Connected Cockpit Applications Expand
This year, Avionics International and Via Satellite hosted the sixth annual Global Connected Aircraft Summit, and one of the topics that continuously gets the most audience engagement and remains an elusive, but attainable goal for the commercial airline industry is the use of high-speed in-flight connectivity networks by pilots in cockpits.
Today, if you were to step into the cockpit of a commercial airliner while an average flight crew is cruising through en route airspace, you’re not likely to find pilots using the internet in the way that we do today on the ground. The majority of airlines white-list the applications and websites that pilots can use on their iPads and civil aviation authorities heavily regulate when and why they can actually use them.
That’s why it was very refreshing to hear Jon Merritt, director of flight operations flight deck technology at United Airlines give the following remark during his presentation about United’s future connected flight deck strategy during the 2019 GCAS conference and exhibition in San Diego:
“When you’re on the ground and able to just pull out your phone and Google whatever information you seek, we’re saying in essence, we want that same ability for our flight crews,” he said.
Granted, pilot workloads during certain phases of flight require them to be more focused on the task at hand and less focused on googling weather patterns along their routes or changing on-the-ground conditions at their destination airport. However, that type of freedom to use a connected iPad in whatever way that they choose while airborne has seemingly always been more of an elusive goal rather than the reality for airline pilots. It seem though, that is starting to change.
For example, Alaska Airlines is trialing the use of NASA’s Traffic Aware Strategic Aircrew Requests (TASAR) and Traffic Aware Planner (TAP) technology, which is capable of simultaneously monitoring real-time weather, winds, air traffic and restricted airspace to provide re-route recommendations to pilots every 60 seconds by using onboard Gogo connectivity. Qantas Airlines is developing connected real time turbulence alerting updates via connected tablets for their pilots and Air Canada is using Gogo 2ku to facilitate the use of new connected cockpit applications for their pilots as well.
In this issue of Avionics International, we’ll explore some of these emerging connected cockpit applications in our review of the 2019 GCAS event. There is also an article looking at the use of virtualization and application portability for future aerospace systems development. Nick Zazulia also gives an in-depth look at how Bell Flight is developing the flight control systems for its future Nexus air taxi, and guest contributor Bill Tuccio offers insights on how accident investigation data collection can be streamlined.