US20140343765A1 - Flight Assistant with Automatic Configuration and Landing Site Selection - Google Patents

Flight Assistant with Automatic Configuration and Landing Site Selection Download PDF

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Publication number
US20140343765A1
US20140343765A1 US14142390 US201314142390A US2014343765A1 US 20140343765 A1 US20140343765 A1 US 20140343765A1 US 14142390 US14142390 US 14142390 US 201314142390 A US201314142390 A US 201314142390A US 2014343765 A1 US2014343765 A1 US 2014343765A1
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aircraft
flight
emergency
landing
pilot
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US14142390
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Sean Patrick Suiter
Richard Andrew Kruse
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Sean Patrick Suiter
Richard Andrew Kruse
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    • GPHYSICS
    • G08SIGNALLING
    • G08GTRAFFIC CONTROL SYSTEMS
    • G08G5/00Traffic control systems for aircraft, e.g. air-traffic control [ATC]
    • G08G5/0047Navigation or guidance aids for a single aircraft
    • G08G5/0056Navigation or guidance aids for a single aircraft in an emergency situation, e.g. hijacking
    • GPHYSICS
    • G08SIGNALLING
    • G08GTRAFFIC CONTROL SYSTEMS
    • G08G5/00Traffic control systems for aircraft, e.g. air-traffic control [ATC]
    • G08G5/0017Arrangements for implementing traffic-related aircraft activities, e.g. arrangements for generating, displaying, acquiring or managing traffic information
    • G08G5/0021Arrangements for implementing traffic-related aircraft activities, e.g. arrangements for generating, displaying, acquiring or managing traffic information located in the aircraft
    • GPHYSICS
    • G08SIGNALLING
    • G08GTRAFFIC CONTROL SYSTEMS
    • G08G5/00Traffic control systems for aircraft, e.g. air-traffic control [ATC]
    • G08G5/003Flight plan management
    • G08G5/0039Modification of a flight plan
    • GPHYSICS
    • G08SIGNALLING
    • G08GTRAFFIC CONTROL SYSTEMS
    • G08G5/00Traffic control systems for aircraft, e.g. air-traffic control [ATC]
    • G08G5/02Automatic approach or landing aids, i.e. systems in which flight data of incoming planes are processed to provide landing data
    • G08G5/025Navigation or guidance aids
    • GPHYSICS
    • G08SIGNALLING
    • G08GTRAFFIC CONTROL SYSTEMS
    • G08G5/00Traffic control systems for aircraft, e.g. air-traffic control [ATC]
    • G08G5/0004Transmission of traffic-related information to or from an aircraft
    • G08G5/0013Transmission of traffic-related information to or from an aircraft with a ground station

Abstract

A system and apparatus for assisting pilots and flight crews in determining the best course of action at any particular point inflight for any category of emergency. The system monitors a plurality of static and dynamic flight parameters including atmospheric conditions along the flight path, ground conditions and terrain, conditions aboard the aircraft, and pilot/crew data. Based on these parameters, the system may provide continually updated information to the pilot or crew about the best available landing sites or recommend solutions to aircraft configuration errors. In case of emergency, the system may provide the pilot with procedure sets associated with a hierarchy of available emergency landing sites (or execute these procedure sets via the autopilot system) depending on the specific nature of the emergency.

Description

    CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
  • [0001]
    The present application claims the benefit under 35 U.S.C. §119(e) of U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 61/747,051 filed 28 Dec. 2012, U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 61/750,286 filed 8 Jan. 2013, U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 61/754,522 filed 18 Jan. 2013, U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 61/870,125 filed 26 Aug. 2013, and U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 61/900,199 filed 5 Nov. 2013. Said U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 61/747,051 filed 28 Dec. 2012, U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 61/750,286 filed 8 Jan. 2013, U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 61/754,522 filed 18 Jan. 2013, U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 61/870,125 filed 26 Aug. 2013, and U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 61/900,199 filed 5 Nov. 2013 are incorporated by reference in their entireties.
  • TECHNICAL FIELD
  • [0002]
    The present invention is generally related to aircraft and more specifically to a system and apparatus for monitoring a plurality of flight conditions and parameters, and on a condition selectively suggesting either a new flight profile or assuming flight control and then flying the suggested flight profile.
  • BACKGROUND
  • [0003]
    Whether flying a piston-powered personal craft or a multi-engine commercial jet, pilots are taught the same general priorities in emergency situations: aviate, navigate, and communicate—in that order. The pilot's first duty is self-evident: to fly the aircraft. To successfully do so requires the continual processing of a vast amount of data received via any number of different sources. During flight operations a pilot may be confronted with the loss of an engine on takeoff. In such a situation the pilot must immediately decide the safest option for the particular altitude and set of flight conditions, e.g., whether to: (a) turn approximately 180° and make a tail-wind landing; (b) turn at least 270° and re-land; (c) crash straight ahead; or (d) limp or glide to another nearby airport. Altitude, position, aircraft performance, terrain, atmospheric and weather conditions, and pilot capability dictate the safest option. A pilot's options increase with altitude, performance, and the availability of landing sites (each providing different services). The pilot's options are inversely proportional to the severity of the emergency.
  • [0004]
    Autopilot, automated navigation and GPS systems have significantly increased the information available to pilots. More information, however, means more potential calculations for the pilot to make, more options to consider, and more information to filter. Other than destination, most of this information is dynamic, for example, position (including attitude), traffic, and weather (including wind speed and direction—both vary by altitude and heading). The pilot must balance the ongoing assessment of this continual stream of data (information) while aviating, navigating, and communicating. Unexpected conditions must be assessed and acted upon decisively and correctly. Depending on criticality, options narrow as time passes. Once a decision is made, the die is substantially cast.
  • [0005]
    These informational processing factors are complicated when conditions are less than ideal. Available information may not be complete or accurate. For example, a pilot climbing after takeoff over unfamiliar terrain experiencing an emergency is likely 1) aware that the airport runway lies only a few miles behind, and 2) aware of the vague location of additional airfields nearby in possibly deteriorating weather. In this example the pilot may not be aware, however, that an open field (or road or the like) a few miles distant would be a better emergency landing site, in that it would be more likely to be reached with altitude and time to execute a stabilized approach.
  • [0006]
    An emergency complicates these factors, and the corresponding pressure on the pilot, even further. The means of propulsion or other onboard systems may fail, making a safe landing simultaneously more urgent and more difficult to execute. A structural failure, cabin depressurization, or onboard medical emergency may occur, requiring the pilot to rapidly divert from the initial flight plan and find an alternative landing site (ALS). Emergency conditions add yet another degree of difficulty to the already complex responsibilities of piloting.
  • [0007]
    Therefore, a need exists for a system and method to aid the pilot of a distressed aircraft, thereby reducing pilot workload, the number of decisions based on inaccurate data, and the potential loss of life and property.
  • SUMMARY
  • [0008]
    The present invention relates to a system and apparatus for assisting pilots (flight crews) in determining the best option at successive points in a flight for any category of emergency. Generally, the system categorizes emergencies as (1) land immediately (red), 2) land as soon as possible (yellow), or (3) land as soon as practicable (green). The apparatus of the present invention alerts the pilot (crew) to the available options given a particular category of emergency (and set of flight conditions). Additionally, an apparatus of the present invention (1) may assist the pilot (crew) in the form of a flight director (or checklist or the like) in executing a proposed landing solution to a given emergency, or 2) may direct the aircraft autopilot in executing the suggested (and selected) landing solution. In either case, the system of the present invention provides the pilot with time to contemplate and consider the emergency and its resolution (while the aircraft is directed toward and configured for the best landing option given a particular emergency condition).
  • [0009]
    The present invention may ascertain the configuration of the aircraft from changes in the aircraft's position over time. For example, in a particular planned portion of a planned flight segment the aircraft may be expected to gain altitude over a particular distance at a particular rate. If the aircraft is not climbing at the expected rate it may be an indication that the aircraft is configured incorrectly, for example, improper power setting, or the gear or flaps may remain in takeoff position. Likewise, enroute, a particular aircraft may be expected to perform in a known set of atmospheric conditions within a known range of values. Any deviation from these values indicates a potential problem. Based on the aircraft such deviations may refer to a single likely source or a narrow set of sources. The system of the present invention may alert the aircraft crew to the potential problem and its likely source(s).
  • [0010]
    In a preferred embodiment of the present invention, even under normal flight conditions (planned or expected conditions) an audio display, a graphic display (HUD or smart glasses or the like) of available landing options given a category of emergency is continuously displayed. This display of information alerts a pilot to available options under various conditions and assists in training pilots in learning aircraft capabilities in various conditions and locations. Likewise, crew and dispatch may alter protocol in an effort to mitigate risks identified through the operation of an aircraft or a fleet of aircraft operating with the present invention.
  • [0011]
    Preferably, the present invention may continuously update ALS options and make the data available to the pilot upon request. For example, an ALS page on a well-known multifunction display (MFD) may indicate each ALS and graphically indicate the ability of the aircraft to reach each ALS. In addition, a graphical display of range data on the primary flight display may aid the pilot in decision-making. For example, a pilot may opt to select on (or off) a graphical range ring indicating an engine out best glide range.
  • [0012]
    With additional data points made available through existing or added controls and sensors (e.g., auto throttles, flight control position indicators, rate of climb/descent, heading, and the like), the accuracy of the configuration data ascertained by an embodiment of the present invention increases. The present invention may ascertain over a series of data collection intervals the presence and scope of an unusual condition (correctable error or emergency), plan an emergency descent profile to the safest (most preferred) available landing site, and suggest troubleshooting options as the emergency profile is accepted and executed. In this manner, the present invention may assist the pilot in discovering and correcting aircraft configuration errors which if left uncorrected may lead to undesirable consequences, e.g., gear-up landings, overstressing aircraft components, flight delays or passenger discomfort.
  • [0013]
    In a presently preferred embodiment the apparatus comprises: (1) an onboard computer processor; 2) a data bus for collecting flight condition information such as aircraft position, weather, traffic, terrain, aircraft systems status, aircraft flight envelope parameters, pilot (crew) status/condition; (3) a ground-to-air data link; (4) a display system, and (5) a current database of information relating to (a) the aircraft (performance data), (b) pilot (biometric data), (c) flight plan, and (d) bulk route characteristics (weather, terrain, landing sites, traffic, airspace, navigation). In an embodiment the system continually monitors a plurality of flight parameters, provides the pilot with current information based on those parameters, and upon a given condition prioritizes a course of action. In a preferred embodiment the system may either execute or guide a flight crew in flying a series of control inputs calculated to safely secure the aircraft on the ground. The system of the present invention at least temporarily relieves a pilot (crew) from the task of quickly calculating an emergency plan with its associated set of procedures so they may fly, configure, and troubleshoot (for the situation) while contemplating the acceptability of option(s) suggested by the present invention.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • [0014]
    FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an aircraft in a condition that necessitates altering or modifying an assigned or planned profile wherein the system of the present invention suggests a new or modified procedure to accommodate a condition, e.g., land immediately, land as soon as possible, and/or land as soon as practicable;
  • [0015]
    FIG. 2 is an environmental block diagram representing an embodiment of the present invention;
  • [0016]
    FIG. 3 is a top plan view of an “on” condition pilot display of an embodiment of the present invention illustrating areas of landing (ditching) opportunities (target radius) available upon a particular condition, wherein the pilot may operatively select to accept and fly a suggested new (emergency) procedure set, or in the alternative to accept each item from said new procedure set in seriatim;
  • [0017]
    FIG. 4A is a top plan view of a continuously updated pilot display of an embodiment of the present invention illustrating areas of landing (ditching) opportunities (target radius) available upon a particular condition, wherein the pilot may operatively select to accept and fly a suggested new (emergency) procedure set, or in the alternative to accept each item from said new procedure set in seriatim;
  • [0018]
    FIG. 4B is a diagram explaining generally how wind speed and direction may affect the target radius of available alternative landing sites reachable by a given aircraft under undesirable conditions;
  • [0019]
    FIG. 5 is a highly diagrammatic perspective view of an emergency condition (engine failure at takeoff) forced landing (straight ahead) procedure overview (display) with an associated queue wherein an embodiment of the present invention suggests a risk profile accessed emergency procedure set providing a return to airport (re-land) procedure;
  • [0020]
    FIG. 6 is a highly diagrammatic perspective view of an emergency condition (engine failure at takeoff) ditching procedure overview with an associated queue wherein an embodiment of the present invention suggests a risk profile accessed emergency procedure set (the procedure set being dependent on the specific nature of the engine failure) providing a best safe landing (ditching) opportunity procedure;
  • [0021]
    FIG. 7 is an environmental drawing of alternate landing site (ALS database, and subscription of an embodiment of the flight assistant of the present invention;
  • [0022]
    FIGS. 8A, 8B, 8C, 8D, and 8E are flow diagrams for presently preferred embodiments of operations of various aspects of the present invention;
  • [0023]
    FIGS. 9A and 9B are a diagrammatic plan elevation and plan of a flight plan of an embodiment of the present invention from and to an airport illustrating unusual condition detection and reporting;
  • [0024]
    FIG. 10 is a perspective cockpit view of an embodiment of the present invention with a HUD (Heads Up Display) illustrating a suggested landing site selected by a system of the present invention (at least partially on aircraft and pilot performance, position, configuration, propulsion, traffic, weather, terrain, cabin environment, ground resources (services)), and preselected risk profile hierarchy;
  • [0025]
    FIG. 11 is a perspective cockpit view of an embodiment of the present invention with a HUD (Heads Up Display) illustrating a suggested landing site selected by a system of the present invention at least partially on aircraft and pilot performance, position, configuration, propulsion, traffic, weather, terrain, cabin environment, ground resources (services), and a preselected risk profile hierarchy;
  • [0026]
    FIG. 12 is a highly diagrammatic perspective view of an emergency condition (medical divert) landing procedure overview with an associated queue wherein an embodiment of the present invention suggests a risk profile accessed emergency procedure set providing a landing procedure at an airport with suitable nearby medical facilities;
  • [0027]
    FIG. 13 is a highly diagrammatic perspective view of a landing procedure overview with an associated queue wherein an embodiment of the present invention suggests a risk profile accessed emergency procedure set providing for safe departure from the North Atlantic track route system and emergency landing at suitable nearby airports;
  • [0028]
    FIG. 14 is a highly diagrammatic perspective view of an emergency condition (pressurization emergency) forced landing procedure overview with an associated queue wherein an embodiment of the present invention suggests a risk profile accessed emergency procedure set providing for immediate descent to safe altitude and landing at the nearest available airport;
  • [0029]
    FIG. 15 is a pilot view of an onboard display unit wherein an embodiment of the present invention displays navigational information related to a final approach and landing;
  • [0030]
    FIG. 16 is a highly diagrammatic top plan view of emergency condition landing procedure overview with an associated queue wherein an embodiment of the present invention suggests a risk profile accessed emergency procedure set providing a landing procedure at a nearby airport;
  • [0031]
    FIG. 17A is a pilot view of an onboard display unit in an emergency condition (engine out) diversion procedure overview with an associated queue wherein an embodiment of the present invention suggests a hierarchy of risk profile accessed emergency procedure sets providing for best safe landing opportunity procedures at suitable emergency landing sites;
  • [0032]
    FIG. 17B is a pilot view of an onboard display unit in an emergency condition (single engine) diversion procedure overview with an associated queue wherein an embodiment of the present invention suggests a hierarchy of risk profile accessed emergency procedure sets providing for best safe landing opportunity procedure at suitable emergency landing sites, and the pilot may operatively select to accept and fly a suggested new (emergency) procedure set, or in the alternative to accept each item from said new procedure set in seriatim;
  • [0033]
    FIG. 18 is a tabular representation of data inputs utilized by an embodiment of the present invention to generate procedure sets, and actions related to the generation of procedure sets and to the outcomes of those procedure sets;
  • [0034]
    FIG. 19A is a pilot view of an onboard display unit wherein an embodiment of the present invention displays the initial flight plan and illustrates initial areas for landing (ditching) opportunities (target radii) available upon a particular condition;
  • [0035]
    FIG. 19B is a highly diagrammatic perspective view of an emergency condition diversion and landing procedure overview with an associated queue wherein an embodiment of the present invention suggests a hierarchy of risk profile accessed emergency procedure sets (the precise procedure set/s, and the hierarchical weight of each set, being dependent on the specific nature of the emergency) providing a best safe landing (ditching) opportunity procedure;
  • [0036]
    FIG. 20 is a highly diagrammatic top plan view of an emergency condition (engine failure at takeoff) overview with an associated queue wherein an embodiment of the present invention suggests a hierarchy of risk profile accessed emergency procedure sets providing a best safe landing (ditching) opportunity procedure;
  • [0037]
    FIG. 21 is a highly diagrammatic top plan view of an emergency condition (engine failure at takeoff) overview with an associated queue wherein an embodiment of the present invention suggests a hierarchy of risk profile accessed emergency procedure sets providing a best safe landing (ditching) opportunity procedure;
  • [0038]
    FIG. 22 is a highly diagrammatic top plan view of an emergency condition (engine failure at initial climb) overview with an associated display queue wherein an embodiment of the present invention suggests a hierarchy of risk profile accessed emergency procedure sets providing a return to airport (re-land) opportunity procedure;
  • [0039]
    FIG. 23 is a highly diagrammatic top plan view of an embodiment of the present invention illustrating areas of landing (ditching) opportunities (target radius) available upon a particular condition, wherein the pilot may operatively select to accept and fly a suggested new (emergency) procedure set, or in the alternative to accept each item from said new procedure set in seriatim;
  • [0040]
    FIG. 24 is a diagram illustrating angle of attack and rotational axes;
  • [0041]
    FIG. 25 is a graph illustrating surface and aloft winds at selected altitudes along a flight plan; and
  • [0042]
    FIG. 26 is a table illustrating available services at various airports.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION
  • [0043]
    In the following detailed description, embodiments are described in sufficient detail to enable those skilled in the art to practice the invention. It is understood that other embodiments may be utilized without departing from the scope of the present invention. The following detailed description should therefore not be taken as limiting in any way the scope of the present invention.
  • [0044]
    Features of the present invention in its various embodiments are exemplified by the following descriptions with reference to the accompanying drawings. These drawings depict only selected embodiments of the invention, and should not be considered to limit its scope in any way. The present invention may be described with further detail and specificity through use of these drawings.
  • [0045]
    The present invention relates to a system and apparatus for monitoring and processing a plurality of flight parameters in order to minimize workload and stress on a pilot due to unexpected (undesired) conditions. The apparatus includes a database of information from which is extracted a dataset that is static relative to any given flight at the point of departure (a “flight” referring to a set whose elements are: an aircraft; one or more pilots; an initial, unexecuted flight plan; and enroute flight path conditions, both dynamic and static. In operation, the system continually processes dataset components in concert with dynamic data relative to a particular point along the flight path, including: the aircraft's position, heading, and airspeed; its performance relative to benchmark values as determined by the aircraft's flight envelope and flight plan; and current cabin, flight, and engine conditions (including emergency states that might require an unscheduled landing). Additionally, a preferred embodiment determines the availability of airports or other alternative landing sites (including fields, roads, and bodies of water) within the aircraft's range at that moment, as well as current conditions at those landing sites (such as available services, weather, wind, terrain, obstacles, or ground traffic). An embodiment of an apparatus of the present invention may then continually ascertain and display options for any given point and suggest a procedure executable by the pilot or autopilot system providing for an emergency landing at an alternative landing site (including any necessary course changes or aircraft reconfiguration).
  • [0046]
    In addition, the system may note any significant deviations in the aircraft's performance (relative to its performance envelope and expected performance at a particular point on a flight plan profile), which might result from inappropriate configuration (of landing gear, flaps, or the like). Generally an aircraft may be configured for taxi, takeoff, climb, cruise, descent, approach, landing, or penetrating turbulent air. If an aircraft is inappropriately configured for a particular segment of flight, the present invention may notify the pilot/crew and suggest a configuration correction, such as lowering landing gear or adjusting flaps, and the like such that the aircraft may be correctly configured for the desired flight segment. The suggestion may be generic, e.g., “CHECK CONFIGURATION: ______ AIR SPEED ______ GRADIENT ______ HEADING EXPECTED”. Additionally, in further embodiments the system and apparatus may provide a detailed or specific suggestion, e.g., “CHECK GEAR/FLAPS”, “CHECK AIRPSPEED”, “CHECK PITOT/STATIC”, “CHECK PITCH ANGLE” and the like.
  • [0047]
    FIG. 1 depicts an aircraft 200 in flight; the system has plotted a path and corresponding emergency procedure set 202 to approach and land on a nearby ALS consisting of an airport runway 208, accounting for obstacles (i.e., natural and manmade) in the flight path (vicinity) and wind conditions on descent and at the landing site. In addition to navigating to the best available ALS, procedure set 202 preferably provides (when possible) for aligning aircraft 200's pitch angle for best possible glide speed, configuring aircraft 200 for landing, and the like. Procedure set 202 also provides (when possible) for a landing into wind relative to aircraft 200's approach, thereby reducing the landing speed and required landing distance. FIG. 1 also illustrates operation of an embodiment of the present invention where the apparatus of the present invention has identified an opportunity gate 210 for aircraft 200 final approach 204 and targeted touchdown point 212 on runway preferred touchdown zone nearest aircraft 200 (system effort to maximize safety).
  • [0048]
    FIG. 2 is a diagrammatic representation of the environment of an embodiment of the present invention, including both hardware components of the apparatus and data components used by the system. For a given aircraft, the dataset includes information about its specifications, e.g., size, empty weight, engine(s) operational parameters, fuel capacity and consumption characteristics, flight configuration performance characteristics, and general performance envelope 506 plus derivative data (e.g., the runway length required for a normal landing and the suitability of various landing surfaces). In a currently preferred embodiment, all or substantially all of the information in the Pilot's Operating Handbook (POH, −1, or Flight Manual) may be included (e.g., all performance data and emergency procedures).
  • [0049]
    For a given pilot (aircraft, leg), the dataset may include general information such as pilot experience level (such as the pilot's flight time for any given aircraft) and past performance 534, as well as specific and derivative flight performance data. In operation a preferred embodiment of the present invention may continuously ascertain current position relative to an expected position (per the flight plan or previous leg/segment position) and determine whether a reportable problem exists. An apparatus of the present invention may be selectably programmed with a range of operational values (via a menu or the like to a user/operator set of parameters) for each operational segment. Ideally, takeoff and landing segments may have tighter (tighter/narrower more periodically detected values) so a pilot/crew may more quickly be alerted to deviations.
  • [0050]
    In a preferred embodiment the invention may, for example, monitor previous traffic and arrival/departure information to improve accuracy (of operation of the present invention). For example (selectably per the user/operator) on a flight plan to KSTL/St. Louis the system may detect that landing traffic (from the North) is now landing on runway 11 via the AARCH ONE arrival (rather than on runway 30 via the QBALL EIGHT arrival) due to a wind shift or the like. Within the constraints of this changed condition, the system may alert the crew to a heading deviation consistent with the new AARCH path. Additionally, satellite (or the like) data over a period of intervals, or road traffic applications, may be utilized by an embodiment of the present invention to ascertain the relative risk associated with a potential ALS (field, e.g., growing crop, plowed, row direction; or road, e.g., slope, width, and current or predicted level of traffic).
  • [0051]
    For a given flight plan 502, the dataset may include the initial flight path and related information (including information derived by the present invention). This may include, for example, terrain 520, including both topographic features and manmade obstructions) along the path; nearby airports along the path suitable for landing 524 and their navigation/communication frequencies; and any services near those airports (parts/repair, fuel, hospitals, currently available accommodations and/or transportation). Derivative data may include risk ranked ALS along or near the initial path, along with surface (typical/predicted), gradient, elevation, obstacles, and other information relevant to an attempted approach and landing 512. Alternative landing sites may include open fields of sufficient dimension for the aircraft, paved surfaces such as highways or parking lots, or bodies of water.
  • [0052]
    In-flight, the system may monitor dynamic values for any given point along the flight path, including: the aircraft's current position 510; its airspeed, heading, and altitude above sea level; atmospheric conditions such as air pressure/temperature and wind speed/direction 522; cabin conditions 508; flight controls and settings 514; and propulsion system conditions 518. The system may also monitor information available via data link, including: local air and ground traffic for a given position 516; current and forecast weather along the initial path 504; and conditions at any nearby ALS where available. Some embodiments may also monitor biometric information about the pilot and/or crew 530, including: brain activity; breathing and heart rate; reaction times (and changes thereto); signs of nervousness or drowsiness; or other vital signs. In such an embodiment of the present invention, collected biometric information may be utilized to ascertain acceptable (obtainable) ALS.
  • [0053]
    The system bus 532 connects the various components responsible for the collection of these diverse data points to the processor 800 and comparator 540 for data processing. A display unit 700 with user interface 550 displays pertinent information and processing output to the pilot, while at the same time allowing for pilot input to reflect a change in conditions (for example, declaring an emergency state [pan, pan; mayday, mayday]) that in turn would change system parameters. An apparatus of a preferred embodiment may include a user selectable switch for selectively activating or selecting an emergency protocol (for a particular situation/condition within a segment [Rl, RP1, or RP2]). Rl for land immediately (or e.g., eject, activate airframe parachute); RP1 for land as soon as possible; and RP2 for land as soon a practicable.
  • [0054]
    In a presently preferred embodiment, the system may continually evaluate both dataset components and dynamic values to determine the best available ALS, or a weighted hierarchy of alternatives (if more than one exists). The system may initially select sites from those nearby landing sites provided by the dataset. The system may consider additional sites suitable for a given aircraft (but more distant from the initial flight plan) if those sites fall within a predetermined range of the aircraft's current position (i.e., the target radius) or an emergency state is declared.
  • [0055]
    For any given set of more than one ALS, the system may assign a weighted value to each individual ALS, corresponding to that site's suitability for landing based on available current (anticipated at arrival time) conditions. This assignment may account for a variety of factors including: (1) the site's distance from current position; 2) atmospheric conditions at current position and at the ALS (if available or derivable); (3) ground terrain at the ALS, including surface composition and the presence of nearby trees, brush, vegetation, or other obstacles; (4) the presence of hospital, security, repair, or other facilities near the ALS; and (5) the difficulty of navigating to and landing at the ALS for a pilot of given skill (current performance) and experience level.
  • [0056]
    This assignment, and the resulting best ALS or hierarchy thereof, may continually refresh as conditions and contributing factors change. The results of this assignment may be available for display to the pilot, refreshing as system results update.
  • [0057]
    The system may plot an optimal path to each identified ALS. This path may be represented by a set of points in three dimensions comprising a navigable path from the aircraft's current position to a ground-level touchdown point at the ALS. In plotting these paths, the system may incorporate aviation rules and best practices (e.g., landing into headwinds where possible to minimize landing speed, maintaining safe distances from neighboring air (ground) traffic, setting a touchdown point that maximizes the available landing surface). The system may continually revise paths as the hierarchy of potential landing sites (as well as the aircraft's precise position along its flight path) changes.
  • [0058]
    FIG. 3 depicts aircraft 200 in an engine-out state, in need of immediate landing. Without allowing for wind, the system uses target radius 214 (reflecting an immediate need to land) in order to determine the best available ALS at runway 208 a, here the site nearest aircraft 200's position. The system then plots emergency course 202 a to opportunity gate 110 a and landing on runway 208 a. As a substantial wind may affect aircraft 200's glide capability in an engine-out state, it may also affect the system's choice of best available ALS. Here the presence of wind over aircraft 200's port side (100 kts) flattens the circular target radius into an ellipse 216, and runway 208 b is selected as the best available ALS despite its greater physical distance from aircraft 200's position. The system then plots paths along 202 b, 202 c to opportunity gates 110 b or 110 c for landing at runway 208 b.
  • [0059]
    FIG. 4A depicts aircraft 200 and potential alternative landing sites 208(P2), 208(P1), and 208 i. If an emergency state is declared, the system parameters for determining the best available ALS may change. Target radius 218 represents a need to land as soon as practicable (considering any available services within a broad radius), while radius 220 reflects a more pressing need if aircraft 200 is in single-engine state (i.e., one of aircraft 200's two engines has failed) to land as soon as possible (e.g., first safe opportunity depending on VFR). While one landing site 208(P2)) may be an airport runway, if aircraft 200 is in a single-engine state it may lose priority as an ALS to closer landing sites 208(P1) and 208 i). The presence of hospital 222 adjacent to 208(P1) means that if aircraft 200 is in a medical-emergency state, 208(P1) may gain priority as an ALS due to nearby facilities. Finally, if aircraft 200 is in an engine-out state (all engines have failed), the system's land-immediately target radius 214 is narrower still. Landing site 208 i, situated inside target radius 214, may maintain priority as an ALS.
  • [0060]
    FIG. 4B explains generally how wind speed and direction may affect the range of an aircraft experiencing engine failure, and consequently the shape of the target range used to select best available landing sites. A slight wind over aircraft 200's starboard side elongates aircraft 200's target radii 214, 220, 218 slightly on that side.
  • [0000]
    Condition Indicator Possible Scenario Radius
    Land immediately RI Dead Stick 214
    Land as soon as possible RP1 Single Engine 220
    Land as soon as practicable RP2 Medical Emergency 218
  • [0061]
    The present invention may display landing opportunities within ranges (Rl, RP1, RP2) as circles (ellipses) on an aircraft's Multi-Function Display (MFD) or the like. Additionally, ALS suitability may be represented and displayed by color-coded icons (green, yellow, orange, red, or the like). The display range at which this and other information is presented may be user or system selected. In operation, an MFD (HUD or the like) serves to display information when the selected (user or system) range makes various classes (types) of information relevant. For example, in an effort to reduce clutter on moving map displays and the like, detailed surrounding terrain is displayed depending on altitude, airspeed, glide range, and distance (e.g., 20 NM). To reduce clutter traffic information may nominally be displayed at ranges between five and ten NM. Weather (and the like) is generally displayed at ranges of 200 NM and less.
  • [0062]
    Approach courses, and the corresponding target windows projected by the HUD, may vary depending on the specific emergency state. FIG. 5 depicts aircraft 200 experiencing engine failure after takeoff from runway 208. The system has selected a nearby open field as the best available ALS. Aircraft 200's glide slope and speed may vary depending on whether its emergency state is single-engine 210 b), aux-engine 210 c), or engine-out 210 a), and the optimal approach course (and corresponding opportunity gates) may vary accordingly. If aircraft 200 is in an engine-out state, for example, its glide slope may be steeper and its corresponding opportunity gate 210 a) higher relative to the final touchdown point.
  • [0063]
    FIG. 6 depicts aircraft 200 experiencing engine failure immediately after takeoff from originating airport 224. The system is directing aircraft 200 along emergency course 202, and preparing to ditch in a nearby river 226 a (section 226 b, being unreachable by aircraft 200, is unsuitable for ditching). Again, the aircraft's specific engine emergency (engine-out/210 a, single-engine/210 b, aux-engine/210 c) may determine its glide slope and speed, and its precise approach and corresponding opportunity gate 210 a, 210 b, 210 c) toward touchdown point 212 may vary accordingly.
  • [0064]
    FIG. 7 depicts an onboard display unit 700, which shows an aircraft in-flight from KSLN/Salina to KDEN/Denver to KSUX/Sioux City to KMSP/Minneapolis-Saint Paul per its initial flight plan (not over KMCK). Onboard display unit 700 also displays initial target radii calculated by the system for immediate landing 222, landing as soon as possible 220, and landing as soon as practicable 218, as well as a no-wind opportunity radius 214.
  • [0065]
    The system may record all data generated in-flight in memory storage. Flight data is streamed (or batch loaded) for incorporation into a database of the present invention for auxiliary purposes (e.g., comparison of a current flight to previous flights in order to predict and/or detect unusual conditions).
  • [0066]
    At least two primary embodiments of the present invention may be delineated in operation by the means utilized to determine the existence of an unusual condition. Where data is available from existing aircraft systems, such as position, airspeeds, flight control positions, attitude and angle of attack, propulsion and cabin condition, that data may be utilized by the present invention via the bus 532 (FIG. 2) to assist an apparatus of the present invention in ascertaining status and/or an unusual condition. For example, an ARINC 429, MIL-STD-1553, UNILINK, or like avionics data bus protocol may be utilized by the present invention. Likewise, an embodiment of the present invention may sufficiently derive the necessary information from limited available data. For example, an aircraft equipped with a GPS or other navigation system (inertial guidance, VOR, RNAV, LORAN, and/or ADF or the like) may be sufficient. Likewise, an embodiment of the present invention may include a GPS. In operation such an embodiment receiving continually refreshed GPS data related to the aircraft's position inflight may derive from those data further information related to the aircraft's airspeed, heading, attitude, rate of climb or descent, configuration, propulsion, or cabin conditions, and thereby assist an apparatus of the present invention in ascertaining status and/or an unusual condition.
  • [0067]
    For example, the present invention may interpret the aircraft 200's GPS coordinates as placing the aircraft (for any unique time Tx) at a point Px of coordinates (Xx, Yx, Zx), where Xx and Yx correspond to that point's latitude and longitude, and Zx to its altitude above mean sea level (MSL) and ground level (AGL). The present invention may then interpret the point of takeoff as (X0, Y0, Z0) at time T0, where X0 and Y0 represent the latitude and longitude of the current flight's origin point and Z0 (relative to the ground at the point of takeoff) is zero. The present invention may then interpret subsequent GPS data as representing a series of points
  • [0000]
    {P0(X0,Y0,Z0), . . . , Pn(Xn,Yn,Zn), Pn+1(Xn+1, Yn+1, Zn+1), . . . , PL(XL,YL,ZL)}
    along the aircraft's flight path, from liftoff at P0 to touchdown at PL. For any two such points Pa (Xa, Ya, Za) and Pb (Xb, Yb, Zb), the present invention may easily derive the total distance d traveled relative to the ground (over the time interval Ta to Tb) as
  • [0000]
    cos - 1 ( sin x b sin x a + cos x b cos x a cos ( x b - x a ) ) , or 2 sin - 1 ( sin x b - x a 2 ) 2 + cos x a cos x b ( sin y b - y a 2 ) 2 ,
  • [0000]
    the initial course from Pa to Pb (of distance d) as
  • [0000]
    { sin ( y b - y a ) < 0 : cos - 1 ( sin x b - sin x a ) cos d sin d cos x a else : 2 π - cos - 1 ( sin x b - sin x a ) cos d sin d cos x a ,
  • [0000]
    and the rate of climb or descent over the time interval as:
  • [0000]
    ( Z b - Z a ) ( T b - T a )
  • [0000]
    The present invention may also derive information related to the aircraft's airspeed, allowing for variances in wind speed and atmospheric pressure. For the aircraft's takeoff and initial climb, beginning at liftoff
    {P0(X0, Y0, Z0), time T0},
    and concluding when the aircraft reaches
    {PC(XC, YC, ZC), time TC},
    the aircraft reaches cruising altitude ZC, climbing at an average rate of
  • [0000]
    ( Z c - Z 0 ) ( T c - T 0 )
  • [0000]
    and traveling a distance (relative to the ground) of
  • [0000]

    cos−1(sin x c sin x 0+cos x c cos x 0 cos(x c −x 0))
  • [0000]
    while climbing. The present invention may also, for example, derive the aircraft's angle of climb as:
  • [0000]
    tan - 1 Z c - Z 0 cos - 1 ( sin x c sin x 0 + cos x c cos x 0 cos ( x c - x 0 ) )
  • [0068]
    A preferred embodiment of the present invention may ascertain the existence of an unusual condition by comparing available data related to the aircraft's performance in-flight (e.g., its position, altitude, airspeed, attitude, heading, rate of climb/descent) to performance norms (ideals) stored in an onboard dataset. Data sources from which these performance norms may be derived include the pilot's past performance history while flying the current route or under similar flight conditions, the aircraft's expected performance along a given flight plan or under similar flight conditions, or optimal performance conditions for a given aircraft at any point within a given flight plan (and/or flight segment).
  • [0069]
    Likewise, an embodiment of the present invention may note as an unusual condition any deviation of a particular performance factor, or set of factors, from performance norms and respond to a detected (ascertained) unusual condition according to one or more user selectable protocols (depending on the nature and severity of the condition). However, the precise course of action recommended by the present invention in response to an unusual condition may vary depending on the specific phase of flight in which the condition occurs (including taxi, takeoff, initial climb, cruise, descent, approach landing, and weather avoidance). Similarly, depending on the specific phase of flight in which a deviation from performance norms occur, the present invention may account for a broader or narrower deviation from performance norms in determining whether a deviation represents a routine event (associated with a configuration fix or procedure set that can be communicated to the pilot or autopilot system) or an unusual condition (including a potential emergency requiring diversion from the initial flight plan). For example, a deviation of two percent from expected cruising altitude may not be interpreted as an unusual condition (requiring only continued observation at that time, with possible action taken if the deviation persists or increases) while a similar deviation in altitude during the initial climb phase (approach or landing) may be interpreted as an unusual condition potentially requiring correction (and brought to the pilot's attention). Similarly, a preferred embodiment of the present invention may ascertain whether an unusual condition is a reroute, minor deviation, a configuration error, or a more serious problem (a potential emergency). The range of acceptable deviations from, for example, an idealized, expected norm, may be user/operator selectable and may vary by flight segment (and/or airspeed and altitude). Generally, in a preferred embodiment, tighter ranges (of acceptable values) are utilized the closer the aircraft is to the ground, other aircraft, or weather and the like.
  • [0070]
    For example, an embodiment of the present invention may identify a significant loss of airspeed inflight that may in turn indicate a partial or total failure of the propulsion system. If this loss of airspeed occurs at cruise, the present invention may suggest reconfiguration of the aircraft as a remedy, e.g., correction of improper use of flaps, power setting, and or angle of attack. If the loss of airspeed is not remedied by reconfiguration, the present invention may then suggest other courses of action. In the alternative, immediately after takeoff the present invention may interpret a significant loss of airspeed as an emergency or a potential emergency. Based on a variety of factors (including but not limited to the aircraft's altitude, the availability of alternative landing sites, and wind conditions), the present invention may then suggest an emergency landing, advising the pilot as to possible emergency procedure sets (turning in excess of 180° to land at the originating airport, gliding forward to an alternative airport, or touching down at some nearby alternative site suitable for landing) and the relative risk of each course of action.
  • [0071]
    In addition, embodiments of the present invention may track, collect and transmit data according to an established set of requirements. Such requirements may include a Flight Operations Quality Assurance (FOQA) program and the like. Such requirements may track operational data over time and transmit data to a central operational facility for follow on analysis. Future training or future simulator scenarios may be based on such analysis. Further, pilot specific data may be recorded for future pilot specific training. For example, should a specific pilot maintain a consistent set of errors over time, the systems of the present invention may create a training scenario for the specific pilot based on the consistent set of errors.
  • [0072]
    FIG. 8A depicts the underlying process by which, under routine flight conditions, the system of a preferred embodiment of the present invention may continually collect position data at selectable time intervals. Based on this information, the system may develop a continually refreshing hierarchy of the best available landing sites. FIG. 8B depicts the subroutine by which the system creates the ALS hierarchy, augmenting via ground-to-air data link the information previously downloaded from the onboard dataset (which may include terrain, traffic, and service information about airports and other alternative landing sites along the flight path). When this information is current, the system may then evaluate and rank available landing sites within a given radius, storing the results and displaying them to the pilot via display unit 700.
  • [0073]
    While this subroutine continually runs, the comparator 540 may also continuously assess incoming and derived flight data (which may include information about the aircraft's position, altitude, airspeed, attitude, etc.) in comparison to data patterns in the onboard dataset. These data patterns represent performance norms and may include expected data points relative to the history of a particular flight plan or leg, and the pilot's past performance on the current or similar routes. If a deviation from performance norms is detected or ascertained, the system may assess whether the deviation is sufficient to constitute an unusual condition. If an unusual condition exists, the system may notify the pilot via display unit 700, and may then further assess whether the unusual condition is associated with a configuration error (change) or, in the alternative, an emergency profile. If there is a configuration change associated with the deviation, the system will suggest the appropriate correction to the pilot via the display unit 700, or communicate the necessary changes to the autopilot system if it is currently active.
  • [0074]
    If there is no appropriate configuration correction (trouble solution or fix) to address the current deviation, the system may notify the pilot via the display unit 700, either recommending the activation of RP2 land-when-practicable status or activating that status through the autopilot system. The system may then compare current flight data with emergency profiles stored in the onboard dataset in order to determine if the current deviation from performance norms is indicative of an emergency or potential emergency. FIG. 8C depicts data components included in an emergency profile by a preferred embodiment of the present invention. Certain conditions, e.g., a rapid descent or significant loss of speed at climb or descent, may be associated with a particular emergency profile such as an engine failure. The magnitude of the deviation (e.g., a 25 percent vs. 50 percent loss of speed at initial climb) may inform the system of the severity of the emergency, and the system may set the corresponding target radius accordingly (RP2, RP1, or Rl) depending on urgency. The system may then adjust landing site priorities depending on the specific emergency, prioritizing medical, security, or other services in addition to the size of the target radius and feeding these new priorities to the ALS search routine (FIG. 8B). Finally, the system may load checklists and emergency procedure sets associated with the particular emergency, displaying them to the pilot via the display unit 700 for execution or sending them to the autopilot system for execution in the event of a diversion. The pilot may also activate an emergency state manually through the system interface 550.
  • [0075]
    When an emergency state is active, the pilot may be presented with current ALS information pertinent to the current emergency, displayed via the display unit 700. The pilot may then divert to an ALS. FIG. 8D depicts the information that may be displayed to the pilot via the display unit 700 when an emergency state is active and a diversion is imminent. For every viable ALS identified by the system, the system may associate with that ALS a calculated path in three dimensions to that ALS, as well as a set of emergency procedures necessary to effect a landing there. The pilot may choose to divert automatically, in which case the autopilot system will execute the associated emergency procedure set. In the alternative, the pilot may choose to execute a manual diversion to a particular ALS. In this case, the display unit 700 will display the associated emergency procedure sets and checklists for the pilot to execute in seriatim.
  • [0076]
    FIG. 8E depicts the data components of the main database and associated onboard dataset utilized by a preferred embodiment of the present invention. The database may contain information specific to pilots, aircraft and aircraft types, flight plans and legs, and selectable parameters for the system of the present invention. Prior to flight, the pilot may download from the main database information related to the pilot's history and past performance, the specifications and expected performance of his/her aircraft and aircraft type, the expected flight plan (including a history of expected performance associated with that particular flight plan or leg), and system parameters that may be selectable by the pilot or determined by a commercial carrier (including emergency procedure sets, system sensitivity settings and associated flight stages, rules and policies, and best practices). Parameters used by the system of the present invention may be scalable depending on aircraft categorization.
  • [0077]
    Aircraft are most typically categorized by weight and mission. For the purposes of an embodiment of the present invention aircraft may be categorized as: (1) general aviation (small<12,500 lbs and large>12,500 lbs); 2) commercial transport aircraft; or (3) military aircraft. Small general aviation aircraft tend to be low flying (non-pressurized) and have little excessive reserve performance. Commonly they are single-engine piston powered with only nominal performance reserve during all but taxi, descent, approach and landing flight segments. For this reason a reduction in or loss of propulsion is always an emergency (Rl). Larger general aviation aircraft tend to be pressurized and may have multiple turbine engines. Thus, larger general aviation aircraft are operated at significantly higher altitudes. Upon a loss of or reduction in propulsion, larger general aviation aircraft have an increased gliding distance and generally some propulsion. Thus, the loss of an engine generally requires descent and landing (RP1). Commercial transport aircraft are certified under different standards and have required performance criteria making the continuation of a flight after the loss of an engine safer and less time critical (RP2).
  • [0078]
    Military aircraft are generally designed to operate in extreme conditions at the boundaries of a broad flight envelope. In a hostile operating theater a damaged or failing aircraft may have few readily discernable options. In an operation of a military embodiment of the present invention, the apparatus may analyze aircraft and pilot performance in a threat theater and offer ALS risk analysis based upon identified options. For example, a wounded crew member, less than optimally performing pilot, a damaged aircraft, in an environment containing multiple threats (ground and/or air) will be greatly assisted by an embodiment of the present invention. As an embodiment of the present invention is notified of threat location and movement, aircraft and crew performance, mission plan, mission capabilities (changed or deteriorating), and position information, it may continuously display or point to a risk assessed option or set of options (e.g., mission abort, divert, egress direction). In highly critical situations an embodiment of the present invention may selectively execute a mission abort or selectively execute a return to base (RTB) where the crew is unresponsive. Additionally, such an embodiment of the present invention may be configured to transfer control of the aircraft to itself or ground (or wing) based control.
  • [0079]
    FIG. 10 depicts aircraft 200 making an emergency landing in a suburban area. The system has selected field 228 (a relatively open area whose location allows the pilot to land into the wind) as the best available ALS, and the pilot has executed to divert. The projected window 210 represents the pilot's opportunity gate, assisting in targeting the near end of the ALS in order to maximize the available emergency landing space.
  • [0080]
    FIG. 11 depicts aircraft 200 continuing to land in the suburban area. The system has selected an ALS (consisting of an open area, relatively free of obstacles, with favorable winds) and identified an emergency touchdown point; the pilot has diverted to that ALS. Projected window 210 serves to assist the pilot in touching down in such a way as to maximize the available treeless area for landing.
  • [0081]
    FIG. 12 depicts aircraft 200 in a medical-emergency state. After executing a divert from flight plan 240 to emergency course 202, aircraft 200 navigates to opportunity gate 210 to begin its final approach and land on runway 208, the best available ALS. In addition to runway 208, the system has evaluated nearby river 226 as a potential ALS. However, due to the fact that the medical emergency may require an RP2 profile, river 226 may display on a lower level of the hierarchy. Note the presence of hospital facilities in close proximity to runway 208, and that aircraft 200's course enables landing into a headwind.
  • [0082]
    FIG. 13 depicts aircraft 200 inflight eastbound over the North Atlantic Ocean, along flight plan 240. In order to ensure aircraft separation in an area with high traffic and sporadic radar coverage, air traffic is directed along well-known parallel tracks 102 a, 102 b, and 102 c, here depicted as 30 NM apart). Should aircraft 200 divert north to an ALS on island 230 a, or south to an ALS on island 230 b, the system may plot a course 202 b, 202 c) that first directs aircraft 200 parallel to track routes, maintaining a maximum distance of 15 NM from either adjacent track. Then, the system will allow aircraft 200 to exit the track system at an altitude safely below other aircraft.
  • [0083]
    FIG. 14 depicts aircraft 200 in a pressure-emergency state, at cruising altitude (FL380=“flight level 380”≈pressure altitude 38,000 ft) over mountainous terrain. In the event of a pressurization failure, aircraft 200 executes a diversion from initial flight plan 240. Aircraft 200's emergency path takes it through a mountain pass at FL160 (flight level 160≈16,000 ft, 202 a). Once clear of mountainous terrain, aircraft 200 descends along path 202 b to FL100 (flight level 100≈10,000 ft, 202 b), at which altitude lack of pressure is no longer an immediate danger. Aircraft 200's emergency course then proceeds downwind 202 c) to opportunity gate 210 for final approach and emergency landing on ALS 208, an airport runway.
  • [0084]
    FIG. 15 depicts RNAV navigational display information to aircraft 200 on approach to KMLE/Millard Airport, including navigational beacons and waypoints and nearby obstacles (and their elevations). Waypoint NIMMU serves as the initial approach fix 232 and opportunity gate 210 for final approach to land at KMLE Runway 12 208. Should aircraft 200 fly toward initial approach fix 232 in an incorrect configuration, the system may alert the pilot via display unit 700 of a suggested configuration change.
  • [0085]
    FIG. 16 depicts aircraft 200 diverting from its initial flight plan 240 to emergency path 202 (and executing the associated emergency procedure set). Emergency path 202 includes opportunity gate 210, which may also represent an initial approach fix 232 for final approach 204 to landing on runway 208; emergency path 202 provides for an obtainable (safe and desirable) touchdown point 212 on the portion of runway 208 nearest the position of aircraft 200 (in order to maximize available landing space).
  • [0086]
    In some embodiments of the present invention the pilot may, under emergency conditions, “divert” to a particular ALS by selecting the colored indicator displayed next to that ALS. Diverting to an ALS has several consequences. First, ground control may be immediately alerted of the diversion and of the pilot's intentions. Second, the pilot (or autopilot system, if active) may be directed to the selected ALS along the emergency course plotted by the system. Third, when the aircraft approaches the landing site, the heads-up display may project a virtual “window”. This window may provide the pilot with a quick visual reference to use in approaching what may be an unfamiliar or unmarked site, and in targeting a touchdown point selected by the system to maximize the chance of a safe and normal landing. In the alternative, the system may suggest emergency procedures to the pilot, who may then accept and execute them in seriatim.
  • [0087]
    FIG. 17A and FIG. 17B depict embodiments of the present invention displaying onscreen divert options available to a pilot who has declared an inflight emergency state. The aircraft in FIG. 17A has declared an engine-out state over eastern Nebraska. Three potential alternative landing sites are indicated along with their distance, heading, and suitability status: a grass field, 234 a (rated “green”, 236 a); a nearby road, 234 b (rated “yellow”, 236 b); and KOFF/Offutt AFB, 234 c (rated “red”, 236 c). The aircraft in FIG. 17B, inflight over the North Atlantic Ocean, has declared a single-engine state. Divert options are available to nearby emergency landing strips, along with their suitability color codes. The system has rated LPLA/Lajes Field 234 b) “red” (236 b) on account of adverse weather. However, divert options to either BIKF/Keflavik AFB 234 a or EINN/Shannon Airport 234 c—near which hospital facilities are found—are rated “green” (236 a and 236 c respectively) and available to the pilot by selecting the “DIVERT” indicator. In the alternative, the pilot may accept each component of the emergency divert procedure set in seriatim, manually changing heading (queuing configuration changes), contacting ground control, and so forth.
  • [0088]
    A display of the present invention may preferably indicate possible options to the pilot. The peace of mind of knowing one has “green” runway options available may offer the pilot valuable choices. As an aircraft leaves a runway at takeoff, all ALS options are red. As the aircraft climbs, ALS options turn green as they become viable Rl options. With all options red, the pilot has limited options: eject or activate the airframe chute. As landing options turn green, the pilot has options from which to choose to safely land.
  • [0000]
    Color Indicator/s Options
    ALL RED EJECT/CHUTE/DITCH
    1 GREEN LAND
    2+ GREEN CHOICE & LAND
  • [0089]
    An aircraft may encounter emergency conditions inflight that require diversion from the initial flight path. Conditions may require a precautionary landing (if further flight is possible but inadvisable), a forced landing (if further flight is not possible), or an emergency landing on water (generally referred to as a “ditching”). Emergencies may also dramatically reduce the time frame within which such a landing must occur. Emergency conditions may include: the failure of one or more engines (single-engine, aux-engine, or engine-out states); the failure of pitot/static, electrical, hydraulic, communications, or other onboard systems; a rapid decompression or other pressurization emergency; a medical emergency; an onboard fire; or an attempted hijacking (or similar security threat).
  • [0090]
    System input in the event of an emergency may be simplified to minimize demands on the pilot's attention and time. Should an emergency occur, the pilot may select from a menu of emergency states and “declare” the relevant emergency by selecting that state (RP2, RP1, Ri). Declaring an emergency state results in two immediate consequences. First, the system parameters for selecting an ALS may change depending on the specific emergency. Second, the pilot may be given the option to divert from the initial flight path to an ALS. The “divert” option represents an emergency procedure set ascertained/suggested by the system; in the alternative, the pilot may maintain manual control and accept each item of the emergency procedure set in seriatim (from a list, a flight director (with a queue key (scroll switch) or the like)).
  • [0091]
    When an emergency state has been declared and the “divert” option is available to the pilot, the hierarchical list of potential alternative landing sites (weighted according to their suitability as an ALS) may be displayed using a green/yellow/red color scheme. The most suitable landing sites (those closest to current position (for example), or with favorable surface and/or wind conditions, easily navigated headings, or nearby services) may be marked “green”. “Yellow” sites may be acceptable for an emergency landing, but conditions there may be less than ideal (e.g., ground traffic, uneven landing surface, crosswinds, obstacles). A site rated “red” is contraindicated as an ALS. Pertinent information about each potential “divert” destination (e.g., airport designation if any, surface conditions, other information relating to the site assessment) may be displayed along with its distance, heading, and color indication. In addition, should an aircraft be on one of the selected profiles (RP2, RP1, Rl) the system may continue to update possible ALS data if conditions change. For example, an aircraft is flying an RP2 profile and all engines fail. In this condition, the pilot may select and/or execute the Rl profile, allowing for safe forced landing at the selected ALS.
  • [0092]
    FIG. 18 represents the datasets and components that inform the system's selection of best available alternative landing sites and corresponding emergency procedure sets: the aircraft's airspeed, location, condition and configuration; current data on terrain and obstacles (natural and manmade), weather systems, winds, and ground services; available emergency states; available decision trees and courses of action (automatic diverts vs. manual decisions in sequence); coupled approaches to identified runways and landing sites; cross-referencing for airspeed/altitude/attitude; current data about local air traffic; glide potential; obtainable descent profiles; and factors influencing the selection of emergency courses and opportunity gates such as the length of runway, road or field required for landing; and other actions to be taken in the event of a divert such as transmitting intentions, squawking emergency, and maintaining contact with ground control (dispatch/ATC) and other authorities.
  • [0093]
    FIG. 19B depicts an aircraft inflight over the Colorado Front Range; nearby fields suitable for landing are KDEN/Denver, KCOS/Colorado Springs, KBKF/Buckley AFB (Aurora, Colo.), KCYS/Cheyenne, and KOMA/Eppley (Omaha). If an emergency state is declared, available divert options may vary depending on the specific emergency. If Rl, a land-immediately or “ditch” state, is declared KOMA is rated “red” due to its extreme distance. If the aircraft is in RP1, a single-engine state (“1 ENG”) KOMA may not be ruled out if it would be feasible to reach that destination safely and without incident. If a medical emergency is declared, however, landing is a more imminent priority and the system's target radius therefore narrows considerably. Only KDEN and KBKF are rated “green” due to their proximity and services. Finally, if a medical or threat emergency is declared both KOMA and KCYS are disregarded due to distance, KDEN and KCOS are both rated “green” as a suitable ALS, while KBKF is assessed and rated “red” despite its proximity due to lack of appropriate facilities.
  • [0094]
    FIG. 20 depicts aircraft 200 in Rl, a land-immediately or “ditch” state, having experienced engine failure immediately after takeoff from originating airport KMLE/Millard, NE 224. Several alternative landing sites have been evaluated, but most have been rated “red” due to their distance: KOMA/Eppley 2140, KOFF/Offutt AFB 2130, Interstate 680 238 (indicated by the system display as ROAD), a large field south-southwest of Offutt AFB 228 b (indicated as GRASS), and the Missouri River 226 (indicated as RIVER). Within Rl range 214, however, are two options rated “green”: a field 228 a directly ahead (opportunity gate 210 a) and originating airport 224. Field 228 a, however, is given higher priority than airport 224 as an ALS.
  • [0095]
    While returning aircraft 200 to the originating airport might appear to be the obvious emergency landing option in the event of engine failure, circumstances often indicate otherwise. Depending on aircraft 200's airspeed and altitude, as well as the experience and reaction time of its pilot (among many other considerations), executing a turn in excess of 180° back to originating airport 224 while in glide descent (the excess being necessary to realign the aircraft with the runway) may not be the safest available option. In FIG. 20, a field directly ahead of aircraft 200's position serves as a suitable, and safely reachable, ALS. If otherwise unfamiliar with the local terrain, aircraft 200's pilot may not have considered a landing in the field, instead attempting to return to originating airport 224 at considerable risk.
  • [0096]
    Similar to FIG. 20, FIG. 21 depicts aircraft 200 in a land-immediately (“ditch”) state at 1,000 feet above ground level (AGL). Multiple landing sites fall within aircraft 200's RP1 radius 220, some of them airport runways: originating airport KMLE/Millard 224, opportunity gate 2122; KOMA/Eppley 2140, opportunity gate 2142; KOFF/Offutt 2130, opportunity gate 2132; and the Missouri River 226. Only one site, however, lies within Rl radius 214: open field 228 (indicated as “GRASS”) at a roughly 1 o'clock heading relative to aircraft 200. Therefore field 228 has been rated “green” as an ALS (opportunity gate 210 a, final approach 204). Because hard-surface runways are available, the system may not display river 226 as an option.
  • [0097]
    FIG. 22 depicts aircraft 200 in a land-immediately (“ditch”) state, but at 4,000 feet AGL. At this higher altitude, an ALS that might not have been within 200's glide range at 1,000 feet may now be safely reachable. Therefore aircraft 200's land-immediately radius 222 now includes originating airport KMLE/Millard 224 (opportunity gate 210 a), KOFF/Offutt 2130, KOMA/Eppley 2140, and the Missouri River 226. All three airports are rated “green” as an ALS.
  • [0098]
    FIG. 23 depicts aircraft 200 in-flight westbound over the North Atlantic Ocean. In-flight under normal transatlantic conditions via course 240, the system may search broadly for an ALS within target radius 218, reflecting a need to land only when practicable. Within target radius 218, the system has identified an ALS in Greenland along path/procedure set 202 a to opportunity gate 210 a and touchdown point 212 a, and an ALS in Labrador along path/procedure set 202 b to opportunity gate 210 b. Should aircraft 200 declare an engine-out state, however, the search radius narrows to Ri, or target radius 222, reflecting an immediate need to land. As the Greenland ALS lies within the engine-out radius, it may be the only option available in an engine-out situation.
  • [0099]
    FIG. 24 diagrammatically depicts the various axes of rotation of an aircraft, which together produce a particular angle of attack into the relative wind. Flight control surface position selected via pilot or autopilot inputs largely dictate angle of attack. Aircraft airspeed is at least partially selectable by angle of attack and aircraft configuration. Power settings in combination with pitch and configuration control altitude and airspeed. Thus, in operation of a preferred embodiment of the present invention, a particular aircraft configuration is desired for each of the various segments of flight, generally, taxi, takeoff, climb, cruise, descent, approach, landing, and the like. Each model (type) of aircraft has known flight performance characteristics in a particular configuration within a particular flight (operational) segment. The present invention utilizes a lookup table (register or the like) extracted from the dataset, containing these aircraft performance characteristics for comparison with current or realized characteristics 540 against expected (most likely desired) flight segment characteristics (given weather, traffic, routing, and the like).
  • [0100]
    FIG. 25 depicts how wind speeds and headings can vary dramatically along a flight plan, and at a single geographic location, depending upon the altitude. The dotted line 2610 depicts a flight from KSJC/San Jose 2620 to KSLC/Salt Lake City to KDEN/Denver. A weather report might describe the wind as 10 knots from the northwest (300°) at KJSC 2630, 5 knots from the north (360°) at KJSC, and 10 knots from the northeast (60°) at KDEN. At any given altitude 2640 over any of these points, however, the reported wind direction and speed may not be accurately represented or forecast. The apparatus of the present invention may be preferably programmed/set for offsetting the variability of forecasts and/or moderating the display based upon most likely (worst case) conditions.
  • [0101]
    FIG. 26 depicts a hypothetical dataset display utilized/presented by the system to catalog available services (hospital, lodging, security, maintenance, and the like) and approach procedures for various airports, ALS's, and other pertinent locations. For example, at KAIA/Alliance Municipal Airport, hospital services and police are nearby, and a broad variety of instrument approach procedures are available, including RNAV, VOR, ILS, and LOC/DME.
  • [0102]
    In the context of embodiments of the present invention configuration and configured mean (1) the position of the aircraft relative to an expected position, (2) the attitude of the aircraft relative to an expected attitude, and (3) the position of controllable members and settings (e.g., gear, flaps, elevator, rudder, ailerons, spoilers, throttle(s), selection of navigation/communication frequencies, and the like) relative to expected settings. A flight plan may be described as a series of scalars describing the vector of an aircraft from one location to another (gate-to-gate, hanger-to-ramp, runway to runway, and the like). The vector describing this path will be altered in operation by, for example: (1) ATC (altitude changes, course changes, airspeed restrictions, arrival and departures, traffic, and holds or the like), (2) weather (deviations around, ground speeds, turbulence, and the like), and (3) pilot and aircraft performance. In an embodiment, system experience with a particular pilot or leg may be stored, compared, and made part of an analysis in determining what constitutes a departure from an expected vector (path). Deviation from what is expected may be tolerance dependent. For example, on takeoff, climb out, approach, and landing, system sensitivity to a deviation may be higher. Deviations resulting from ATC or weather may be ascertained, for example, by ATC communication patterns (i.e., a change in heading, altitude, and/or airspeed precedes an ATC/pilot communication) or by a change in weather condition or forecast received by an embodiment of the present invention not preceded by a change in heading, altitude, and/or airspeed (or the like). Thus, where a deviation is found unlikely (improbable) by the system of an embodiment of the present invention to be associated with ATC and/or weather, depending of flight phase/segment and the magnitude of the deviation, the system may warn the pilot of a likely configuration error and under certain conditions it may suggest a configuration change. However, if altitude, airspeed, weather, or traffic indicate few safe options (e.g., loss of power on takeoff) an embodiment may immediately suggest an ALS with an associated procedure set (insufficient ALS options given the total energy TE available to aircraft 200).
  • [0103]
    In the context of embodiments of the present invention unusual condition (262, 264, 266) means a deviation having a magnitude outside of a preselected range of acceptable values for a particular flight segment/phase. In a preferred embodiment a pilot, user, dispatcher, owner, or other entity may preselect what constitutes an unusual condition for each segment/phase of flight. Conversely, a system of a preferred embodiment of the present invention may operationally determine a range of acceptable values for a particular pilot, aircraft, segment, leg, or the like from past flight data.
  • [0104]
    In the context of embodiments of the present invention flight segment, flight phase, segment, phase, or segment/phase means a portion of a flight having a particular aircraft configuration or desired aircraft configuration. More particularly, in the context of an embodiment of the present invention an aircraft in a certain configuration will produce a corresponding airspeed, rate of ascent/descent, course change, or the like. Aircraft being operated on a flight plan with an embodiment of the present invention and its associated database(s) (FIG. 2 and the like) in a particular segment of flight should be progressing along the desired vector (path) at an expected rate (relative to the ground and destination) within an expected tolerance. Deviations from expected tolerances may be user (pilot and the like) selectable and are presented to the pilot.
  • [0105]
    In addition, during each phase/segment of flight an aircraft possess a finite energy state (kinetic+potential energy=total energy (KE+PE+TE)). Aircraft energy state (total energy) directly effects range. For example, an aircraft at FL380 (38000 MSL) has more energy than one at 8000 MSL. Similarly an aircraft at 500 knots and 500 MSL in a bombing run with full stores has more energy than one at 200 knots and 500 MSL. Energy equals options. An embodiment of the present invention monitors total energy and utilizes known total energy to ascertain available options by, for example, criticality and flight segment.
  • [0106]
    FIG. 9A diagrammatically illustrates an aircraft 200 departing from an airport 224 for a destination airport having runways 208(a) and (b). Depending on wind conditions the aircraft may be landing via and approach 210(a) and (b). In operation an aircraft may be expected to operate between an area of expected operation 260 (dashed lines) while on a flight plan (solid line) during flight operations and associated phases of flight (242-256). An aircraft on takeoff and climb, in a preferred embodiment, will be considered in an unusual condition 262(a) with even a slight deviation from the expected flight path. Corrective actions may be expected or prompted by the system when the unusual condition 262(a) is detected. If the aircraft 200 proceeds, to for example, a likely unusual condition 264(a) the system of an embodiment of the present invention may be more insistent (perhaps requiring a pilot acknowledgement or the like) in order to neutralize further warnings. Should the aircraft 200 appear to the system to be proceeding to a position 266(a) (anticipated position) dangerous to the aircraft, the system of an embodiment of the invention may become still more insistent (or the like), requiring some aircraft reconfiguration, flight plan cancellation or alteration, corrective action (or the like). An aircraft 200 enroute (or transiting another less critical flight phase) may deviate from expected position substantially more before an embodiment of the present invention detects an unusual condition 262(b). An embodiment of the present invention may not draw the pilot's (crew's) attention to the deviation until the aircraft 200 has exited the expected operation area 260 and is in a likely unusual condition 264(b). The system may become more insistent if it predicts the aircraft 200 is proceeding to a position 266(b) (anticipated position) dangerous to the aircraft.
  • [0107]
    FIG. 9B is a diagrammatic elevation of a flight plan (expected path/course) of an aircraft 200 from an originating airport 224 to a second airport 208. The expected area of operation of the aircraft 200 is schematically defined by dashed lines (260). The expected area of operation is diagrammatically illustrated as substantially narrower during take off 242, climb 244, descent approach 252, and landing 254). A variation in position is tolerated by an embodiment of the present position most preferably by altitude (AGL), airspeed (GS), and aircraft configuration.
  • [0108]
    An aircraft on takeoff and climb (FIG. 9B), in a preferred embodiment, will be considered in an unusual condition 262(a) with even a slight deviation from the expected flight path. Corrective actions may be expected or prompted by the system when the unusual condition 262(a) is detected. If the aircraft 200 proceeds to, for example, a likely unusual condition 264(a) the system of an embodiment of the present invention may be more insistent (perhaps requiring a pilot acknowledgement or the like) in order to neutralize further warnings. Should the aircraft 200 appear to the system to be proceeding to a position 266(a) (anticipated position) dangerous to the aircraft, the system of an embodiment of the invention may become still more insistent (or the like), requiring some aircraft reconfiguration, flight plan cancellation or alteration, corrective action (or the like). An aircraft 200 enroute (or transiting another less critical flight phase) may deviate from expected position substantially more before an embodiment of the present invention detects an unusual condition 262(b). An embodiment of the present invention may not draw the pilot/crew's attention to the deviation until the aircraft 200 has exited the expected operation area 260 and is in a likely unusual condition 264(b). The system may become more insistent if it predicts the aircraft 200 is proceeding to a position 266(b) (anticipated position) dangerous to the aircraft.
  • [0109]
    Thus, in various preferred embodiments of the present invention, the invention may provide at least one of emergency guidance (Safety Hierarchical Emergency Pilot Helper Engageable Runway Diverter: “SHEPHERD”) and configuration error identification and configuration suggestions (Safety Interface Mission Operations Navigation: “SIMON”).
  • [0110]
    In operation, a database of potential alternative landing sites (ALS's) may be created and maintained utilizing airport directory information, satellite imagery, survey data, surface temperature data (variations over time), traffic data, current and historic Landsat imagery, remote sensing (road and field), LDCM (Landsat Data Continuity Mission), TIRS (thermal infrared sensor), and the like. Airport directories such as AeroNav (www.aeronav.faa.gov), AOPA (www.aopa.org/members/airports), AirNav (www.airnav.com/airports), and world airport directories such as www.airport-directory.com and www.airport.airlines-inform.com may be utilized by embodiments of the present invention. The present invention may utilize satellite imagery such as Landsat, LDCM, TIRS and with terrain data from USGS (www.usgs.gov), WeoGeo, and TopoQuest, Google Maps and the like to determine the acceptability of potential off-airport landing sites. Likewise, road and traffic information may be analyzed for additional potential off-airport landing sites and incorporated into the ALS database 526 via the flight assistant 100 and through a subscription 600 of an embodiment of the present invention. Generally, traffic data may be obtained via the onboard database associated with the network of GPS satellites (for general traffic patterns), US Department of Transportation traffic sensors, reflected data from GPS-enabled vehicles and mobile devices, or from aftermarket data providers and data aggregators such as Google Maps, Inrix, Radio Data Service, Sirius/XM, MSN, and the like.
  • [0111]
    An embodiment of the present invention may utilize data from the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) as well as the full compliment of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen). In operation an embodiment of the present invention may receive traffic, weather, terrain, and flight information from ADS-B as an exclusive source (or enhancing cumulative or partially cumulative source) for processing by an apparatus of the present invention for detecting unusual conditions (positions) and configuration errors (and the like) and selectively suggesting either a new flight profile or flying a suggested flight profile.

Claims (26)

  1. 1. An apparatus for enhancing pilot situational awareness of a nearest Alternate Landing Site (ALS), comprising:
    (a) a flight trajectory generator configured for determining a flight trajectory of an aircraft from at least one input, the at least one input extracted from at least one data register;
    (b) an internal data register comprising at least one of: aircraft position, aircraft altitude, aircraft track, aircraft attitude, aircraft configuration, flight characteristics, engine out glide range, emergency landing range, precautionary emergency landing range, flight plan, aircraft history, pilot history, and flight plan history;
    (c) an external data register comprising at least one of: traffic data, natural geographic topology, constructed geographic features, the constructed geographic features including at least one of: roads, bridges, airports, and structures, airport data, and weather data;
    (d) a computer configured for receiving the flight trajectory and at least one input from a data register, the computer configured for determining at least one nearest ALS based on the flight trajectory and the at least one input;
    (e) a plotter configured for plotting a three dimensional path from the aircraft position and altitude to the at least one nearest ALS within the parameters of the at least one data register, the three dimensional path including at least one of: a descent profile, a transition profile, a configuration profile, an opportunity gate, and a landing profile; and
    (f) a control for prompting at least one of the aircraft and the pilot in accordance with the three dimensional path to effect a landing at a selected ALS of the at least one nearest ALS.
  2. 2. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising a display for displaying a hierarchy of a plurality of the at least one ALS, the hierarchy based on a characteristic of the ALS and on a specific emergency requirement of the aircraft.
  3. 3. The apparatus of claim 2, wherein the display is further configured to present the hierarchy to the pilot based on a condition of the aircraft.
  4. 4. The apparatus of claim 2, wherein said display further comprises one of a format compatible with a multi-function display, a hierarchical ordered list of the at least one ALS automatically presentable to the pilot, and a reduced data format including colored ALS presentable in primary flight display.
  5. 5. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising means for determining the flight segment of the aircraft.
  6. 6. The apparatus of claim 5, further comprising means for determining the desired configuration of the aircraft for said flight segment.
  7. 7. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising means for determining to a level of confidence if the aircraft is at least one of properly configured and in an unusual condition or position.
  8. 8. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the aircraft flight trajectory further comprises: an x and y coordinate set conforming to at least one of a North American Datum, a North American Vertical Datum, a World Geodetic System, and a European Terrestrial Reference System, a radial DME from a known fix, and a triangulation of bearings from a plurality of known fixes.
  9. 9. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the aircraft flight trajectory further comprises one of an Above Ground Level (AGL) altitude and a Mean Sea Level (MSL) altitude.
  10. 10. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the traffic data further comprise at least one of: TCAS, radar, ATC feed, ADS-B, and surface-based traffic.
  11. 11. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the terrain data further comprise one of: a DTED level 1 set, a DTED level 2 set, and satellite based imagery.
  12. 12. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the airport data further comprise at least one of a runway length, a runway width, a runway lighting, a runway characteristic, an indication of airport rescue and fire-fighting personnel, a proximal medical facility, and a proximal maintenance facility.
  13. 13. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the weather data further comprise one of: a surface wind, an altitude based wind model, a ceiling, a visibility, a barometric pressure, a braking action, and an illumination.
  14. 14. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the aircraft data further comprise one of: a possible change in configuration, a position of a control surface, a performance characteristic, a weight, a pilot flight control input, an autopilot status, and an MEL status.
  15. 15. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the at least one nearest ALS for the aircraft further comprises one of an existing runway, a taxiway, a road, a field and a body of water.
  16. 16. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the at least one characteristic of the ALS further comprises at least one of the airport data, a slope, a width, a length, an indication of an obstruction, and a proximal rescue facility.
  17. 17. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the three dimensional path from the aircraft position and altitude to the at least one nearest ALS further comprises a path further amendable based on a change in the at least one data register.
  18. 18. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the control is further configured for enabling pilot execution of the three dimensional path based on at least one of a reception of an execute command from the pilot and a determination that the pilot is unresponsive.
  19. 19. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the control is further configured to include a deadman control configured for automatically executing the flight control inputs necessary to execute the three dimensional path where the deadman control is at least one of open and closed.
  20. 20. A flight assistant, comprising:
    (a) a system bus, said system bus for receiving at least one set of position coordinates at a selected time interval;
    (b) a control system, said control system communicatively coupled to said system bus, said control system including one or more processors configured to:
    receive a flight plan describing a three-dimensional path;
    determine an expected route defining an operating space including said flight plan, the expected route being a function of at least one or more of aircraft performance, pilot performance, current performance, terrain, traffic, ground proximity, flight segment, air space, and weather; and
    detect a path to a point outside said expected route; and
    (e) a display, to inform a pilot if said aircraft is on a path to a point outside said expected route.
  21. 21. A non-transitory computer-readable medium bearing instructions executable by at least one computer or processor, said instructions for:
    (a) determining a flight trajectory of an aircraft from at least one input, the at least one input extracted from at least one data register;
    (b) receiving the flight trajectory and at least one input from a data register;
    (c) determining at least one nearest ALS based on the flight trajectory and the at least one input;
    (d) plotting a three dimensional path from an aircraft position and altitude to the at least one nearest ALS within the parameters of the at least one data register, the three dimensional path including at least one of: a descent profile, a transition profile, a configuration profile, an opportunity gate, and a landing profile; and
    (e) prompting at least one of the aircraft and the pilot in accordance with the three dimensional path to effect a landing at a selected ALS of the at least one nearest ALS.
  22. 22. The computer-readable medium of claim 21, further comprising instructions for determining a flight trajectory of an aircraft from at least one input extracted from at least one of:
    an internal data register comprising at least one of: aircraft position, aircraft altitude, aircraft track, aircraft attitude, aircraft configuration, flight characteristics, engine out glide range, emergency landing range, precautionary emergency landing range, flight plan, aircraft history, pilot history, and flight plan history; and
    an external data register comprising at least one of: traffic data, natural geographic topology, constructed geographic features, the constructed geographic features including at least one of: roads, bridges, airports, and structures, airport data, and weather data.
  23. 23. The computer-readable medium of claim 21, further comprising instructions for:
    displaying a hierarchy of a plurality of the at least one ALS, the hierarchy based on a characteristic of the ALS and on a specific emergency requirement of the aircraft; and
    presenting the hierarchy to the pilot based on a condition of the aircraft.
  24. 24. The computer-readable medium of claim 21, further comprising instructions for:
    determining the flight segment of the aircraft; and
    determining to a level of confidence if the aircraft is at least one of properly configured and in an unusual condition or position.
  25. 25. The computer-readable medium of claim 24, further comprising instructions for:
    determining the desired configuration of the aircraft for said flight segment.
  26. 26. The computer-readable medium of claim 21, further comprising instructions for:
    enabling pilot execution of the three dimensional path based on at least one of a reception of an execute command from the pilot and a determination that the pilot is unresponsive; and
    automatically executing the flight control inputs necessary to execute the three dimensional path.
US14142390 2012-12-28 2013-12-27 Flight Assistant with Automatic Configuration and Landing Site Selection Abandoned US20140343765A1 (en)

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US201361900199 true 2013-11-05 2013-11-05
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