For release: Feb. 13, 1996
Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va.
(Phone: 757- 864-6120)
Release No. 96-005
PILOTS TEST 'SYNTHETIC VISION'
WITH WINDOWLESS LANDINGS
NASA has flight tested a "synthetic vision" concept that
promises to help make supersonic flight practical and affordable
for the average air traveler close to the turn of the century. The
tests, in which pilots conducted windowless landings, were flown on
a NASA 737 research aircraft over a three-month period ending in
Sensors tested included a digital video camera, three infrared
cameras, and two microwave radar systems. The video and infrared
images were combined with computer-generated graphics that gave the
pilot cues during approaches and landings. One goal of the tests is
to identify sensors that will replace or exceed the capabilities of
The same technology will provide all weather flying capabilities
for high speed civil transport and future subsonic transports,
allowing pilots to fly and land safely in low visibility
conditions. This will increase the number of flights in poor
weather, reduce terminal delays and cut costs for the airline
industry and passengers.
Researchers are hoping that by enhancing the pilot's vision with
high-resolution video displays, aircraft designers of the future
can do away with the expensive, mechanically-drooping nose of early
supersonic transports. Forward-looking windows would be eliminated,
making way for large-format displays filled with high-resolution
images and computer graphics.
As envisioned, such an aircraft would
carry about 300 passengers at speeds up to Mach 2.4, (about 1,400
mph) over a 5,000 nautical mile range. Travel time across the
Pacific Ocean would be cut in half, with only an approximate 20
percent fare increase over current subsonic prices.
The tests were flown on NASA's Transport Systems Research
Vehicle (TSRV), a Boeing 737 equipped with a windowless research
cockpit, and a Westinghouse BAC 1-11 avionics test aircraft. About
20 flights took place from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility at
Wallops Island, Va., and Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Va.
The flight tests consisted of two phases. During the sensor data
collection phase, the TSRV and BAC 1-11 flew typical approach,
cruise and holding patterns and tested the suitability of sensors
to detect airborne traffic and ground objects. During the
pilot-in-the-loop phase, the TSRV flew approaches and landings from
the research cockpit and tested the pilot's ability to easily
control and land the aircraft relying only on the sensor and
computer-generated images and symbology.
The flight tests are part of the HSR Program's Flight Deck
Systems research effort, a part of which aims to develop
technologies allowing airframe companies to design, build and
certify a cockpit without forward facing windows. Such a cockpit is
important to a high-speed civil transport because it would avoid
the need to incorporate a Concorde-like drooped nose design, which
adds weight and mechanical complexity and increases fuel required
for every flight.
The TSRV is a Boeing 737 aircraft that has been modified to
incorporate a research flight deck in the passenger section. This
research aircraft has been operated by NASA for more than 21 years
and has conducted pioneering flight systems and aeronautics
research ranging from electronic flight displays to
first-of-its-kind satellite navigation and guidance, to proving the
viability of airborne wind shear sensors.
The HSR Flight Deck research team includes NASA Langley Research
Center, Hampton, Va.; NASA Ames Research Center, Mountain View,
Calif.; The Boeing Company, Seattle, Wash.; McDonnell Douglas
Corporation, Long Beach, Calif.; and Honeywell Incorporated,
Phoenix, Ariz. Subcontractors supporting the flight tests included
Rockwell Collins, Cedar Rapids, Iowa; FLIR Systems, Portland, Ore.;
and Westinghouse Electric Corporation, Md.
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text-only version of this release