Will the airliner of the future be able to sense if the pilot is drifting off to sleep and wake them up? A fascinating glimpse into Airbus' thinking for future airliner flight decks and the forthcoming A350XWB.  [caption id="attachment_7405" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="The flight deck of the A350XWB - set to fly in 2013. (Airbus)"][/caption] Last week's Seventh Annual International Flight Crew Training Conference on 26/27 September at the Royal Aeronautical Society provided a insight into a wide variety of issues involving pilot training and civil flight operations. In particular it saw the Royal Aeronautical Society given a leading role in co-ordinating international efforts to update training for today's high reliable and very automated airliners. [caption id="attachment_7406" align="alignnone" width="376" caption="Captain Owens provided an insight into future flight deck concepts."][/caption] But where are these automated flight decks taking us? What will the cockpit of an airliner of the future look like and how will it interact with  the crew? At the conference a fascinating presentation from Captain David Owens, Senior Director Flight Crew Training Policy, Airbus outlined the manufacturer's thinking that is going into its new A350XWB - and how it is moving beyond traditional HMI (human machine interface) concepts into a new way of easy-to-operate and easy-to-learn functionality. [caption id="attachment_7407" align="alignnone" width="403" caption="An Airbus concept for an augmented reality passenger cabin of the 2050s. Could the technology also make it into the cockpit? (Airbus)"][/caption] Tantalisingly Captain Owen's presentation, entitled 'The Future Flight Deck and the Pilot Role' also included hints of the technology the cockpit of the future 'A30X' the next generation single-aisle airliner from Airbus could include, such as augmented reality and using brain wave monitoring to detect wakefulness of pilots. It may not be thought control, a la the fictional Firefox, but the  airliner cockpit of the 2030s and beyond may incorporate these nascent technologies to make air travel even more safer and efficient. (It might be argued that 'augmented reality' already exists for airliners and fighter jets - the HUD - but any future applications are likely to go well beyond this as displays get lighter, cheaper and even become flexible or curved). [caption id="attachment_7408" align="alignnone" width="403" caption="This Canadian company, InteraXon is working on brainwave control technology for IFE games - could this technology also help combat pilot fatigue by warning pilots when they are about to nod off?"][/caption] Airbus has been accused by its critics in the past of an approach to automation that is engineering-led - however as this video shows, the airframer is putting the crew at the heart of its future flight decks. Check out the exclusive video below.   Conference proceedings are also available.  Contact the RAeS Conference & Events Team on +44 (0)20 7670 4345 or email conference@aerosociety.com

Tim Robinson
5 October 2012