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TRAJECTORY


During the approach on a cold and snowy night, he looked out the windshield at the snowflakes illuminated in his landing light and became fascinated that all the snowflakes appeared to come from a single point in space… and at that moment he theorized that that point represented the real time trajectory of where the plane was going.


Again the impetus was to keep the pilots attention outside during low level attack missions. The A-7D Corsair II used a version of the British Marconi-Elliot HUD called a HUDWAC (for heads up display weapons aiming computer). Like the British version, it used what was called “unregistered pitch guidance” with no attempt at making the symbology “conformal” to the outside world. The HUD merely repeated what was available heads down putting the information where the pilot could see it while looking outside.


THE ‘EUREKA’ MOMENT It was Gilbert Klopfstein who conceived a much more useful role for the Heads Up Display, that of showing the aircraft’s trajectory and energy overlaid on the outside world. His ‘eureka moment’ came during a challenging night PAR guided approach in a snowstorm.


During the approach on a cold and snowy night, he looked out the windshield at the snowflakes illuminated in his landing light and became fascinated that all the snowflakes appeared to come from a single point in space… and at that moment he theorized that point represented the real time trajectory of where the plane was going. The concept might seem self-evident or even insignificant, but that moment crystalized an idea that would become the cornerstone of path based modern aviation avionics and how they present critical flight information to pilots.


F ALCONER ISSUE 49


Acting on his hunch, Klopfstein returned to his base to ask permission to conduct research on his belief that he could present that ‘path’ information to the pilot on a heads-up display that would show its projection onto the real world. Because he was both a brilliant engineer as well as a superb test pilot, he was able to both design the equipment and refine the concepts he believed in. After more than 400 flights using his own equipment design and tweaking of what information was displayed, he created the first path-based, conformal Heads-Up Display, forever changing how we fly.


FLYING SOLO WITH A NEW IDEA But, as sometimes happens when new, radical ideas are presented that go against the accepted, traditional way, they often have a hard time gaining acceptance amongst professionals. Klopfsteins’ discoveries were not immediately embraced by his peers, but there were some who saw the breakthrough concepts in his ideas. Initially, Klopfstein had a hard time convincing pilots that he had come up with a better way to fly.


His breakthrough realization of depicting path and energy up where a pilot could see their effects superimposed on the outside world were not immediately evident to all, but would eventually pioneer the use of path and runway symbology that overlaid (i.e., was conformal) with the real world. The synthetic runway,


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