Helicopter flightdeck evolution

SVS technology migrates between fixed and rotary-wing to improve safety and performance.

Honeywell's development of advanced PFDs dedicated to helicopter operations included addressing the need for more ground texturing to aid lateral drift detection and a vertical hybrid centering mode to support steep descents.

Primus Epic was designed for providing the PFD with graphics power. But the first advanced graphics processer (AGM 1) was maxed out faster than expected because of the demand for even more advanced graphical flight instruments than first conceived.

So AGM 2 was developed and certified in 2008 to keep up the demand of new applications like SV.

At NBAA 2009, Honeywell an­nounced the introduction of Smart­View, providing a core new SVS capability to allow owners to up­grade Epic to SVS. The SmartView de­v­elopments were for both fixed and rotary-wing aircraft, and expanded the nav­igation and maneuvering potential for use in VFR, night and IMC for all phases of flight.

Honeywell's perspective is that many of the helicopter operational problems and root causes of accidents could possibly be eliminated with the remedies the company has been working in the fixed-wing product line of SmartView.

Parallel developments on fixed and rotary SmartView began with a focus on human factor design issues. Although SmartView SVS display may look the same for both fixed and rotary wing, there are distinct differences. What Honeywell researchers found was that a flight display can't just be warmed-over fixed-wing for helos.

One of the early key findings was the need for more ground texturing to aid lateral drift detection and a vertical hybrid centering mode to support steep descents. Originally, SA only for helos as an informational display resulted in a great safety improvement and ease of operation.

Another example is ability to drop in a lat/ long for a helo pad for offshore oil or a road accident. For EMS operators who don't always get to fly in the best of weather, the new design SmartView provides for a nice steady approach with a high integrity system.

Features of the new SmartView core SVS displays include runway detailing and conformal range rings overlaying the perspective terrain. A view line on the display also provides a marked left and right viewing angle on the terrain view of the EGPWS that matches the SVS field of view.

The new SVS displays also include an expanded pitch ladder, providing improved control of the aircraft on approach. The Honeywell display also uses terrain with ground texture and other features as a more functional attitude indicator than conventional displays and is a vast improvement in flight safety.

These features give the pilot the feeling of speed and altitude, much as they would gather when looking out the window at the ground. Honey­well feels the potential for a drastic reduction in all the accidents will be seen with the new PFDs.

Change in the wind

What is interesting to note about FAA's recent publication on operational changes for helicopters is nowhere in its 102 pages is there any discussion of a potential solution with systems like Honeywell's IPFD and vision displays with EFVS. FAR 91.175 which governs the instrument approach has been changed specifically to allow the use of the new technology such as EFVS for operation in all weather.

New equipment standards are also being developed within the RTCA special committee for EFVS, SVS and combined vision, and is supposed to be inclusive for any aircraft. Yet the application of these new technologies is spotty at best in rotorcraft, perhaps because their value in the past was unclear.

The value proposition is now taking the form of a government requirement. But the real motivation could become one of competitive advantage by use of the new flight displays. Honeywell development of the Primus Epic into SmartView for helicopters can be seen as an obvious next step. You normally don't trip over what you can see.

Glenn Connor is the president of Discover Technology Intl and is a researcher and pilot specializing in the development of enhanced vision systems and advanced avionics.


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