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Airbus Industrie plans to introduce a variety of new automated functions to all production aircraft from 1998 in a move aimed at improving safety.

Coupled with improved pilot feedback and training, the initiatives are aimed at reducing the number of human-error accidents, which Airbus calculates account for about 70% of all turbine-aircraft accidents.

The European consortium's director of flight safety, Yves Benoist, says that studies have resulted in "tentative" conclusions that global accident rates could be cut by a factor of two if first- and second-generation aircraft were replaced by newer "automated" types.

Airbus studies confirm that most accidents fall into four main categories: controlled flight into terrain, loss of control, landing short of the runway and running off the end of the runway, either on take-off or landing. New technology can "-help the pilot save his passengers", says Airbus chief test pilot William Wainwright, citing the windshear and "Alpha-floor" protection in the first A300s, which has since evolved to full flight-envelope protection in the fly-by-wire A320 and A330/340 families.

In 1998, Airbus plans to introduce new automated functions on all production aircraft. During take-off, where 20% of accidents occur, pilots will be helped with the abort/continue decision which they have to take following an emergency during the take-off roll by means of an acceleration-monitoring system linked to critical rotation speed and the amount of runway remaining. "Pilots tend to be 'stop-minded'," says engineering-operations vice-president Capt Etienne Tarnowski. "We want them to be more 'go-minded', because aborting a take-off is always more critical," he adds. A revised take-off pitch-control law will also be introduced to prevent over-rotation and tailstrike.

Global-positioning-system (GPS) navigation is to be standard equipment, allowing "accurate and safe" instrument approaches down to 250ft (75m) above ground. Differential GPS (DGPS) will eventually replace current precision-approach aids, Tarnowski predicts, but Airbus wants to ensure that the pilot gains the same "mental image" provided by today's aids, so as to "-harmonise his behaviour" for all types of approach.

The consortium is talking to ground-station providers about a "private" DGPS system, which could be available two years earlier than the public system.

From 1998, enhanced ground-proximity warning systems (EGPWS) will be standard, providing 30s warning of an obstacle instead of the 10s alert of today's GPWS. EGPWS and GPS are to be integrated, Tarnowski says, enabling an "automatic-escape-manoeuvre" function in the flight-control system to be considered. This would instigate an automatic go-around if all alerts are ignored.

Source: Flight International