You hear about it from time to time on the news -- a near-miss as a jetliner makes an approach to land on a busy taxiway rather than a runway. It happened last July in San Francisco. An Air Canada flight almost landed on the taxiway filled with four other jets.
There are several reasons this happens. A common one is visibility, or the lack thereof. Whether it's night, fog, rain, or a combination, visibility is important.
What if there was technology to allow a pilot to look out and see a bright, clear, sunny day all the time? What if the pilot could receive a warning that he or she was about to land on a taxiway?
Honeywell Aerospace, which has major operations in Redmond, Washington, is testing out what is called the SmartView Synthetic Vision System -- think of it as a virtual picture for pilots. KING 5 took a ride with Honeywell at its flight operations center based in Phoenix.
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Honeywell uses a Falcon 9 business jet to develop new technologies.
"The whole goal for this is to make like flying on a clear day any day," said pilot Bryan Weaver.
Using SmartView, pilots at altitude on our test flight could see the ground, lakes, mountains, and plenty of Arizona desert. No matter how dark or low the visibility gets, the display the pilot sees looks more like a sunny picture. It can also be combined with an infrared camera located in the airplane's nose.
"It’s based on infrared from heat signature. Up at altitude, you’re going to be able to see through clouds. You’re going to be able to see other aircraft that might be passing by," said Adam Gavrich, the flight test engineer.
"The goal is that the image I see heads down, is very similar to the image I see heads up," said Weaver.
"So now that we have the infrared camera on, not only can you see the runways, you can see taxi layouts, you can see that 737 taxiing out," said Weaver.
It can also warn pilots of unexpected hazards.
"But really, where the value from this infrared and combined image is, is when you’re landing. You’re on final, imagine the weather is poor, you’re going into a mountainous airport, so there’s terrain about, but there could also be even animals running across the runway," said Gavrich
SmartView is already installed in a jetliner for Norway's Wideroe Airlines. It flies in Scandinavian country with plenty of mountains and bad weather.