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Blind-Cockpit F-18 Points to Supersonic Bizjet

Blind-Cockpit F-18 Points to Supersonic Bizjet

Testing is under way of an F-18 with a covered aft cockpit to help prove that a camera-equipped aircraft with no forward view windows could be a viable option for a future supersonic business jet.

The external vision system tests involve Gulfstream Aerospace and are taking place at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., using the agency´s F-18 systems research aircraft (SRA). The aircraft´s aft cockpit canopy is shielded with only small cut-outs to represent side windows, while the forward view is taken up with a a 22-inch high-definition (HD) display. Gulfstream is exploring supersonic business jet configurations affording little or no forward view.

The liquid crystal display, bolted in place over the glareshield, is being used to display an image from an HD camera mounted behind the head-up display in the front cockpit. A safety pilot flies in the front cockpit, ready to assume control if the situation warrants, while the mission is flown from the aft cockpit by a pilot using only instruments and the visual display on the external vision system.

Gulfstream is exploring advanced technology options in systems, aerodynamics, structures and propulsion that could be brought together for a future, quiet supersonic jet (QSJ) and in 2007 completed flight-tests of the morphing Quiet Spike nose probe to mitigate sonic booms. As a Concorde-like drooping nose is unlikely to be a feasible or affordable design option for a quiet-spike equipped QSJ, Gulfstream is also exploring flight deck concepts with restricted or zero forward vision.NASA Dryden external vision system program manager Larry Myers says the demonstration is "really designed to convince the FAA that under visual flight rules you could do this, and so far it looks like you could." Five flights have taken place since mid-September, and the work is expected to culminate with three night flights around the end of October. The plan also includes flying an FAA pilot in the aft cockpit.

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