If you’ve been wondering if this tsunami of new technology that’s been threatening to forever change the way we fly is just a passing fancy, the news is now clear: Every major airframe manufacturer has announced they’re presently or will shortly begin shipping airplanes featuring glass panels. Cessna Aircraft Company (www.cessna.com) just received the FAA’s blessing to begin delivering Garmin (www.garmin.com) G1000-equipped Skylanes, both turbocharged and normally aspirated models. Upgraded Skyhawks and Stationairs are expected to follow shortly, and Cessna also has committed to the Garmin glass for the coming Mustang jet. Diamond Aircraft (www.diamondair.com) is shipping its composite four-seat DA40s with the all-glass Garmin panels, and also is saving panel space in the new DA42 TwinStar. Mooney Aircraft (www.mooney.com) expects to deliver G1000-equipped Mooney Ovation2 GX and Bravo GX airplanes before the end of the year, and Raytheon (www.raytheonaircraft.com) announced its intention to include the G1000 in the Beechcraft Bonanza A36 and Baron 58. Tiger Aircraft (www.tigeraircraft.com) also has plans for a Garmin glass model soon.
|Mooney Ovation2 GX|
|Diamond DA40 Star|
Avidyne (www.avidyne.com), the other major player in the rush to transform general aviation to glass, is building a growing list of original equipment manufacturer clients as well. Cirrus (www.cirrusdesign.com), makers of the SRV, SR20 and SR22-G2, which has been in the Avidyne camp for some time now, equips all of its aircraft with the Avidyne FlightMax Entegra primary flight display and its multi-function counterpart, the EX500. New Piper Aircraft (www.newpiper.com) has chosen Avidyne as well, as has Lancair (www.lancair.com) for its newly certified Columbia 400 and normally aspirated Columbia 350. Avidyne recently announced that its PFD/MFD glass panel has just added a few new talents. The company will now provide XM Satellite Weather downloads, bringing NEXRAD, METAR, SIGMET, TFRs and lightning updates to the cockpit. With the addition of XM, the Avidyne system allows pilots to have both ground-based and airborne lightning detection, or a combination of both. Also big on the list of coming attractions from Avidyne is the addition of a flight director and TAWS (terrain awareness warning system).
Glass systems seem to be equally pervasive in the higher-performance aircraft markets as well. Meggitt/S-TEC (www.magic.aero), who makes MAGIC (Meggitt Advanced Generation Integrated Cockpit), announced it has installed more than 250 of its glass-paneled units within the preceding 24 months in aircraft ranging from New Piper Meridians to King Airs. Chelton Flight Systems (www.cheltonflightsystems.com), the only manufacturer to date to have been awarded FAA certification for Synthetic Vision and the Highway-in-the-Sky (HITS) technology is working around the clock on both civilian and military projects. The Chelton system provides the pilot with a three-dimensional view of the terrain outside the cockpit window—in VFR or IMC conditions—then projects a series of concentric boxes leading from the airplane’s current position all the way to the destination airport. The pilot’s job is to merely keep the tiny aircraft depicted on the Chelton screen flying through the boxes, simultaneously guaranteeing terrain clearance as well as on-course steering. Both the Meggitt/S-TEC and Chelton systems are developing a long list of STCs allowing retrofits into aircraft in need of a panel upgrade.
|New Piper 6XT|
|Lancair Columbia 400|
|Chelton Flight Systems Flight Logic|
|Meggitt Avionics PFD|
The trek toward high technology is not limited to those who can or will be buying a whole new instrument panel. AirGator (www.airgator.com), whose product displays onto a portable PDA or PC, is adding live temporary flight restrictions to its display. The company’s NAVAirWx uses a satellite uplink to download ever-changing TFRs every 12 minutes. Weather information, including NEXRAD, METARs, TAFs, echo tops and lightning strike data updates in five-minute cycles. Control Vision (www.controlvision.com), also a provider of in-flight satellite data for PDAs, has added road mapping to its list of talents. A simple software upgrade makes its Anywhere Map system a fly-and-drive combination, allowing pilots to remove the PDA from the cockpit and follow driving instructions and a GPS-generated map to your overland destinations. Read more about both products in this issue in the article entitled “Portable Weather” on page 78.
Another welcome trend in portable cockpit technologies is the move toward becoming wireless. Several companies already have reduced the cockpit spaghetti of cables, connectors and conductors by enabling their devices to communicate without wires. For example, the new FG-4000 electronic flight bag from Advanced Data Research (www.adrsoft.com) offers a 8.4-inch display on a small ADR computer with an 866 MHz Pentium III processor. Pilots get the numerous benefits of WSI satellite weather, the Internet, GPS moving maps, terrain avoidance, plus Jeppesen’s FliteDeck, FliteStar and FliteMap and a list of other goodies. The ADR computer uses a wireless LAN with a modem and features a 40 GB hard drive. Look for more wireless connectivity to begin showing up soon.
The new glass panel technology is making inroads into the flight-training world, as well. SimCom’s (www.panamacademy.com) Piper Meridian simulator features an instrument panel that’s identical to that found in the stock production aircraft. Made out of the original components of an actual PA-46-500TP fuselage, the Meridian simulator’s avionics includes the Meggit MAGIC EFIS System, dual Garmin GMA 530 GPS/NAV/COMM Multifunction Displays, an S-TEC 550 autopilot and a GMA-340 audio panel with marker beacons. And to enhance “real-world” training, the Piper Meridian simulator features a full-color, wraparound, visual motion system, which can depict numerous day and night weather conditions.
|Electronic Flight Solutions Autopilot Training Course|
|SimCom’s Piper Meridian Simulator|
If this blur of new technology finds you using the Direct To function on your GPS, but little more, there’s help in that category as well. COMM1 (www.comm1radio.com) has released VFLITE GPS Training to its suite of interactive CD-ROMs. Pilots can learn the multiple features of some of the most popular Garmin boxes, the GPSmap 196 and GNS 430/530 at home on their computers. Electronic Flight Solutions also offers computer training courses. Program topics include autopilot systems, traffic awareness TAS/TCAS, weather awareness, GPS navigation and terrain awareness TAWS Class B. Electronic Flight Solutions has been accepted by the FAA for the WINGS Program and by a variety of notable training organizations, including FlightSafety and the United States Navy.
Clearly the grandest technical recognition goes to Burt Rutan and his staff at Scaled Composites (www.scaled.com) based out in Mojave, Calif. On June 21, the team launched the first privately built rocket plane into space. The effort, funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, enabled 63-year-old Mike Melvill to pilot the small SpaceShipOne to an altitude of 328,491 feet (62.214 miles), just past the Earth’s discernable atmosphere and into the record books as the first non-government-sponsored manned space launch. Melvill was awarded astronaut wings from the Department of Transportation as well as some hearty handshakes from attending NASA staff, including Buzz Aldrin, the second man to step onto the moon.
The small spaceship was carried aloft under the belly of the gangly jet-powered White Knight, another Rutan design. When the aircraft reached about 46,000 feet, SpaceShipOne was released, and Melvill ignited the rocket that sent the tiny spacecraft on its nearly vertical trajectory toward the anticipated altitude of 360,000 feet. A trim actuator malfunction caused SpaceShipOne to veer from its planned ascent profile, resulting in a reduction in altitude. Melvill switched to the backup system and continued the mission.
News of Rutan and Melvill’s space success was relayed by NASA’s Houston Control to astronaut Mike Fincke, who was orbiting in the International Space Station. “Fantastic!” replies Fincke. “We were wishing them the best of luck. We’re all in the space business together, helping mankind to get off the planet and explore the stars.”