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Throughout most of the history of manned flight, pilots received the information they needed to fly an aircraft by either looking out the window for visual cues or at the instruments in their cockpit. The binary choice was simply a reflection of the limitations of the technology and human abilities.


The very idea of being able to retrieve critical aircraft flight information while ‘heads up’ was derived from military needs for pilots, to keep their eyes on the target while still flying the airplane. This would often happen in precarious conditions such as high speed and low altitudes. Early development of ‘heads up’ technology was led primarily by the British.


However, it was a brilliant young French engineer and test pilot named Gilbert Klopfstein whose unique ideas about how to present important information to the pilot in the cockpit would steer the future development of this critical technology which has been incorporated into the Falcon Jet product line.


Klopfstein attended the prestigious SUP’AERO school of aeronautics and entered the French Air Force as a test pilot. His career included work on the Matra air-to-ground missile program and experiments on variable stability and CG flights using a dedicated Mirage IIIB s/n 225. This research would later be used in the Concord SST program which changed its center of gravity by shifting fuel.


EARLY HUD DEVELOPMENT Meanwhile, the British were using the Blackburn Buccaneer – a low altitude, fast attack bomber – as a platform to develop the budding idea of ‘heads up’ flying. Elliot Flight Automation (which became Cintel-Elliot, Marconi Elliot and then BAE) took a gyro stabilized gunsight, added Altitude and Airspeed information in addition to the gun/bombsight symbols and created in 1958 the “Strike Sight”.


In the United States, the first two significant aircraft to use head- up displays were the A-7D/E Corsair II and the AV-8A. Both aircraft were single seat ground attack aircraft.


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