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The Ultimate Navigation System

In-dash satellite navigation systems are becoming much more common in cars and they are pretty cool. But they are nothing compared to Honeywell’s Integrated Primary Flight Display/Synthetic Vision System. I got a chance to see this state-of-the-art system, which demonstrates the enormous amount of computer power that keeps airplanes flying safely these days, from the cockpit jump seat of a Gulfstream 450. The IPFD/SVS—aviation uses abbreviations like that a lot—will be installed in commercial airliners including the Airbus 380 and the Boeing 787.

The system is designed to solve two problems for pilots: Too little information and too much. Modern avionics, which add ground and aircraft collision avoidance systems, moving maps, electronic navigation charts, and other data to the slew of traditional instruments--generate more information than a pilot’s brain can hope to process unless it is somehow integrated. Bit, at the same time, the pilot can still lack critical information about the plane’s situation.