Fog-beating tech trialled by Aurigny ‘is a game changer’
NEW fog-beating technology could see flight delays due to bad weather dramatically reduced, if it is brought in locally.
Aurigny has been looking at a prototype ATR-72 600 fitted with ClearVision technology – infra-red cameras that allow pilots to see through fog and it is planning to make a business case to its shareholders – the States – to replace its existing three ATRs with the new version.
Based on tests done on the equipment so far, it can cut the number of times a plane cannot land due to fog by 50%.
The ATR was at Guernsey Airport this week, and Aurigny crew were given the chance to try the technology for themselves.
Coincidentally, it arrived in Guernsey at the same time as other inbound flights were unable to get in due to foggy conditions.
The in-cockpit side of the tech is a SkyLens headset worn by the pilot, which resembles those used by virtual reality applications.
This provides an augmented reality view, and, while in one eye the pilot sees the real world, in the other it was the view from the infra-red cameras mounted on the aircraft’s nose.
Aurigny’s flight operations director Nigel Moll was one of the staff who had a chance to fly the plane but said that on this occasion he was disappointed that there was no fog. ‘After three days when we were hoping it would lift all the time, we were rather hoping it would be here,’ he said.
But despite not being able to see the equipment at work first-hand in fog, he was in no doubt what its introduction would mean to Guernsey. ‘It’s a game changer,’ he said.
‘On a foggy day you might fly down to 200ft above the runway and not see it. With this, you can see it.’
The prototype aircraft that visited the island is based on the newest model of ATR, which has a different cockpit set-up to those currently being flown by the airline, which are nine years old.
Once tests are completed, it is anticipated that the new ClearVision-equipped ATRs will go into production at the end of next summer.
‘Subject to the business case with the States we would like to be the first, if not one of the first, customers, for this system,’ said Mr Moll.
‘It’s ideally suited to an airport like Guernsey.’
He added that the makers of the airline’s Embraer jet are also looking into similar technology.