If you have any inputs, positive or other, please let me know – JD
My Black Boxe(s) by J. D. Newman
I have dreamed of a BLACK BOX for my General Aviation (GA) Aircraft as long as I have been flying ( all my life ). This BLACK BOX I have dreamed of for so many years is a Central Computer to help relieve the pilot of some of the tedious, mundane duties not directly involved with actually flying the aircraft but must be remembered – a safety issue with me and most pilots. Better cars and other transportation vehicles have had such on-board computer controlled features for many years. It is simply amazing that GA aircraft are still basically based on 1930’s technology in most ways. Even the airliners and military aircraft are somewhat automated. Why isn’t GA? This paper is to plan out that dream, and then to make this dream a reality. If you have ANY inputs, please let me know!
First, the goal and how to achieve it. The purpose of this point paper is to document the design review of my desired BLACK BOX functions, assist in the design of the logic flow chart, and to assist in the actual design and manufacture of the BLACK BOX to build it. Important: This, or any other BLACK BOX, needs to have separate internal system cards so that any one or more system failure will not stop the proper function of the remaining aircraft systems. Another beauty of having independent cards, if the builder / pilot does not want to hook up and/or allow a system to be automatically controlled by the BLACK BOX by just shutting the switch OFF, s/he can do so. This BLACK BOX should also have a test mode to verify it’s proper operation before each flight, and have a setting for maintenance checks so it can be tested in conjunction with gear swings, airspeed checks, throttle position, etc.
Note that ALL aircraft systems controlled by the BLACK BOX can still be remotely controlled either by a separate pilot operated 3 position ( except for the landing and taxi lights ) miniature lever lock switch consisting of OFF ( removes that function from BLACK BOX control) / ARMED (BLACK BOX controls function ) / ON, and/or by voice commands ( if installed ), which also only works when ARMED is selected. The landing and taxi lights are controlled by a rotary switch ( because I don’t think there is a 4 position lever lock toggle switch ) that consists of the positions OFF / ARMED / ON / FLASH ( which automatically alternates between turning the landing and taxi lights ON ). With these kinds of switches and voice commands, the pilot will still always have customized control over the BLACK BOX and the aircraft’s systems.
The audible for each function will have it’s own voice enunciation distinguishing each system from the other.
Functions controlled and inputs gathered by the BLACK BOX to operate and monitor the aircraft systems
* Let’s begin with engine pre-start. When the pilot opens the canopy, even though the Master Switch is OFF, the cockpit and instrument lights will come ON via their own photocell if it is dark enough out to help the pilot see in the cockpit ( just like a cars dome light ). But the cockpit and instrument lights will go out in 5 minutes if the battery side of the Master Switch is not at least turned ON. By closing the canopy, or by at least cycling the canopy switch, this will recycle the BLACK BOX to turn the cockpit and instrument lights back ON for 5 minutes without at least turning the battery side of the Master Switch ON.
To continue, when BOTH sides of the split Master Switch is turned ON ( which means you are probably going to start the engine ), the Pre-Oiler and Aux. Fuel Pump, along with the Navigation Lights, Landing Light, Taxi Light, Strobe Lights and Rotating Beacon will all come ON, even during the day – the exterior lights coming ON signifies eminent engine start for those observing ( but if this is too much power drain on the battery, just the pre-oiler, fuel pump, rotating beacon – and maybe the strobe lights – will all come ON ). Also, the aircraft PA bullhorn that is part of the aircraft alarm system ( if installed ) warns ground personnel of engine start with a very loud ‘Clear Prop’ twice.
The FAR’s defines ‘flight time’ as “chock to chock”, or basically from engine start to engine shutdown. This is why the Actual and Engine Flight Time Clock for pilot log book and engine and accessory maintenance entries comes ON only after engine start, via sensing engine RPM, engine oil pressure reaches 8 PSI, and alternator output is putting out 12+ volts. The reason the alternator is put into the loop with the oil pressure switch before the clock will turn ON is because I will have a pre-oiler that puts out 3 GPM at ~55 PSI when I turn BOTH sides of the Master Switch ON.
To continue, when the engine starts AND the alternator is putting out 12+ volts, the fuel pump shuts off 1 minute after engine start ( this verifies the engine driven mechanical fuel pump works and the pilot verifies the Fuel Pressure Gauge works ), and the navigation lights, landing light and taxi-light will go out ( they will be ON IF it is determined these items will not be too much draw on the battery during start to have come ON before engine start as discussed above ) via their own photo cell that controls these functions if it is not dark enough – the navigation lights, landing and taxi lights, strobe lights, instrument and cockpit lights may stay ON as discussed below.
Taxiing out, the transponder and strobe lights ( strobes OFF only at night ) remain OFF so the transponder does not to blank the controllers radar screen and so that the strobes blinding fellow pilots around your plane at night, which is rude, or blinding yourself when you taxi between buildings.
* On taxi, run-up or take-off, when the throttle is advanced past 1500 RPM, and the canopy and/or oil door and/or fuel door is left OPEN, the Master Caution Light comes ON, the appropriate warning light comes ON, and the Simplify voice ‘Bitch’n Betty’ comes ON.
* On take-off, when the throttle is advanced past 2000 RPM, the fuel pump will come ON ( which pilot of course verifies ), and remains ON for 5 minutes after the gear is raised, for after 5 minutes, you should be well airborne.
* Also on take-off, when the throttle is advanced past 2000 RPM AND 60 knots is attained, the strobe lights will come ON if at night ( they will already be ON during the day ), the transponder will come ON, the gear can be retracted ( the canard speed brake automatically retracts if left out to protect the prop or is forgotten ) and the Airframe Clock comes ON. Leaving the canard speed brake out on take-off is, of course, not recommended for short field take-offs. The Airframe Clock is to keep track of how much time the airframe itself has been subjected to actual flight conditions and loads for data gathering and maintenance.
After 5 minutes airborne during the day, you are probably out of the airport operating area and the strobes will go OFF;
* In flight, the instrument and cockpit lights, navigation lights and strobe lights all come ON automatically via their own photocells at sunset, or when the day gets dark enough from adverse weather, and go OFF at sunrise or when the day weather gets brighter. The instrument and cockpit lights must still have a separate photocell of their own for control from the photocell that controls the navigation lights and strobe lights. The instrument and cockpit lights intensity are automatically controlled getting dimmer as the day or night gets darker, but there still is a rheostat or cockpit voice command for the pilot to customize the instrument and cockpit lighting to their personal preference;
* In flight, if the pilot turns the landing and taxi lights ON for maximum visibility to other aircraft or to the tower with the gear still UP, the landing and taxi lights will automatically flash, and the strobe lights come ON, even during the day;
* In flight at 100 knots IAS ( or less ), the throttle at 1500 RPM ( or less ), and the gear still UP, the Master Caution Light comes ON, the Gear Warning Light comes ON, and the Simplify voice ‘Bitch’n Betty’ comes ON;
* In flight, when icing conditions may be encountered ( by measuring OAT and dew point ), the pitot heat and the anti-ice system turns ON, the Master Caution Light comes ON, the Pitot Heat and Anti-Ice Warning Lights come ON, and the Simplify voice ‘Bitch’n Betty’ comes ON. After this warning alerts the pilot, the audibles turn OFF but the light for Icing Conditions remains ON until you are out of the possible conditions for ice to form;
* Before landing, when the pilot puts the gear DN and is still above 60 knots, the Video Flight Recorder will come ON. Most problems and infractions occur in the airport operating area during landing. I will also have the Video Flight Recorder ON during all test flights. This system can also be turned ON to document anything that happens during the flight, including conversations with your friend and mine, the FAA/ATC;
* Upon landing, when 60 knots ( or less ) is achieved, the Airframe Clock shuts OFF and the strobes will shut OFF in two minutes, even at night, since they are not needed after exiting the runway while you are taxiing back to your hangar;
* Leaving the battery side of the Master Switch ON for more than 10 minutes ( time can be adjusted by the pilot ) and the engine is not started causing the alternator to put out 12+ volts, will cause the Master Caution Light to come ON, the Master Switch ON Warning Light will come ON, and the Simplify voice ‘Bitch’n Betty’ comes ON.
* On the inside of one of the main wheels, have a sensor that counts wheel revolution so I can determine approximately how many feet take-off and landing roll is. I need a resettable counter on the panel.
Airspeed, OAT, RPM, Fuel Gage, Humidity Sensor, Altitude, Alternator and Throttle Position will all talk to the BLACK BOX.
My dream fuel gage will include:
* Left, right and auxiliary fuel tanks are measured and displayed to the pilot digitally to the tenth of a gallon and to the tenth of a pound. Or in liters and kilos for that “other” measurement system other countries use;
* The pilot can program in the aircraft’s empty weight, and the pilot, passenger(s) and baggage weight so the pilot always knows the aircraft’s total weight and CG during all flight conditions ( the FS locations for all these variables will already be in the aircraft data base for calculating aircraft CG location and whether the aircraft is loaded correctly ). With this information, and knowing the humidity and OAT, along with the aircraft’s AOA, VSI, altitude and IAS plugged into the BLACK BOX, the pilot can attain very accurate data about his aircraft at all altitudes and during all maneuvers ( I would like to have Sierra Flight Systems glass cockpit, then I wouldn’t need these items to talk to my Black Box for the SFS already records ALL flight and engine parameters ). Also, s/he can attain best engine-out glide speed data giving maximum range during a dead stick glide. All this can be determined and displayed ( with warnings if best glide speed is not maintained ) for any altitude. This data will create an extremely accurate owner’s manual for YOUR aircraft;
* Pilot programmable Bingo setting to warn when either 30 minutes, 45 minutes or 1 hour of fuel for 1 hour of flight time is left on board via the Master Caution Light coming ON, the Bingo Warning Light comes ON, and the Simplify voice ‘Bitch’n Betty’ comes ON;
* Measures total gallons on board to the tenth of a gallon – the pilot never needs to input gallons on board;
* Measures fuel flow and calculates MPG, GPH, and PPH ( pounds per hour – for when I install a turbo fan or turbo prop engine ) based on GPS ground speed at all times;