HUD gains favor in Asia Pacific

For low approaches down to minimums, operators in China, Australia and South Korea are sold on head-up displays.

By Glenn Connor
President, Discover Technology Intl
ATP, Cessna 425

Operation of HUD technology and vision systems is becoming a leading value technology in Asia Pacific countries. FAA and industry are supporting the transition of operations in several collaborative programs.

Use of head-up displays (HUDs) in commercial aviation should be ubiquitous by now. It isn't.

Resistance to technology—like early opposition to the autopilot—is a combination of ancient thinking, moldy old return-on-investment (ROI) models and overregulation. Price can also be argued as a barrier, but that doesn't seem to be an issue with innovative airlines, corporate aviation—or, significantly, China.

For the forward-looking in aviation, the HUD is fast becoming a standard, almost a mandate for modern cockpits. Corporate aircraft OEMs like Bombardier, Dassault and Gulfstream not only followed quickly—they were soon in the lead.

The innovations of HUDs and flightpath vector (FPV)-based symbology, better information such as runway symbols and the addition of enhanced flight vision systems (EFVS), have essentially made the HUD standard equip­ment for the modern bizjet. And fresh HUD innovations and advanced sensors are coming.

Recently, China has made HUDs and vision avionics a priority in its goals to achieve the highest levels of performance and safety. The Civil Aviation Authority of China (CAAC)'s new HUD application roadmap lays out the reasoning and timing for HUDs and vision technology, calling these systems "of great importance to maintain sustainable flight safety." This constitutes one of China's major "global objectives and requirements" for all civil aviation.

HUD technology was first seen in military aircraft. Innovation and the perseverance of inventors in the early 1960s—such as French engineer Gilbert Klopstein—and 1970s—including NASA engineers Dick Brey and Barry Scott—paved the way for HUDs to enter commercial aviation.

The first airliner to feature HUDs was the Dassault Mercure, which had Sextant (now Thalès) HUDs and entered service with the French airline Air Inter in the mid-1970s.

Rockwell Collins  Senior Mgr HGS Flight Ops Dean Schwab (L) discusses the advantages of HUD-equipped FTD training with Shandong Airlines Capt Zeng Guoqiang in the Boeing 787 FTD.

Several airlines made the leap into HUD technology, like Pacific Southwest Airlines with the Sundstrand solid optics HUD. However, pioneering Alaska Airlines and the newly minted Flight Dynamics HUD Company (now Rockwell Collins) were the first to capture a "paying" operational advantage of a HUD—the Cat III landing.

Alaska's move in placing HUDs into the Boeing 727 "Classics"—a loving term for a practically rope-started aircraft—provided the airline with a manually flown Cat III capability equal to an autopilot.

This was a payback that accountants could understand. Alaska also saw that HUD pilots using the new FPV-based display had a precision instrument in all regimes of flight. On-speed performance—a book number—is hard to get to single digits with conventional instruments because you are naturally looking heads-up without a number unless you glance down. Now Alaska pilots could take off and land in Cat III weather, land and fly precisely by the numbers, and add to the profit margin, not the trinket collection.

HUD ops development in China

Visiting SEA recently were members of a Chinese delegation that included representatives of CAAC, Shandong Airlines and Xiamen Airlines. Rockwell Collins, FAA and Alaska Airlines acted as hosts.

One of these Alaska pilots in the early days was Dean Schwab. Years later he would become a critical leader for Rockwell Collins in the development of HUD operations as well as moving HUDs from the store front to the front of many an aircraft.

Schwab is also one of the industry leaders working with FAA to help coordinate collaborative discussions with China and other Asia Pacific nations.

Recently, this activity included hosting a whistle stop tour with Zeng Guoqiang of Shandong Airlines and officials of CAAC to get a first-hand look at HUD and vision technology with US airline and freight operators, including Alaska Airlines.

Shandong Airlines and Xiamen Airlines are pioneering HUD airlines in China and are currently conducting Special Authorization (SA) Cat I/II HGS operations in China. CAAC is also conducting several trials with HUD and EFVS.

According to CAAC, productive meetings were held with FAA leaders in Washington DC as part of the first phase of the US trip. Talks on operational topics ranged from current rules for EFVS, FAR 91.175 and OpSpec approval process for carriers to enable lower RVR in Part 121 operations when using EFVS. HUD operational discussions also included SA Cat I and II.

As part of the tour visiting US operators, the China delegation stopped over at SEA (Seattle–Tacoma WA) and was able to see and review Alaska Airlines' current fail-passive Cat III HGS 4000 and Cat III autoland capability.

The airline provided an in-depth description of the hybrid Cat III application it is now using with the HGS 4000 in conjunction with a fail-passive autoland to achieve Cat IIIb minima of RVR 400/400 and DH 30 ft.

Alaska Airlines also demonstrated how the HUD is used to increase awareness and safety during RNP ops. Capt Mike Adams, a technical pilot for Alaska, took each CAAC and Shan­dong Airlines representative into the 737-400 simulator to demonstrate the hybrid Cat III approach to SEA as used by Alaska today.

The Dec 2012 tour of SEA also provided CAAC with a firsthand look at how low-visibility operations are conducted, and let them see how the airport markings and lighting function in real time on the field as a crew would see it.

Also included were control tower demonstrations of low-visibility air traffic procedures at SEA and control of all lighting and vehicle movements during low-visibility conditions.


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