Gulfstream EVS Sharpens Its Sight

Higher resolution, wider field of view boost performance

As a Gulfstream aircraft approaches landing, it’s traveling approximately 10 feet per second. So at 100 feet above ground level—the final moment to commit to touchdown—a pilot has about 10 seconds to evaluate all the changing conditions in the air and on the ground. All while traveling about 144 miles per hour.

Now consider that landing when the pilot is making the decision at night, in low visibility, during a rainstorm or as snow is blowing across the runway. Having the best possible picture of what lies ahead becomes all the more important.

Little wonder, then, that Gulfstream was the leading innovator and first to introduce an enhanced vision system for business aircraft. Gulfstream unveiled EVS in 2001 for the Gulfstream GV. Sixteen years later, Gulfstream is poised to be the first business jet manufacturer to introduce EVS 3 as part of its newest aircraft, the Gulfstream G500. EVS 3 will be standard equipment for the G500, anticipated to enter into service in the coming months, and the Gulfstream G600, scheduled for entry into service in 2018.

The new EVS imaging is four times sharper, has a wider field of view and provides the highest resolution available in private aviation, says Fred Taylor, a Gulfstream electronics specialist who helped develop the newest version. It’s now so finely attuned, Taylor says, that it detects birds in flight—important information when an aircraft is on approach.

“In a low-visibility situation what’s critical is being able to pull out the light to see what’s in front of you. The sharpness on this is sensational.”

“It’s very sensitive,” he says. “It gives pilots a really pretty picture, even when there’s smoke, blowing snow, even smog.”

Chip King, a Gulfstream engineering test pilot, says the improved EVS provides an image so sharp it looks like monochromatic HDTV.

“It’s easier for the pilot to interpret the scene,” King says. “In a low-visibility situation what’s critical is being able to pull out the light to see what’s in front of you. The sharpness on this is sensational.”

Improved safety is an important reason to have EVS, but there are logistical practicalities, too. Aircraft equipped with EVS are cleared to fly into airports in low-visibility situations; aircraft without EVS risk having to reroute to a different airport, which could be hours from the desired destination.

Gulfstream was the first aircraft manufacturer granted permission from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to continue a landing approach down to 100 feet above the runway using only EVS.

Another meaningful application: EVS is also used to navigate the aircraft off the runway and onto the apron or into a waiting hangar. Airport vehicles, other aircraft and buildings create many opportunities for a plane to go “bump” in the night, which could result in costly repairs to the aircraft.

EVS uses an infrared camera positioned below the pilot’s forward line of sight. Infrared images show temperature differences, so even at night, when human eyes are less effective, the camera detects the different heat levels between a runway and the grass bordering it on either side. Surrounding buildings and vehicles also have different temperature readings, so they stand out, too. Deer or coyotes on or near the runway can be detected. As a result, even if it’s dark outside, the pilot can see and understand what’s happening in front of the aircraft.

EVS is best used when paired with the glass screen of the head-up display. Data and guide symbols from the EVS are projected on the screen, which is positioned in front of the pilot’s forward view. The EVS data is overlaid on the outside view, meaning the pilot can get the EVS information without ever taking eyes off the approach. The HUD screen also displays altitude and airspeed. That gives pilots all the information they need for landing, all clearly presented directly in front of them. Without HUD, pilots would constantly be looking up and down between the runway and the instruments. Each time, the eyes have to adjust to the different views and lighting conditions. That may only take a second or two, but when a pilot is monitoring speed and altitude, adjusting throttle and flaps, compensating for a crosswind and keeping watch for any other planes in the airspace and possible obstacles on the runway, those seconds become valuable.

In developing the first EVS, Gulfstream program manager Bob Morris and Gulfstream experimental test pilot Gary Freeman researched and refined the system for seven years, flying for hundreds of hours in challenging weather before seeking FAA certification. An FAA flight test engineer flew 80 approaches using EVS at night and in all kinds of weather before granting approval for the first system.

With EVS 3, Gulfstream again partnered with Kollsman Inc., which develops infrared technology. As before, the advancements developed led to another request for regulatory change with the FAA, one that allows Gulfstream aircraft to use EVS all the way to landing.

The work involved is not innovation for innovation’s sake. Gulfstream commits to such advancements when they provide clear benefits to customers and their flight experience. With EVS, that means even more safety and improved airport accessibility.

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