Avionics Digital Edition

Synthetic Vision for Commercial Airliners: Seeing is Believing

From the editor's desk.

At 7:53 p.m., Feb. 14, 2018, Boeing Flight Services Campus in Miami, Florida, strapping into the cockpit of a Boeing 787 full-flight simulator, I along with Boeing Associate Technical Fellow Jim Wilkerson accelerated down the simulated runway of Ecuador’s Mariscal Sucre International Airport, one of the busiest in South America. As we were climbing out, the simulator came to a heart-thumping stop as a blast of volcanic ash killed both engines and disabled the auxiliary power unit (APU) and all but one hydraulic system. That meant I would have to turn the aircraft around and manually fly it back to the runway, using no engines and no APU — nothing but the enhanced ground proximity warning system (EGPWS) and one other key cockpit aid: a weather independent synthetic vision system.

I, like 24 junior pilots from Avianca Airlines who flew the same approach in a first-of-its-kind study with Boeing and NASA, have never flown a 787 simulator and never used synthetic vision in my life.

While my landing certainly wasn’t pretty, I did manage to eventually get the airplane down onto the runway and found that the use of the synthetic vision cockpit display made it easier to line the aircraft up with the runway than it was to look out of the cockpit window, even though the conditions outside were not deteriorated.

This is just one of the exciting stories we cover in this issue, in which I had the chance to see firsthand and interview Avianca Airlines about some groundbreaking research lead by Boeing and NASA to consider how the use of synthetic vision could help the next generation of pilots.

Elsewhere, we take a look at China’s first airline flight test of the use of ADS-B In and preview the upcoming Aviation Electronics Europe conference and exhibition in Munich.

We also provide an analysis on how the aerospace and defense industry is addressing the need for improved cooling solutions within next-generation radio frequency and digital electronics.

Furthermore, we also go inside the super technical world of embedded computing to show what capabilities the industry can expect to see from the avionics supercomputers of the future.

I hope to see all of our readers at our Global Connected Aircraft Summit in San Diego June 4 to 6. It will be our biggest event yet! AVS