A demonstration flight in Rockwell-Collins' Sabreliner testbed, equipped with a prototype of its Pro Line 21 display for the Raytheon Premier I, illustrates the progress made since the system was launched a year ago. The first impression of the display is of solid colours and crisp symbols against a smooth black background. Then the amount of information on the 200 x 250mm display is apparent.

Climbing into the co-pilot's seat, the wide angle over which the display can be viewed is apparent - evidence of Collins' success in broadening the LCD's normally narrow viewing angle. Later in the flight, as the aircraft is banked and sunlight sweeps across the Sabreliner's instrument panel, washing out the pilot's CRTs, a major advantage of LCDs becomes apparent: the display swallows sunlight, with no discernable reduction in contrast.

Dominating the display is a full-width horizon, which encloses airspeed and altitude dials. Raytheon selected this novel "full-sky" presentation from 108 different formats Collins generated using its rapid-prototyping tools. All the information needed to fly the aircraft is contained in this area of the display, while above it, within the pilot's peripheral vision, engine data is presented.

A simple glance up is required to check engine parameters, presented both digitally and as dials. Alternatively, an unexpected needle movement or parameter changing colour in the periphery of vision is enough to alert the pilot to look up. Conversely, any movement of the full-width horizon is instantly apparent while looking up at the engine data or down at the horizontal-situation display, which occupies the lower part of the LCD. This use of peripheral cues improves pilot situational-awareness, Collins believes.

Raytheon believes that Premier I pilots will be more familiar with round dials than with the vertical airspeed and altitude tapes found in larger aircraft. Tapes require trend vectors to provide the rate information which is available with dials. These dials are easily read: white needles stand out against the grey-on-black gauges and digital read-outs in the centre of each instrument scroll smoothly with airspeed and altitude changes. The altimeter has a vertical-speed indicator inside it.

Another philosophy of the Premier I display is that information pops up when it is needed and disappears when it is not, decluttering the screen. The large display looks uncluttered, despite the wealth of data presented. This includes autopilot commands, on a backlit bar above the horizon, and information such as frequency selections, radar tilt, time and temperature on the lower part of the display.

Source: Flight International