Pilots' artificial horizon due for a revamp

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London, November 7 (ANI): A cockpit ergonomics researcher has determined that the artificial horizon, the instrument that tells pilots how their aircraft is banking, is due for a revamp.

According to a report in New Scientist, the researcher in question is Donough Wilson of Coventry University in the UK.

He pointed out that conventional displays could be fatally misread when pilots become disoriented in the murk of thunderstorms, torrential rain or heavy snow.

The introduction of the conventional artificial horizon in 1927 allowed pilots to fly safely in cloud, which had not been possible till then.

It uses a gyroscope to turn a metal plate, half of which shows the ground and the other half the sky.

As the plane banks left, the horizon rolls right - and vice versa.

One of the most common types of plane crash involves the pilot becoming disoriented and flying a perfectly serviceable aircraft into the ground.

This can happen in a violent storm which throws the plane around, for example, because the artificial horizon can easily be misread.

"It's just not intuitive. In the real world, the horizon is the fixed, stable element against which all movement is measured," Wilson said.

Now, Wilson has developed an alternative display that he presented recently at the European Air and Space Conference in Manchester, UK.

Wilson's new artificial horizon is designed for a modern "glass cockpit" flight deck, in which individual dials and gauges are replaced by images on an LCD screen.

In the centre of his display is a number showing the compass heading at which the plane is flying.

If the plane banks left, for instance, the number banks left too. To get back to level flight, the pilot simply makes the number on the screen level out.

Wilson plans to enhance the system by indicating angle up or down of the plane's nose - its "pitch".

"Tests with 45 experienced pilots prove the design's efficacy," Wilson said. He now hopes to interest instrument makers in the idea.

According to Dewar Donnithorne-Tait, president of the Canadian Centre for Unmanned Vehicle Systems in Medicine Hat, Alberta, it is more likely that the technology will be used by pilots flying uncrewed aircraft from a control centre on the ground.

"Anything that reduces the confusion a remote pilot feels because he is not in the aircraft is a great idea. This idea would be even more useful in a UAV than in a manned plane," he said. (ANI)

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