Dassault recently announced its next generation cockpit, EASy II. The suite is nominally an update to the jet maker's already remarkable EASy cockpit, but its improvements are so sweeping that it seems in many respects a ground-up redesign. I had a chance to "fly" the new system in Honeywell's engineering test rig in Phoenix recently and was greatly impressed by the elegance, ease of use and safety advantages of the new system, which Dassault plans to roll out on its executive jets soon.
As with the original, the philosophy behind EASy II, created in conjunction with Honeywell, is to make the pilots' jobs — you guessed it — easier. And safer too.
To that end, EASy II introduces a number of cutting-edge safety advances to the Dassault cockpit, including synthetic vision, WAAS, ADS-B, RNP, an ingenious auto descent mode, a runway safety utility, graphical satellite weather, paperless charts and a remarkably capable new flight management system.
By far the most noticeable upgrade is the SmartView SVS, a synthetic vision program that shows on the pilot's and copilot's primary flight displays. (Like EASy, EASy II features four large LCDs, creating a near continuous glass wall of information for the crew.) This synthetic vision is the most realistic I've seen, thanks to two main factors: The terrain database is head and shoulders above anything Honeywell has used in general aviation before, with densely spaced data points creating a remarkably true-to-life picture of the terrain below. And with Honeywell's new shading techniques and water texturing, the effect is striking.
With SVS, the entire effect of the PFD has changed. EASy II has unboxed the display, creating a wide-open view with data transparently displayed onto it. This results in a huge increase in practical-display real estate without making the LCDs a millimeter larger. And no longer is the HSI a separate instrument. Instead it's superimposed onto the computer-generated view of the outside world. In so doing, EASy takes the old way of seeing flight information and — by re-creating antique analog gauges on the screen — throws it out altogether.
The built-in safety features are numerous. Of course, the SVS integrates Honeywell's groundbreaking Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System (EGPWS, and now better than ever), advanced HUD-style PFD symbology with energy control and management cues, loss-of-control safety features and runway safety advisories, all built into the system.
Just a few of the innovative features are transparent airspeed and altitude tapes, range rings projected directly onto the terrain in the SVS view, elevation grid line showing easy-to-see rising terrain ahead, better-than-photo-quality runway symbology and high-contrast water symbology.
One of the most innovative features of EASy II is its Auto-Descent Mode (ADM), designed to save the day in the event of a high-altitude depressurization. When the system detects a loss of cabin pressure, it automatically takes control of the airplane, guiding it at maximum speed to a safe altitude.
There have been a number of tragic runway mishaps in business jets and regional jets over the past few years. To build in additional safety margins, EASy II features a new utility, SmartRunway, which uses known position and a detailed runway database — private, custom runways can be added for clients by the manufacturer — to protect crews from accidentally taxiing onto the wrong runway. It also provides additional protection against unintentional intersection takeoffs and wrong-runway takeoffs, as happened in Lexington, Kentucky, when ComAir 5191 departed on the wrong, too-short runway, resulting in the loss of 49 lives.
Another potential lifesaver is XM Uplink weather (available for the United States only), a safety utility with which many of us are already familiar. The XM system on the EASy II installation is geared, for obvious reasons, for high-altitude flight. Winds aloft, storm and echo tops, clear-air turbulence advisories and icing information are all highlighted for easy reference.
EASy II's design also makes it hard to miss system messages, as its Crew Alerting System (CAS) generates CAS messages not only on the lower (systems) display but also on two inset windows on the PFDs.
EASy's next gen flight management system, FMS 7.1, is also a big upgrade. Of course, there's WAAS, which gives pilots the LPV/VNAV approaches that open up so many runway ends in the United States. There's also RNP capability, which gives operators easier access to nearly 100 airports with traffic congestion, terrain or noise issues. And pilots operating internationally also get access to several international satellite-based approach systems, including EGNOS in the EU (slated to begin in 2010). Also new on the FMS are ADS-B Out, the ability to program circling approaches, baro VNAV correction, a temperature compensation calculator and more.
As revolutionary as the EASy cockpit was, EASy II is a dramatic improvement, one that takes advantage of the elegant and highly functional basic design of the original and improves on it in dozens of significant ways.