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Is it possible to have an FMC to compute the performance and navigation without having it linked to an autopilot or flight director?

Does/did such setup exist?

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  • $\begingroup$ Yes. For may overwater operations a third FMS/FMC is required as a backup to the first two. That one is typically not connected directly to the AP/FD but a simple switch will allow it to replace the failed system. On that FMS, you can do anything you want including performance calculations. $\endgroup$
    – wbeard52
    Nov 5, 2021 at 23:45

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By definition an FMC/FMS is linked to (or even encompasses) the auto flight system.

This goes back to its inception:

The prime function of the flight management system is to collect information from the airplane and navigation systems and provide guidance in the forms of system status and commands to the pilot, the autothrottle, and the autopilot.

— CREEDON, J. "Flight management systems-What are they and why are they being developed?." Guidance and Control Conference. 1973. https://ntrs.nasa.gov/citations/19830060494 [emphasis added]

The closest thing to what you're after is an Electronic Flight Bag (EFB).

Even the PMS (Performance Management System) that preceded the FMS in its development was connected to the AP (think of it as an early VNAV-only computer):

A PMS is basically a performance data computer that has been coupled to the airplane autopilot and/or autothrottle systems. [Ibid.]


Historical examples

From a 1985 Sperry ad:

Since the mid-1970s, when Sperry began developing the first true Flight Management Computer System, the term "FMCS" has been misrepresented almost as frequently as it has been misunderstood. True flight management, defined by the Sperry FMCS, integrates navigation, flight guidance and aircraft performance functions through a sophisticated computer. And in today's marketplace, the "fully-compliant system" which performs exactly as specified by its user in all modes is defined only by the Sperry FMCS.

Sperry's definition of a "true" flight management includes guidance. And earlier from 1981:

Arma boasts the first certificated airliner FMS, which is in service with the TriStars of British Airways, Delta, Gulf Air, Pan Am and Saudia. Racal-Decca Navigator is involved on the software side, and also in the support of units outside the USA. The navigation component of the FMS was derived from the earlier Mona TriStar navigation system.

That FMS aboard the Lockheed TriStar was connected to the engines and autopilot, so let's check the mentioned Mona TriStar navigation system from c. 1973:

Mona is not actually a navigation system, in the sense that it does not contain any sensor equipment. Described by its designers as an automated navigation-management package, it can readily be installed in an aircraft to serve as a direct, executive link. It is capable of processing information from the existing airborne navigation system and translating the results into the autopilot and flight director signals needed to maintain en route track, height and speed.

Even that sent AP/FD commands.

enter image description here
Pilot's-eye view of Mona, showing the two control and display units flanking the central electronic chart display.

(Links to flightglobal.com's historical archive are down due to prolonged maintenance.)

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