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.

Safety in aviation linked to HUDs

SAAB HUD development flight in a Euro­copter AS350B owned by HeliAir of Sweden. SAAB has recently won a contract to supply the US Army with evaluation models for the Sikorsky UH60.

In 1991, the Flight Safety Foundation (FSF) presented a hallmark study of the safety value of the HUD. It showed how a HUD with a symbol—the FPV—showing the direction and energy of the aircraft could save lives, improve pilot performance and also increase the performance of the aircraft.

This study identified the number of aircraft accidents due to CFIT and approach and landing as areas in deadly need of safety improvement.

The FSF safety study then made a declarative statement—that HUDs would be a significant remedy for a majority of approach and landing accidents.

The latest revision of that study, released in 2009, had a sobering point to consider—the number and type of accidents is about the same with so-called modern glass cockpits without HUDs.

However, at least in the US and Europe, some reluctant operators have resisted the HUD due to cost, based on their view of what the ROI should be. It's interesting to note that new aircraft like the Boeing 787 cannot be purchased without a HUD.

In the world of corporate aviation, where arguably the most advanced flightdecks exist, the HUD is an everyday tool needed for safe delivery of important people and cargo. What may change some operators' reluctance to adopt HUDs is China.

HUD tech

Schwab demonstrates the Rockwell Collins HGS3500 designed for smaller cockpit aircraft.

Since the early days of the Alaska Boeing 727 program, HUD technology has been evolving. The initial commercial HUDs used CRTs as a light source, and that light was reflected back to the pilot by a transparent flat glass called a combiner.

The military modernized HUD technology, and defense firms like GEC Marconi, Hughes Aircraft and Kaiser Aerospace developed wide-field-of-view HUDs using holographic optics to increase the field of view and improve transparency.

One of the first to use the new holographic technology was upstart Flight Dynamics. Later, Rockwell Collins in a joint venture with Kaiser acquired Flight Dynamics, which became today's Rockwell Collins Head-Up Guidance System Company in Portland OR. Other companies, like Elbit Systems/Kollsman, have also moved into com­mercial aviation.

Elbit/Kollsman captured the first widebody freighter program with HUDs and EFVS, and has completed its first STC for aftermarket corporate aircraft—a Bombardier Challenger 604. Thalès is firmly planted in Airbus, beginning with the A320 and some previous programs for the MD88 and early models of Bombar­dier's Global Express. Jetcraft—the first aftermarket supplier—has HUD Vision Access and is focused on turnkey delivery of HUD and EFVS sensors.

Saab is taking aim at the helicopter market, and has been showing its new HUD designs at NBAA on a regular basis. Saab has also joined the industry development of new standards for HUD technology, bringing solid persistent engineering to what the company sees as a long-term commitment.

Mgr Air Transportation Division (AFS200) Les Smith puts an advanced HUD trainer through its paces.

Recently, Saab completed HUD flight testing on a helicopter, and announced a launch order of its RIGS HUD for further evaluation by the US Army.

The optical design of a HUD is still a major upfront cost item. The costs are mainly due to the optics design which is related to the location of what is called the "design eye position," size and shape of the overhead part of the cabin. Addressing the cost barrier, newer designs are emerging that have different optical concepts, for example, BAE Systems' Q-HUD and the Rockwell Collins HGS3500.

Rockwell Collins has targeted its HUD for certification in 2015 timeframe. Its design eliminates the overhead projection unit, using a principle called light optical injection, or guiding the light for the symbology to the combiner down a series of prisms.

Still others are working secretly for other ways to address both cost and improvements. Imagine making the windshield the reflection surface—something tried before, but to no one's satisfaction. So far, science fiction movies and the realities of optics and window distortion have not caught up with each other.

China's aviation road map

PC-based HUDs for training, like this FlyRealHUDS.com Airtransport model, are making their way into worldwide use.

FAA has also been coordinating with CAAC. In Aug 2012 FAA hosted a Pacific Rim conference in Long Beach CA identifying key technologies, operations and regulations that could be improved with HUD, advanced PFDs and vision systems. Soon after the conference, the CAAC HUD application roadmap appeared. China has without hesitation laid forth a plan to move the country's civil aviation into a 100% HUD compliant operation by 2025.

For China, the operational benefits of HUDs for lower-than-standard operations begin with the current FAA Order 8400.13D, which en­ables the aircraft to reach 150 ft and 1400 RVR for select Cat I airports.

The economic value is that this type of aircraft avionics capability augments the airport infrastructure, enabling the operation and improving accessibility.


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