The Liberty Gazette
April 15, 2014
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Mike: The weather was pleasant, no fog, no storms, and the wind was blowing from the west at about 20 knots, with gusts up to 30 knots. With the east-west runway the pilots had no problem landing with that wind, although the ride around the pattern was a bit bumpy from the gusts.
For 25 minutes they flew the twin-engine turboprop airplane called a Beechcraft King Air C-90 around the traffic pattern at the Salamanca airport in Spain, and as they flew, they were bringing the future with them.
The prospect on their unique flight was new vision: Google Glass, wearable and functional.
Two pair of eyeglasses each equipped with camera, GPS, Bluetooth, microphone, and a small screen programmed to display the airplane’s checklists and real-time navigation, made their maiden voyage last month adorning the heads of two people from Adventia, a European college of aeronautics.
Linda: The head of training, Juan Riquelme, spoke to the glasses, saying, “Okay, Glass, checklist” and there a screen appeared in the upper right of his spectacles displaying the before take-off checklist of the King Air he was about to fly. As he read off the items to be performed, ‘remove chocks, check oil, inspect ailerons’, Google Glass put a checkmark next to the item in his vision, then removed it from the list. Likewise, his co-pilot, Adventia’s Chief Flight Instructor, Diana Rodriguez, saw the checklist items, and when she called for the map it appeared in her vision without obscuring the real world beyond it. This technology was adapted from that designed by the Faculty of Medicine at Standford University and used for surgical procedures.
Pilot Innovation Day, and the first conference on innovation in the cockpit were the backdrop to this first-ever demonstration of wearable flight information during an actual flight, so all the big-wigs were on hand for the show: the university chancellor and dean of the aeronautics college, the head of training for Spain’s Iberia Airlines, as well as developers from Google and its partner in this project, Droiders.
All the gee-whiz-wow-bang coolness of Google Glass should not shroud the goal – improved safety and efficiency in training and in the cockpit. Wearing the device that provides information can significantly reduce the need to let go of flight controls to look up data during flight. In the training realm these glasses are expected to reduce the amount of time lost due to real-time updating of important data, such as weather, navigation, and special notices to airmen. There it will be, right before our eyes.
Mike: There are still a lot of questions to be answered before this product can be applied to aviation in the way its creators hope. In our industry we consider redundancy as important as speed and accuracy of information. The question begs to be asked: what if I drop them?
Flying with advanced automated cockpits can be overwhelming for students. Hopefully the glasses perform as advertised and reduce training time and improve comprehension.
Linda: They also claim that airlines will realize savings in fuel costs by switching from several pounds of paper navigation charts to Google Glass, the reduction in weight making for better results – but your mileage may vary. Wasn’t there a song about someone with “googly eyes”? Ah, yes, back in 1923. “Barney Google (With the Goo-Goo-Googly Eyes”). Amazing foresight!