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Fast forward to late 2010, when I bought my first iPad. It was purchased for personal use, but I remember thinking even back then, when will this touch-screen concept intersect paths with my career in aviation. It didn’t take long. Useful aviation apps began to surface, and pilots began dragging their iPads into the cockpit. By late 2013, iPads were required in the jet and helicopter cockpits of the Fortune 200 corporate flight department for which I fly.


It was at that point that the writing (actually “display”) was on the wall; adaptation and evolution were occurring right before my retinas. New glass cockpits were flat screen, and tablets were in the cockpit. It was not a matter of if, but when the two platforms (cockpit instrumentation and touch-screen technology) would fuse and find there way into helicopters. Well, it’s already here!


NOT “GOOD VIBRATIONS”


I bet Mike Love of the Beach Boys was not a rotorcraft pilot, because one of the biggest hurdles to overcome in helicopter touch-screen avionics has been the high vibration environment created by the aircraft itself, along with light turbulence in flight. Most commonly, helicopters use a cursor with turning knobs to select display data, or they utilize soft keys along display edges to access functionality.


Rockwell Collins has developed the Pro Line Fusion Integrated Avionics Display specifically to offer mission-ready touch- screen avionics for civil helicopter operations. A first step in that direction, was when in 2012, AgustaWestland selected the Pro Line Fusion system for use in its AW609 tiltrotor aircraft. With modular options for two-, three-, or four-screen displays, virtually any size helicopter—from light


singles twins—can be accommodated.


Rockwell Collins has solved the vibration problem with a combination of technologies. First is the advanced resistive touch-screen technology that requires slightly higher touch pressures


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than one might see in a smartphone or tablet. This reduces the chance of bumping the wrong piece of data with a finger, and also enables pilot’s use of gloves, which many missions require. The second technology is an ergonomic function which uses ruggedized grips on the top and sides of the screens in order to stabilize the hand being used to provide tactile inputs to the display. Should the pilot opt not to use touch-screen functionality, there is also an alternate cursor control and keypad input device that can be used, much like a mouse and pointer on a computer screen.


APPS, WIDGETS, AND WINDOWS


The PFD gives pilots the flexibility of selecting full- and half-window configurations to optimize the display of available information. Intuitive icons and menus make screen reconfiguration quick and easy. Image © Rockwell Collins


The overarching idea for the Pro Line Fusion integrated avionics system is to change how pilot’s view and interact with flight and performance data. In years past, how data was viewed was fixed. Furthermore, if there were options for changing the format of the data (for example, in a GPS) a labyrinth of menus would have to be drilled through to change something. Now, one simply touches the data they want to interact with. Whether adding an overlay, such as weather radar or synthetic vision with HTAWS, or changing where data is displayed, it can be done intuitively by touching.


The system includes both primary flight displays (PFDs) and MFDs. The PFD is the display that would be centered in front of the pilot positions and provides all primary flight instrumentation. It may be overlaid


on top of synthetic vision and terrain in order to increase situational awareness. MFDs are typically placed in the center of the instrument panel as well as on the center console. On MFD-1 you might have a moving map display with weather and navigation overlays, while MFD-2 could be configured to a two-window view which might display PFD info, an engine performance app, a checklist app, an infrared widget, or a NAV/COM widget.


TALE OF THE TAPE


The Pro Line Fusion intuitive layout is adaptable to all helicopter missions: EMS, offshore transport, and mountain and maritime search and rescue. It offers a variety of innovative technologies designed to reduce pilot workload and enhance situational awareness, including:


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