Yes FBW aircraft use an artificial feel system to provide control feedback. Artificial, as in: there is no feedback to the stick from the airflow forces on the control surfaces, and the stick would feel very light if not loaded by some sort of mechanical feel spring. The mechanical feel spring makes the feel artificial; the spring can have a constant stiffness, or a varying stiffness as function of airspeed (q-feel).
All FBW must have artificial force feel because there is no direct mechanical connection between the control surface and the stick. Also all irreversible flight controls must have artificial force feel: although there is a mechanical link between stick and surface, aerodynamic moments on the control surfaces are not fed back through the hydraulic actuators that move the surface. The extent of the feedback feel depends on the manufacturer:
- Airbus was the first airliner manufacturer to introduce fly-by-wire, in the A320. They chose for uncoupled sidesticks for pitch & roll inputs, with passive mechanical spring/dampers providing a force proportional to stick deflection and velocity.
- Boeing first implemented FBW in the B777. This aircraft has conventional wheel/columns for pitch and roll inputs, not connected by cables to the elevators/ailerons, but loaded by an active artificial feel system to provide feedback forces on the stick. The feedback forces are provided by a hydraulic actuator and varied according to aircraft state, resulting in similar force characteristics to earlier Boeing airliners. The B737 also has artificial q-feel in the elevator, through a system that changes the mechanical advantage of the mechanical feel spring
Note that both aircraft function the same in that they both use control deflections for inputs for the flight computers, which compute the desired surface deflection. Only the stick coupling and the feedback forces differ. From the B777 FCOM:
Elevator Variable Feel
The PFCs calculate feel commands based on airspeed. In general, control column forces increase:
- as airspeed increases for a given column displacement, or
- as column displacement increases.
The second bullet point describes a simple spring characteristic. The first bullet point means that the spring stiffness varies with airspeed, like when the elevator would be reversible and the aeroforces could be felt directly at the stick. The A320 does not have a variable spring gradient and spring forces are always the same, regardless of flight state. It is still an artificial feel though: all irreversible flight controls have artificial feel, not all of them have artificial q-feel.