Aviation Gets a Lift
IN THE NOT-TOO-DISTANT
FUTURE, THE AVERAGE person could take to the sky in small, safe,
affordable and easy-to-fly personal aircraft, traveling four times
the speed of today's cars. NASA has selected a team of seven industry
partners to help develop the "highway in the sky" system, a key
element of the government-industry effort to revitalize general
aviation in the United States.
With this system, pilots will follow a preprogrammed destination
on a "virtual highway" in the sky, drawn on a highly intuitive,
low-cost flat panel display. As the primary flight display of the
future, it will displace decades-old "steam gauge" instrumentation.
will have the ability to safely determine their routes,
speeds and proximity to
dangerous weather, terrain and
In addition to transforming cockpits, the technology developed
by the team will redefine the relationship between pilots and air
traffic control and fundamentally change the way future general
aviation pilots fly. This technology is expected to significantly
increase freedom, safety and ease-of-flying by providing pilots
with affordable, direct access to information needed for future
"free-flight" air traffic control systems.
Pilots will have the ability to safely determine their routes,
speeds and proximity to dangerous weather, terrain and other airplanes.
This display system and other equipment will provide intuitive situational
awareness and enough information for a pilot to perform safely,
with reduced workload, in nearly all weather conditions. A multifunction
display of position navigation, terrain map, weather and air traffic
information is expected, in addition to digital (datalink) radios
to send and receive flight data. A solid-state attitude and heading
reference system will replace gyroscopes.
The team will work toward the year 2001 to complete hardware and
software development and flight certification of this totally new
concept for presenting critical, flight-path guidance information
to the pilot. This will be the first attempt to certify such a system
using affordable commercial "off-the-shelf" computer technology
Development costs will be shared equally between NASA and the
industry team, with both contributing approximately $3 million.
Team members are Avidyne Corporation of Lexington, Massachusetts,
AvroTec Inc. of Portland, Oregon, Lancair of Redmond, Oregon, Raytheon
Aircraft of Wichita, Kansas, Rockwell Collins of Cedar Rapids, Iowa,
Seagull Technologies of Los Gatos, California, and AlliedSignal
of Olathe, Kansas. AvroTec is the team lead, and Avidyne is technical
The Advanced General Aviation Transport Experiments (AGATE) consortium,
consisting of more than 70 members from industry, universities,
the Federal Aviation Administration and other government agencies,
is fostering the "highway in the sky" system. NASA created AGATE
in 1994 to develop affordable new technology, industry standards
and certification methods for next-generation single-pilot, four-
to six-seat, near all-weather light airplanes.
AGATE and the General Aviation Propulsion engine development program
are providing industry partners with technologies leading to a small
aircraft transportation system in the early 21st century. These
efforts support the national general aviation "roadmap" goal to
"enable doorstep-to-destination travel at four times highway speeds
to virtually all of the nation's suburban, rural and remote communities."
For more information, contact Keith Henry at Langley Research
Call: 757/864-6120, E-mail: email@example.com
Please mention you read about it in Innovation.
The "highway in the sky" system
is a key element of the government-industry effort to revitalize
general aviation in the United States. The cockpit display system
will include a computer-drawn highway that the pilot follows to
a preprogrammed destination.
The Advanced Civil Transport
Simulator (ACTS) is a futuristic aircraft cockpit simulator designed
to provide full-mission capabilities for researching issues that
will affect future transport aircraft flight stations and crews.