Flying from Wichita Mid-Continent Airport in a Cessna 182 on a recent cold, clear night showcased miles of Wichita’s glimmering lights below.
West of the city, however, it was difficult to make out details on the ground, including the upcoming Lake Afton.
The lake, however, grew obvious with the use of a real-time infrared Enhanced Vision System by Astronics that had been installed in the airplane.
A night vision device, called the Max-Viz-600, showed the lake as a black area on a cockpit display.
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The equipment helps pilots see better at night or in bad weather conditions, said Eric Nickelson, chief flight instructor with Cessna Employees’ Flying Club, as he piloted the 182.
It also can help pilots see livestock in a field or wildlife or aircraft on a runway or taxiway. It can show the top of a mountain, section lines for roads, or an unlit landing strip.
“You know exactly where you are,” Nickelson said. “It’s a benefit if, God forbid, there’s an engine failure at night. … There’s a lot of peace of mind.”
Astronics’ Max-Viz-600 provides additional situational awareness for pilots of Cessna 172, 182 and 206 single-engine aircraft.
Cessna is now offering the Enhanced Vision System as a $22,145 factory option on new Skyhawk, Skylane and Stationair planes. It’s also offered as a retrofit for planes already in service at a cost of $30,051, according to Cessna.
The equipment hooks to Garmin G1000 avionics systems.
The system helps pilots visually penetrate haze, light fog, smoke and precipitation during night or day flying conditions, the company said.
That increases safety, said Lou Churchville, fixed wing business development leader for Astronics, based in Portland, Ore.
“It turns night into day,” Churchville said from the backseat of the 182. “It makes night flying much easier.”
The systems use infrared sensors, signal processing and advanced cockpit displays to piece together the display that shows up on the screen.
The Max-Viz-600 was designed for general aviation piston and slower single-engine turboprop fixed wing aircraft.
Astronics offers similar systems for other aircraft.
In all, it provides devices for more than 200 aircraft, including helicopters, general aviation aircraft and business jets, the company said.
In August, Astronics Corp. bought Max-Viz for $10 million in cash. Another $8 million may be paid if Max-Viz achieves certain revenue targets in 2013 and 2014, according to the company.
At the time, Max-Viz, founded in 2001, had projected 2012 revenue of $7 million to $8 million.