You are on page 1of 3

Michael Braukus

Headquarters, Washington, DC February 11, 1999

(Phone: 202/358-1979)

H. Keith Henry
Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA
(Phone: 757/864-6120/24)

Mary Nolan
AvroTec, Inc., Portland, OR
(Phone: 503/221-1220)

RELEASE: 99-17


In the not-too-distant future, there may be a virtual

"highway in the sky," as the average person could take to the sky
in small, safe and affordable, easy-to-fly personal aircraft,
traveling four times the speed of today's cars.

NASA has selected a team of industry partners to help develop

the highway in the sky system, a key element of the government-
industry effort to revitalize general aviation in the United

Development costs will be shared equally between NASA and

the seven-member industry team, with both contributing
approximately $3 million. Team members are Avidyne Corp.,
Lexington, MA; AvroTec Inc., Portland, OR; Lancair, Redmond, OR;
Raytheon Aircraft, Wichita, KS; Rockwell Collins, Cedar Rapids,
IA; Seagull Technologies, Los Gatos, CA; and AlliedSignal,
Olathe, KS.

The team, with AvroTec as team lead and Avidyne as technical

project manager, has 2 1/2 years to complete hardware and
software development of a totally new concept for presenting
critical, flight-path guidance information to the pilot.

Dubbed "highway in the sky," the cockpit display system

includes a computer-drawn highway that the pilot follows to a
preprogrammed destination. The highway is drawn on a highly
intuitive, low-cost flat panel display -- the primary flight
display of the future -- that will displace decades-old "steam
gauge" instrumentation.
The system also includes a multi-function display of
position navigation, terrain map, weather and air traffic
information. In addition, digital (datalink) radios will send
and receive flight data, and a solid-state attitude and heading
reference system will replace gyroscopes.

Together, the displays and other equipment will provide

intuitive situational awareness and enough information for a
pilot to perform safely, with reduced workload, in nearly all
weather conditions.

In addition to transforming cockpits, the technology

developed by the team will redefine the relationship between
pilots and air traffic control and fundamentally change the way
future general aviation pilots fly. This technology is expected
to significantly increase freedom, safety and ease-of-flying by
providing pilots with affordable, direct access to information
needed for future "free-flight" air traffic control systems.
Pilots will have the ability to safely determine their routes,
speeds and proximity to dangerous weather, terrain and other

The team will work toward flight certification of the

highway in the sky system around the year 2001. This will be the
first attempt to certify such a system using affordable
commercial "off-the-shelf" computer technology in aircraft.

Development of the highway in the sky system has been

fostered by the Advanced General Aviation Transports Experiment
(AGATE) -- a consortium of more than 70 members from industry,
universities, the Federal Aviation Administration and other
government agencies. All seven highway in the sky team members
are AGATE members.

AGATE was created by NASA in 1994 to develop affordable new

technology -- as well as industry standards and certification
methods -- for airframe, cockpit, flight training systems and
airspace infrastructure for next-generation single pilot, four-
to-six seat, near all-weather light airplanes.

Along with a parallel program -- the General Aviation

Propulsion program for development of revolutionary engines --
AGATE is providing industry partners with technologies leading to
a small aircraft transportation system in the early 21st century.
These investments support the national general aviation "roadmap"
goal to "enable doorstep-to-destination travel at four times
highway speeds to virtually all of the nation's suburban, rural
and remote communities."

- end -