While industry leaders debate the possibilities for fully automated aircraft in the future, the most recent-generation business jets—and the next generation—are already introducing technologies that set the stage for that possibility.
The new aircraft are coming to market wholly integrated, with fly by wire, Fadec and more extensive electrification, said Greg Bowles, v-p of global innovation and policy for the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA). “All are necessary steps to put in the final piece, which is automation.” These changes are starting with the design and integration of systems, he said. “We are seeing aircraft that are designed so the entire layout is integrated in a way that is straightforward to operate, much simpler to follow and much, much more intuitive,” he said.
In the past systems were designed separately, and the approach to certification would be separate. The avionics interface with the pilot, the engine controls and information displays and the hydraulics would all be separate, with various gauges and displays.
But glass cockpits, touchscreen controls and new approaches to design allow that information to be presented as a holistic picture of the aircraft and its operation. Airframers are “working with vendors to integrate the airplane. From the moment you sit down, it all flows,” Bowles said. The result is much more intuitive, he added, particularly for the next generation of pilots.