Honeywell human factors scientist Trish Ververs has tested the technology quite a bit for the company, comparing the performance of pilots using head-up (through a HUD) and head-down (through the Honeywell combined vision system) technology by plotting where the wheels touch down on landing.
On dozens of flights she tracked the performance down to a meter to see how much better pilots flying with a HUD would do compared with those flying head down on Honeywell’s combined vision system. A chart that showed landing points at the end of approaches flown by pilots using the two systems showed scattershot points with no apparent bias toward either system. Both systems allowed their pilots to fly very accurate approaches.
This result, Ververs says, surprised the pilots in the study who had a lot of HUD time going into the testing. They had all assumed, she says, that the HUD would be the better technology. As far as the testing experience could show, it wasn’t better, Ververs says, and the pilots who participated in the experiment began to look at the subject differently. I flew head-down approaches with Honeywell’s system last year in a Citation Sovereign in Prescott, Arizona, and recently in a Gulfstream G450 in Shenandoah, Virginia. In both cases I found that, when I hit minimums and looked out the windscreen at 150 feet, there was nothing but a huge white stripe staring me in the face.
New HUD Technology
Rockwell Collins isn’t so sure that the technologies are similar. The Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based company, which manufactures head-up displays for Gulfstream and Falcon Jet among others, would seem to have the high ground in this debate. Its argument, and it’s a good one, is that one’s eyes should be looking outside all the time because at some point the pilot needs to see the runway in order to land. Why not just look outside? Because in a jet you need better precision than you can get by looking out the window. The HUD is one-stop shopping for that kind of data.
For its part, Collins is not sitting still. Just this year it announced the HGS-3500, a compact HUD that makes use of a new display technology to allow it to be fitted into a large number of business aircraft, down to turboprop models because it is so much smaller. You even get synthetic vision on the HUD.
The new HUD technology is also less expensive and could conceivably be used even in light twins or singles, though Collins has announced no such plans for it.
Honeywell’s combined vision system, on the other hand, requires an enhanced vision infrared camera, which adds cost and complexity, though it needs only a flat-panel display to work in the cockpit.
Honeywell’s and Rockwell Collins’ new equipment and competing philosophies are battling not only for market share but also for the hearts and minds of decision-makers at aircraft manufacturers.
The battle could have implications, and not just in terms of which company, Honeywell or Collins, wins the business of airplane makers but in terms of the aftermarket as well.
The competition, in terms of technology and consumer choice, will likely be a good thing for all.