Fly-by-wire - Development


Mechanical and hydro-mechanical flight control systems are relatively heavy and require careful routing of flight control cables through the aircraft by systems of pulleys, cranks, tension cables and hydraulic pipes. Both systems often require redundant backup to deal with failures, which increases weight. Both have limited ability to compensate for changing aerodynamic conditions. Dangerous characteristics such as stalling, spinning and pilot-induced oscillation (PIO), which depend mainly on the stability and structure of the aircraft concerned rather than the control system itself, can still occur with these systems.

The term "fly-by-wire" implies a purely electrically-signaled control system. It is used in the general 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.

Side-sticks, centre sticks, or conventional flight control yokes can be used to fly FBW aircraft. While the side-stick offers the advantages of being lighter, mechanically simpler, and unobtrusive, The Boeing Company's aerospace engineers decided that the lack of visual feedback (none given by side-sticks) is a significant problem, and so they designed conventional control yokes in the Boeing 777 and the Boeing 787, which entered service on 26 October 2011 with All Nippon Airways. This same approach has been used for the Embraer 170/190 jets. Most Airbus airliners are operated with side-sticks.

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