Aircraft Primary Flight Display (PFD) and Advanced Technology Systems

Primary Flight Display (PFD)

PFDs provide increased situational awareness (SA) to the pilot by replacing the traditional six instruments used for instrument flight with an easy-to-scan display that provides the horizon, airspeed, altitude, vertical speed, trend, trim, rate of turn among other key relevant indications. Examples of PFDs are illustrated in Figure 1.

Primary Flight Display (PFD)
Figure 1. Two primary flight displays (Avidyne on the left and Garmin on the right)

Synthetic Vision

Synthetic vision provides a realistic depiction of the aircraft in relation to terrain and flightpath. Systems such as those produced by Chelton Flight Systems, Universal Flight Systems, and others provide for depictions of terrain and course.

Primary Flight Display (PFD)
Figure 2. The benefits of realistic visualization imagery, as illustrated by Synthetic Vision manufactured by Chelton Flight Systems. The system provides the pilot a realistic, real-time, three-dimensional depiction of the aircraft and its relation to terrain around it

Figure 2 is an example of the Chelton Flight System providing both 5-dimensional situational awareness and a synthetic highway in the sky, representing the desired flightpath. Synthetic vision is used as a PFD, but provides guidance in a more normal, outside reference format.

Multi-Function Display (MFD)

In addition to a PFD directly in front of the pilot, an MFD that provides the display of information in addition to primary flight information is used within the flight deck. [Figure 3] Information such as a moving map, approach charts, Terrain Awareness Warning System, and weather depiction can all be illustrated on the MFD. For additional redundancy both the PFD and MFD can display all critical information that the other normally presents thereby providing redundancy (using a reversionary mode) not normally found in general aviation flight decks.

Primary Flight Display (PFD)
Figure 3. Example of a multi-function display (MFD)

Advanced Technology Systems

Automatic Dependent Surveillance—Broadcast (ADS-B)

Although standards for Automatic Dependent Surveillance (Broadcast) (ADS-B) are still under continuing development, the concept is simple: aircraft broadcast a message on a regular basis, which includes their position (such as latitude, longitude and altitude), velocity, and possibly other information. Other aircraft or systems can receive this information for use in a wide variety of applications. The key to ADS-B is GPS, which provides three-dimensional position of the aircraft.

As an simplified example, consider air-traffic radar. The radar measures the range and bearing of an aircraft. The bearing is measured by the position of the rotating radar antenna when it receives a reply to its interrogation from the aircraft, and the range by the time it takes for the radar to receive the reply.

An ADS-B based system, on the other hand, would listen for position reports broadcast by the aircraft. [Figure 4] These position reports are based on satellite navigation systems. These transmissions include the transmitting aircraft’s position, which the receiving aircraft processes into usable pilot information. The accuracy of the system is now determined by the accuracy of the navigation system, not measurement errors. Furthermore the accuracy is unaffected by the range to the aircraft as in the case of radar. With radar, detecting aircraft speed changes require tracking the data and changes can only be detected over a period of several position updates. With ADS-B, speed changes are broadcast almost instantaneously and received by properly equipped aircraft.

Advanced Technology Systems
Figure 4. Aircraft equipped with Automatic Dependent Surveillance—Broadcast (ADS-B) continuously broadcast their identification, altitude, direction, and vertical trend. The transmitted signal carries significant information for other aircraft and ground stations alike. Other ADS-equipped aircraft receive this information and process it in a variety of ways. It is possible that in a saturated environment (assuming all aircraft are ADS equipped), the systems can project tracks for their respective aircraft and retransmit to other aircraft their projected tracks, thereby enhancing collision avoidance. At one time, there was an Automatic Dependent Surveillance—Addressed (ADS-A) and that is explained in the Aeronautical Knowledge section

Additionally, other information can be obtained by properly equipped aircraft to include notices to airmen (NOTAM), weather, etc. [Figures 5 and 6] At the present time, ADS-B is predominantly available along the east coast of the United States where it is matured.

Advanced Technology Systems
Figure 5. An aircraft equipped with ADS will receive identification, altitude in hundreds of feet (above or below using + or–), direction of the traffic, and aircraft descent or climb using an up or down arrow. The yellow target is an illustration of how a non-ADS equipped aircraft would appear on an ADS-equipped aircraft’s display

Advanced Technology Systems
Figure 6. An aircraft equipped with ADS has the ability to upload and display weather


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