Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Aviat Husky A-1C
A venerable bush plane turns visionary
|The lights of Lakeland, Fla., sparkle a thousand feet below, a pointillist painting on a black canvas. Yet despite the darkness, I can clearly distinguish open fields, forested tracts, clumps of trees, a couple of large ungulates—either horses or cows—even a narrow, sandy beach on a lake that should be invisible. All I have to do is glance at the small monitor sitting on the glare shield of the Aviat Husky A-IC.|
|The A-1C’s cockpit has a Garmin GNS 530 navcom/GPS. The view on the EVS-100 monitor covers 40 degrees horizontally and 30 degrees vertically, matching the view directly in front of the pilot.|
“My buddy was killed in an Aerostar in Bradford, Penn., in 2002,” Farrell had confided during our meeting at Landmark. “He fell below the glideslope and hit some trees. It really angered me. He was a well-trained, careful pilot. And I thought, if he had EVS technology, he might have seen the trees—he might have lived through it. And I got to thinking: Why didn’t we have infrared cameras in our airplanes? It was a very naïve thought.”
It was naïve because the Department of Defense controlled access to the sensors at the heart of EVS, and military demand and concerns about the sensors falling into the wrong hands kept them out of the private sector. But Farrell persevered.
“Saving pilots’ lives—that’s what our mission has been,” said Farrell. “If you think of the things that kill pilots, it’s CFIT [controlled flight into terrain], inadvertent entry into IMC after dark, nighttime spatial disorientation or even daytime spatial disorientation because of haze. There are runway incursions, deer-runway accidents and engine-outs after dark.”
By the time Horn met him, Farrell was working with Max-Viz (www.max-viz.com
), a Portland, Ore.–based developer of EVS, and Ron Lueck, president and CEO of CompAir (www.compair.com
) in Merritt Island, Fla. Development of the EVS-100 was underway. One of the primary design criteria: “It had to be affordable,” Farrell said. Considering that the EVS on a Gulfstream can be in the half-million-dollar range, and the EVS-100 installed on the Husky costs $22,000, one would have to say, “Mission accomplished.” The unit is sold for aftermarket installation without a monitor or wiring harness for $14,995. The output can be displayed on several MFDs and portable monitors.
The monitor’s field of vision covers 40 degrees horizontally and 30 degrees vertically, corresponding with the view directly in front of the pilot. (If the runway is in the middle of the windshield, it will also be in the middle of the monitor.) The unit requires little to no pilot manipulation. Other than a 2x digital zoom, the only controls are brightness and contrast knobs. The mean time between failure (MTBF) is more than 9,000 hours, but as it’s designed solely for advisory use, an in-flight failure shouldn’t constitute an emergency.
Truth be told, Lakeland isn’t the best venue for letting either the Husky or the EVS-100 strut its stuff. The rugged Husky is designed for backcountry ops, landing on riverbeds, meadows, glaciers and sandbars, and going in and out of short, unimproved strips. And the EVS capabilities are best demonstrated on a moonless, overcast, pitch-black night, when it clearly displays the horizon, terrain, runways and anything else in front of the plane. But the 200 hp Husky still showed off its short-field capabilities when we took off, leaping from the runway in little more than 200 feet. (Because I wanted to check out the surroundings in the monitor, we didn’t point the nose skyward in a Vx
attitude, which would have given us better than a 1,700 fpm climb at our weight and OAT, according to the book.)
The previous Husky model, the A-1B, introduced in 2005, elevated the Husky’s performance through improved control-surface response and effectiveness. The ailerons were redesigned, yielding a lighter touch on the stick and increasing the roll rate by half. The flap controls were redesigned and the flap span was increased, producing steeper descents and climbouts. But now that the B model’s aerodynamics have given the Husky more finesse, the A-1C has come to reclaim its brawniness.
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