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Fly By Wire Technology Improvements

by John M. White |

Bombardier Aerospace announced on July 13, 2008 iti will develop a new C series of aircraft for the burgeoning 100 to 149 seat commercial aircraft market with five abreast seating wide body airplanes.  In this new series of aircraft Bombardier has decided to replace the conventional hydro-mechanical flight control system that uses a series of pulleys and/or rods that directly control flight surfaces with new fly-by-wire technology which will provide easier installation and increased functionality.

Parker Aerospace has been selected to develop and provide these systems for the C series aircraft and all the new wide body aircraft being developed for Bombardier Aerospace.  "This approach to the design, development and manufacture of a system that can be applied to a number of aircraft programs will provide us with increased reliability, reduced development cycle, and an overall improved value proposition," said Francois Caza, Vice President and Chief Engineer, Bombardier Aerospace. "Through this arrangement we will be able to simplify and improve our service and support structure."

These new wide body aircraft will compete with Boeing and Europe's Airbus Industries providing more fuel efficient alternatives that deliver the same performance but at a 20% savings in fuel costs over its rivals.  The aircraft will be manufactured in Belfast, Ireland and should begin deliveries in 2013.

Slowly but surely fly-by-wire systems are replacing the traditional control systems that have been used on all aircraft since the beginning of aviation, and bring significant weight savings to aircraft design. By using electrical control circuits combined with computers, designers can save weight, improve reliability, and use the computers to mitigate the undesirable flight characteristics such as stalling or pilot induced oscillation.

The words "Fly-by-Wire" imply an electrically-signaled only control system. However, the term is generally used in the sense of computer-configured controls, where a computer system is interposed between the operator and the final control actuators or surfaces. This modifies the manual inputs of the pilot in accordance with control parameters. These are carefully developed and validated in order to produce maximum operational effect without compromising safety.

For us old timers in aviation we slowly see the beautifully designed control wheel with the manufacturer's logo proudly displayed replaced with a side stick leaving us with the sure feeling that something is missing.  Remember the movie "Aviator" where Howard Hughes struggled over choosing just the right control wheel for the Spruce Goose?  Ah for the old days! Dc3wheel

Until next time keep your wings straight and level Heersch!


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