Dramatic new safety innovations arrived for business aviation within the last year, both in terms of hardware and programs.
On the hardware side, new products have been developed that compensate for three leading contributors to single-pilot accidents: pilot incapacitation, recovery from emergency engine out in twin-engine operations, and landing in reduced visibility. On the program side of the safety ledger, the International Business Aviation Council has developed a version of its International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations (IS-BAO) geared toward smaller operators.
Autoland is now available for the Piper SLS (branded Halo) and Daher TBM 940 turboprop (branded Safe Return) singles and the Cirrus SF50 Vision Jet G2 single-engine jet (branded HomeSafe Autoland). Other aircraft no doubt will follow. Autoland can be adapted to almost any airplane, from piston singles to jets. The Garmin Autoland system is part of the company’s Autonomi family of automation products, which includes Electronic Stability and Protection and Emergency Descent Mode. The Autoland system is designed to safely fly an airplane from cruising altitude to a suitable runway, then land the airplane, apply brakes, and stop the engine. As it flies the airplane toward the airport, Autoland slows the airplane down and, if necessary enters a hold to bleed off excess airspeed.
The Autoland system can be automatically or manually activated, via the touch of a single button. In the Piper M600, the system automatically activates at 18,000 feet if the autopilot is engaged and the pilot doesn’t interact with the avionics in a 15-minute period. At higher altitudes, the engagement period is shorter. Autoland also tries to alert the pilot with repeated chiming sounds and asking, “Are you alert” before engaging. Autoland will also engage if the Electronic Stability and Protection system is engaged for a prolonged period of time, first putting the M600 into level mode, and if the pilot doesn’t disengage level mode, then implementing an automatic landing.
Autoland is designed so that a non-flying passenger can switch it on and understand what is happening during an Autoland event. When engaged, Autoland immediately turns the airplane toward the nearest suitable airport while displaying on all three cockpit displays carefully designed messages that show the passengers what is happening. A moving map on each PFD clearly illustrates the path that the airplane is taking to get to the selected airport. The PFD shows a split-screen with moving-map on one side and synthetic vision system on the other. The multifunction display (MFD) in the center shows messages for the passengers, as do the PFDs.
One MFD message is an animation of the cockpit and the controls, with a warning: “Keep hands and feet away from aircraft controls.” On the displays at all times are the words: “Emergency autoland active” and “landing in XX minutes.” The MFD also shows how many miles to the destination and how much fuel remains in hours and minutes. Both PFDs show time until the next turn, if applicable, and time until descent. A smoothly modulated voice tells passengers exactly what to expect. At the same time, Autoland uses information about the state of the airplane to broadcast an emergency radio message on appropriate frequencies, and it resets the transponder to the 7700 emergency code. The radio broadcast might occur on the local approach control or control tower frequency. But if landing at a non-towered airport, Autoland will broadcast on the local CTAF frequency.
Autoland can even switch on anti-deicing systems if necessary. Autoland is available for aircraft manufacturers to incorporate in their airplanes equipped with Garmin G3000 avionics and autothrottle. The system is designed only for emergency use and not for pilots to use just because the weather is marginal or crosswinds are too high. It also adds the option of getting the airplane to a nearby airport where medical assistance may be more readily available.
Even with a worst-case scenario of an incapacitated pilot and an engine failure, Autoland can improve the outcome by implementing a controlled descent to nearby smooth terrain. Autoland could also help rescue a pilot trapped by widespread zero-zero fog, allowing a safe landing where it would be difficult if not impossible for the pilot to safely land using an ILS or LPV approach.
IS&S ThrustSense Autothrottle for Twin Turboprops
Innovative Solutions & Support (IS&S) ThrustSense autothrottles reduce pilot workload by automatically managing engine power from the takeoff roll through the climb, cruise, descent, go-around, and landing phases of flight. They are available as a retrofit option on 300-series King Airs with Collins Pro Line Fusion avionics and standard on the new Textron Aviation King Air 360/360ER.
The IS&S PT6 autothrottle is able to fully control an engine with a hydromechanical fuel control, and it includes protections that prevent over-torquing during takeoff or over-temping in climb or at high altitudes. The system also features over- and underspeed protection in case the pilot mismanages the aircraft’s airspeed. If the pilot tries to move the power lever and nears the engine’s torque or temperature limits, the autothrottle has a built-in shaker system to warn the pilot. The autothrottle includes VMCa protection: one engine failing automatically sets the remaining engine to the correct power level if airspeed drops below minimum controllable airspeed.
ThrustSense consists of IS&S's Integrated Standby Unit (ISU) and linear actuators that control each throttle lever. The ISU contains an integrated computer, inertial measurement unit, air data system, and flat panel display in a box that directly replaces the existing standby unit in the flight deck. The ISU computer uses proprietary software to determine the throttle positions needed to prevent over-temp, over-torque, and over-speed conditions for engines that do not already use an electronic control system.
Universal Avionics ClearVision Enhanced Flight Vision System with SkyLens Head-Wearable Display
Universal’s ClearVision EFVS and head-wearable display (HWD) SkyLens display brings head-up display (HUD) capabilities with combined enhanced and synthetic vision along with a virtually unlimited field of view to smaller aircraft that can't accommodate a traditional HUD. The approval in the ATR regional turboprop series is the first time a head-wearable display has been certified for civil aviation.
EFVS allows airlines access to runways under more weather conditions and maintain traffic flow and capacity. The HWD can be fitted to many more types of aircraft than a traditional, heavier, and more expensive ceiling-mounted HUD. Airliners and business jets already with single HUD displays can provide the data for both crewmembers by adding a HWD. Aircraft with obsolete HUD and camera systems can more economically upgrade to EFVS. For pilot training, Universal has developed a program that includes online training, virtual reality practice, then practice in a flight training device.
Universal sees EFVS with SkyLens particularly useful for the helicopter market to enhance safety during low-visibility conditions and stressful missions such as firefighting, medevac, and search-and-rescue operations. SkyLens can also display night vision goggle information. The company currently is working with OEMs on three commercial aircraft: Leonardo’s AW139 and AW169 and the Airbus Super Puma for the German police. Universal already has flown 200 to 300 test hours with EFVS on the FAA’s Sikorsky S-76.
IBAC’s FlightPlan Stage 1 IS-BAO for Small Operators
The International Business Aviation Council’s (IBAC) new FlightPlan Stage 1 IS-BAO risk management program for small operators is now available. Unveiled at NBAA 2019, the program is designed to provide a pathway for operators with one aircraft and one base to gain Stage 1 IS-BAO recognition within 90-180 days. Under the option, a credentialed program support affiliate will help streamline the pre-audit process for the operator. Once that is accomplished, the operator will undergo a one-day independent audit and continue with post-registration validations every six months over a two-year period. FlightPlan Stage 1 will include access to the IBAC General Company Operations Manual (GCOM).
IBAC says the program is an all-inclusive option that provides a streamlined approach to demonstrating safe operations that will make it easier for smaller operators to participate. IBAC's Stage 1 program has three basic phases: obtaining IS-BAO documentation and conducting a web meeting with AviationManuals, a partner in the program; meeting with an approved implementor to prepare for the program and audit; and then undergoing the audit. The program also outlines a path to Stage 2 registration.
While it works to bring in operators at the Stage 1 level, IBAC also has teamed up with Baldwin Safety and Compliance on the development of a business aviation-specific safety database based on operators participating in the IS-BAO Progressive Stage 3 group. Progressive Stage 3 operators meet IS-BAO Stage 3 protocols but will share de-identified (for privacy) safety management systems (SMS) data with IBAC and participate in IS-BAO audits progressively over the course of a year. Baldwin will support the de-identification, storage, and analysis of the information that will be accumulated in the database, the first of its kind for business aviation.
IS-BAO is a recommended code of best practices for aircraft operators based on International Civil Aviation Organization standards and with SMS at the core of the program. Established in 2003, the program offers registration in various stages, with Stage 3 considered the highest level with more intensive audits. Overall, IS-BAO is designed to help flight departments achieve high levels of safety and professionalism. More than 700 organizations are registered.