Home > Flying, Synthetic Vision > Synthetic Vision: How I became a true believer

Synthetic Vision: How I became a true believer


I have to confess that, having never flown synthetic vision and only having seen it in videos and ads, I was definitely a skeptic. I really didn’t get it. I didn’t get the overall usefulness of synthetic vision other than for specific instances around takeoff and landings.

The potential clutter on the PFD bothered me since I like my simple attitude representation with speed and altitude tapes. That’s what I had gotten used to, and I wasn’t sure how I would handle the additional information on the PFD. But there’s more. I was also concerned about the application specifically on the Aspen PFD because of the portrait form factor.

And then I flew it.

I got to fly our synthetic vision (Evolution Synthetic Vision or ESV for short) for the first time on an Aspen system and was very pleased to see just how useful it is. My concerns about the form factor were unfounded. Our high resolution displays were very crisp and easy to read, and information was presented in a logical and clear fashion.

I discovered that the Aspen system provides multiple ways to display ESV, making it easy for anyone to use. You can have it solely on the Attitude Indicator of the PFD, leaving the HSI in standard mode. Or you can have it on the entire PFD with the HSI info overlaid on top of it. Or you can have it on the Attitude Indicator of the PFD while the HSI part is two-dimensional terrain. You can display ESV in any of the windows of the MFD (although the small thumbnail mode is not practical) and leave the PFD in standard mode that we all fly in.

Here’s a tip: You can put the MFD in Rev mode so you have two PFDs—one in ESV and one in standard mode.

The multiple ways to display ESV provides for unprecedented flexibility. This is especially helpful for a pilot to configure their airplane the best way for the way they fly. Note that this ability is exclusive to Aspen—it’s something that no other manufacturer can claim. That’s one of the many benefits of the Aspen system over other systems.

Back to that first flight with ESV: I had it on the MFD and left the PFD in standard mode. While this was nice, especially when flying close to mountainous terrain, I quickly transitioned to displaying it on the PFD. The main reason for this was to use the flight path marker. Anyone who has flown synthetic vision will tell you the flight path marker is an incredible tool. When coming in on approach, I maneuver the airplane to put the marker on the runway and hold it there and fly it all the way down! Let me tell you: It makes it very easy stay on path in crosswinds.

As for the portrait display, I found ESV easy and intuitive to use. 3-D traffic was very useful, especially in cruise. When the traffic showed up on my ESV, I found it was very easy to look out the window and focus my scan on a smaller area and find the traffic much quicker than a 2-dimensional system because I had a perspective on relative height to the horizon. This was something I didn’t expect but found very cool.

By the way, terrain awareness was very clear and concise and provided a great level of situational awareness that everyone will want, especially when flying in mountainous areas like we do around Albuquerque.

Another unique tool that we have on the Aspen system is that you can adjust the field of view. When in the vicinity of the airport, I keep the field of view narrowed and the terrain, obstacles and traffic provided on the display allows me to focus on what is important rather than being distracted by information that is not in play.

When I am cruising, I open up the field of view and have a broader ESV view to get a better sense of potential directions of flight should I need to deviate from my current flight path for any reason. I think that many of our customers will use this feature extensively and will find it very useful.

After having flown synthetic vision on the Aspen, I am a true believer. The flexible representation of ESV coupled with the flexibility of the Aspen MFDs and PFDs gives a pilot situational awareness that can’t be found anywhere. I expect that this will be a big hit amongst our customers.

So what’s the status? When will it be available? We are in final testing with the FAA and expect certification and availability before Oshkosh. We invite all of our customers and prospective customers to visit us at Oshkosh and get a good look at it.

For existing customers, Evolution Synthetic Vision will be a software upgrade that can be completed at any Aspen authorized dealer. For new customers it can be purchased as an option when you place your order. In either case, right now, the price is set at $2995. I challenge anyone to find a value like this in the certified market!

Categories: Flying, Synthetic Vision
  1. Frank
    June 10, 2011 at 11:19 am

    You didn’t mention when it will available for existing customers.

  2. July 11, 2011 at 10:31 pm

    Availability for existing customers will be immediately after we receive STC. The upgrade will be done through your dealer via the SD card slot on your existing units.

  3. Bob Fort
    September 14, 2011 at 11:18 am

    I’m chomping at the bit to get ESV installed. My avionics shop ordered it last week and we hope to be one of the first installed.

    My plane has both PFD and MFD currently, and I’m especially fascinated by the ability to use ESV on either or both units.

    Can’t wait!

  4. Bob Fort
    October 14, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    Just completed my first trip with ESV. It’s a great addition to my EFD system, and I especially like having it in departure and approach situations.
    My avionics shop is currently working up a quote for the addition of an MFD500 to round out my existing PFDPro1000 and MFD1000.

  5. March 3, 2012 at 1:26 am

    I have the ESV in my Falco F8L (experimental) operating in Austria and neighboring countries. Just this week I have flown into Innsbruck (LOWI) where the ESV really shines. I have the visual RWY 26 approach on HD video if you are interested (outside and instruments) …. Although I already have redundant terrain warning in the Falco overall situational awareness is a lot better with ESV. One thing though: I would recommend more flexibility on the “field of view”. In a cross wind situation the flight path marker would be out of view in FV1 setting. And FV2 seems too broad. Maybe a third setting in between FV1 and FV2 would make a difference.

  6. March 6, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    Raoul,
    I am glad you are enjoying the Synthetic Vision and I am particularly pleased how it is improving your situational awareness and safety of flying. I imagine flying in Austria will give spectacular views out the window and on the synthetic Vision. I am flying it in the southwest and regularly get amazed by the situational awareness it provides me with all of the mountains we have around Albuquerque.

    In regards to the crosswind view, I have experienced this myself in very large crosswinds. I first make sure that the Field of View (FOV) is opened up wide as you did, but unfortunately there are cases where that might not be good enough. Another thing I have noticed is how active the marker is, and often times want it a bit more filtered. We are listening to customer input and will be looking to improve the functionality over the next 12 months based on the feedback so I greatly appreciate you letting us know. In fact, due to some customer feedback regarding our sensitivity to the display of obstacles such as towers being displayed we will have an upcoming version 2.5 that will change that so the synthetic vision and 2 dimensional terrain view will not be so cluttered.

    BTW, I would love to see your HD video on approach to Innsbruck and with your permission make it available on our web site for others to enjoy. Send it or a link to it to online@aspenavionics.com. I look forward to seeing it.

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