Boeing's Doug Benjamin says that the difference between an old-style cockpit and a glass cockpit is like the difference between a typewriter and a word processor.

"The new instruments are just orders of magnitude better," says Benjamin, engineering test pilot with the commercial airplanes group.

And glass cockpits are about to get even better with the launch of Boeing's Vertical Situation Display (VSD). The VSD gives pilots a ‘side view' of the flight path, showing terrain, way-points, glide path and much more.

Designed to give pilots an instant image of where they are in the sky, the VSD works with the aircraft's EGPWS (Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System) and its terrain database.

But the system is smart. The VSD can predict and show potential runway overshoot situations, glide path intercepts and potential CFITs (Controlled Flights Into Terrain) with selectable ranges from 4-64km (2.5-40 miles).

"A pilot would normally need to look at eight or nine instruments to get a mental image of their vertical situation," says Benjamin. "The VSD shows that picture instantly."

The image is similar to that used on vertical approach plates, so pilots should adapt to the system very quickly.

"It shows immediately if a landing is recoverable when the aircraft is above the glide slope, which could result in fewer missed approaches and poor landings. "Plus, you get more predictable runway turn-off, which will save airlines time and money.

"More than 50% of accidents occur in the landing phase or as a result of CFITs. The VSD builds on the capabilities of the EGPWS to prevent both," says Benjamin. The VSD is undergoing flight tests this autumn and will be available in summer 2002 for the Boeing 737 Next Generation, and 2003 on the 777.

Source: Flight Daily News