For years we have seen the increasing presence of touch screen’s in our everyday lives, from initially being present on payment terminals and museum exhibits to now being in the palm of your hand. It would seem somewhat strange that only now, almost 20 years later from 2000 we are finally starting to see their emergence into aircraft avionics. Is it the future?
Recently, I have become intrigued by the Gulfstream G700 cockpit. If you notice it above, have a look at the lack of buttons present in the cockpit. Almost everything is done via pressing a screen from the engine start to setting up the avionics and hydraulics. Gulfstream has been able to condense many functions of the aircraft into menus and reduce the workload, allowing for the aircraft to go from a cold and dark state to be ready to taxi in a blazing 10 minutes. Some critics present safety concerns about these new cockpits, citing difficult operation during phases of flight with turbulence. As a result, Gulfstream has added additional fail-safes in the form of menus that ask for confirmation after completing certain actions. This new cockpit seems like a radical departure from the standard in aviation, which still emphasizes the use of physical switches and buttons, but other companies are also making the switch.
Airbus is also currently in an interesting position in regards to its avionics design philosophy. Starting December 2019, they have begun offering a touch screen option in the cockpit of their A350 aircraft although not as radical as the Gulfstream cockpit. Their primary purpose is to support EFB operations, such as airport charts and performance calculations.
Currently, a notable absence is from this trend of moving to touchscreens is Boeing, although the 777X also has a touch screen cockpit in development.
So it seems the question is no longer is it the future, the question is now, how soon do we see this present in every aircraft? What do you think of these new touchscreen cockpits?