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 BoxesCFIT can occur when a pilot is unable to distinguish the ground from the sky. For example, in the John F. Kennedy Jr., accident, investigators believe that Kennedy’s aircraft flew into an unusual attitude because of the lack of visual references from a nearly indistinguishable sky and sea. “With the Chelton system, there is always a horizon in front of you, regardless of the visibility,” says Shimon.

Instead of six or so gauges to interpret, there’s a single 3-D picture that is directly in front of the pilot. And if an aircraft should get into unusual attitude, the Chelton PFD automatically depicts the shortest way to level flight. Large red V’s appear on the display, showing you where the ground is and which way to roll back to level.

But it gets even better. Lose an engine, and the Chelton box will suddenly illustrate a dead-stick glide area, removing the guesswork out of which perspective landing areas you may or may not reach. Even more impressive is what Chelton calls its Flight Path Marker (FPM). Missing from even airliners, the FPM can be the most useful symbol on the entire display. Simply put, the FPM shows you where your airplane is going and where it’s going to be up to one minute into the future.

“Normally, on most terrain awareness systems, you see red when there’s a mountain ahead. But how do you really know if you’re going to clear it or not? All you might really know is that it’s within 500 feet of your altitude. With the Chelton, you just look at the FPM. If you see terrain behind the FPM, you don’t have the altitude to clear it. If you see sky, you know you’re good. The FPM even corrects for wind,” says Shimon matter-of-factly.

The FPV is worth its weight in gold during VFR approaches, platinum for IFR approaches. When the aircraft rolls out on final, an image of the runway will eventually appear on the display screen. Put the FPM on the runway numbers and keep it there. That’s where the airplane will land. Period.


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