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NBAA Hosts International Panel on NextGen Flight Vision Systems

ORLANDO, FL, October 8, 2008 – Top scientists, engineers, pilots and regulators were present at a Wednesday session during the NBAA 61st Annual Meeting & Convention (NBAA2008) to speak about the status and implications of rapidly developing enhanced vision systems (EVS) and synthetic vision systems (SVS) for today and tomorrow’s flight operations. Mike Mena of Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation opened and moderated the international panel of experts, which covered a wide breadth of information on different aspects of EVS and SVS for the standing-room-only session.

American and European committees are currently working together on a joint document setting forth harmonized requirements for minimum aviation systems performance standards (MASPS) toward obtaining operational credit for EVS and SVS-equipped aircraft. The document is due in mid-2010. After a general overview of EVS and SVS by Mena, Tony Barber, a prominent British engineer and pilot for Bombardier Aerospace, discussed the targeted product of enhanced and synthetic vision technologies, anticipated benefits and current status with respect to these goals.

According to Barber, EVS and SVS ultimately aim to replicate the benefits of clear-day flight operations, regardless of actual weather and time of day, to be usable down to zero/zero natural visibility. Once attained, this sophistication of enhanced and synthetic vision will dramatically enhance operational flexibility and safety while also reducing air traffic disruptions and overall operational costs. Barber also noted current issues that research committees have yet to resolve, such as the development of systems that can look sideways for procedures such as turnoff and taxi.

Gulfstream’s senior experimental pilot, Gary Freeman, followed with a presentation on head up display (HUD) conformal symbology and usage as combined with EVS to create what is called enhanced flight visual systems (EFVS), the form of SVS that is currently in the process of being approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Marc Bouliane from Canada’s CMC Electronics presented the latest research in EFVS technology, describing the advantages and shortcomings of various models and options. According to Bouliane, the current iteration of FAA-approved EFVS is based in infrared (IR) technology, which is vulnerable to airborne obscurants, mainly water, making it most effective for poorly lit but not for rainy operational situations. While further research is being done on laser and millimeter wave platforms, which are less affected by airborne obscurants, Bouliane explained that NextGen image processing with more localized analysis has been able to significantly mitigate the weaknesses of IR EFVSs.

As an important complement to enhanced vision systems, synthetic vision systems are – as the name implies – fully synthetic, generated from continuously updated imaging databases. Tom Carr, manager of flight operations and chief test pilot for Garmin, discussed current technical challenges, and described an ultimate goal of synthetic vision achieving a look and feel of google-earth, including taxi charts.

The session concluded with an overview of SVS safety benefits by Tom Horne of Gulfstream Aerospace, and a presentation by John McGraw of the FAA on operational regulations and approval of EFVS and SVS. “We hope to expand the regulatory envelope to take full advantage of what the systems can do,” McGraw said, announcing that FAA Advisory Circular 90 regarding EFVS is expected to come out late this year.

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