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Frontiers June 2014 Issue

crews are in the works. Using recently developed capabilities for gathering real-time data, Boeing engineers and pilots are working on next-generation applications that, when coupled with satellites, broadband, tablets and Wi-Fi, are taking the commercial airplane flight deck into a future far beyond radar and radio. “The most significant change in my career is how digital the airplane has become,” said Darcy-Hennemann, who was one of the test pilots for the 777, Boeing’s first commercial jetliner that used fly-by-wire technology, where flight control mechanical inputs are converted to digital signals transmitted by wires. Now, she said, flight decks have an added dimension—connectivity. Broadband and Wi-Fi are making it possible to exchange information in real time from sources on the ground, in the air and in space. It means turning an 42 Frontiers June 2014 airplane into a “node,” or connection point, on a communications network with global potential. That opens up exciting possibilities, according to Bob Myers, Commercial Airplanes flight-deck chief engineer. “We really want to take advantage of the information explosion and make the airplane a node in the clouds,” Myers said. In April, Boeing completed flight testing of a flight-deck display that will allow pilots to pinpoint the identity and movements of nearby aircraft with far greater accuracy. Already pilots can use real-time information about wind and weather up ahead—even hours away—to change routing or altitude so they stay on schedule and save fuel, or avoid severe turbulence. In fact, flight decks are expected to play a big part in reaching an industry goal of reducing fuel consumption in commercial airplanes by 15 percent. “That’s what we’re going after and that is what customers will pay for,” said Mike Carriker, Boeing Test & Evaluation chief pilot for New Airplane Product Development. “And the biggest advancement will be because of communications and Wi-Fi.” Flight-deck technology—and even how many people are needed in the flight deck to fly the airplane and monitor all the equipment and systems—has come a long way since Carriker learned to fly at age 17 on a grass field in Kansas. By then, Boeing flight decks had already undergone numerous (Continued on Page 44) PHOTOS: (Below) The flight deck of Boeing’s Stratocruiser in 1947 had to accommodate an array of mechanical gauges and a flight engineer to monitor them. BOEING ARCHIVES (Right) The advanced flight deck on the 787 Dreamliner features many innovative technologies. BOEING


Frontiers June 2014 Issue
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