Air Transport World

Out of the fog: Southwest's order of Flight Dynamics' head-up guidance system for its fleet is a breakthrough for the HGS pioneer. (Southwest Airlines)(Cockpit Concerns) (Cover Story)

Late last August, Southwest Airlines announced that it had ordered Flight Dynamics' head-up guidance systems for its entire fleet of modern-technology Boeing 737s--236 dash 300s and 500s, and new, on-order dash 700s.

Flight Dynamics has paid its dues. After two changes of ownership--it was bought in 1991 by Hughes, which sold it to Rockwell Collins and Kaiser Electronics in 1993--Flight Dynamics established a firm foothold in the Pacific Northwest, with Alaska Airlines, Horizon Air and Morris. Also by 1991, after almost a decade of work, it had a reliable product that offers real benefits. But the big breakthrough eluded the company until August.

The Southwest order doubled Flight Dynamics' backlog. Also, Southwest is the airline that others watch nervously over their shoulders and the story of how that carrier came to buy HGSs could point to a fundamental change in all-weather aircraft operations.

Selling new technology into an airline is difficult. Accountants can be persuaded to buy new airplanes, because resale value and mobility limit an airline's losses. But they fear that a new gadget such as a HGS or an electronic library system will become as hot an item as an 8-track tape player if it fails to catch on. So they insist that any such device must pay for itself in two years at the outside, and often much sooner.

Today, Southwest is an all-Cat. I airline that trains crews and maintains equipment to the least-rigorous precision approach standard. …

Log in to your account to read this article – and millions more.