Technology Aiding Pilots

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While the FAA struggles with STARS, there's a steady stream of innovation helping pilots get the job done more safely and efficiently. A wake-turbulence detector and a collision-avoidance system for small aircraft are under development and a wind-shear detector has already been installed in New York, not far from where American Flight 587 last year crashed after a possible wake turbulence encounter. Also, those visiting the site of the first sustained three-axis controlled powered flight at Kitty Hawk will be able to use the latest in point-click-and-drag weather information for the flight home from Kill Devil Hills. A small Connecticut company says it's developed a system to detect wake turbulence. Flight Safety Technologies is expecting about $4.5 million in federal grants to bring the Sensor for Optically Characterizing Remote Acoustic Turbulence Emitting Sound (SOCRATES) system to market. The company is also working on the Universal Collision Obviation and Reduced Near-Miss (UNICORN) system, a collision-avoidance and ground proximity warning device for small aircraft. We can't wait to see what their acronym writer comes up with next.

Down in Brooklyn, the Terminal Doppler Weather Radar System (TDWR) started warning pilots at LaGuardia and Kennedy of potential wind shear conditions last week. It took 28 years from the crash of an Eastern Airlines Boeing 727 in 1975 to get the system into operation. At Kitty Hawk, the Wrights used their own senses to gauge the weather. Pilots using First Flight Airport in Kill Devil Hills to visit the historic site will be able to use Meteorlogix's MxVision AviationSentry to learn about weather on their intended route. By simply dragging the computer mouse along the proposed flight path, the system gathers all the weather and regulatory information for the route, including cloud tops, winds, turbulence, AIRMETs, SIGMETs, METARs, NOTAMs and TFRs and then provides on-line flight-plan filing.