Airbus’ “connected cockpit” supports improved pilot communications

An Airbus-developed cockpit system now reaching completion will provide pilots with better information and faster, richer dialogue with the ground, leveraging the potential of high-speed broadband satellite communications and the latest in tablet computer technology.

3 December 2012 Feature story

Called the “connected cockpit,” this system grew out of an Airbus Innovation Cell project exploring potential cockpit applications of the Apple iPad tablet, and will help pilots to fly commercial jetliners in the safest, most comfortable and most efficient way possible.

With secure “pipes” providing an internet connection between the cockpit and its ground and satellite stations, the system provides access to constantly-updated information and high-quality, data-rich communication – which is displayed on the tablet device.

The “connected cockpit” also enables more collaborative ways to solve in-flight problems, allowing pilots to send a variety of data – including imagery – to the ground team for analysis and discussion. Currently, pilots must rely solely on voice communication in such cases. While pilots retain the ultimate responsibility for decision-making, the “connected cockpit” ensures a better-informed and collaborative process.

Video conferencing already has been carried out during test flights and more potential applications are being identified. “We know that video conferencing works,” explained Airbus test pilot Jean-Michel Roy. “And in moments of crisis, this could be of enormous help to pilots.”

Live, graphic monitoring of meteorological conditions is another clear early benefit of the “connected cockpit, allowing pilots to avoid dangerous weather, make efficiency improvements to make better use of winds and increase passenger comfort by avoiding turbulence.  

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