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!
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