Air Transport World

Flat future faces cockpit displays. (flat panel displays research)

Reign of the cathode ray tube as the leading edge of cockpit display technology will be brief, even in terms of the usually fast pace of aviation developments, if the promise of flat panel displays becomes reality.

When Boeing recently announced it would wait for new technology before launching its new 150-seater the company detailed a long shopping list of developing technologies, among which was flat panel displays. The attributes of flat panel displays cited by Boeing Executive VP Joseph F. Sutter include 60% less volume than existing CRT displays, 70% less weight, 50% less cost, 80% less power drain, a 10-fold improvement in the mean time between failures and, due to a sharp reduction in heat generated by the panels in relation to CRTs, virtual elimination of instrument cooling systems. These prospects, combined with the interest exhibited by such a major manufacturer as Boeing, naturally attracted attention to flat panels. Majority of flat panels under development now really are flat, with a depth of around one-half inch.

Basic display

The most basic flat panel display has been in everyday use for more than a decade. The liquid crystal display (LCD) is a flat panel display that, due to its low cost, low power needs and flexibility, has become a common fixture in watches, clocks and small instrument displays, even appearing in aircraft cockpits as engine instruments and fuel gauges, for example.

Liquid crystal displays work great in the cockpit environment. Being a reflective display, high ambient light conditionsdo not degrade the LCD's viewability, so to speak. Quite the contrary, the brighter the ambient light, the easier LCDs are to read. And at night or in low-light situations an LCD can be easily illuminated by a small light source behind the display. While some LCDs have a limited viewing angle, variations of the technology virtually eliminate that as a serious cockpit problem. …

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