Questions tagged [autopilot]

An autopilot is a system used to guide an aircraft without assistance from a person.

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88
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6answers
23k views

Why do we still use pilots to fly airplanes?

With the recent advances in drone and remote control technology, why are there still commercial and military pilots? I understand that there can be some serious tactical advantages to human pilots in ...
35
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3answers
33k views

Why don't pilots always use autoland?

In aeroplanes that are equipped for autoland and landing at an airport with a working and adequate instrument landing system for the conditions, why would a pilot choose not to use autoland? If I had ...
36
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1answer
4k views

On modern commercial airliners, how much of the flight could be fully taken care of by the auto pilot?

If one wanted to, how large part of the flight could a modern commercial airliner do completely on its own? That is, if the pilot only was allowed to set things up and then leave the cockpit, from ...
24
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4answers
21k views

Is a pilot allowed to sleep during a flight?

While in a flight, a pilot wants to sleep. Given that the aircraft has an autopilot facility, are they allowed to sleep for a while (e.g., half an hour)? What would happen if it's not allowed, but ...
17
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1answer
4k views

How does envelope protection work in Airbus vs. Boeing aircraft?

I keep reading this thing that "On Airbus the computer overrules the pilot, not on Boeing". Smells like urban myth or at least gross oversimplification. How does envelope protection work differently ...
20
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12answers
7k views

Why are critical flight computers redundant?

At least in airliners, the truly critical computers are redundant. Typically three identical copies of the autopilot computers run in parallel and compare results; if one computer disagrees with the ...
37
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3answers
15k views

How, exactly, did US1549 land on the Hudson?

A comment by @AsheeshR says: The Hudson River Landing was due to a combination of piloting skill and an autopilot system that was engaged right till impact and kept the plane in a controlled ...
37
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4answers
37k views

What is a “Flight Director”?

What is a Flight Director, and how does it differ from Autopilot?
15
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2answers
5k views

Which CPUs and programming languages are used in new airliner flight control systems?

Are the new systems of today built with the same CPUs and programming languages and development software as those of 20 or more years ago? By new I mean that these systems are currently being ...
13
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2answers
3k views

Would an A320 override the autothrottle due to an erroneous radio-altimeter?

The pilots of Turkish Airlines Flight 1951 had multiple issues with the auto-throttle setting itself to idle during approach: despite manually adding throttle, the plane stalled and crashed before ...
19
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3answers
10k views

Is it legal to fly in RVSM airspace with an inoperative autopilot?

FAR Part 91, Appendix G, Section 2 says: (c) Altitude-keeping equipment: All aircraft. To approve an aircraft group or a nongroup aircraft, the Administrator must find that the aircraft meets ...
12
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2answers
2k views

Do rotorcrafts like helicopters have autopilots?

Years ago, I had the opportunity to board a Bell 407 for a long distance flight and put every question related to helicopters that crossed my mind to the pilot when we were forced to land due to ...
15
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2answers
2k views

Are there legal limits associated with the use of the autopilot in the US?

A lot of new avionics basically fly small planes for you. Looking at a Beechcraft with a pretty cool glass cockpit, it claims to do everything for you except within 50 feet of the ground. Basically ...
19
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4answers
48k views

Flight Level Change or Vertical Speed - When to use it?

I've heard that some pilots have this difficulty to determine the correct use of both features. So, which is the difference between using the vertical speed, instead using the flight level change ...
4
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2answers
1k views

Does the A320 autopilot work in flight with both engines off?

For a series of simulator sessions to determine the speed polar with students we plan to cutoff both engines in our A320 simulator, but we still want to use the autopilot to control speed (in theory, ...
18
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2answers
1k views

Could aircraft already do a safe auto-takeoff with todays equipment?

If a plane can already autoland and stay aligned while roll-out by itself, on a CAT-3 ILS-Approach, I asked why there is no auto-takeoff-function on todays autopilots. Because it should be ...
17
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1answer
4k views

What is the purpose of multiple autopilots?

I have read that some airplanes have multiple autopilots, specifically airliners. What is the reason for this, and how does that system work?
15
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2answers
2k views

Did Airbus add an audible alert when the autopilot partially disengage after the crash of Aeroflot Flight 593?

The major reason that lead Aeroflot Flight 593 to crash was the partial disengagement of the of autopilot (by the pilot's kid who was in the cockpit) which could have been avoided if the pilots were ...
12
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3answers
2k views

Could the GPS be used to aid the autopilot with speed?

In the AF447 incident, the autopilot system was offline due to the aircraft's pitot tubes being obstructed by ice particles. Since the physical condition of the plane in air is cold and risky, the ...
12
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1answer
10k views

What is the difference between “Land 2” and “Land 3” annunciations for Boeing autopilot systems?

Another question's answers refer to certain Boeing jets having the capability to annunciate "Land 2" and "Land 3" when flying a coupled ILS approach. What does each of these modes require, and allow, ...
10
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2answers
2k views

How much time is a commercial aircraft (e.g. A320 / B737NG families) flown manually?

Sometimes I read that — with FMS/FMGS, LNAV / VNAV modes, GPS and ILS — most of a flight can be handled by computers with minimal intervention from the crew when everything goes as planned, albeit a ...
10
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2answers
2k views

When do pilots engage the autopilot in airliners?

I may be wrong but I learned that in regular airliners, pilots always takeoff manually. After taking-off and going to a positive rate of climb: When do pilots engage the autopilot? Is there a ...
7
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3answers
2k views

What's the purpose of partial autopilot disengagement after applying certain force to the control wheel?

Aeroflot Flight 593 crashed after the autopilot was partially disabled by applying certain force to the control wheel but the only function which was disabled was controlling the ailerons. This ...
3
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1answer
1k views

Is it possible to totally override the flight computer on the Airbus A320-family (in simple non-technical terms)?

As I know, in the autopilot oriented airplanes like an A321 the plane doesn't let the pilots pitch down when the plane gets an over-speed warning. So what if the pitot-static system isn't working ...
84
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5answers
43k views

If a pilot ejects, what is the autopilot programmed to do?

If a pilot uses his ejector seat during flight, what is the autopilot programmed to do? As a developer myself, I would want to build in a way for the plane to try and save itself if possible (to save ...
11
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2answers
4k views

Airbus control architecture - where does the actual autopilot live?

I'd like to ask for confirmation about the A320 (and, generally, Airbus family) control architecture. The book Aircraft Systems provides the following overview of A3XX computing architectures: ...
42
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4answers
18k views

Why is the autopilot called “George?”

The autopilot of an airplane is frequently referred to as "George" (for example, in this answer). When did this nickname enter common usage, and what is its origin? Please cite sources if possible!
34
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4answers
6k views

Has there ever been a fully automated takeoff, cruise, and landing of a large aircraft similar to commercial airliners?

Has there ever been a fully automated takeoff, cruise, and landing of a large aircraft similar to commercial airliners? In fact, has there ever been a fully automatic flight of any pure aircraft ...
20
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5answers
4k views

Why does the autopilot disengage even when it does not receive pilot input?

After having read the disturbing https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1999_South_Dakota_Learjet_crash I'm left with the question as to why the computer allows for the autopilot to be disengaged when there ...
30
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3answers
8k views

Why are on-board computers allowed to change controls without notifying the pilots?

Recently we've had the 737-MAX debacle, where it increasingly appears that the MAX on-board MCAS system repeatedly would issue nose-down events, leading to the Lion Air crash, and possibly another ...
29
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2answers
27k views

Do helicopters have an auto hover system?

I'm not a helicopter pilot. The way I understand it, helicopter pilots have to constantly make small adjustments to make a helicopter hover steadily at a certain point in space, just like fixed wing ...
11
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7answers
14k views

Can a drone travel beyond the range of its remote control signal?

In a hobby drone, is it possible to set up the autopilot so that the drone travels to a distance far beyond the range of the remote control device and then comes back to the starting point? When I see ...
34
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4answers
17k views

Do fighter jet pilots ever use autopilot?

I know that military jets have autopilot, but do the pilots actually prefer to use it? I ask this question because, unlike civilian airplanes, military jets are more likely to come in a situation ...
20
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1answer
4k views

What are the reasons for autopilot restrictions on instrument approaches?

On some instrument approaches, the autopilot-coupled approach is not authorized (or not authorized below a certain minimum). For example, Autopilot-coupled NA (MRY: ILS OR LOC RWY 10R) Autopilot-...
15
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1answer
207 views

Have the results of the USAF's $AVE program research been implemented?

According to this Aviation Week article from October 2012, the US Air Force Research Laboratory ran a program called Surfing Aircraft Vortices for Energy ($AVE) to test/prove that autopilot settings ...
15
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1answer
2k views

Which commercial aircraft are capable of computer-only landings, without human assistance?

Currently what models of commercial aircraft are capable of landing and safely stopping the aircraft, without any human assistance, other than inputting instructions to the onboard computers.
15
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4answers
2k views

Do autopilots force the aircraft to fly over certain coordinates?

As part of a project I'm doing I plotted the flight paths of about 2000 flights around the globe, I noticed over both the North Atlantic and Pacific that there is a pattern to the flight paths: You ...
13
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3answers
2k views

How did old autopilots work?

With fly-by-wire and computers between pilot's command and flight control surfaces, it is easy to imagine the implementation of an autopilot inside the computer, but I read somewhere that autopilots ...
10
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2answers
2k views

What does the autopilot do if activated in a stall condition?

I was thinking about Air France 447 recently and had a wonder: What would happen if the pilots had re-engaged the autopilot and stopped all stick input? (If that's even possible in a stall condition). ...
9
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3answers
18k views

Can any aircraft take off using auto-pilot? [duplicate]

So there are some types of aircraft that can land under auto-pilot (or is that a trope?). Can those same planes go from stop (at the gate) to in-the-air flight without a pilot actually touching a ...
9
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3answers
2k views

Does engine failure shut off the auto-pilot?

After answering this question it got me wondering whether there can be a situation where a complete flameout of engines could cause a serious loss of control if the auto-pilot were to continue to try ...
7
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1answer
4k views

Are the Boeing MCAS and Airbus Alpha Protection systems the same?

I have a little question concerning MCAS from Boeing and Alpha Protection from Airbus. I think these two systems are the same, if I'm wrong please tell me. If the two 737 MAX crashed because of the ...
7
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2answers
3k views

What is the relationship between “automatic flight control system AFCS”, “autopilot”, “flight director” and “flight management system FMS”?

I'm studying aircraft maintenance. I looked in my books and searched the web but couldn't make a big picture of the concept of autopilot. Specifically what is its relation to modern systems like FMS....
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3answers
2k views

Can you disengage A320 autopilot with stick pressure?

I was recently reading that in most military jets, auto-pilot can disengaged without hitting the button, by applying 5lbs of pressure to sticks. Does this work in commercial airliners such as the ...
3
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2answers
237 views

Should reliance on Auto-Flight Systems continue to increase in favor of manual flying skills?

In recent years there has been ongoing debate as to whether or not increased reliance on auto-flight systems (autopilot, auto-thrust, etc.) in favor of manual flying proficiency has had a negative ...
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2answers
179 views

Do all GA autopilots use cable “clutches”?

In researching General Aviation autopilots it seems to me that most commonly the way control surfaces are affected is via a servo that attaches (via a clutch) to the control cable. References here and ...
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3answers
384 views

Can autopilot navigate automatically?

When the pilots enter their flight plan into the FMGS, the route will be shown on the ND. Can the autopilot automatically turn when needed with the given plan, or the pilots have to manually adjust ...
14
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3answers
13k views

When do pilots disconnect the autopilot on an ILS approach?

In clear weather, when do pilots disconnect the autopilot, if the plane is flying an ILS approach and the autopilot is in "approach" mode (tracking both localizer and glideslope)? Would the answer ...
7
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2answers
2k views

How do Airbus planes flare in normal operation?

In reading the reports and Sully's comments regarding the flight that was ditched in the famous events of US Airways Flight 1549, I am wondering how the Airbus control system works to flare an ...
7
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2answers
589 views

Why is an auditory alarm necessary when the autopilot disengages?

The FAA gives one requirement for the autopilot in the following FAR... FAR §25.1329 Flight guidance system. (j) Following disengagement of the autopilot, a warning (visual and auditory) ...