Proposed Technology for Safer Bad Weather Landings

With an increasing number of aircraft taking to the skies every year, the aviation industry is constantly looking at ways to make flying safer. Taking-off and landing are statistically the most risky part of air travel, so new technology aimed at making landing in bad weather safer is good news for both the aviation industry and for passengers. According to data from the United States Department of Transportation, inclement weather is the cause for more than 40 percent of delays in flights in the United States. In a recent FAA study it was revealed that the cost of delays and cancellation of flights could be as high as $6.7 billion a year.

By means of an infrared camera mounted on the nose of an airplane, the new technology will enable the pilot to see potential obstacles, such as air-traffic control towers and mountains, which would usually be obscured by bad weather conditions. Using Global Positioning System data, the camera and cockpit screen will provide real-time infrared camera images to aid pilots in making a safe landing.

Larisa Parks of Honeywell International, the developers and manufacturers of the new technology, noted that pilots would be able to see the runway upon approach, regardless of what visibility conditions may be like. The improved visibility would allow pilots to reduce the landing minimum from its current limit of an altitude of 200 feet to 100 feet. Chief pilot of corporate aviation for Honeywell, Ronald Weight, noted that pilots make the decision on whether to attempt landing in bad weather, or divert to another airport, based on whether they can see the runway clearly enough with the naked eye. The new technology of the enhanced vision system will make the runway clearly visible to pilots giving them the advantage of being able to land safely in conditions which may have previously led them to divert.

In addition to the enhanced vision system of the infrared camera, Honeywell has a comprehensive database of runways, along with 90,000 images and positions of man-made and natural obstacles. The goal is to use the two technologies – enhanced vision system and synthetic vision system – to make landing in bad weather a safer experience. This will also cut costs of diverting to alternative airports, or delays and cancellations of flights due to bad weather.