Gulfstream Redefines Piloting with its Symmetry Flight Deck

While the BizAv industry marvels over Gulfstream G500’s Symmetry Flight Deck, the aircraft manufacturing company presents “Creating Symmetry” to let the world dive deeper in to the creation of this one of its kind flight deck.

Issue: BizAvIndia 2/2019By Ayushee ChaudharyPhoto(s): By Gulfstream
G500 Symmetry Flight Cockpit: There are 10 touch screen controllers that have cleaned the deck off over a dozen stand-alone switches

What started with a secretive meeting in 2008 has led to the desired revolutionary outcome a decade later. Scott Martins, one of the Master Development Test Pilot at Gulftsream recollects how in a meeting in July 2008, Preston Henne, Senior Vice President, Programs, Engineering and Test now retired, displayed his iPhone 1 and said, “That’s where the world is going and that’s where we need to go in the cockpit.”

Emphasising on the size of the device Henne stated, “This is how I want flight deck to work. People who fly our airplanes 10-20 years from now will be absolutely comfortable with a touch interface because it is changing the world.” Almost a decade later than that, a new safety standard was indeed set by Gulfstream as the first in business aviation to offer active control sidesticks on its aircraft with the delivery of the first G500 on September 27, 2018.

Last year, Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation announced the certification of its G500 aircraft by the Federal Aviation Administration, installed with BAE Systems’ active sticks. Being the first certified civil active inceptor in the world, the achievement was a remarkable one in the history of flight controls.

With the G500 having received Aviation Week’s 2017 Technology Laureate Award, a 2019 Editor’s Choice Award from Flying magazine and Business Intelligence Group’s 2019 Innovation Award, Gulfstream then came up with docuseries (a documentary series) this year about this flight deck, to be aired weekly on its social media channels.

On March 18, 2019, Gulfstream premiered the first episode of its all-new documentary, “Creating Symmetry” which is a series showing the making of the Gulftsream Symmetry Flight Deck, claimed to be the industry’s most technologically advanced flight deck, in service at present on the cleansheet Gulfstream G500.

Active sticks are the controls a pilot uses to fly the aircraft. Also referred to as active control sidesticks or active inceptors, these provide intuitive tactile feedback that helps pilots control the aircraft and maintain a stable flight, unlike passive controls, according to BAE Systems.

As BAE states, decades ago, aircraft moved to digital fly-by-wire controls from mechanical controls, meaning much of the tactile feedback from pilot controls was lost. Active sticks return that feedback to the pilot, within a completely electronic system, which also offers significant weight and volume savings over mechanical controls. By providing an indication of any impending structural or aerodynamic operating limits — such as excessive bank angle or stall — the active sticks improve a pilot’s awareness and ability to control the plane.

The Symmetry Flight Deck features electronically linked active control sidest icks, uses touchscreen technology extensively and Gulfstream’s Enhanced Flight Vision System, allowing pilots to ‘aviate, navigate and communicate like never before’.

Not just that, the Symmetry Flight Deck features electronically linked active control sidesticks, using touchscreen technology extensively and Gulfstream’s Enhanced Flight Vision System, allowing pilots to ‘aviate, navigate and communicate like never before’.

The Symmetry Flight cockpit eliminates the massive yokes and instead brings in the touchscreen avionics controls. The flight deck is believed to have caused an advanced era in the cockpit design, functionality and aesthetics. There are 10 touch screen controllers that have cleaned the deck off over a dozen standalone switches. The number of control panels has been significantly reduced with only a few dedicated ones for certain critical functions.

Gulfstream G500: Optimised for stylish performance

The introduced controls replace the traditional pedestal mounted yoke, facilitating enhanced visibility of the avionics suits and certainly improving pilot comfort. Gulfstream’s active control sidesticks have been linked digitally to allow visual and tactile control inputs in tune improving the situational awareness. The sidesticks have been carefully placed where a pilot’s arm and hand naturally tend to rest, thereby further improving the comfort. The controller panels are also equipped with ergonomic frames to stabilize the pilot’s hand while he or she uses the touch screens.

The touch-screen controllers are capable of acting as a radio, can display flight plans and also perform system checks. The free space made available by the absence of control columns can be used for foldout work desks and also for the adjustable perforated leather crew seats.

Gulfstream states that the tablet-based interfaces intelligently and intuitively structure avionics input options to match only the tasks appropriate to the phase of flight the aircraft is in at that point in the mission. The cockpit especially designed for the Gulfstream G500 and Gulfstream G600, is capable of accepting upgrades continuously and incorporate any future navigation developments.

The Symmetry Flight Deck has been referred as an office conducive to the work the pilots perform.