Home' Asian Aviation : AAV March 2010 Contents Avionics
ver the past 30 years, the jetliner
cockpit has changed beyond all
Information formerly seen on
dozens of small mechanical gaug es
is now presented in condensed
form on larg e, liquid-cr ystal displays (LCDs). Fly-by-
wire is now the norm in modern airliners, some of which
have side-stick controllers instead of the traditional yoke.
New safety technologies such as the traffic alert
and collision avoidance s ystem (TCAS) have reduced
the danger of mid-air collisions, while ne w navigation
technolog y such as automatic dependent sur veillance –
broadcast (ADS-B) promises to revolutionise air traffic
The latest cockpits, such as the flight deck of Boeing ’s
787 ‘Dreamliner’, have dual head-up displays (HUDs),
while enhanced vision systems allow aircraft to operate
safely in poor visibility that would once have caused
flights to be cancelled, delayed or diverted.
[Subhead :] Glass cockpit
The de velopment of the glass cockpit simplified the
task of flying and navigating an aircraft, allowing pilots
to focus on the most important information at any stage
of flight. Gone are the days when a flight engineer was
needed in the cockpit to help monitor and control key
a ircraft systems.
The earliest glass cockpits were to be found on aircraft
such as Boeing’s 757 and 767-200/-300, and the Airbus
A300 and A310. These used electronic flight instrument
systems (EFIS) to display attitude and navigational
information on ly, while information such as airsp eed,
altitude and vertical speed was still displayed on dials.
Mechanical gaug es were completely replaced by the
time Airbus b egan producing the A320 single-aisle
family, and with Boeing ’s 737 Next-Generation, 747-
400, 767-400 and 777 aircraft.
The evolution of the glass cockpit was driven by the
increasing complexity of flight operations, as well as
advances in digital systems and computer hardware, with
the introduction of progressively smaller, more p owerful
circuits. By the mid-1970s, the average jetliner had more
than 100 cockpit instruments and controls, competing
for space on the flight deck – and for the pilot’s attention.
In an effort to make life easier for the pilot and enhance
flight safety, NASA began research into displays that
could process data from aircraft systems and sensors and
present them in an integrated, easily understood form.
This research led to a series of flight-tests demonstrating
a full glass cockpit.
NASA’s successful research led to the industry’s
acceptance of the new technolog y as a tool to enhance
pilots’ situational awareness, and the introduction of an
EFIS on the McDonnell Douglas MD-80 jetliner family
Earlier displays used cathode-ray tubes, but these were
progressively replaced by LCDs as technolog y improved.
Early LCDs had poor legibility at some viewing angles,
but by the end of the 1990s they had become the norm
– favoured for their efficienc y and reliability.
Today, glass cockpits are standard in airliners, business
jets and military aircraft. They are also increasingly
common in general aviation aircraft, with some small
piston-props such as the Cessna 172 and Piper Cherokee
offering the technolog y as an option, while other types
such as the Diamond Aircraft DA42 are available with
glass cockpits only.
Another key technolog y that has had a substantial
impact on aircraft design and on the pilot’s workload is
the introduction of fly-by-wire control systems to replace
the previous standard hydro-mechanical systems.
Mechanical and hydro -mechanical flight controls
carr y a severe weight penalty and careful routing of flight
control cables through the structure, with a system of
pulleys, cranks and hydraulic pipes. Back-up systems
are often required to deal with potential failures and
malfunctions, adding even more weight.
The systems also still allow the onset of dang erous
flight conditions such as stalling , spinning and pilot-
induced oscillations .
All this changes with fly-by-wire systems, which
control the aircraft through an electronic interface.
As the pilot manipulates the controls in the cockpit,
The flight deck evolves
From the days of the 1970s, when jetliners had as many as 100 cockpit instruments and controls vying for the
pilot’s attention, the information needed to safely operate an aircraft has been condensed and its presentation
vastly refined. The next generation of airliners will tell pilots all they need to know on as few as five LCD screens,
writes Andrzej Jeziorski.
Asia nAviation | MARCH 2010 23
The Boeing 787 represents the cutting edge of cockpit technology today.
7/03/10 12:10 PM
7/03/10 12:10 PM
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