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Garmin’s G1000 integrated flight deck helped pave the way for the demise of round gauges in general aviation cockpits, and on Tuesday Garmin said it’s announcing a successor to the popular suite, the G1000 NXi. The new product is faster and offers a “superior feature set,” the company said. The new system is available as an upgrade for current users or as an all-new installation. Garmin said they have FAA approval to install the NXi in the King Air 200 and expect approval for the King Air 300/350 soon. Currently, about 16,000 aircraft worldwide use the G1000 flight deck.

The G1000 NXi system’s upgraded processing power supports faster map rendering and smoother panning throughout the displays, the company said, while consuming less power from the aircraft system. The new displays also boot up faster, initializing within seconds after startup, and they’re brighter and more clear, making them easier to read. Other new features include wireless cockpit connectivity, enhanced situational awareness with SurfaceWatch runway identification/alerting technology, visual approaches and map overlay on the HSI. Deliveries are expected to start next month.

Larry Anglisano, editor of AVweb's sister publication Aviation Consumer, tried out the system in a flight demo recently. Look for a report on the G1000 NXi in the February 2017 issue of Aviation Consumer, available in about a week. For a video on the new system, check out this link.


SpaceX said on Monday it has completed its investigation into the explosive fire that destroyed a rocket on Sept. 1, and added that it will launch again Sunday, with an Iridium satellite payload. Investigators determined that one of the three pressure vessels inside the second-stage liquid oxygen tank failed, SpaceX said in a statement posted on Twitter. “Specifically, the investigation team concluded the failure was likely due to the accumulation of oxygen between the COPV [composite overwrapped pressure vessel] liner and overwrap in a void or a buckle in the liner, leading to ignition and the subsequent failure of the COPV,” the company said. Officials from the FAA, NTSB, and the U.S. Air Force collaborated with SpaceX in the investigation.

The September explosion destroyed the company’s Falcon 9 rocket and the launchpad, as well as the rocket’s cargo, a communications satellite that was to be launched under contract with an Israeli company. The investigative team identified several possible causes that led to the problem, SpaceX said, and all of those possibilities have been addressed. In the long term, the company added, the design of the COPVs will be modified to prevent buckles altogether, which also will allow for faster loading operations. Sunday’s launch will take place from Vandenberg's Space Launch Complex 4E in California.

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A baggage handler was trapped inside the baggage area of a United Express Embraer 175 regional jet on Sunday while the jet flew from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Dulles Airport, in Washington, D.C., according to various news reports on Tuesday. The flight took off about 3 p.m. and landed on schedule about 90 minutes later. “An employee of the airline’s ground-handling vendor was found unharmed in the aircraft’s cargo hold,” United Express said in a statement to Charlotte’s local Fox news station. The airline said it is investigating the incident. The baggage handler, identified as Reginald Gaskin, 45, told a Washington Post reporter his lawyer advised him not to discuss the matter, adding, “I thank God. He was with me.”

The jet flew to 27,000 feet, according to the Post. United officials told the Charlotte Observer the cargo hold was temperature-controlled and pressurized. Crews became aware the handler might be aboard, and emergency crews were ready after landing and immediately accessed the hold to release him. Similar incidents have occurred at least four times since 2005, according to the Observer; all of the handlers survived. The flight was operated by Mesa Airlines.

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A report written by a British Airways cabin-crew director, and seen by The Sunday Times of London, said the flight attendants aboard an A380 that took off from San Francisco for London then diverted to land in Vancouver, Canada, last month, were vomiting and acting strangely in response to toxic fumes in the cabin. Some of the attendants appeared disoriented. One curled up on the floor with a blanket over his head. Others seemed to wander in the cabin. Twelve crew members displayed symptoms that gave “cause for concern,” the report said, according to the Times. They reported dizziness, lightheadedness, headaches, nausea, itchy red eyes, aggression, forgetfulness, confusion and more. Eight of the nine crew on the upper deck, plus the captain, used emergency oxygen.

The airplane had more than 400 passengers on board. All 25 crew members were taken to local hospitals for evaluation where they were checked and released. None of the passengers were checked and they reported they were left on the aircraft for about 30 minutes after the entire crew disembarked. Toxic fumes in the cabin created a strong noxious smell similar to burning plastic, according to the Times. The flight had taken off in San Francisco, with a destination of Heathrow, outside of London. It was over Regina, Saskatchewan, about 1,200 miles from Vancouver, when the flight was diverted first to Calgary and finally to Vancouver. The diversion took more than two hours.

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Each week, we poll the savviest aviators on the World Wide Web (that's you) on a topic of interest to the flying community.

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I’m sure I’m not the only one hearing this question: A friend or relative reports that a son or daughter is interested in a piloting career and, well, you’re a pilot, what’s your advice? I field this query carefully.

While I think the profession definitely has legs, my concern is that in the next two decades—if not sooner—automated and autonomous flight will have developed sufficiently to put downward pressure on both wages and the number and kind of flying jobs available. So if a kid asks the question now and he or she is 18, 20 years from now will be 2037 and our would-be careerist will be 38—not even mid-career. Who among us thinks aviation and especially for-hire flying will look like it does now?

I’ve been interested in this for awhile and I’m currently reading Rise of the Machines: A Cybernetic History by Thomas Rid. The author quotes an early cybernetic researcher, Norbert Wiener, as having written this of emerging automation in the late 1950s: “It is perfectly clear that this will produce an unemployment situation in comparison with which … the depression of the thirties will seem a pleasant joke.”

He overstated the case, right? So far, yes. But the truth is that majority of the jobs that evaporated from the industrial Midwest didn’t go to China, they were phased out in favor of automation. No one knows with a high degree of confidence what will happen in the next 20 years, or even 10. But companies in the aviation business have to plan for a future they can’t predict, so I asked various people in the industry when flight autonomy or automation will noticeably impact the workforce. Here’s what they told me:

You are asking a tough question. My quick answer is that we are at least 10 to 15 years away before there is true autonomous capability in manned critical aircraft. The key is how quickly the software can develop to effectively deal with crisis situations in a truly dynamic way. Although machines can now beat us in strategy games such as chess and Go, it is because they can run the simulations so fast they examine all alternatives. 

However, speed is relative as they still take time to reach the correct move. Such time is not available in a complex situation such as an aircraft moving at 500 knots. The best example I can give is Sully. The textbook said turn, Sully said glide and land straight ahead. 

It is definitely coming, but I still think it will not impact pilots for another decade plus. One side thing for me is does this impact GA (piston range) where people fly because they want to have some involvement in pointing the plane? Conversely, does it revive the industry by taking the low-annual-flight-time pilot risk out of the equation and allow more people to fly because it is one button from start to landing?

Rhett Ross
Continental Motors

I guess the answer would be this: When do you believe people will be transported autonomously? While the technical ability will be there in three to five years, it still would be another five for regulatory changes, so a total of 10 years.

Then many years to get people comfortable with the concept. So the long answer is 15 years at the earliest, but my real belief is never. Looking at population growth, air-carrier capacity, people’s acceptance of new modes of transportation, it all adds up to airlines that will need pilots now and into the future. It will not be a career in danger of shrinking. Add the pilot retirement problem and the next 15 years is boom time for new pilot careers.

Jack Pelton
EAA Chairman and former Cessna CEO

I think it will not impact pilot hiring and if I have to guess, I think, it will actually favorably impact pilot hiring. Autonomous flight capability is going to not just extend by a little, but by a lot utilization of aircraft, and GA in particular.

Technology is a way to reach out to masses and make something for a few available to more people. Our aviation system is still qualified by expertise. With autonomous flight capability, the pilot skills will be reduced to more monitoring rather than piloting, thus opening aviation to a much larger variety of candidates.

It is a huge opportunity for aviation. And commercial airlines, particular low-cost companies, have clearly understood that pilots are no longer the highest compensation in the salary scheme. Good or bad, we will leave an era for aviators to flyers with safer and simpler aircraft to fly.

Nic Chabbert

Behind the curtain, aircraft manufacturers are working on a single-pilot cockpit where the airplane can be controlled from the ground and only in case of malfunction does the pilot of the plane interfere.

Basically the flight will be autonomous and I expect this to happen in the next five to six years for freighters. For GA, autonomous flying capable aircraft are mainly a safety factor.

Christian Dries
Diamond Aircraft Austria

Not a clue, I'm afraid.

Richard Aboulafia
Teal Group

We have just been having this discussion inside Lycoming. As you know, we’re part of Textron Systems and the unmanned unit supplies UAV/RPV system soup-to-nuts, meaning from the aircraft operator to the ground station to the aircraft itself for multiple platforms (Aerosonde, Gray Eagle, Shadow, Orion).

You phrased the question using the words “autonomous flight capability.” I’d say “autonomous” is a pretty expansive and broad definition. That will be awhile. A better word may be “manned-unmanned teaming” or “augmented flight capability” that enables fewer (or lesser skilled) pilots to control the aircraft. Or one pilot to control multiple aircraft. The augmented situation is happening now (and has been happening) with flight engineers and navigators no longer in the cockpit and operators (not pilots) controlling UAVs with waypoint instructions. 

For the broader impact, the maturity of the military-use systems is at a point now where (my opinion) you are not talking about reliability problems with the technology. So technology readiness level is not the inhibitor. What will pace the impact will be the acceptance by people of people not being in the cockpit, whether by politicians, the FAA, the pilot unions or the passengers buying tickets. 

If there are people in the aircraft – whether military or civilian – they will want to see a warm body that they think is the pilot who did the walk-around to ensure the aircraft was safe to fly. But in 10 to 20 years, you may not see two people up front and you may not see multiple crews on long-haul flights. The skilled pilot will be engaged, whether from the cockpit or the ground remotely, when an unanticipated event occurs that the augmented flight toolkit was not programmed to handle.

So to answer your question, I think it’s happening now. But it’s not driverless-car autonomy. It’s humans augmented by machines to control complex equipment with simpler commands. Like Sulu controlling the Enterprise single handedly versus a hundred engineers launching Apollo.

Michael Kraft
Lycoming Engines

Maybe I am really old school, but I can’t see that happening in my lifetime. They are doing autonomous bus trials in Germany in 2022, I believe, which is not far away at all and seems harder to me than flying an airplane airport to airport.

But aviation is so conservative. I can certainly see autonomous flight becoming more mainstream, but to launch an airliner full of pax on a regular basis, I think we are very far away. That it would impact pilot hiring, I would expect at least two to three decades, if not more.

But then we all thought glass cockpits in new aircraft would be just an option.

Peter Maurer
Diamond Aircraft Canada

I think it is still many years off as people still feel that machines break. So until they have many years of problem-free operation, they will want a human in the cockpit. Even drones are still flown by a human at this point. Minimum 15 years. Probably 20-plus.

Jim Allmon
Blackhawk Modifications

The short answer is no time soon. The general public may be comfortable with a small quadcopter delivering packages, but they will be far less willing to accept large aircraft without a trained and qualified pilot at the controls.

George Perry,
Senior Vice President
AOPA’s Air Safety Institute


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