Browsing Tag: TCAS

The best seats in the house. This is the cockpit of the 787 with large "glass" screen. Who wants to go for a ride?

787 cockpit showing TCAS on the Multi-Function Display – Photo: AirlineReporter

A few months ago, a near-collision between two Boeing 757s off the coast of Hawaii was in the headlines. This event was particularly noteworthy because of the emergency descent made by United Airlines Flight 1205, which descended over 600 feet in a matter of seconds, terrifying passengers and sending items flying in the cabin. The pilots on the United flight were alerted to the oncoming traffic, and took action based on their Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS).

History of mid-air incidents and TCAS mandate

Although TCAS systems are a (relatively) recent development in airline cockpits, the need for such systems was recognized long ago. On June 30,1956, a mid-air collision occurred at 20,000 feet between a United Airlines DC-7 and a TWA Lockheed 1049 over the Grand Canyon in northern Arizona. This incident, which resulted in 128 fatalities, served as a wake-up call for the aviation industry. Prior to the collision, “big sky theory” was the prevailing notion – that two aircraft flying in three-dimensional space were very unlikely to collide. Following this incident (which also led to the creation of the FAA), research began on developing collision avoidance systems.

Cockpit of an Airbus A320

Cockpit of an Airbus A320

What does the cockpit of the future look like? New technology? Fewer pilots? Maybe no pilots? I don’t know if people will ever be ready for no human to have some sort of control over their airplane, but maybe they will be ok letting computers take over a bit more.

Recently, Airbus has taken another step towards airplane automation. Now, when two airplanes get too close, the Traffic alert and Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) will sound an alarm, the pilot will check out the situation and make needed adjustments. Many times, the system can provide false alarms or pilots can over-react to the alarm. Aibus’ new system will automatically adjust a plane’s altitude to avoid a collision. This will reduce false alarms and increase safety. For those that feel pilots should have more control — no worries. They are able to shut off the automated system and fly manually if they need to.

To see some quotes from Airbus and see what Boeing thinks, check out my story on AOL Travel News.