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EAA AirVenture Today is published by the Experimental Aircraft Association for EAA AirVenture from July 27 - August 3. It is distributed free on the convention grounds as well as other locations in Oshkosh and surrounding communities. Stories and photos are copyrighted 2008 by EAA AirVenture Today and EAA. Reproduction by any means is prohibited without written consent.


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The official daily newspaper of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh

Volume 9, Number 8 August 3, 2008     

eSky OZ Graphical PFD – 21st century nav for the cockpit
By George Wilhelmsen

The OZ PFD shows a completely different view of the flight displays.

When you look at the instruments used to fly in instrument conditions, they have not changed significantly in the last 80 years or so. We still use an artificial horizon to keep the aircraft level, a directional gyro (DG) or horizontal situation indicator (HSI) to determine which direction we are heading, and the usual airspeed, altitude, and vertical speed indications to help the pilot figure out whether they are going up or down in the sky.

Today’s modern glass panels largely replicate this equipment. While some round gauges are replaced with tape indications on the side of the display, the artificial horizon is still depicted using the blue sky over the brown or black "ground," and the HSI or DG still largely use a compass rose, or a compass arc in some cases, to help the pilot guide the aircraft.

That is what caused us to stop when we passed by the eSky booth in the D Hangar, Booth 4112, since what we saw there looked more like something out of Star Trek than an aircraft cockpit. Oddly enough, that is exactly what Steven Fritz of eSky was trying to achieve.

"The instruments in your cockpit today are for the most part, the same ones that were originally developed for ‘blind flight,’ which was what flight in instrument conditions was considered," Fritz explained. "The OZ PFD replaces those images with a graphical display of key performance parameters."

The idea behind the OZ PFD is simple: to cut down on pilot workload by giving them a better display. "The current systems, whether discrete instruments or the new PFDs, require that the pilot scan several instruments, and construct a mental image of where they are in the sky," said Fritz. "The OZ PFD synthetic vision allows the pilot to obtain all that information and fly the plane without having to assemble that mental picture, since it is all laid out in front of them."

I tried a test instrument landing system (ILS) approach on the OZ graphical PFD. The display was different from anything I had ever seen before. It included several levels of colored squares on the horizon; a line to note course deviation similar to that seen on an HIS; indications of altitude, airspeed, and vertical speed; and four "wings" on the edge of the horizon, which give pilots an idea of how fast they are going, all in one display. Basically, the direction for using the system is to put the circle on the indicator where you want to go.

While it took us a few minutes to get the hang of the display, once I figured out how it worked and to fly to the line of bold squares while maintaining my heading, it was really quite easy to fly with. At the end of the approach, I could see where I ended up in the runway environment, since the OZ PFD was running in parallel with a Microsoft Flight Simulator. The results were positive – in spite of having sat down and worked basically cold with this new indicator, with a little coaching, I flew an approach down to minimums and was almost on top of the runway centerline.

The OZ PFD received a 2007 NASA Small Business Innovation Research Award to study OZ in comparison to integrated avionics PFDs. In a Microsoft Flight Simulator X environment, certified flight instructor instrument (CFII) test subjects flew an instrument landing system (ILS) approach with high and shifting winds using the simulator’s Garmin G1000 panel, and then again with the OZ PFD. The results were impressive–the CFIIs flew with twice the precision with the OZ PFD as they did using the G1000 display.

eSky is demonstrating this system at AirVenture to search for a company to pair up with, in order to bring this technology into the market, as well as for a company that may be able to provide the startup venture capital. If you are interested in seeing this innovative new product and even trying to fly your own ILS approach, visit eSky Booth 4112 in Hangar D, or visit the company website at www.fly-esky.com, where you can also download a version of OZ compatible with the Microsoft Flight Simulator X.

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