Field Work: Patrick Mullen ’93

Photo by Jon Rou

Patrick Mullen, an an AFROTC cadet when he was a student, is a corporate pilot who operates a Gulfstream G650 and G-V in Portland, Oregon. The captain’s seat he occupies now is a thing to behold.



  1. HUD (Head Up Display): The HUD projects aircraft performance information like airspeed and altitude onto the windscreen directly in front of the pilot. This system allows the pilots to keep their vision outside to the front of the aircraft and avoid having to look down for data. This aircraft also has an infrared camera mounted on the nose pointed straight ahead. This information is displayed on the HUD allowing the pilots to essentially see through low-visibility situations.
  2. DU (Display Units): The display units provide the aircrew with information about the aircraft position, weather, system status and malfunctions in addition to other functions. They are essentially computer screens, and the information displayed is chosen using a small mouse-like controller. The main aircraft computer monitors the aircraft systems, such as electrical, fuel and engine performance, and will alert the crew to any malfunctions on one of these screens.
  3. MCDU (Multifunctional Control Display Units): These units provide the ability to receive information about and operate three main functions: performance, navigation and radio tuning. This system is constantly monitoring environmental conditions, such as temperature and winds, and it computes speeds and altitudes to optimize either fuel economy or time en route. They also input GPS data and provide position information for the crew. Finally, the keypads provide access for the crew to tune radios that provide communication with ground controllers and other aircraft.
  4. Control Columns and Wheels: The pilot and co-pilot control columns, along with the rudder pedals, allow the crew to control the aircraft in all three dimensions: pitch, roll and yaw. This aircraft utilizes a fly-by-wire system. The movement of the parts of the aircraft that govern turns, direction and ascent or descent is communicated from the pilot’s or co-pilot’s control column to a computer that in turn sends a signal to actuators that move those parts, such as the rudder. This system is an upgrade to previous systems, which had cables running from the pilot and co-pilot column to each part.