Air Transport World

Day for night: FedEx is banking on enhanced vision systems to improve its performance while boosting safety, but passenger airlines have a tough time making the business case.(Avionics)

Federal Express's early-October announcement that it will fit an enhanced vision system to its entire fleet ofA300s, A310s, MD-10s and MD-11s was a massive breakthrough for EVS developers. The 200-airplane commitment, the first endorsement of EVS by a Major carrier, almost doubled the backlog of orders.

EVS, first certificated on Gulfstream business jets in 2002, comprises a head-up display and an infrared sensor that projects a video image of the scene ahead of the airplane on the HUD screen. It provides the pilot with a clear--if green-tinted--view of the world at night and, to some degree, can penetrate fog and rain.

Under the FAA rules for the system on Gulfstream business jets, EVS makes it possible to land in poor visibility that otherwise would force a go-around and diversion. On a Category I approach--the most common form of instrument landing system, comprising almost 90% of ILS approaches worldwide--the normal decision height is 200 ft. If the crew cannot see runway lights at that point they must go around. With EVS, if the crew can see the lights at 200 ft. they can continue to 100 ft. If the lights are visible without EVS at that point, they can land.

But EVS has some distance to cover before it becomes a routine sight in the airliner cockpit. FedEx won't finish its modification program until 2012. The current rules apply to privately owned, nonpublic-transport aircraft under FAR Part 91 and FAA has not determined yet whether it will provide any formal benefits for Part 121 public transport operations--for example, allowing an EVS-equipped flight to be dispatched in conditions where a non-EVS aircraft would have to wait on the ground. …

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