Pilot Journal
Monday, September 1, 2008

Synthetic Vision

Flying by visual reference—regardless of the visibility

synthetic visionOver the past decade, new technology that promises to make instrument flying almost as easy as (and arguably even safer than) flying visually has been introduced into the general aviation (GA) fleet. Synthetic vision takes the idea of an artificial horizon and expands it to an artificial view of the outside world, allowing pilots to fly by visual reference even in the clouds.
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synthetic vision
L-3’s synthetic vision upgrade to the SmartDeck glass panel will offer simulated terrain on the PFD.
Avidyne Synthetic Vision
Steve Jacobson, Avidyne’s vice president of engineering, tells us that synthetic vision will be added as an upgrade to the Entegra flat panel: “Our intent is to support the entire [Entegra] installed base.” Avidyne’s synthetic vision will offer comparable features to competing systems, including simulated terrain, obstacles, traffic and HITS boxes displayed on the Entegra PFD. Jacobson was personally involved in NASA’s Advanced General Aviation Transport Experiment (AGATE) program in the 1990s, during which Avidyne provided an experimental glass panel with synthetic vision that was flown on Columbia 300 and 400 aircraft. “Exactly what will be involved in an upgrade will depend on what the customer has,” says Jacobson. “We’ve identified every possible combination of Avidyne gear in the field. There’s an STC in existence that would allow installation of a PFD into an older six-pack airplane.” Initially, it will be focused on Avidyne’s FMS, which is being offered as an upgrade from the typical dual Garmin GNS 430 radio stack in most Entegra-equipped airplanes, but “there’s no reason why we couldn’t offer synthetic vision on Garmin-based systems if there’s customer demand for it,” says Jacobson. He wasn’t surprised by the recent announcement that Cirrus, which had been exclusively using Entegra in the SR20 and SR22 product line, now offers a G1000-based flight deck on the SR22-GTS: “Alan Klapmeier [Cirrus’ President] has a long-standing wish to offer multiple flight-deck options. While we’d love to have the entire Cirrus line, this wasn’t a surprise. We’re still standard at Cirrus, and we expect to offer our upgrades to those customers as well.” Learn more at www.avidyne.com.

L-3 SmartDeck With Synthetic Vision
At this writing, L-3 Communications planned to announce a synthetic vision upgrade to its SmartDeck glass panel (which has just achieved FAA certification for the Cirrus SR22 2008) at EAA AirVenture 2008. According to Larry Riddle, L-3’s vice president for business development, the upgrade will offer a wider field of view (75 degrees) and higher terrain mesh resolution (six arc seconds) than competing systems. Riddle is particularly proud of the system’s human factors and aesthetics: “Our oval-shaped HSI was designed to make a natural transition to synthetic vision; it doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb, and it’s opaque, which makes it easier to see compared with some of our competitors.” The software upgrade will provide simulated terrain, but while traffic display and HITS symbology are planned, Riddle says they won’t be in the initial release. Besides Cirrus, Riddle says that L-3 is “working with a second vendor,” but couldn’t provide details yet. Pricing for the upgrade hadn’t been determined at press time, but Riddle told us “our price point will be competitive.” Visit www.l-3com.com.

A Different Kind Of Synthetic Vision
Universal Avionics Vision-1
synthetic visionWhile synthetic vision is a new development for entry-level GA pilots, it has been around for quite some time on corporate jets and twins. Universal Avionics Vision-1 has been TSO’d for Part 23 and 25 aircraft for a while now. The system generates simulated 3D views by combining data from a terrain database with GPS position. Unlike competing systems, Vision-1 offers an “exocentric” or “wingman” view, in which the “camera” is above, behind and to the right of the aircraft, as well as the more familiar “egocentric” straight-ahead view (pictured above). It’s capable of rendering the horizon up to 55,000 feet, at which point the curvature of the earth can be visible when operating over water. And the system combines simulated terrain with PFD information from the aircraft’s FMS; so you can see a flight plan or a localizer/glideslope superimposed over simulated terrain on an 8.9-inch PFD. According to Universal Avionics Marketing Communications Manager John Hamby, the system is certified for use in aircraft ranging from the single-turboprop Pilatus PC-12 up to a Boeing 737. Installation requires extensive modifications, among them replacing any existing EFIS, and adding several line-replaceable “black box” units. The system usually works with the IFR GPS already installed in the aircraft. A two-display system for a plane like the Pilatus PC-12 costs about $250,000, installed. System weight and electrical power requirements vary depending on the specific installation. For additional details, browse www.universalavionics.com.


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