GV enhanced vision okay a first for bizjets

 - October 3, 2007, 9:42 AM

Gulfstream last month received certification approval to start installations of the long-awaited enhanced vision system (EVS) in the GV line. The Savannah, Ga. business jet maker expects to wrap up the first commercial installation of EVS by the end of the winter, after which it will concentrate on gaining approval authority for EVS installations in the GIV series and GV-SP.

Mike Mena, former program manager for EVS, said three FAA pilots flew some 80 low-visibility approaches in Maine and New Hampshire in a test GV in late August. After those trials Gulfstream submitted its full program report–a four-inch-thick document containing data from testing dating back to 1998–to the FAA in Washington. The only remaining certification hurdle, said Mena, is approval for flight in icing, which he said Gulfstream expects next year.

EVS consists of a cryogenically cooled forward-looking infrared (FLIR) camera that transfers its view to a head-up display (HUD), allowing the pilot to see a conformal image of the airport and terrain overlaid on the HUD combiner glass. When married to the approved Honeywell 2020 HUD, the system enhances not only safety but also utility by allowing crews to make Cat II ILS landings even at Cat I airports.

“There’s a lot of demand for EVS,” said Mena, who now takes over as GV-SP program manger. “To date we’ve sold about 35 systems for GV retrofit installations, in addition to the systems that will go in the 40 GV-SPs on order. Our customers are extremely excited about this approval.”

According to the revised aircraft flight manual, properly trained pilots of GVs equipped with HUD and EVS may continue below published minimums at Type 1 airports, meaning that they can descend below 200 ft height above terrain (HAT) to 100 ft HAT, at which point the pilot must be able to see the airport unaided to land. Eventually, Gulfstream believes EVS can allow a descent to 50 ft HAT.

Gulfstream recently designed a training program with FlightSafety International to train crews. The cost of training is rolled into the $500,000 installed price of EVS, said Mena.

In addition to the FLIR camera, developed for Gulfstream by Kollsman of Merrimack, N.H., EVS also includes an image processor and heated window in the nose, through which the camera sees. The system is mounted in the radome and forward bulkhead, which are modified to accommodate the hardware. Before EVS can be installed, the Honeywell HUD must be sent back to the maker for software and hardware upgrades.

The approval of EVS closes the book on a protracted certification program, which has been delayed over the past few years by certification hurdles and setbacks. The FAA’s Seattle-based Transport Standards Directorate last spring issued a list of special conditions that Gulfstream had to address before EVS could be certified. These included providing a switch so that the pilot could immediately turn off the EVS image if it became distracting, as well as reducing the incidence of “blooming” and “artifacts” similar to snowy TV reception on the HUD, and modifying the device so that raindrops streaking past the EVS window in the nose did not show up on the HUD.

Mena said the FAA pilots who flew the system during the final round of tests were impressed by its capabilities, noting that on some days they were aloft for as many as seven hours. Following those flights, Gulfstream pilots Ron Newton and Gary Freeman decided to put EVS through some tests of their own, flying to Aspen, Colo., to verify the system’s mettle in mountainous terrain.

The pilots first made several approaches to Aspen during the day to familiarize themselves with the approach. They then flew approaches on a moonless night with the EVS. Mena said the pilots reported they were “very comfortable” during two nights of approaches to Aspen, during which they could easily see not only the airport but mountains as well.

Last March 29 a GIII on a night approach to Aspen crashed short of the runway in low visibility and snow showers (see story on page 30).

Gulfstream is now offering EVS as an option in the GV. It has not started taking orders for the system in the GIV, but Mena said interest is strong. EVS will be a standard component of the GV-SP’s Honeywell PlaneView avionics. First deliveries of the GV-SP are slated for 2003.