The integration of controls and displays for flight in degraded visual environments

Flight in DVE

With fixed-wing aircraft, pilots can be flying under either visual or instrument flight rules (VFR or IFR), corresponding to defined levels of outside visual cues or

meteorological conditions (VMC or IMC). If aircraft have to operate in IMC then typically there will be two crew, one flying while the other keeps an eye open for any hazards appearing in the visual scene. Except for the important case of military fixed – wing aircraft flying low level to avoid radar and other detection systems, nearly all fixed-wing IMC flying is conducted at altitude, well away from obstacles, and means little more than flying on instruments while in cloud or at night. Key instruments that the pilot would scan include the attitude indicator, heading gyro, airspeed indicator, ball and slip and rate of climb/descent indicator. A guided approach to a landing site would, in addition, require the pilot to follow a flight path as directed by special guid­ance instruments until the aircraft emerges into VMC below cloud to carry out a normal touchdown. Airports are equipped with various levels of guidance facilities enabling up to fully automatic landings in poor visibility or IMC. With fixed-wing aircraft, the characterization of visibility conditions is therefore fairly simple and the associated operational decision making, e. g., whether to initiate a sortie, can be based on rela­tively simple criteria, e. g., how much of the airfield can be seen. Rotary-wing aircraft operations have also been constrained by the same physical conditions but the ability to operate at low speed, combined with the military need to operate at very low level to avoid detection, has led to the development of a considerably more detailed and structured approach to the characterization of outside visual cues (OVCs). The general term adopted in the rotary-wing technical community for characterizing poor visibility conditions is the DVE – degraded visual environment, and this section examines some of the special considerations that accompany helicopter operations and flying qualities in the DVE.

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