The enhanced vision system (EVS)–a tiny infrared camera that marries an image of the world outside the airplane to the head-up display–could easily be listed as one of the most important aviation safety innovations of the last 20 years.
Certified in October for installation aboard the Gulfstream V, the $500,000 EVS hardware and software package allows properly trained pilots to fly approaches to Cat II minimums at Type 1 airports, meaning a descent below 200 ft height above terrain (HAT) to 100 ft HAT, using the raster view on the HUD to see the airport environment.
After a lengthy certification program, the FAA became convinced of the safety benefits of EVS when test pilots from the agency in late summer flew more than 80 EVS approaches. Peering through the Honeywell 2020 HUD during low-visibility instrument approaches to airports in the East, including several in Maine and New Hampshire, the FAA pilots were more than satisfied with what they saw.
Even in heavy fog, a clear view of the runway, airport environment and surrounding hills could easily be distinguished through the HUD. Following these flights, Gulfstream senior test pilots Gary Freeman and Ron Newton put EVS through a series of trials of their own, flying the test GV to Colorado for several approaches to Aspen, the site of a GIII crash in low visibility and snow showers last March 29.
The test pilots, who have become intimately familiar with EVS during the certification program, said they were amazed by the system’s ability to allow them easily to discern the runway at Aspen and surrounding mountains. They said that during the approaches they felt comfortable during all phases of flight because they could always see the terrain and airport.
Others who played a big role in making the EVS concept a reality were Roger Sutherland, president of Kollsman in Merrimack, N.H., which designed much of the EVS package including its IR camera; and Gulfstream executives Press Henne, senior v-p of programs; Mike Mena, former EVS program manager and now head of the GV-SP program; Bill Osbourne, senior flight test engineer; and Glenn Connor, director of plans and analysis.
Since the idea was conceived in the mid-1990s, a number of avionics firms have started development programs to bring EVS to a wide variety of airplanes. The vanguard achievements by the developers and test pilots who shepherded the GV EVS through its certification program certainly belong on AIN’s list of the year’s top newsmakers. More than that, however, the EVS team deserves the industry’s wholehearted congratulations for its vital contributions to business aviation safety.