Boeing 787 cockpit to balance data access and familiarity

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Design of the Boeing 787 cockpit means that crews will be able to access improved information, says the type’s chief pilot, without the need to sacrifice simplicity or familiarity.

Speaking to ATI during a briefing in London, Capt Mike Carriker said the airframer was finalising minor cockpit details ahead of producing the first test aircraft.

“We’re down to picking out the shade of pixels on the displays,” he says.

Boeing intends to ease pilots’ access to data without adding complexity to the cockpit design, and aims to retain commonality with the Boeing 777 in order to meet a target training conversion time of five days between the 777 and 787.

The cockpit is based on five 30.5cm-by-22.9cm (12in-by-9in) displays which should be able to provide greater visual information without loss of clarity.

Navigation screens will be able to display large-format maps with a 1,280nm (2,370km) range, giving the crew clear data on long-distance waypoints, while pilots will be able to bring up airport layout information without the frustration of having to scroll the display to view relevant areas.

The display will be able to overlay weather data without obscuring vital navigation information and screens will also have dedicated sections for displaying air traffic control communications. Among the avionics features will be advisories to ensure that crews are reminded to perform necessary actions to comply with air traffic control instructions.

Pilots will be offered increased assistance through menu-driven software and features designed to reduce the risk of erroneous data entry to the flight-management system by providing options based on the specific operating criteria of the carrier.

The airframer has opted for an ‘ABC’ format keyboard for the flight-management system rather than parallel rival Airbus’ decision to adopt the ‘QWERTY’ layout.

“If we put in a QWERTY keyboard, crews have to take more training,” says Carriker.

Boeing’s efforts to achieve design simplicity by replacing 22 line-replaceable units in the 777 with just 12 in the 787. But the 787’s overhead panel will be similar to that found on its larger predecessor.

Integrated approach navigation systems will allow pilots conducting approaches with VOR, NDB and localiser navigation aids to use the same procedures employed during ILS precision approaches. This will save simulator training time, says Carriker, by reducing different approach procedures to a single common one.

Pilots will be presented with navigation scales displaying required performance levels – the 787 will be able to support RNP 0.1 capability, ensuring that it can achieve lateral track accuracy of 0.1nm – while safety will be enhanced through the installation of vertical situation displays and dual head-up displays.

Boeing expects airlines to be able to convert 757 and 767 pilots to the 787 in eight days and convert 737 pilots in 11 days.