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 ...
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 ...
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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!
37
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4answers
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What is a “Flight Director”?

What is a Flight Director, and how does it differ from Autopilot?
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
30
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3answers
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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 ...
30
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3answers
6k views

Why is 0 ft a valid target altitude for an autopilot?

Inspired by this story; The pilot of a Flybe plane that dropped 500 ft (152m) in 18 seconds had selected the wrong autopilot setting shortly after take-off, an inquiry has found... ...The ...
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 ...
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 ...
23
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1answer
4k views

Was there an incident when Airbus autopilot wasn't letting the airplane land?

I'm trying to track down a story about an incident involving an Airbus airplane my father told me about 25 years ago, when he was working at a Boeing supplier. Reportedly, what happened was the ...
21
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1answer
375 views

Otto's Reputation Question [closed]

This is just a question so the chat bot will always have enough rep to participate in chat -- nothing to see here.
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 ...
20
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2answers
3k views

Are there take-over requests from autopilots?

I am thinking of the driver take-over request in automated driving, when the system limits are reached and the back-up driver has to intervene / drive manually. Is there something similar in aviation, ...
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 ...
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-...
19
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4answers
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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 ...
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 ...
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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?
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 ...
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 ...
15
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3answers
6k views

What does the Boeing 777 autopilot do after reaching the last programmed waypoint?

As I understand it, a series of waypoints can be programmed, by a pilot, into one of the autopilots on a Boeing 777. If the autopilot is engaged, the autopilot will cause the aircraft to fly to each ...
15
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2answers
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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 ...
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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2answers
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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 ...
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 ...
15
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1answer
997 views

Why is the autopilot of the DHC-6 Twin Otter powered by bleed air?

I was just reading through the POH of a DHC-6-100 Twin Otter and was surprised to read the following: 3.8.2 LOW PRESSURE - OTHER SYSTEMS. The airframe deicing system and the autopilot are ...
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 ...
14
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4answers
9k views

Can the autopilot (or stall avoidance system?) of the B737 MAX 8 be overridden by sheer force?

A New York Times article from today about the Lion Air Flight 610 crash claims that in order to control the airplane the pilot could have braced his feet on the dashboard and yanked the yoke, or ...
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 ...
14
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1answer
963 views

Why does the CF-100 autopilot have a toggle switch labeled 'ATTACK'?

I took this photograph of the autopilot controls inside the cockpit of a CF-100. There are a bunch of switches for the autopilot. Why does one have a label of "ATTACK" and what did turning it on/off ...
14
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1answer
791 views

What happens when autopilot and propulsion settings do not match?

Autopilots used in piston GA usually do not have throttle control. They only manage the control surfaces. However to trim an aircraft one needs to play on both throttle setting (and more physically, ...
13
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3answers
2k views

Is there any obvious warning when auto-pilot is disengaged or when the mode changes?

Under the investigation section of the First Air Flight 6560 incident, it describes the catalyst for the accident: The approach was entirely flown on autopilot, which was correctly set to capture ...
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 ...
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 ...
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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4answers
8k views

Do small civilian aircraft have autopilots?

If not, why? Doesn't it make flying safer? It seems to me that automating a small plane should be easier than automating a car (excluding dealing with Air Traffic Control). Is it too expensive?
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 ...
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, ...
11
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4answers
5k views

Do modern aircraft require rudder input in order to perform a coordinated turn?

With today's state-of-the-art electronic systems in modern aircraft, do aircraft equipped with autopilot systems, still require pilot rudder input to keep a turn coordinated? For the context, I'm ...
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 ...
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: ...
10
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3answers
1k views

Is there a cockpit which can recognize the voice of the pilot and help him/her to fly?

Is there any new cockpit that uses voice commands (think for example Siri from the new iphones) that can identify the voice of the pilot and help him/her to fly?
10
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2answers
2k views

Did these pilots break any regulations by hand-flying an A320 for most of the cruise?

A couple of days ago, I flew with a popular budget airline within Europe. The aircraft was an A320. It was also a brand new one (only in service since June 2018 and produces 15% less noise and fuel ...
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). ...
10
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4answers
2k views

Do planes use autopilot when flying in formation?

I've attempted to fly formation over a multiplayer flight simulator, and it was incredibly hard. It felt really hard to have the two planes go exactly the same heading, so it was always necessary to ...