What do March Madness and flying have in common?

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Without a doubt, March Madness more than lived up to its name during the 2016 NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Did you predict Villanova to sweep the NCAA tournament? The craziness reached new heights during the first round of this year’s tournament as upsets were not only abundant, but incredibly major.

Looking back to 2012, when Kentucky clinched the tournament win and cut down the net, another champion was also introduced. Rockwell Collins’ Pro Line Fusion® flight deck entered into service on the Global 5000 in the final days of that tournament. Pro Line Fusion then realized additional cockpit tournament wins in other markets, something not seen by one team in basketball leagues. The Pro Line Fusion flight deck came to play on the Gulfstream 280 in the super-midsize business jet market later that year, followed by another fantastic 2014 league-changing win on the Embraer Legacy 450 and 500 business jets. Although each aircraft seeded in a league bracket of its own, the avionics winner was common, Pro Line Fusion across the board.

No, I’m not going to list out the Pro Fusion flight deck technologies available, and give you my play-by-play. Instead, I’m going to skip straight to what I consider to be my picks for the “Final Four” technologies you’ll always want as part of your flight deck:

airport dome#1 Seed- Head- up Guidance System with Synthetic Vision—game changing technology with an airport dome providing you the necessary situational awareness to land at unfamiliar destinations.

#2 Seed- ADS-B Out – Oh yes, December 31, 2019, at 11:59 p.m. is coming quick. Not equipping is like showing up to the Final Four without a basketball to play the game. No one plays.

#3 Seed- Takeoff and Landing Alerts—a technology that is almost like taking another set of eyes on board to reduce the risk of runway confusion or incursion. Yes, visuals and aural alerts help impede risk. You can’t go wrong with another set of eyes to keep you safe. A second set of eyes…that might come in handy for some of those ref calls.

#4 Seed- Split Format Displays—This is so Sweeeet. Reconfigurable displays let the crew decide what information is needed and when it’s needed. Large moving map, charts, weather, you make the call.

Four quick years have passed and now over 350 Pro Line Fusion tails are flying the organized tracks across the Atlantic and connecting between LAX and JFK meeting the business needs of many operators.

So, whether it is playing a game of basketball or flying an aircraft from LAX to JFK; it is about having the right training and tools to win the game and make your final destination with the right technologies on board.

How did your bracket fare?

Read more about author Bonnie Berg.

Pulling back the curtain on touchscreen avionics

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Winter in the U.S. Midwest often involves plenty of time indoors. My family tends to spend a fair amount of that time watching movies, and one of our recent viewings was, “The Wizard of Oz,” which got me thinking about how the final scene can be analogous to many of us in the aviation industry.

I’ll spare you a full synopsis, but for those who have seen the movie, who can forget the famous line — “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”

Technology feels a lot like that today. We all wonder, what’s really going on behind the scenes?  Just like they did in this classic movie, I’d like to pull back the curtain and show you what touchscreen avionics are all about.

Touch technology

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There are actually a few different types of technologies when it comes to touchscreen. For the sake of comparison, let’s consider touchscreen interactions on an ATM machine at your local bank. If it’s like the one I use, you can touch the screen to select “Withdrawal,” “Checking,” and so on, but you are only able to interface with the system by touching predetermined locations on the screen. In effect, these are “virtual” buttons; not very different than having actual, physical buttons along each side of the screen.

In another category, let’s consider the user interface of modern smartphones and tablets. You can drag, drop, and swipe left and right. You’re able to interact with each object, regardless of location on the screen — moving it, starting a process, etc., all via a light touch. The entirety of the screen is useable and, literally, at your fingertips.

Into which category would the “touchscreen” interaction of Pro Line Fusion® fall?

First, let’s review some of the features of the avionics system’s touchscreen interface.

Resistive vs. capacitive touch
The Pro Line Fusion touchscreen uses a resistive surface, rather than capacitive.  This means that, though the interaction may be similar to today’s personal devices, the technology is different. The Pro Line Fusion system uses a resistive surface, which is when the screen senses pressure, not the electrical properties of the human body. It also means that the screen will sense only intentional touches, something that becomes important when you’re bumping around in flight. In contrast, the capacitive technology would require a pilot to touch the screen with bare skin (or a special glove with capacitive fingertips), and the screen would respond to any light touch — intentional or not.  

PFD and MFD interaction
The Pro Line Fusion touchscreen interaction is possible on all three 14-inch displays. Both Primary Flight Displays (PFD) and the Multi-Function Displays (MFD) respond to touchscreen commands.  When you consider that all three displays are also fully configurable (i.e., you can split the displays to show multiple items), you can conceivably have different PFD configurations for arrival and approach. For example, a pilot may want synthetic vision on the attitude indicator with the destination airport indicated by the airport dome, and a moving map or chart on the right of the PFD.

Relevant menus
The touchscreen interaction with the moving map is my favorite. If you see something — an airport, navaid, for example — touch it, and a menu appropriate to that object will appear.  If, for example, you see weather ahead and you want to reroute, it’s simple to touch the aircraft “Reroute”, touch the screen to create user-defined waypoints around the weather, and then touch “Exec”, and the Flight Management System (FMS) integrates the new route into the flight plan. No smoke and mirrors here, just a simple, direct way to fly.

If you’ve had the opportunity to interact with the Pro Line Fusion touchscreen via a demo unit on a trade show floor or in a Pro Line Fusion-equipped King Air, you have undoubtedly seen for yourself how closely the user interface resembles that of a modern personal device.  We’re only scratching the surface of the touchscreen capability of this avionics suite by pulling back the curtain on just a few of its features here. I hope you’re beginning to see that it’s more than a collection of “virtual” buttons, but a true touchscreen interaction.

When you pull back the curtain on touchscreen avionics, you may not find a wizard, but the true innovative mind of an engineer can be just as magical.

Read more about author Ben Gambrell.

Cleared for engine start?

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“You are ‘go’ for main engines start, 7, 6 – engine start – 3, 2, 1 …” You know where this is going.  My family had the fortune to be personally acquainted with the family of Col. Steven Nagel, and we were lucky enough to see and feel the STS-51G launch in June 1985 up close.  For those who have experienced a launch, you understand what I mean by being able to “feel” it. Although I’ve had the privilege to see other shuttle launches before its retirement – even with 30 years having passed – I’ll never forget that first launch.

IMG_1327Just this past fall, I added another event to my list of personal aviation firsts.  I rode along on my first King Air flight, and by no coincidence, it was equipped with Rockwell Collins’ Pro Line Fusion® avionics. This was a memorable first because I was part of the engineering team that originally put Pro Line Fusion on the Gulfstream G280 and Bombardier Global 5000, and seeing it firsthand in action on the King Air was extremely gratifying.  As an engineer, I had spent a lot of time working with different pilots to help define what would become Pro Line Fusion and this was the first time I saw it flying with my own eyes.  

During the trip, which took place in Europe, we met with several operators and discussed their thoughts on how the aircraft are used, howthe new avionics system can change their way of operating the aircraft, and the particular needs of operators.  It was nice to see the appreciation for the talented people working at Rockwell Collins and all the great thinking that has gone into the Pro Line Fusion design.

 In theIMG_1317 many years that Rockwell Collins has been supplying equipment to the King Air family, a lot has changed. There is no doubt that our participation in the various space programs has helped shape this evolution of technology and operation leading into the avionics now found in today’s cockpits. We are all doing what we can in many different ways to ensure everyone continues to be “go for engine start” with the latest technology available.

I look forward to future aviation and space achievements during my lifetime that will continue advancing humankind the way they have throughout our history. Pro Line Fusion is just another small step for… ah nevermind.  

Read more about author Aaron Child.

Catching the flying “bug”…literally

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MeYou could say aviation is in my blood. After all, my grandfather started flying Aeronca Champs in the 1930s and my great uncle was a navigator on a B-29 bomber in World War II. Like many pilots, I fell in love with flying when I was very young, around five years old. I knew then that I wanted to be a pilot (much to my parent’s dismay, I later found out). I took lessons as a teen at local airports in New Jersey and ultimately became a flight instructor, airline pilot and corporate pilot.

Those that fly know the thrill of soaring through the air and the passion that drives us towards it. From the acceleration on takeoff, to the challenge of landing, every flight takes us away from the mundane and into the world of excitement and possibility. This passion is so strong that it pushes us to continue even after having some “less than pleasant” experiences. I remember one of those experiences quite vividly:

IMG_0026I was flying Metroliners for an airline that no longer exists that was based in south Florida. One night as it was getting dark,  I reached for a dimming knob on the instrument panel…. and to my surprise—and horror—as I went to turn the knob, it scurried away. Not believing my eyes, I attributed it to my lack of sleep the night before. Not so. I pushed the seat back to get a better view and realized that the WHOLE cockpit was “scurrying”—the plane was infested with cockroaches!

I looked over and yelled to the captain, “We’ve got cockroaches in this airplane!”

He responded very casually, “Yeah, nobody told you?”

No, they most certainly didn’t!  Needless to say, I spent the next few months covering my open soda cans sitting in the cup holder and putting all of my snacks in Ziploc bags to avoid any surprises in my food.

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Imagine all the places they can hide….

Yet, cockroaches and all, I still feel that flying the Metroliner was one of the most fun flying jobs I’ve had. As my career progressed and I flew more advanced aircraft, I found myself becoming ever more fascinated with what really drove advanced airplanes – the avionics. This fascination grew and ultimately led me to Rockwell Collins.

The great thing about my job now is that I get to work with both pilots and the people that help make and design these truly advanced avionics. Through this experience, I’ve learned that the only real way to continuously improve our equipment is to get candid feedback from other pilots and maintenance personnel like yourselves. With this blog, I hope to start to open these conversations—so let’s get started!

What stories do you have that tested your passion for aviation?

 

Read more about author Mitch Bernstein.