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Landing Blind: Supersonic BizJets

by John M. White |

If competing with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) wasn't enough, now comes landing your supersonic bizjet without being able to see out of the cockpit windscreen.  Apparently the high angle of attack required for landing a supersonic aircraft was the reason for the "drooping" nose of the Concorde, but that system does not seem to work too well for a business jet.

The solution, it seems, is to place a high definition video camera somewhere on the nose or belly of the aircraft and feed the data into the glass cockpit of the aircraft, allowing the pilot to "see" the landing touchdown zone without actually "seeing" the runway itself.

At the present time NASA is working with our old friends at Gulfstream to develope a "fly-by-cam" system to enable pilots of supersonic business jets to land the aircraft using the video feed instead of the more conventional "look out the windscreen" approach.  Nasa_gulfstream_fly-by-cam

They have configured a two seat F-18 with the video system and have had the pilot in the back seat, whose view for landing is obstructed, land the aircraft using the video feed.  The pilot in the front seat observes, and to date has not had to take over the aircraft and land it.  Soon an FAA test pilot will have a chance to try out the fly-by-cam system. 

Interestingly enough the Space Shuttle has the same forward viewing landing issues with no ability to change shapes but has no camera system installed.  It simply land itself almost completely without pilot input, as will many next generation unmanned military aircraft.

As I have said previously, Hersch, pilots are being squeezed out of the cockpit.  If pilots don't want to find themselves sitting on the ground in front of an HD TV for their flying experience they will need to learn how to use these fly-by-cam systems or wear helmets with displays in them like the F-35 fighter jocks.

Ah its a changing world out there my friends.  Soon the term "all glass cockpit" will take on new meaning as looking out the windscreen as the countryside goes by the wayside becomes a thing of the past.

Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch!


"High Flight"

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds...and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of...wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up, the long, delirious burning blue
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, nor even eagle flew.
And while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space...
...put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

Get a copy of the book based upon this poem - "Slipping the Surly Bonds" - here.

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