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A History Of Fly By Wire


This analysis address provides a actual account of the development and accomplishing of fly-by-wire flight ascendancy systems. The address explains to the clairvoyant what flight controls are. It provides an overview of above innovations in flight ascendancy systems. It afresh goes on to explain what a fly-by-wire flight ascendancy adjustment is and discusses the NASA development affairs that fabricated fly-by-wire a reality. It afresh discusses the F-16 Fighting Falcon which was the aboriginal accumulation produced aircraft to beforehand a fly-by-wire system. The allowances of fly-by-wire flight ascendancy are discussed as is the amplification of fly-by-wire flight ascendancy systems into bartering and accepted aviation. Finally, a cessation on the actuality of this address is provided.

1. Introduction


This actual analysis address describes the development and accomplishing of fly-by-wire flight ascendancy systems in adjustment to amuse the academic address requirements categorical in the beforehand abridgement for EGR 3350, Technical Communications for Engineers and Computer Scientists.

1.2 Background

Ever aback the aurora of powered animal flight was able by Orville and Wilbur Wright in December 1903, engineers and aeronautic innovators acquire approved to convention added able and safer methods of aircraft flight control. The change of flight ascendancy systems from animal powered automated linkages to fly-by-wire computer systems constitutes a astonishing affectation of aeriform engineering progression. Fly-by-wire flight ascendancy systems signaled a abundant bound in aeriform cerebration and architecture from automated bond and ample hydraulic systems to computer-aided electrical flight ascendancy systems. An commodity by Gray Creech of NASA’s Dryden Flight Analysis Center explains how [1] “these systems created astronomic allowances for the aerospace industry acceptance all-embracing abridgement of weight and aircraft adjustment back-up accretion assurance of flight.” NASA’s fly-by-wire development affairs was the aboriginal affairs to auspiciously convention an electrical flight ascendancy adjustment afterwards a automated backup. This program’s success led to the aboriginal accumulation produced fly-by-wire aircraft, Accepted Dynamics’ and Lockheed Martin’s F-16 Fighting Falcon, the amplitude shuttle’s fly-by-wire flight ascendancy computer, and abounding alternative advancements in fly-by-wire flight ascendancy that are now actuality able in the bartering and accepted aerodynamics industries.

1.3 Scope

This address will explain to the clairvoyant what flight ascendancy is and detail a abrupt history of aircraft flight ascendancy and the innovations that preceded fly-by-wire adjustment development. This address will afresh altercate NASA’s fly-by-wire development affairs and the antecedent deployment of this technology in the F-16 Fighting Falcon. This address will explain the abounding allowances inherently acquired from employing a fly-by-wire flight ascendancy system. Finally, this address will detail how this flight ascendancy adjustment acquired to be acclimated in the bartering and accepted aerodynamics industry. This address will not awning approaching trends of fly-by-wire flight ascendancy systems.

2. Discussion

2.1 What is Flight Control?

The ascendancy of flight of an aircraft is bent by ascendancy surfaces on the aircraft anatomy that are adapted in accommodating movements by a flight ascendancy adjustment that orients an aerospace agent about three axes of motion. These axes of motion are referred to as yaw, pitch, and roll. Figure 1 illustrates these axes.

Figure 1. Aircraft Axes of Motion

Dr. William Elliot gives a abundant abridgment on how these axes of motion are afflicted by ascendancy surfaces.

[2] “1. Normal (vertical) axis, erect to the apparent of the wings. Movement about the vertical arbor in flight is alleged yaw. In best avant-garde aircraft, adherence in yaw is afflicted by a anchored vertical fin in the rear; alive ascendancy in yaw is able by a adaptable adviser anchored abaft the vertical fin.

2. Longitudinal axis, casual through the assembly from avant-garde to back. Movement about the longitudinal arbor is alleged roll. Adherence in cycle is taken affliction of by wings anchored at a hardly advancement bend (dihedral); alive flight ascendancy in cycle is done by flaps (ailerons) abaft the alien wings.

3. Lateral (horizontal) axis, casual through the wings about from tip to tip. Movement about the accumbent arbor is alleged pitch. Adherence in bend is conferred by a anchored accumbent tailplane; flight ascendancy in bend is able by elevators army abaft the tailplane.” In authoritative these surfaces, a pilot utilizes assorted ascendancy mechanisms such as automated linkages, hydraulics, trim tabs, actuators, and, in the case of fly-by-wire systems, electricity and computers to actualize the adapted achievement on the flight ascendancy surfaces based on the pilot’s input.

2.2 Abrupt History of Flight Ascendancy Adjustment Progression

Dr. Elliot continues to explain that afterwards [2] “Glenn Curtiss’s apparent of the aileron, the basics of avant-garde flight ascendancy were durably established, and the aftereffect was a ‘standardized’ cable-operated ascendancy system.” [2] “In this ‘standard’ arrangement, a distinct ascendancy cavalcade (or ‘stick’) was acclimated to accomplish both elevators and ailerons through a alternation of cables and pulleys; in a agnate fashion, the adviser was confused by bottom pedals.” The concrete backbone of the pilot was all that was adapted to augment these ascendancy surfaces in flight for apathetic affective aircraft. The concrete limitations of pilots began to be able as aircraft became faster and heavier. [2] “This botheration was initially apparent by the accession of baby flaps (‘tabs’) on primary ascendancy surfaces. These surfaces activated the airflow acting on the tabs to move the capital ascendancy apparent they were absorbed to.” The development of automated aerodynamics systems was additionally on activity at this time and [2] “steady advances in autopilot technology led to the development of automated boosters to abetment pilots in affective ascendancy surfaces of actual ample aircraft.” [2] “Successive aircraft produced during the backward 1940s and aboriginal 1950s affiliated to accomplish abundant advances in hydro-mechanical flight ascendancy systems.” [3] “During this time aeon hydro-mechanical ascendancy systems developed into 3000 psi hydraulic systems” as apparent in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Flight Ascendancy Adjustment Innovation Timeline [3]

Technology Aggressive Commercial

Un-Powered: 1910s 1920s

Powered Boost: 1940s 1940s

3000 psi Hydraulics: 1940s 1950s

Auto Pilots: 1950s 1950s

Fully Powered, w/*Reversion: 1950s 1960s (Boeing 727)

Fully Powered, w/out *Reversion: 1950s (B-47) 1970 (Boeing 747)

Fly-By-Wire: 1970s (F-16) 1980s (A-320)

Digital Fly-by-Wire: 1970s 1980s (A-320)

5000 psi Hydraulics: 1990s (V-22) 2005 (A-380)

Power-By-Wire: 2006 (F-35) 2005 (A-380)

*Reversion: Servo actuators alleviate acceptance pilot automated control. [3]

Figure 2 capacity the engineering progression of flight ascendancy systems over the aftermost 100 years. Interestingly, above-mentioned to the academy of fly-by-wire flight ascendancy systems, [2] “artificial ‘feel’ systems were congenital in flight ascendancy systems to necessitate the charge for pilots to feel as admitting they were still mechanically affiliated to the aircraft flight ascendancy adjustment alike admitting hydraulic systems bankrupt this affiliation amid pilot and ascendancy surface.” These advancements in flight ascendancy technology culminated in the admiration for an electrical agency of flight ascendancy adjustment execution.

2.3 What is a Fly-By-Wire (FBW) Flight Ascendancy System?

[2] “Aerospace Recommended Practice (ARP) defines FBW as a flight ascendancy adjustment wherein agent ascendancy advice is transmitted absolutely by electrical means.”

A FBW ascendancy adjustment is a computer adjustment that monitors pilot ascendancy inputs, assorted ambit such as airspeed, distance and angle-of-attack, and outputs flight ascendancy apparent movements with the cold of befitting the aircraft aural its appointed flight envelope. Literally, this computer interprets electrical signals via pilot ascendancy and sensor ascribe and outputs electrical signals to activate the agnate ascendancy apparent in adjustment to accomplish the adapted flight orientation.

The flight envelope refers to the safe operating characteristics an aircraft is advised to fly at accustomed altered speeds, altitudes and alternative variables. The actuation of a fly-by-wire adjustment is finer the aforementioned for all such systems, namely; the adjustment employs electrical arresting inputs to actualize electrical arresting outputs. However, these systems can be deployed with a capricious arrangement of architecture elements or ascendancy law algorithms that adjudge how the adjustment will acknowledge in a accustomed bearings as able-bodied as what entity, animal or computer, has above ascendancy of the aircraft at a accustomed time. This accountable will be abundant on in a after section.

2.4 NASA’s Agenda Fly-By-Wire (DFBW) Development Program

On May 25, 1972 at NASA’s Dryden Flight Analysis Center, the aboriginal flight to auspiciously authenticate a agenda FBW flight ascendancy adjustment afterwards a automated advancement was conducted. [1] “Support for the abstraction at NASA Headquarters came from Neil Armstrong, himself a above analysis pilot at Dryden. He served in NASA’s Office of Avant-garde Analysis and Technology afterward his celebrated Apollo 11 lunar landing and knew cyberbanking ascendancy systems from his canicule training in and operating Apollo spacecraft. Armstrong adapted that the Dryden DFBW aggregation acclimate an Apollo affairs agenda flight ascendancy computer. It wasn’t long, however, afore the DFBW affairs developed a agenda flight ascendancy computer that decidedly avant-garde the accompaniment of the art. This was approved by the actuality that for the Amplitude Shuttle, designers angry to the DFBW affairs for a flight computer for the Orbiters. The aftereffect was a archetypal case of centralized technology transfer. The aboriginal agenda flight ascendancy computer development from Apollo proceeded to the DFBW affairs and afresh aback afresh into amplitude aboard the Shuttle.” The affairs activated a Navy F-8C Crusader for testing which congenital the use of computers in authoritative the flight ascendancy apparent deflections that corresponded to the pilot input. [3] “NASA’s DFBW program, consisting of 210 flights, lasted 13 years.” Figure 3 [6] “shows the avionics bay of the analysis aircraft breadth the computers that managed the flight ascendancy adjustment were installed.”

Figure 3. F-8C Analysis Aircraft Avionics Bay

2.5 F-16 Fighting Falcon

Originally developed by Accepted Dynamics and now produced by Lockheed Martin, the F-16 was the aboriginal accumulation produced aircraft to use a FBW flight ascendancy system. The F-16 has apparent assorted upgrades aback its account admission in the 1970s. These upgrades are about alleged “blocks” and are appointed by a number. In the F-16’s case, [4] ” the F-16 A/B archetypal consists of blocks 1, 5, 10, 15, 15OCU, and 20 while the F-16 C/D archetypal consists of blocks 25, 30, 32, 40, 42, 50, and 52. There additionally is F-16 E/F block 60 models developed for the United Arab Emirates, an F-16 MLU (Mid Life Update) block, and assorted alternative F-16 models developed for adapted purposes or adopted customers.” These blocks signaled upgrades in areas such as avionics, engines, agent basin area, and weapons capabilities to name a few. According to Joe Sambor, a Lockheed Martin aero acreage account engineer, [5] “all F-16 block designations developed above-mentioned to block 40 activated analog flight ascendancy computers while all after blocks including block 40 activated agenda flight ascendancy computers.” The aberration amid analog and agenda computers lies in the way they action information. Analog computers assignment in a connected time ambiance breadth abstracts can booty on an absolute set of ethics which after-effects in no accident of transmitted data; however, its accomplishing is bulky acute an all-encompassing accouterments configuration. Moreover, this accouterments agreement is difficult to upgrade. Agenda systems accomplish in a detached time ambiance breadth abstracts ethics are finite. Accident of abstracts is aggrandized by aerial resolution and sampling ante which finer renders abstracts manual accident negligible. The account in adjustment accomplishing is mainly software based accouterment bland transitions for adjustment upgrades and abridgement in all-embracing adjustment amount and maintenance. The F-16 utilizes four abstracted flight ascendancy computer systems which assignment calm to baddest the able flight acknowledgment achievement at any accustomed time. This flight ascendancy agreement is advised about allowed to abortion as connected as adeptness is activated to the aircraft.

2.6 Allowances of Fly-By-Wire Flight Ascendancy Systems

One of the abundant allowances FBW technology brings to the aerodynamics industry is the adeptness for aerospace engineers to architecture an aircraft to be inherently ambiguous acceptance for added maneuverability. Above-mentioned to FBW, aircraft had to be advised to inherently appetite to acknowledgment to beeline and akin flight. This meant that maneuverability was beneath due to the actuality that, in adjustment for the aircraft to maneuver, the aircraft had to aboriginal affected its inherently advised stability. FBW systems are able to adviser aircraft flight in absolute time acceptance aircraft that could never fly with artlessly the accomplishment of the pilot because of the aircraft’s alternation the adeptness to booty to the skies. Also, [6] “aircraft weight is bargain with the abatement of automated linkages and abridgement in hydraulic adjustment components. Enhanced assurance is provided by the back-up architecture of electrical circuits as able-bodied as the computer’s adeptness to acknowledge to an adverse flight action abundant faster than a pilot. The all-embracing amount of the adjustment is bargain as beneath accouterments and automated genitalia are required, ammunition ability of the aircraft is increased, and cartage acquaintance greater abundance acquired from the added aircraft administration characteristics. Furthermore, the adjustment can be advised to ascendancy the flight envelope befitting the pilot from authoritative ascendancy inputs that would put the aircraft alfresco its safe operating capability. Also, agenda FBW ascendancy systems can acquire ascribe from any aircraft sensor abbreviation acerbity constraints in adjustment design.”

2.7 Amplification of Fly-By-Wire Systems in Aviation

Currently, DFBW flight ascendancy systems are accessible in every aspect of government, military, and bartering aviation. These systems are deployed on helicopters, fighter jets, stealth bombers, and bartering airliners. Alike accepted aerodynamics is starting to see the allowances that DFBW technology has to offer. Mark Tatge, a biographer for Forbes magazine, explains that [7] “small-piston aircraft and business jets are ability a abolitionist upgrade. Agenda technology developed for action fighters and bartering aircraft 20 years ago is assuredly authoritative its way into the cockpits of baby aircraft, generally at a atom of the amount of the electronics currently installed in Boeing colossal jets.”

Major airlines like Airbus and Boeing acquire already amorphous affective their fleets against the DFBW domain. Airbus fabricated this move with its A320 aircraft, [6] “the aboriginal bartering aeroplane to acquire DFBW technology.” Boeing after followed clothing by employing DFBW technology on its 777 and 787 aircraft models. It is absorbing to agenda however, that Airbus and Boeing alter in the application of their corresponding DFBW flight ascendancy systems and algorithm ascendancy laws. An commodity accounting by Brian Palmer summarizes the differences amid the two aircraft manufacturers. Palmer explains that [8] “Airbus employs a joystick that electrically connects the pilot’s ascribe to the flight controls breadth Boeing employs the accepted ‘yoke’ that still uses cables to bear pilot ascribe commands. Airbus additionally utilizes ascendancy algorithms alleged ‘flight envelope protection’ that keeps the aircraft from aerial alfresco its advised operating area. Boeing gives added breadth to the pilot in actuality able to ‘push the envelope’ aback appropriate.” Palmer additionally goes on to explain how [8] “it is cryptic as to whether flight envelope aegis makes air biking safer.” Palmer cites two aircraft incidents; namely, China Airlines Flight 006 and the blast of an American Airlines jet in November 2001 breadth flight envelope aegis could acquire hindered the aircraft flight ascendancy accretion or could acquire prevented the crash, respectively.

3. Conclusion

3.1 Summary

The application of flight ascendancy systems over the accomplished one hundred years has apparent breakthrough leaps in the architecture and approach abaft how a pilot absolutely controls the flight of an aerospace vehicle. DFBW technology has exponentially added the assurance of flight for millions of people. This breadth of engineering owes its affiliated clarification and change to endless individuals and organizations who acquire taken on the claiming of developing the ascendancy systems that beforehand the assurance and ability of flight. It is amazing to attending aback in history on the change of aerospace cartage and blab that aural fifty years of animal beings aboriginal auspiciously commutual powered flight that autopilots were aerial planes afterwards animal pilot commands from Canada to England. That concrete adeptness of flight controls was supplanted by hydraulic actuation which in about-face was aggrandized with electrical circuits. That the appearance of acutely different accouterments such as microprocessors and argumentation circuits would acquire such a abstruse abode in designing an aircraft to fly. That the innovators in this acreage had the eyes and adventuresomeness to assurance their ability and engineering accomplishment in putting the lives of able pilots in the easily of a computer system. The flight ascendancy systems currently deployed in aerodynamics aggregate some the best able-bodied engineered, able and, abortion aggressive electrical systems anytime created. However, it should be acclaimed that such systems assume to still be in their boyhood and abundant analysis and advance is larboard to the abutting bearing who endeavors to advance aloft and ad-lib the approaching of aerospace flight ascendancy systems.

Sources Cited

[1] Creech, Gray. “Digital Fly By Wire: Aircraft Flight Ascendancy Comes of Age.” Jim Wilson. NASA Dryden Flight Analysis Center, September 30, 2007. Internet. October 24, 2012.

[2] Elliot, Dr. William. The Development of Fly-By-Wire Flight Control. Air Force Material Command: Office of History, AFMC Actual Study No. 7, December 1996. Print.

[3] Greetham, Tom. Change of Powered Flight Controls., February 10, 2012. Accessed November 10, 2012. Internet.

[4] F-16.Net. Production Blocks and Experimental Versions. Accessed December 2, 2012. Internet.

[5] Sambor, Joe. F-16.Net Forum., October 22, 2006. Accessed December 2, 2012. Internet.

[6] Philippe, Christian. “The Impact of Ascendancy Technology.” T. Samad and A.M. Annaswamy (eds.), IEEE Ascendancy Systems Society, 2011. Internet. October 23, 2012.

[7] Tatge, Mark. “Fly By Wire”. November 11, 2005. Accessed December 2, 2012. Internet.

[8] Palmer, Brian. “Boeing Vs. Airbus”. July 11, 2011. Accessed December 2, 2012. Internet.

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