The one thing about aviation that is constant is change, and how flight data is presented to the pilot is no different. When I first learned to fly we used what are now fondly referred to as "steam gauges." These have been replaced by Liquid Crystal Displays (LCDs), or large screen displays on the instrument panel. But even more change is underway, with new technologies for general aviation aircraft in the form of HUDs (Heads Up Displays), Enhanced Flight Vision Systems and Synthetic Vision Systems. Today we will discuss HUDs, as this is the oldest technology which first appeared in military aircraft as gun sight technology. We all remember Tom Cruise in "Top Gun", and recall how he would look through the HUD display as he engaged the "enemy" aircraft at the Top Gun school. These HUDs were rather crude insofar as they simply provided a means to aid aiming the guns on the aircraft at an enemy aircraft. As these HUDs became more sophisticated, more information could be displayed including computed gunnery solutions, along with basic flight control information like speed, angle of attack and other data which increased both accuracy in attacking a target and safety in the operation of the aircraft. One of the earliest uses of a HUD display was during the Second World War when a projector was used to display air intercept radar data on the windscreen of the British deHavilland Mosquito night fighter. This allowed the pilots to intercept German aircraft without having to take their eyes away from the aircraft windscreen.
The next advancement in this technology came with a British jet called the Buccaneer which flew for the 1st time in 1958. This HUD design provided an attack sight with weapon release information along with navigational information for the pilot. It was so successful that the British navy gave it the title of "fit and forget" as the system was in service for almost 25 years before being retired. The original design was done by the Royal Aircraft Establishment, and built by Cintel. Eventually Cintel was taken over by Elliot Flight Automation which eventually became part of the BAE Systems of today. So, the British can correctly claim ownership of the first Heads Up Display in operational service. To be continued.... Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch! JetAviator7 Only air power can defeat air power. The actual elimination or even stalemating of an attacking air force can be achieved only by a superior air force. — Major Alexander P. de Seversky, USAAF ps: Don't forget to sign up for our newsletter "All Things Aviation" here!