FlightSafety Teterboro fields Falcon 900EX EASy simulator

 - January 30, 2007, 10:45 AM

In late 1995, around the time of the highly publicized crash of an American Airlines Boeing 757 on approach to Cali, Colombia, Dassault launched a research and development program aimed at applying the most advanced avionics technologies then available to a radically different kind of cockpit. The French company’s objectives were to improve pilot situational awareness, reduce workload and offer a more intuitive man-machine interface, all predicated on the worthy goals of improving safety and keeping the pilots in the loop at all times. The culmination of that eight-year design effort is the recently certified Falcon 900EX with the EASy integrated avionics system.

The challenge for Dassault now lies in ensuring that the pilots EASy is intended to serve can unlearn many of their old habits and become proficient using an avionics system based on a personal-computing type of operating environment and point-and-click menus. That’s where FlightSafety comes in. Designing a radically different cockpit inevitably meant coming up with a new approach to training, and Dassault and FlightSafety have worked together to devise a curriculum that is careful not to hit pilots with a fire hose of information, while ensuring that they retain all they have learned during initial training.

The first step in that process was to throw out the pilot training manual for the Falcon 900EX and start fresh. With an array of new tools in the cockpit, knowledge of the airplane inevitably has to start with the avionics. The new training manual still includes more than a thousand pages and, like its predecessor, barely fits inside a hefty three-ring binder, but pilots who remember the old training documentation will scarcely recognize the new manual.

Woody Saland, program manager at FlightSafety’s Teterboro Learning Center in New Jersey, explained that the old way of training has been replaced by a new philosophy, developed jointly by his staff and Dassault pilots. Instead of the usual one day of avionics training and little exposure to the cockpit during classroom instruction, pilots now start from their very first day in class being immersed in the new cockpit. After morning classroom sessions, pilots head for a specially built cockpit lab for one or two hours of hands-on training. Simulator training, meanwhile, focuses more on crew coordination and a delicate dance through cockpit procedures than in the past.

While the task of learning an entirely new cockpit philosophy during an 11-day course may at first seem impossible, the good news for pilots is that they no longer need to memorize endless lists of numbers and schematic drawings for the given aircraft procedures. A glance at the onscreen color-coded aircraft diagnostics is all that’s required to tell the pilots everything they need to know about the health and state of the various systems. In short, green means good and red means bad. And if you’ve gone into the red, the airplane will automatically start figuring out what’s wrong and try to fix it.

Saland explained that the previous-generation Falcon 900EX and the 900EX EASy still share many common systems, yet the way the pilot should be thinking about those systems has been markedly altered.

“The Falcon 900EX and 900EX EASy have the same electrical system, for example, but it’s a totally different approach to training,” Saland said. “Where it used to be a mess of diagrams throughout the training manual, now we’re not presenting any schematic drawings at all. It’s just page after page of pictures of the displays and explanations of how to perform given functions. There’s no need to show the schematics anymore because the pilots don’t have to worry about them. That’s the airplane’s job.”

The Common Workspace
Developed jointly by Dassault and Honeywell, EASy is based on the Primus Epic integrated avionics system, the heart of which is the design’s modular avionics units, large-format flight displays and trackball CCDs. Everything in the EASy cockpit is designed toward the center. The thinking behind this philosophy is that it keeps both pilots’ eyes focused on the middle of the flight deck, where each can monitor what the other is doing.

The T layout of the flight displays is another EASy innovation. When Dassault started designing the flight deck, it originally wanted to put all four screens in a line across the panel, reasoning that this would make pilots keep their heads up. But this was somewhat in conflict with a belief that the business jet maker should cease making left- and right-side cockpits. Thus the T layout (with one screen in front of each pilot and two multifunction displays down the center) came to be. Now, the two screens in the center are considered a common workspace.

Short-term information is displayed on the two primary display units (PDUs) in front of each pilot, whereas longer-term information, such as the navigation and system synoptic views, is displayed on the central screens. Each display is divided into windows, which can be either one-third or two-thirds the size of the display, unless a full-screen view of a particular window is selected.

EASy interfaces are located on the overhead panel, glareshield, yoke and between the pilots on the center pedestal. The CCD features a large handgrip with buttons on each side and the trackball facing forward. A knob next to the CCD can by used to scroll through various menus or to tune radios.

The cursor itself can be moved from one screen to another using the trackball or a button on the CCD. When moving the cursor from screen to screen, the edges of the display on which it is resting turn blue. To help the pilots keep track of the cursors, they are briefly highlighted each time they are moved. Both pilots have their own cursor, but only one can work in a given window at a time.

Unlike the Gulfstream 550’s PlaneView cockpit (also based on Primus Epic) where pilots don’t have to use the CCDs if they are not comfortable doing so, in the 900EX their usage is necessary to make full use of the technology. Saland explained that most functions are performed by pushing the buttons on the side of the CCD and depressing a number of shortcut keys on the pedestal. There is surprisingly little scrolling during normal operations, he said, but the trackball is useful for many functions, especially onscreen flight planning.

“It’s mainly a lot of clicking you’ll see the pilots doing as they work together,” said Saland. “The system is designed so that it will place the cursor where it needs to be on the display to perform a given operation.” For example, pushing the ATC/TCAS shortcut button on the center pedestal automatically moves the cursor to the communications window on the display. Another nice feature of EASy is its ability to pull up the interactive synoptic pages during checklists without prompting from the pilots. This saves time and ensures the proper procedures are being followed to the letter.

EASy eliminates a host of checklist items by performing some of these automatically as pilots go through the procedures and by devising a “to do” responsibility during procedure flows. Dassault wanted to do away with the traditional challenge-response approach to checklists, reasoning that the airplane could now do much of the work that pilots performed in the past. But this philosophy, Dassault admitted, requires each pilot to be fully responsible for his or her workflow, and that takes crew coordination–not to mention practice.

Strapping into the Simulator
One of the first things the pilots do when they climb into an EASy-equipped airplane is depress a button on the flight guidance panel that points an arrow at the pilot flying (PF). This may seem like an odd first step, but it’s important because it lets the airplane know who will be flying and who will be handling other duties. For an aircraft that is capable of communicating with the pilots as never before, it should come as no surprise that it is essential to keep this digital third crewmember in the loop as well.

A major factor in the 1995 Cali accident was the inappropriate selection by the crew of a navigation beacon that was not ahead of the airplane as the pilots assumed, but several miles behind it. The crew was not aware of the mistake until the aircraft started a left turn, a disastrous course change that steered the airplane into the sheer face of a mountain. If a crew makes such an error with EASy, the change in course will appear conspicuously on the navigation display, and will not be executed until the crew accepts it.

The Falcon 900EX EASy level-D flight simulator at FlightSafety’s Teterboro Learning Center is as close to the real thing as possible. It includes the Rockwell Collins Flight Dynamics HGS 4860 HUD, including low-visibility takeoff (LTVO) guidance and allowing Cat III takeoffs to 300-feet RVR. The simulator has three flight management systems, which are synchronized so that a failure of any single box is a nonevent as far as the pilots are concerned. There is never an issue regarding which FMS is in control.

Saland said the FMS is the real breakthrough of the EASy cockpit. All flight-planning information is presented on the multifunction display units (MDUs). The Honeywell I-Nav map display provides navigation information, terrain, weather and traffic, and allows for direct changes to flight plans using the trackball.

“We call it ‘rubberbanding,’” Saland explained. “This allows the pilots to click on the map and stretch the course line from its present position to any new fix.”

A click of the CCD and the pilot can also add a hold or other instructions and tell the airplane how the procedure should be flown; for example, a 10-nm hold or a four-minute hold (or whatever values are desired) can be commanded with just a few clicks of the CCD.

No single function presents that much of a challenge to anyone with moderate PC experience, but it remains to be seen whether pilots can keep everything straight after emerging from initial training. The EASy training manual is well done, but it also includes about 1,000 pages. For this reason, FlightSafety mails the entire manual to pilots about a month before they are scheduled to report for training.

A welcome addition to the EASy cockpit is flight director guidance based on HUD symbology. The FD on the PDU is a magenta circle with a green flight-path indicator. To track flight director commands, the pilot simply needs to put the green dot inside the magenta circle. The display also includes a thrust director (TD), similar to a flight director, but used with power settings. The TD symbol, positioned just to the left of the flight-path marker, tells the pilot where he should put the throttles to achieve a desired speed for the given vertical profile.

Because EASy is so different from the previous Honeywell Primus 2000 system, the 900EX EASy requires a separate type certificate. Eventually, EASy will be the foundation for every new Falcon produced, including the 7X, the first dedicated business jet being certified with fly-by-wire flight controls. Dassault is pursuing a common type rating for the 900EX and 2000EX EASy models, just as Airbus has done with its common cockpits.