I love to watch air crash investigations and other technology programmes; I heard about this:
To avoid air disasters, GPS was used; this alerted the pilot to some terrain, but the satellite system alone wasn’t enough. GPWS introduced: A major drop in crash incidents occurred when the Ground Proximity Warning System (GPWS) was introduced in the early 1970s.
In simple terms GPWS just looks at your radio altimeter to determine if you are about to bump into anything solid, which is useless if you are flying into a vertical cliff sticking out of level ground.
The EGPWS (Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System) system incorporates a GPS so that the aircraft knows exactly where you are, it also knows the location of terrain all over the world, and so is able to work out if you are going to bump into anything on your route. A much safer system than simply relying on a radio altimeter!
Colour coding is used - green for terrain 500’ or so below the a/c, amber for terrain near a/c level and red for terrain above a/c level. On the newer updates we even have man made obstacles displayed such as towers. All in all, it’s an extremely positive addition to flight safety and terrain awareness. The GPWS monitors terrain proximity using an internal worldwide terrain database.
In the future, pilots won’t have to look out of the window because like a satnav, you will see the outside on a screen and the plane will follow the flight path set.
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