Like the key air transport sectors that it serves, Honeywell’s worldview is increasingly shifting eastward as markets in the Middle East and Asia continue to show strong growth. And the emphasis of the U.S. group’s technological development work remains focused on trying to ensure that traffic growth can be achieved without compromising safety.
“It used to be the case that 80 percent of customers, suppliers and manufacturers were in the United States. Aircraft were designed to fly U.S. coast-to-coast because that was 80 percent of what was needed,” said Paolo Carmassi, the company’s president for Europe, the Middle East, Africa and India. In the last 10 years, however, the market has started to shift eastward at an unprecedented rate, presenting a range of challenges and opportunities.
Honeywell aims to support this growth in various ways, including more efficient auxiliary power units, wheels and brakes, and smarter avionics to enable customers to perform better. In India and Africa, in particular, the lack of infrastructure means that aircraft have to be smarter to maintain the same level of safety. “We have developed a number of upgrades–usually simple upgrades–to enable aircraft to overcome the deficiencies on the ground by giving pilots a new level of awareness,” Carmassi told AIN.
One example is the SmartPath ground-based augmentation system, which improves the accuracy and integrity of GPS signals to the point where they can be used to provide approach guidance to as little as 200 feet above runways. The conventional instrument landing system requires separate installations for each end of each runway at an airport, but a single SmartPath, costing around the same $3 million, can support multiple approach paths to all the runways at an airport. Meanwhile, SmartLanding helps pilots to recognize when their airplane is too high or too fast for the length of the runway.
On the ground, Honeywell’s SmartRunway helps pilots avoid runway incursions in poor visibility. Like SmartLanding, SmartRunway is a software upgrade to the enhanced ground proximity warning system that has contributed to a dramatic reduction in accidents resulting from controlled flight into terrain.
Another Honeywell product that has proved very popular in the Middle East is the IntuVue weather radar. “Our latest generation radar enables pilot to detect significant weather from as far as 300 miles away,” Carmassi said. “The weather is visualized in 3-D. It’s not just a 2-D picture where you can’t see what’s behind, so the pilot has a better picture to identify areas to be avoided.”
Honeywell is also helping define future air traffic management systems as part of the U.S. NextGen and European SESAR programs, and the technologies developed will ultimately find application further afield, not the least of which is a Gulf region badly in need of airspace modernization. For example, as part of SESAR, Honeywell is developing its SmartTraffic airborne separation assistance system (ASAS), an extension of the existing traffic alert and collision avoidance system that detects when other aircraft are too close and suggests evasive maneuvers.
The ASAS system can detect aircraft within a 40-mile radius, meaning that separation between aircraft can be reduced where there is no radar coverage, and ATC can allow more aircraft to use their most efficient cruising altitudes. “SmartTraffic is an example of a product that we believe reduces the time spent in the air, the amount of fuel burned and the impact on the environment,” said Carmassi.
Being able to complete the mission in the most severe meteorological conditions is particularly important at the end of the sort of long-range flights that Gulf airlines commonly undertake. Carmassi said another SESAR project that should help achieve that goal is the combined vision system, which marries imagery from an infrared camera with a synthetic view of the world outside generated from information in the terrain database. “The database stops you getting lost, while the infrared camera shows that the runway is where it’s supposed to be and is free of obstacles, enhancing the awareness of the pilot and allowing many more flights to be completed,” he said.o