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Tue, Apr 27, 2010

Heads Up: HUDs Could Have Been A Factor In Many Aircraft Accidents

Flight Safety Foundation Report Shows Systems Like HGS Could Have Helped Prevent Them

According to a study conducted by the Flight Safety Foundation, head-up guidance system technology could have prevented or positively influenced 38 percent of all commercial aircraft accidents that occurred over the past 13 years.

"Head-up Guidance Technology - A clear path to increasing flight safety," is an independent third party study that examines use of head-up guidance system technology in modern cockpits based on digital technology. Commissioned by Rockwell Collins, the report was derived through analysis performed by the Flight Safety Foundation on information from 983 commercial air carrier, business and corporate airline accidents during the 13-year period between 1995 and 2007. 

Findings also indicated that the benefits of head-up guidance technology increased in accidents where the pilot was directly involved, such as take-off and landing and loss-of-control accidents. In take-off and landing, the likelihood of accident prevention is 69 percent when a plane is equipped with head-up guidance technology. During loss-of-control accidents, the likelihood of accident prevention is 57 percent.

"Head-up guidance systems technology is a great safety tool for the prevention of runway excursions, loss of control, and approach and landing accidents," said Bob Vandel, foundation fellow for Flight Safety Foundation. Vandel co-authored the study with Earl Weener, Ph.D. and foundation fellow. "This technology provides extremely useful data to the flight deck crew which allows them to be the pilot they always thought they were."

Rockwell Collins HGS displays critical flight information in the pilot's forward field-of-view, eliminating the need for the pilot to repeatedly transition between the head-down instruments and the forward view through the windshield. As a result, pilots can keep their attention focused on the outside world, enhancing overall situational awareness and safety.

While seeming a bit like conclusions in search of supporting data ... the study did find that the most important information on the HGS display was consistently the flight path and speed error information, which provides the pilot with the instantaneous energy state of the aircraft and allows the pilot to see where the aircraft will be while maintaining an 'eyes out' view.

"This report underscores the importance of head-up guidance technology on board modern aircraft," said David Austin, senior director, HGS at Rockwell Collins. "Our customers have always recognized the situational awareness benefits of HGS technology. However, this study goes further to underscore the critical safety value of HGS technology and the benefits of keeping the pilot in the loop even while aircraft become more automated."

The original Flight Safety Foundation report, "Head-up Guidance Technology - A Powerful Tool for Accident Prevention," was published in 1990. Rockwell Collins requested the Flight Safety Foundation update this study to reflect new glass cockpit technology most aircraft fly with in today's modern airspace.

FMI: www.flightsafety.org, www.rockwellcollins.com

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