Once upon a time, long ago and far away, I stuck my head into the cockpit of an airliner (this was obviously long before 9/11/01) and asked the captain why he didn’t have the latest in avionics. I’m not certain what “the latest” was at that time, but it could have been RNAV, GPS or something else that was already very popular in general aviation aircraft ranging from, corporate jets down to Cessna and Piper singles.
To my surprise, the captain said they just didn’t have that equipment on their airliners.
At one time, after the GPS became normal for general aviation, Russian airline pilots were buying simple GPS units during their downtime in Anchorage, Alaska. They stuck the antenna to the windshield of their big jets with the provided suction cup and flew home exclaiming amazement and pointing in awe.
This surprised me, too. Like most small-airplane pilots, I had always assumed that the big-boy airline pilots had all of the very latest gee haws and whimmy diddles.
Now—according to Aviation Week & Space Technology (AW&ST)—we have a similar situation with synthetic vision in airliner cockpits.
You know about synthetic vision systems (SVS). They display a screen that lets the pilots “see” a “sunny-day virtual view of the flight path” even when flying in IFR weather. According to AW&ST, such systems are “already standard for new general aviation and business jet cockpit displays” but “not yet available” in modern jetliners.
AW&ST goes on to state that for airlines, loss of control has been by far the “largest underlying factor in fatal accidents since 2003.” This is according to the findings of a guvmint/industry Commercial Aviation Safety Team known as CAST.
CAST analyzed 18 loss-of-control airline accidents/incidents—2004-2012—and determined that SVS could have aided pilots to avoid 17 out of the 18. That’s one more awesome statistic! CAST is pushing for SVS, of course.
The AW&ST article, page 46 May 11-24, 2015 issue, explains a lot more than this short blog, and is extremely worthwhile for anyone involved with any airport with IFR operations.