The voice on the phone was clearly shaken … the pilot, speaking to a friend, was glad to be back on the ground in one piece and relieved that everyone was safe.
For the passengers, it was just another flight, another landing on a major airline.
For the pilot it was probably one of the most hellish landings of his career — landing a big, wide-body Boeing 767 in Ireland, in near zero visibility, on instruments. Thankfully, the pilot was what they call “a landing specialist.”
A story only told between pilots, and never reported publicly, because it happens almost every week.
Thanks to Vū Systems, those days might be over — because of one small passive wave sensor (PMMW), called the Vu Cube.
At first glance,Vū System’s 29-pound sensor looks like a retro black-and-white TV from the 1950s, but the sensor’s ability to see through heavy clouds, thick fog and even snow make it far more valuable, Flying magazine reported this week.
When the Cube’s output is projected on a heads-up display, pilots can see as far as two miles ahead of the airplane making reliable takeoffs and landings in poor weather possible, right down to the flare, touchdown and rollout.
Experts say an aircraft fitted with PMMW technology will no longer need to rely on ground-based equipment, which means landing at airports otherwise inaccessible during severe weather conditions.
Stedman Stevens, chief executive officer at Vū Systems, said, “Following the implementation of the FAA’s new enhanced flight vision systems (EFVS) rule in 2018, aircraft equipped with qualifying sensors, like the Vū Cube, can obtain authorization to take-off and land in conditions approaching zero visibility. Our Vū Cube sensor…provides a significant visual advantage to pilots that is measured in miles, rather than feet.”
Through a strategic alliance with Saab, the Vū Systems’ team was able to spend the six years necessary to create the Cube, all as part of a NASA study to evaluate the use of an electronic means of vision in lieu of a pilot’s natural vision, Flying magazine reported.
Nick Sabatini, Vū Systems’ consultant and former FAA associate administrator for aviation safety said, “The potential of Vū Systems’ EFVS breakthrough technology is game-changing, providing major economic benefits to operators, pilots, airports and the industry as a whole, by eliminating the multi-billion-dollar global problem of low-visibility weather delays while improving flight safety.”
Until now, landing in poor weather required a significant on-board infrastructure that demanded regular maintenance, while certifying a Category II or III flight crew for regular recurrent training, Flying magazine reported.
Preparing to use the PMMW sensor will require about a day’s worth of training. The airborne equipment is simple and doesn’t require the regular maintenance of Cat II and III technology. Best of all, a flight crew will be able to remain current using the Cube simply by operating the airplane by regularly using the HUD, even in VFR conditions.
Sabatini told Flying, “In the best practical terms, the game-changing Vū Cube, means approach minimums will no longer be relevant,” assuming the crew has completed the appropriate training necessary to become familiar with operating the new technology.
Jeff Hausmann, director of advanced flight deck at Gulfstream, a business-jet manufacturer with extensive experience introducing new flight-deck technologies, told Aviation Pros online: “We continually seek new technologies that will extend our leadership position in the business jet market. Having flown the NASA simulation of millimeter wave based EFVS, we see the opportunity to improve access to airports globally in low visibility conditions without regard for ground-based equipage.
“This technology has the potential for Visual Flight Rules operation in Instrument Flight Rules conditions.”