Several quotes surfaced last week that struck me as interesting. All involved fly-by-wire control systems.
Great, a theme! (Newsletter editors quickly learn to never look a gift horse in the tailpipe.)
I should note that none of the quotes apply to the kind of aircraft we typically see around Galt Airport. Instead, they pertain to bigger airplanes, ones with bathrooms.
The first one struck me while watching a YouTube video by long-time airline pilot, Juan Browne, who was describing a serious flight control problem that occurred this month on-board an Embraer 175. During Juan’s explanation, he quipped: “Why do we have fly-by-wire technology? It’s the wave of the future, it’s the way all these aircraft are going, it’s the way, eventually, that were all going to be programed out of a job as pilots in the distant future.”
That reminded me of a quote from the former Chief Test Pilot for Boeing’s 777, John Cashman, who stated: “From a safety standpoint, in our view one of the things that we do in the basic design is the pilot always has the ultimate authority of control. There’s no computer on the airplane that he cannot override or turn off if the ultimate comes.”
I’m willing to believe that Mr. Cashman is a better test pilot than spokesperson – and I sincerely hope that the 737 Max is an anomaly.
After the video ended, I read through the comments that followed. One, from a viewer named Tom Gardner2, jumped out: “Airliners of the future will be crewed by a pilot and a dog. The dog’s job is to bite the pilot if he touches anything, and the pilot’s job is to feed the dog.”
In tangentially-related news…
Originating in 1979, the supersonic F-16 was the first military jet that used fly-by-wire systems, controlled by four on-board computers. That fact made them idea for modification into remote-piloted drones, something that the Air Force has been doing since 2010, the drone version re-designated as the QF-16.
Recently, 32 of the aircraft retired to a boneyard in Arizona, have been called up to active duty. Boeing has “dronefied” them for use at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida where they serve as highly maneuverable targets to stress-test new anti-aircraft missile systems.
There is also discussion about using the QF-16 as a host for an artificial intelligence program called Skyborg that can allow unmanned aircraft to serve as wingmen for future human-piloted stealth aircraft.
Watch Juan Browne’s video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vV_o9kTRXUY
For more about Juan Browne and his free YouTube channel, I would encourage you to check out: https://youtu.be/RknuMFk9-eg.
You can read more in Laura Mallonee’s article: What It Takes To Turn a Vintage F-16 Into a Drone in the December issue of Wired magazine or at Wired.com.