Software update packs more into FlightLogic

 - October 4, 2007, 5:04 AM

Recent improvements and upgrades to the software that drives Chelton’s FlightLogic synthetic-vision EFIS have been keeping the company’s R&D engineering staff almost as busy as it was in the months leading to certification of the avionics system.

The latest software update, version 5.0A, includes more than 130 individual changes, according to the manufacturer, about 35 of which will be noticeable to pilots familiar with the current FlightLogic system. Among the features that Chelton Flight Systems has added are enhanced Vnav functions and flight planning using victor airways and jet routes and color airspace boundaries that show restricted or prohibited airspace in red, MOAs and warning areas in yellow, Class B airspace in blue and Class C and D in green.

During a recent demonstration flight in Chelton’s Cessna 421, Nick Cain, the company’s director of flight operations and dealer program manager, explained that the new software version mixes features that customers had been asking for with changes that fix a variety of minor problems in the previous software.

“Once pilots started flying with the system out in the real world, they asked us to add victor airways and jet routes, which were not included in the original software,” said Cain. “We realized that was a pretty good idea, and so it is part of the new software.”

Other upgrades include “common sense” changes, Cain said. For example, pilots flying with Bendix/King KX 155A and KX 65A or Garmin/UPSAT SL-30 navcoms can now auto-tune all navcom frequencies via the EFIS. Another change that came at the request of customers was an increase to 500 user waypoints, an upgrade that allows for the development of “grids” for search-and-rescue and special-mission operations.

Range for the moving map has also been doubled, to 400 nm, a Mach meter has been added and there is now a fast/slow indicator when FlightLogic is connected to a compatible angle-of-attack computer. Chelton has also added an altitude-capture predictor to indicate where target altitude will be reached.

Cain demonstrated many of these features during the short flight from Las Vegas McCarran Airport (LAS) to Grand Canyon West Airport (IG4) on the Canyon’s rim in northern Arizona. The approach to IG4 over the southwest rim of the Canyon was a great place to try out the synthetic-vision flight display, which is capable of rendering an artificial picture of terrain on the ADI. Cain also demonstrated the system’s unique highway-in-the- sky (HITS) navigation cues, which allow the pilot to fly through a series of shifting boxes to stay on course.

“The trick to flying with HITS is to focus on about the third box in the distance,” Cain said. “As long as the velocity vector of the airplane is pointed at that third box, you will have an easier time staying on course. It’s sort of like driving a car. You want to keep your eyes focused out a certain distance, not right in front.”

Other features that are part of the latest software version are an enhanced display of obstacles and improved fuel-flow display. Another nice feature is the transparency that has been added to the system’s TAWS caution and warning colors, which makes terrain contours visible and, said Cain, helps pilots during evasive maneuvers.

Total fleet time for FlightLogic exceeds 10,000 hours, according to Chelton. To date, the certified system has been installed in about 100 customer airplanes spanning 30 types and including those aircraft flying as part of the FAA’s Alaska Capstone program. List price for a two-display version of FlightLogic is $75,000.

Included with the package are a PFD and MFD, each measuring 6.25 inches wide and 5.5 inches high. Remote-mounted equipment consists of an attitude and heading reference system (AHRS), air-data computer and GPS WAAS receiver.

FlightLogic also integrates a Class-C TAWS, which can be upgraded to Class-A or Class-B TAWS (free to the first 300 buyers). It can also interface with traffic and weather sensors, including the Ryan 9900BX traffic awareness system, L-3 Strikefinder/Stormscope, airborne weather radar and WSI’s datalink weather service.
HITS technology is a long-touted idea that never quite got off the ground before now. FlightLogic’s HITS display, the first of its kind to gain FAA certification, is simple and straightforward, creating a series of constantly shifting boxes through which the pilot flies to stay on course. As long as the HUD-like flight path symbol goes through the HITS boxes, pilots can be assured they are on course.

Buyers can choose between one and four displays, although most are opting for at least two displays. The PFD features the 3-D perspective terrain modeling with a database that covers the entire planet. A blending of GPS/WAAS positioning and HITS predictive flight-director guidance provides an impressive level of situational awareness on the PFD, which can be compared with the moving map and terrain alerts on the MFD.