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Climb aboard the Falcon

This plane is a Dassault Falcon, one of several planes used by Honeywell to test out new aviation technology.

Published:Caption:Photo:Lexy Savvides/CNETRead the article
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The Falcon's flight deck

The Falcon is home to several experimental displays, including one that shows a 3D airport representation so pilots can safely navigate between gates and taxiways.

Published:Caption:Photo:Lexy Savvides/CNET
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No jetway needed

Even the stairs on the aircraft announce the plane's experimental technology.

Published:Caption:Photo:Lexy Savvides/CNET
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Preparing for takeoff

Lead test pilot Bryan Weaver heads up our flight on the Falcon. He's taxiing the plane down the runway as we take off at Phoenix's Deer Valley Airport. Directly in front of him is a synthetic vision display. It shows a 3D rendering of the world outside the cockpit, with obstacles, terrain and runway information on one screen.

Published:Caption:Photo:Lexy Savvides/CNET
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Helping pilots see what they might miss

Weaver checks displays in the cockpit during the flight. He tells me that synthetic vision displays can help pilots with situational awareness. Compared to traditional displays, synthetic vision displays give pilots a better a better sense of where the plane is in relation to the environment, he says.

Published:Caption:Photo:Lexy Savvides/CNET
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In flight

Even though it's almost completely dark outside the cockpit, synthetic vision displays (shown here on the left and right) make it look like we're flying on a bright, sunny day.

Published:Caption:Photo:Lexy Savvides/CNET
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Blue-over-brown display

This blue-over-brown display is something that today's pilots are used to seeing, but it doesn't give them the same level of detail as synthetic vision.

Published:Caption:Photo:Lexy Savvides/CNET
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Infrared overlays

This is an infrared image superimposed over a traditional flight display. The blue-over-brown view underneath the IR image (as seen on the previous slide) is normally all pilots see. With infrared, pilots get a clear view of what the environment looks like outside the cockpit, even if there's low visibility due to bad weather or they're flying at night.

Published:Caption:Photo:Lexy Savvides/CNET
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Seeing is believing

The infrared camera is mounted at the front of the plane.

Published:Caption:Photo:Lexy Savvides/CNET
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Synthetic vision

Honeywell's version of synthetic vision, called SmartView, also guides pilots onto the runway with helpful symbology.

Published:Caption:Photo:Lexy Savvides/CNET
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The airport map

One of the displays in the Falcon shows the plane's position in the airport.

Published:Caption:Photo:Lexy Savvides/CNET
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Dark outside, bright inside

Another example of how these new displays can help pilots see everything outside the cockpit even though it's completely dark.

Published:Caption:Photo:Lexy Savvides/CNET
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Flight simulator

Honeywell's flight simulator is used to collect pilot feedback on new displays, such as synthetic vision. Other technology under the hood includes a feature that lets pilots see where they need to go once they're on the runway, kind of like GPS in a car. They enter a gate coordinate on a tablet, then the taxi path is displayed on screen in the cockpit.

Published:Caption:Photo:Lexy Savvides/CNET
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Landing

A commercial airliner comes in to land near Honeywell's facilities in Phoenix, Arizona.

Published:Caption:Photo:Lexy Savvides/CNET
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