Improving cockpit awareness through a 3D flight planning mapAdvances in flightdeck technology have brought major benefits to the cockpit but also some new potential concerns. Among them is the need to ensure that pilots retain good situational awareness despite the increasing volumes of data that they have to handle from today's flight management systems (FMS).

Rockwell Collins has helped towards a solution, with the development of a new three dimensional map display, which gives flightcrews an intuitive, visual representation of the aircraft's position and flightpath. Information from an array of traditional instruments is merged onto a single flight planning map presented on the aircraft's multi-function display.

The crew gets a clear, real time presentation of the aircraft's current situation and an immediate visual cue as to whether the intended path poses any potential dangers. That is in contrast to the reliance on largely textural descriptions from the FMS.

The map, which is already beginning to be integrated into Collins range of FMS systems, is unique in one important respect. Unlike conventional FMS maps, the view is presented from a perspective outside the aircraft, rather than the pilot's viewpoint, in a effort to increase situational awareness.

The flightcrew is able to adjust the orientation and view angle. The aircraft's position, for example, could be viewed from the ground or from a perspective directly above the aircraft and at all points in between.

Essentially the map is created from latitude, longitude and altitude data provided by the FMS. The flightpath is presented on a planar grid showing waypoints, airports and so on, as well as the aircraft's current position and performance data.

The judges commended the efforts to improve pilot situational awareness as a crucial step towards increasing flight safety. While the new map technology is still only part of the overall solution, the panel believed that it represents another important move in the right direction.

Source: Flight International