From: email@example.com (ReganRanch)
Subject: PC Computer for the Cockpit
Date: 9 Aug 1997 23:42:33 GMT
PC for the Cockpit
The Aero\PC Story.
A little over two years ago, during the construction of my airplane, I
decided to integrate a PC computer into the panel. The idea was that there
are a lot of aircraft applications available for the PC, from moving map
to flight planning to log book programs, but to use them you needed to
drag your laptop into the airplane and laptop displays are generally
unreadable in sunlight.
I searched for a suitable system but all of the systems with a PC core
(Avadyne, Digital Sky, R Nav) have proprietary software. The only
remaining option was to build a system from scratch. I selected components
that were designed for military and industrial applications (as opposed to
commercial consumer products). The core of the system is a 200 Mhz Pentium
processor with 32 M RAM, 1,350 M hard drive, 12X CD ROM, 1.44M floppy and
an areospace grade power supply. I built in two cooling fans to keep
temperatures well within limits. There are 4 COMM ports, 2 Parallel ports,
a fast wide SCSI II interface, a VGA output and a PS/2 mouse interface. I
also brought the CD audio output out so I can play audio CDs over the
The best part of the system is the display. I designed a billet machined
aluminum housing for a 6.4 inch active matrix color display. Behind the
display is 12 watts of fluorescent backlight making the display 10 times
brighter than a laptop and completely readable in direct sunlight. The
backlight has a dimmer for night operations. Also integrated into the
display housing is a pointing device called a Hula Point and it makes
operating the system simple even in turbulence.
I run the Mentor Flight Map software for a moving map and can display Jepp
Nav Data or WACs. Jeppesen also offers approach plates on CD and is
integrating a moving map. Flying an approach and being able to cross check
to a approach plate moving map would make life too easy.
Since building the prototype I have made several more systems for friends
and two for the Lancair Factory to use in there demo aircraft. This year
at Oshkosh I offered the Aero\PC to the general public and the response
was better than I hoped.
Now I am looking for additional applications that I can offer with the
Aero\PC. If you have or know of PC based applications that are suitable
for the cockpit environment or if you want more information please E-Mail,
phone or FAX me.
FAX 916 758 1172
VOX 916 758 7164
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (ReganRanch)
Subject: AERO\PC for the cockpit
Date: 13 Aug 1997 03:18:18 GMT
After following the thread of my original post(PC Computer for the
Cockpit) I wanted to clarify a few items. First, The Aero\PC is a real
product (installed in over a dozen aircraft), designed by a pilot who has
over 20 years experience in designing ruggedized electromechanical systems
for extreme environments. After designing computers that operate at the
bottom of the ocean (20,000 PSI pressure), in the core of a nuclear
reactor or while connected to a 750,000 volt transmission line, designing
a computer to survive in the aircraft cockpit is relatively easy. The
trick is in selecting the right components.
The biggest problems in the aircraft are temperature, vibration and to a
lesser extent, electrical noise. Components must be selected against these
requirements. The Hard Drive that was selected, for example, can withstand
a 125 G shock WHILE OPERATING; the main processor board is adapted from
an industrial imbedded application and is manufactured in large numbers to
high quality standards; the sunlight readable color TFT LCD VGA display is
based on a LCD panel used in projection systems so it can tolerate enough
backlight to make it 10 times brighter, more robust and less temperature
sensitive than laptop displays. The internal components of the Aero\PC are
arranged in its machined aluminum enclosure in such a way that once
installed, their connectors cannot back out (I hate connectors).
Why use a PC platform? Many years ago I asked a computer literate friend
what kind of computer I should buy. He advised me to buy the same kind my
friends had so I could mooch software. All other glass cockpit products
run proprietary software, even though many are PC based, so once you
purchase that system you are married to the vendor for future software. As
a consumer I would like to know that if AAA Glass Panel Company goes tango
uniform I can still get software that I can run on my system. I also want
to run new software, developed by others, without it waiting for it to be
ported to a proprietary platform.
Another reason to use a PC platform is that there are a lot of
applications that are already developed for the pilot with the promise
that you can run the software in the cockpit on a laptop. The dirty little
secret is that you can't read a laptop in bright light, not enough
backlight. The software developers love the Aero\PC because it validates
their ability to run in the cockpit.
A PC based systems also means that you (probably) already know how to use
it. You can also run the identical software at home. Heck, I still haven't
figured out all the features of my KLN 90A GPS. At Oshkosh this year I was
talking to a gentleman about the Aero\PC when his six year old son
started to play with demo system on the table next to us. Within a minute
the child announces "Hay Daddy! Here's our airport!". Sure enough he had
found his home airport and pulled up the information page showing the
runway layout, frequencies, services etc.. At that moment I knew THIS is
the system for us User Manual challenged pilots.
Why use a 200 MHZ Pentium, wouldn't a slower and cheaper processor do the
trick? No, actually it doesn't. If you want to run the best software you
need the graphics capability of a big fast processor. I have run the same
software on a 100 MHZ 486 system and a 200 MHZ Pentium and the 486 is just
this side of usable while Pentium does the job nicely, keeping the display
current so that it can be part of your scan without refresh latency. GPS
and other moving map systems get buy with less flops because the graphics
they display are simplified to the extreme. At Oshkosh this year I saw
systems that can output real time Nexrad weather, Stormscope data and 3D
terrain information. You need lots of processor to display all that
information. It is also worth pointing out that the processor is a minor
part of the cost equation. As an extreme example, eliminating the
processor and its' attendant circuits altogether would reduce the retail
price of the system by a few hundred dollars.
The future of the cockpit environment is the multifunction display and the
best multifunction display is the PC if only by the shear number of
applications available. The Aero\PC allows the homebuilder to do to the
panel what he has already done to the airframe and engine. To create
something new and exciting and to advance the art of aviation.
A final word on safety. The Aero\PC is not intended for and should not be
used as a primary system. It's designed and best purpose is to advise and
present additional information to the Pilot In Command. Primary systems
should be closed, not open to the end user to modify ad hock, so that once
certified their functionality remains controlled. The Aero\PC is a
platform on which the cockpit displays of the future can be developed and
tested economically. Once applications are developed, purpose built
hardware will follow.
Again I would ask you to forward information about applications that would
benefit from the Aero\PC platform. I can be reached by EM, FAX or Voice
and will forward Aero\PC drawings and specifications on request.
FAX 916 758 1172
VOX 916 758 7164