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Helping Pilots Avoid the Ground

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Aviators have a saying: "You can only tie the record for low flight."

Well, the U.S. Air Force's Air Combat Command is installing a system in its jets that is designed to keep future pilots from tying the record. Press Zoom reports that the Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System is a software-based technology that has demonstrated a 98 percent effectiveness rate at eliminating aircraft crashes into the ground. The system is ready for operational integration on F-16 Fighting Flacons, F-22 Raptors and F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.

Auto-GCAS differs from other crash-avoidance systems in that it doesnt create nuisance warnings and activates only at the last instant to take control and recover the aircraft when it determines collision is imminent. The determination is made when the aircraft is within 1.5 seconds of the "point of no return" and no action has been taken by the pilot.

Manual or warning-only systems don't prevent many of our ( controlled flight into terrain ) mishaps," said Col. Tex Wilkins, senior Air Force readiness analyst with the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. "That's because situations like pilot spatial disorientation, target fixation, loss of situation awareness, or G-induced loss of consciousness may render a pilot unable to process the warning and/or perform the necessary maneuvers to prevent a collision with the ground. Current programs rely on a pilots ability to manually respond to its warnings. Auto-GCAS, however, is specifically designed to prevent a collision in situations where a pilot cannot.

Defense Department experts estimate that without Auto-GCAS more than 130 fighter aircraft will inadvertantly fly into the ground over the next 25 years. Wilkins said the Auto G-CAS program could virtually eliminate controlled flight into terrain as a mishap category.

That preserves a lot of combat capability and will obviously make a huge difference in the department, Wilkins said. Were pleased the technology to curb this trend and save pilot lives is ready to go.

(Gouge: CM)

-- Ward

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