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Release: Aug. 21, 2001

Virtual flight vision system airs at Aug. 25-26 Iowa City air show

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- When "Fly Iowa 2001" opens Aug. 25-26 at the Iowa City Municipal Airport, it will feature a new type of aircraft flight deck display, called a synthetic vision information system, as well as real aircraft and an air show.

That's because the 10th annual event will include computerized "pathway-in-the-sky" guidance displays developed by Rockwell Collins of Cedar Rapids and being evaluated by University of Iowa College of Engineering researchers.

Visitors to the exhibition, located in an airport hangar, will be able to "fly" a simulated desktop version of a synthetic vision information system and experience what airline crews of the future will likely see on their instrument panels. Visitors will also be able to see a static mockup of an F15 weapons procedure trainer.

Tom Schnell, assistant professor of industrial engineering and director of the UI's Operator Performance Laboratory (OPL), is evaluating the guidance systems, known as synthetic vision information systems (SVIS) in cooperation with NASA and Rockwell Collins. Supported by a two-year, $120,000 grant from Rockwell and the Iowa Space Grant Consortium, he hopes to learn how pilots can benefit from using SVIS during bad weather and poor visibility.

"SVIS gives pilots a synthetic view of what they would see if the weather were clear. Also, weather information and other air traffic can be shown on SVIS displays. Because it provides a detailed view of the airport and surrounding terrain in real time, SVIS may allow pilots to use 'visual' approach procedures even in adverse weather," he says.

Schnell says that SVIS -- by enabling pilots to use "free-flight" instead of rigid flight paths -- has the potential to free up airports for more landings, thereby reducing airport delays in most weather conditions. However, before it can be put into use, SVIS must be proven "user-friendly" and the FAA must certify it.

"Our job is to evaluate what information flight crews might need and whether it is a good idea to give them more information than they already have," says Schnell, who is also measuring pilot eye movements on SVIS displays in a related research project.

Additional information can be found at

The project is part of a larger Synthetic Vision research effort sponsored by NASA’s Langley Research Center Aviation Safety Program (see Companies, agencies, and universities involved include NASA, Technical University Delft (the Netherlands), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Boeing, Rockwell Collins, Jeppesen, Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, RC Flight Dynamic, and American Airlines.