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Avionic innovations that changed how we fly

Prior to March 2020 we simply took aviation and the ease of flying from one place to another for granted. And while most passengers aren’t fully aware of avionics or what exactly it does, there are a few innovations that have completely transformed the way the pilot performs the task of getting you from point A to point B in a massive machine.

Cockpit computerisation

Most aircraft these days have a phenomenal safety record and one reason for that is the advance of “glass cockpits,” computers fitted into the instrument panel. Since the 1980s this is an area of avionics that continuously improves. These computers make the crew’s job easier and more intuitive but also much safer.

Global Positioning System

How often do you drive without your GPS? Can you imagine the pilot sliding into his or her seat without it? No more paper maps for any kind of transport. But GPS has probably had the greatest impact on air travel.  The Global Positioning System is based on a network of satellites and was originally established by the US military in the 1970s.

Staying connected

In an age of connectedness and information, we are accustomed to always having internet access. Designing high-speed systems that consistently work and remain stable in aircraft cabins as they fly anywhere in the world has been challenging. However, jet-fleet operators can now tap into global satellite systems that allow private-jet passengers to do everything from streaming video on their own devices to checking their email during their flight.

The weather overground

Weather is the one uncontrollable variable most challenging to aviation of any kind. Most modern aircraft can fly above clouds and rain, but crews still need to deal with the unpredictable conditions close to the ground during take-off and landing. Unfortunately weather is not available in Southern-Africa.

As computers have become standard in cockpits this challenge has significantly decreased. Pilots can reference “synthetic vision” in the cockpit. It is a system that consults databases and onboard sensors to create a “moving map” display. According to some, these systems have almost eliminated Controlled Flight into Terrain (CFIT) for routine operations.

Find your lane and stay in it

It’s hard to imagine that two planes will collide mid-flight, but there have been a few of these tragic events. However, thanks to recent advances in technology In-flight collisions are increasingly rare and are expected to reduce to near zero in the not-too-distant future. The ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast) devices provide signals that allow pilots to track all other aircraft in their range on a screen in their cockpit, no matter the weather or visibility.

Avionics has made a lot of progress in just the last 40 years. It’s instrumental in making flying so much safer, faster, more comfortable and easier to manage. With technology changing at a faster pace as each year passes, it’s easy to conceive that equally unimaginable progress will be made in a fraction of the time.

Four decades of avionics in South Africa

It’s not just the avionics that’s grown in 40 years. Century Avionics has been part of the industry for more than four decades. We’re the largest and oldest privately owned avionics facility in South Africa. If you want to get in touch we can discuss about more changes taking place in the field.


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