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Hey Siri, take off! Get ready for more-advanced planes

by Tawanna Hansford (2020-06-06)

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Lexy Savvides/CNET

I'm sitting in the jump seat of an airplane perched at the runway threshold at Deer Valley Airport in Phoenix. The cramped cockpit puts me so close to the action that I can almost reach out and grab the throttle.

Over my headset I hear air traffic control give us clearance to take off. We begin to roar down the runway and seconds later, we're in the air.

It's a clear evening and the Arizona desert stretches in all directions, but I'm not here to admire the view. The Dassault Falcon that I'm flying in isn't an ordinary aircraft. Full of glowing displays and experimental warning systems, it tests technologies that may change the way we fly. If you have any inquiries concerning where and how to use and psychiatric issues. Stones River Recovery is one of the most effective addiction rehab centers in Nashville TN,,, you can contact us at the webpage. Soon, advancements like voice assistants for pilots, augmented reality displays, and 3D printed components could find their into way into cockpits, making air travel safer and more efficient for both pilots and passengers.

Now playing: Watch this: Take off in the cockpit of the future


Synthetic vision
One of the screens in the Falcon's cockpit demonstrates a technology called synthetic vision. Unlike a conventional primary flight display that shows only the sky and land in 2D separated by a line, synthetic vision shows a 3D rendering of the world outside with terrain, runways and obstacles.

Bryan Weaver, the Honeywell Aerospace lead test pilot managing our flight, is eager to show me how this technology can help the crew see things that they might otherwise miss, both in the sky and on the ground.

"We're trying to make it look like you're flying around in good weather all the time," he said as we cruise over the McDowell Mountains at dusk. I take a look and I'm genuinely surprised at how it makes it look like we're flying on a bright, sunny day, even though it's almost completely dark outside.

NASA developed synthetic vision in the 1970s and '80s to help avoid a phenomenon called controlled flight into terrain. That's when a plane under a pilot's control is accidentally flown into the ground, a mountain or another obstacle.

Lead test pilot Bryan Weaver is taxiing the plane down the runway at Phoenix's Deer Valley Airport. Directly in front of him is a synthetic vision display that shows obstacles, terrain and position information on one screen.

Lexy Savvides/CNET

The technology merges GPS data, aeronautical information and terrain maps to show where the plane is in relation to its environment. The display updates in real time to show pilots where they are and what's around them, such as a mountain in the airplane's path.

Kyle Ellis, an aerospace research engineer at NASA, says it's a more intuitive and familiar way of displaying position information because pilots don't have to cross-reference and interpret multiple 2D displays. "Ever since we've been born we've been looking at the world around us in that 3D way," he said.

In late 2017, NASA partnered with Boeing to test synthetic vision with junior pilots from Colombian airline Avianca on 787 simulators. At the helm with Ellis is Daniel Kiggins, a 34-year captain with American Airlines and a former NASA research pilot who selected the Avianca pilots because they fly through mountains on a daily basis.

They took to the technology quickly. "All the people we used for the experiment had never been exposed to synthetic vision," Kiggins said. "But when we put them in [the simulator] it was a duck to water."

Synthetic vision helped the Avianca pilots recover from unusual attitudes -- when the plane isn't straight and level -- more gracefully than when they used traditional displays. When flying low near terrain, for example, they could see where the plane was in relation to a mountain so they knew it would clear it in time.

But it isn't just about making a pilot's job easier, synthetic vision also has a tangible benefit for passengers.

Kiggins says these displays will make flights smoother, because pilots will know so much more about the environment around them. But they'll also help flight crews recover from extreme situations like a bird strike or flying through a volcanic ash cloud. "They'll know the taxiways, they'll see where they're going, you'll smooth out the turns," he said.

Ultimately, the NASA team's goal is to reduce deaths caused by loss of control in flight and improve safety for passengers. "It's so they don't think of Air France 447 when it gets bumpy in turbulence," Ellis said, referring to a 2009 crash that killed all the passengers of an Airbus A330 that flew into a severe storm over the Atlantic. "And they don't think of [Chesley] Sullenberger" -- the US Airways captain who put a plane down on the Hudson River -- "when they're taking off and see birds flying around," he said.