Flight Deck Tech

Many people ascend the Gulfstream air stair and turn right without ever considering the flight deck. Here’s why all of that advanced technology matters to those in the cabin.
technology, aviation, avionics, ownership
Written By J. Mac McClellan
Photography By Randal Vanderveer

In 1984 Dell computers was founded and Apple debuted the Macintosh personal computer, bringing advanced technology into everyday life. That same year, Gulfstream advanced aviation when it introduced the world to the first digital electronic flight deck, replacing traditional mechanical dials, instruments and spinning gyros with a system of television-style displays. This technology, known as the “glass cockpit,” is now ubiquitous in business and commercial aviation. Today, Gulfstream continues to lead the industry in every step of advanced flight deck technology and safety innovation.

Advancing state-of-the-art technology on the flight deck helps make the job of the pilot easier, less stressful and more intuitive. Gulfstream’s continuous investment in cockpit technology development is important to passengers, too. That’s because each breakthrough that enhances safety and efficiency also improves passenger flight experience.

The Glass Cockpit

The door the first “glass cockpit” opened led to vastly improved situational awareness. That means knowing where you are, where you are going, and where any potential risk from nearby weather, terrain or other traffic may lie. It is the fundamental information every pilot needs to make informed and wise decisions while flying.

Before the “glass cockpit,” pilots had to imagine a 3-D puzzle, positioning and overlaying the aircraft’s location, weather, obstructions, traffic and path to destination by interpreting an array of mechanical instruments—each of which provided only a single piece of the puzzle. In all Gulfstream jets since 1984, pilots can view a single display where all of that essential flight information is presented in a manner that can be quickly understood.

Synthetic Vision: Eyes on the Horizon

Gulfstream didn’t stop with the basics of showing pilots an overall picture. The avionics experts and test pilots who create Gulfstream cockpits soon realized they could use advanced computers to produce a synthetic representation of the real world surrounding the aircraft.

Instead of showing only a simple course line leading to the destination airport, Gulfstream’s industry-first Synthetic Vision-Primary Flight Display (SV-PFD) shows pilots the terrain, obstructions, and runway ahead. With Synthetic Vision, the flat line of the artificial horizon is replaced by a dynamic map that uses environmental colors and textures to make surroundings immediately understandable.

Seeing is Believing: Enhanced Vision

Gulfstream’s Enhanced Vision System (EVS) also gives pilots a real-time view of the terrain and runway—even where unaided vision may be hindered by clouds or darkness. Using an infrared camera mounted in the aircraft’s nose, EVS penetrates clouds and darkness to show pilots the actual runway and any obstructions of which they may need to be aware.

EVS also improves the efficiency and utility of Gulfstream jets because pilots can safely land when low cloud ceilings and restricted visibility force lesser jets to divert to an alternate airport for safe landing.

Combining the real-time image of EVS with the computer-generated Synthetic Vision presents the most complete picture of what lies ahead of the aircraft and the runway.

Head-Up Display

Another essential component in the advanced Gulfstream flight deck is the head-up display (HUD), a glass lens positioned in the pilot’s line of sight. The display presents crucial information such as airspeed, altitude and approach course guidance, allowing the pilot’s eyes to remain focused on the distance beyond the windshield.

Gulfstream also shows the EVS picture of what’s ahead on the head-up display. That means that, in the pilot’s line of sight, an augmented view of the aircraft’s surroundings merges seamlessly with the actual runway and airport environment, so there is no need for the pilot to divert attention from the landing touchdown zone ahead.

Weather Watcher

Most recently, Gulfstream has added an optional smart 3-D weather radar to the vast array of essential tools provided to pilots of large-cabin aircraft. Earlier radars use tightly focused beams—like a flashlight beam sweeping a dark room—to probe for severe weather and turbulence ahead, so pilots only see a small part of the picture at any given time.

The new “smart” radar in Gulfstream aircraft conducts rapid scans of the entire potential storm cloud ahead and compiles a picture of the threat showing both vertical and horizontal dimensions of weather conditions. The radar also employs storm characteristic data to analyze the target and locate areas of potential turbulence to avoid. The new radar enhances safety, but also serves to improve the ride for passengers. Many cloud formations that pose no risk to fly through can create considerable turbulence. The new radar identifies those and helps Gulfstream pilots avoid the bumps.

Relentless Pursuit

For the past 30 years, Gulfstream has led the industry by developing and introducing these and many other advanced flight deck technologies to increase safety and efficiency.

Gulfstream aircraft are world-renowned for high speed, long range and very comfortable passenger cabins, but it is flight deck technology leadership that helps make each flight safer and more comfortable and efficient—something that matters regardless of whether you turn right or left upon boarding the aircraft.

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