Pilot Journal
Thursday, September 1, 2005

Chelton's Magic Boxes


The future of instrument flying is here and now


Chelton's Magic BoxesBefore they were booted up, the Chelton boxes in the Malibu Jet Prop we tested looked like any number of other newer panel configurations. Almost every new airframe manufacturer is putting glass into the cockpit now with a primary flight display (PFD) in front of the pilot and a multi-function display (MFD) right next door.
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Chelton's Magic BoxesBefore they were booted up, the Chelton boxes in the Malibu Jet Prop we tested looked like any number of other newer panel configurations. Almost every new airframe manufacturer is putting glass into the cockpit now with a primary flight display (PFD) in front of the pilot and a multi-function display (MFD) right next door. But once the Chelton Flight System’s power is turned on, any resemblance to what you have seen and flown before begins to fade. Future technologies that have been tossed around for several years now—Highway In The Sky (HITS), Synthetic Vision and 3-D Terrain—are suddenly sitting right in front of you.

Take HITS. The concept has been around for a while, but mostly as an artist’s illustration of things to come sometime, out there, in the future. The idea is that if you can create a “tunnel” of concentric boxes that lie along an aircraft’s intended course, the pilot needs merely to keep the depiction of his miniature aircraft on the PFD flying within the boxes and the aircraft will safely navigate from A to B. In 2003, Chelton perfected the HITS technology and the FAA certified it without hesitation. “The HITS boxes on the screen represent an area that is 400 feet wide by 320 feet high,” explains Randy Shimon, Chelton’s vice president of sales.

That is twice the accuracy of an ILS localizer at decision height. Boxes are spread out throughout the aircraft’s route at 2,000-foot intervals. “You can imagine the safety of flying all the way cross-country with that kind of precision,” he says.

If you find yourself a bit reluctant to just blindly follow boxes through the sky like some video game, be advised that HITS is just part of the system’s overall navigation capabilities. The Chelton PFD also offers Synthetic Vision with a 3-D terrain view.

The PFD actually combines pitot-static information from a Shadin air-data computer, attitude and heading data from a Crossbow, Inc., solid-state attitude and heading reference sensor (AHRS) and position input from a Free Flight, Inc., GPS WAAS receiver. The result is a real-time, forward-looking, remarkably detailed, topographically accurate picture of the world that realistically mimics the view from the cockpit, even if you’re in IMC and there isn’t one! Moreover, this Synthetic Vision and 3-D image of the road ahead is a full 70 degrees—almost twice what human beings see when they look out the window. That talent to see where you’re going, no matter what the circumstances, translates directly to safety. “This system can eliminate controlled flight into terrain [CFIT] accidents,” points out Shimon.




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