and the people who fly them. The latest innovations set new standards for safety, efficiency and situational awareness. They perform hundreds of tasks automatically so pilots can concentrate on their main job – flying the airplane.
Honeywell has been a leader in avionics technologies for more than a century, since the founder of one of our legacy companies, Elmer Sperry, first used a gyroscope to stabilize and navigate aircraft in the early 20th century. We’ve come a long way since then and, proud as we are of our history, we’re focused on meeting the aviation industry’s current and future needs.
Today we provide onboard electronic systems for just about everything that flies. From jumbo jets to satellites and the International Space Station; from military fighters and transports to helicopters; and from unmanned air vehicles to general aviation aircraft and the most popular business jets.
For example, Honeywell’s Primus Epic for Gulfstream Symmetry integrated flight deck, which flies on the G500 and G600 business jets, showcases our latest and greatest avionics technology. The system includes integrated touchscreen controllers, which are a first for the aviation industry, along with our next-generation flight management system, a synthetic vision system, 2D and 3D airport moving maps and much more.
Most commercial aircraft fly with Honeywell’s flight management technology onboard and we’re on a continuous mission to improve our FMS capabilities. FMS makes pilots’ lives easier and saves time and fuel for operators by providing optimal routing. Our next-generation FMS takes things up a notch by giving aircraft the ability operate in the future air traffic management environment, which delivers safety, fuel-efficiency, cost and other benefits.
Flight safety is a priority for everyone in aerospace and Honeywell is proud to have pioneered technologies that help pilots avoid hazards on the ground and in the air. For example, we invented the Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System (EGPWS), which reduces the risk of controlled flight into terrain and has been credited with saving countless lives over the last five decades. Now, with just a software upgrade, operators can add features to their EGPWS to help them avoid runway incursions, one of the leading types of aircraft accidents.
Our talented teams of engineers and researchers are dedicated to continuous improvement and are always on the lookout for ways to improve safety and efficiency and make avionics systems more capable and intuitive. We meet regularly with pilots, operators, aircraft manufacturers and regulators to better understand their needs and anticipate the future operating environment.
Connectivity is having a tremendous effect on aviation and the avionics industry is at the forefront of the connected aerospace movement. At Honeywell we’re working on connected FMS concepts that would make vast quantities of real-time situational awareness data available to the FMS. For example, fresh information on weather, traffic patterns or winds aloft could be used to adjust the aircraft’s flight plan or flight profile.
We’re already using connectivity and advanced data analytics to anticipate maintenance needs on a wide range of aircraft systems – including avionics – so technicians can deal with issues before they cause operational disruptions. We’re getting great feedback from operators about the effectiveness of Honeywell’s connected-maintenance offerings.
Finally, we’re looking at some fundamental potential changes in aircraft and their operation that could have an enormous impact on the avionics systems Honeywell customers need to be successful. Examples include the emergence of all-electric and more-electric aircraft, urban air mobility, remotely piloted vehicles and single-pilot operation. No doubt these and other developments will alter the way we think about avionics at Honeywell.