As technology evolves, replacing complicated mechanical control systems consisting of cables and pushrods and bell cranks with multichannel electronic systems makes great sense. The precision, weight savings, efficiency gains and reliability of fly-by-wire flight controls are being proven every day around the world in the remarkable Gulfstream G650ER and other technologically advanced aircraft in Gulfstream’s fleet.
In advancing the state-of-the-art toward perfection, it would be easy to give the computers more and more control over flying the airplane. In fact, that’s exactly what some other jet manufacturers have done. But Gulfstream test pilots and engineers know that at the end of the day, no computer can match the knowledge, experience, and frankly the processing power of expert pilots to handle the unexpected.
That’s why Gulfstream is the first civilian jet manufacturer to develop active control sidesticks for its all-new G500 and G600 that deliver the cockpit convenience and flying precision pilots want without giving up the human involvement. Gulfstream calls this revolutionary and proprietary flight control system Intelligence-by-Wire™.
Moving Beyond Fly-by-Wire
The fundamental components of Intelligence-by-Wire are flight control computers programmed with logic that behave exactly as an experienced pilot expects, and active sidestick flight controls, a first in any civilian jet.
In all fly-by-wire flight control systems, the control inputs made by pilots are interpreted by computers that command electromechanical servos and actuators to articulate flight control surfaces to achieve the desired results.
In the development process, fly-by-wire system engineers have to choose between two overarching design philosophies. One option is to give the computers almost total autonomy and authority of the airplane. In such systems, the computers adjust the flight control surfaces to maintain a flight path. The airplane becomes a sort of “point and shoot” device. The pilot moves the yoke or sidestick to point the airplane at where he or she intends it to go and the system holds that path until the human changes it.
The other design philosophy, the one Gulfstream calls Intelligence-by-Wire, programs the computers to respond to pilot inputs as though they were flying a conventional airplane with mechanical controls (sans computers). This keeps the flight crew in charge of the airplane with the assistance and safety margin of artificial intelligence.
Active Control Sidesticks
Until now, no other business jet manufacturer has successfully engineered sidesticks that feel and respond like conventional controls. The reason being that all other sidesticks lack the manual feedback, or “stick force,” pilots expect and depend on. Additionally, other sidesticks lack the visual and tactile cues flight crews rely on because there is no connection between the two controls so one pilot cannot observe or feel the other pilot’s control inputs.
The most primal sense we have is touch. And the Intelligence-by-Wire system ensures that, no matter what, both pilots can feel the control inputs in the form of stick force, the most essential way to transmit and receive information about what the pilot is commanding the airplane to do and how it is responding. That’s why stick force is so vital to a pilot and why the lack of stick force in an otherwise lifeless-feeling sidestick was not an option for Gulfstream.
Gulfstream is the first civilian jet manufacturer to develop active control sidesticks for its all-new G500 and G600 that deliver the cockpit convenience and flying precision pilots want without giving up the human involvement. Gulfstream calls this revolutionary and proprietary flight control system Intelligence-by-Wire.
Intelligence-by-Wire and the active control sidesticks that make it possible also resolve two other critical flying issues. One important breakthrough is that both active sidesticks move in harmony no matter which pilot is flying the airplane. The sticks also move in response to commands from the autopilot when engaged so the pilots can see what the airplane is being commanded to do. This is exactly how conventional airplanes fly, what pilots are accustomed to seeing, and gives both pilots a continuous picture of how the flight controls are moving.
Pilots Flying in Tandem
The other very critical breakthrough for Intelligence-by-Wire is the ability for both pilots to know who is flying the airplane. In the many other jets that use sidestick controls, the pilot not flying can’t see or even feel the stick on his or her side move because it remains stationary regardless of the inputs on the other stick. If the other pilot needs help, it can’t be provided because the second sidestick is not moving. But with the Gulfstream active sidesticks, when one pilot moves the controls the other can monitor the movements continuously and if assistance is needed he or she can simply push or pull on the stick. Again, it is that fundamental stick movement behavior all pilots understand from the earliest days of their flying careers.
Intelligence-by-Wire makes the all-new G500 and G600 the most responsive and efficient business jets ever, but best of all, the system will never surprise the human pilots. That is the most intelligent ingredient of the entire design.
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