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

I would want to build in a way for the plane to try and save itself if possible (to save money) by auto-landing Had the situation allowed saving the airplane the human pilot would definitely have ...
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  • 5,951
62 votes

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

To add some context to the other answers... Ejection is not a safe thing to do. The two most popular ejection systems today, the ACES II and Martin-Baker, have around a 90-92% success rate... the ...
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  • 8,567
52 votes
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Why are on-board computers allowed to change controls without notifying the pilots?

There is a general design principle, that some, but not all, of the behavior of the flight guidance system or autopilot should be visible to the pilot. Usually automatic engagement or disengagement ...
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  • 6,325
48 votes

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

Whatever it was programmed to do at the moment the pilot ejected. Ejection seats are complex enough without integrating special processing of the event into the autopilot. Since the autopilot can't ...
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46 votes
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Why is the autopilot called "George?"

The first "practical" autopilot was invented by George DeBeeson (the patent can be found here, updated here) - This seems to be the most likely reason for the informal name "George" for the autopilot ...
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  • 67.2k
41 votes
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Has there ever been a fully automated takeoff, cruise, and landing of a large aircraft similar to commercial airliners?

The book The Glass Cage describes a fully autopilot-controlled military test flight in 1947. The plane was a C-54 Skymaster with seven men aboard. According to this source, the pilot aligned the plane ...
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  • 406
40 votes
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Do fighter jet pilots ever use autopilot?

I'm not in the military, so you could say I'm talking out my rear end here, but based on my experience as a pilot: yes, military pilots use the autopilot all the time. Here's my reasoning, in order ...
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  • 22.3k
39 votes
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Why is 0 ft a valid target altitude for an autopilot?

Quite simply, it's because sometimes you fly below sea level. There's a couple stories out there of aircraft navigation systems acting a bit odd due to their flight below sea level. For example, there ...
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  • 2,379
33 votes
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Do helicopters have an auto hover system?

Yes, advanced flight directors and autopilots for helicopters can control the aircraft in all axes, and often they have modes for hovering built in, including maintain altitude, lateral veloctiy hold, ...
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  • 6,325
31 votes
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Is a pilot allowed to sleep during a flight?

Airline flight crews generally consist of at least 2 pilots. One pilot is designated as pilot flying, the other is the pilot not flying, observing instruments and flight parameters. If required, ...
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  • 15.5k
30 votes
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Was there an incident when Airbus autopilot wasn't letting the airplane land?

I believe this is a hoax1. I've read through several documents describing the protections provided by Airbus flight laws (this is not autopilot; autopilot is a separate layer on top of it) and have ...
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  • 54.1k
30 votes
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Why are critical flight computers redundant?

Failure modes to consider: Overheating. This changes the chip's timing properties and eventually results in error. This can manifest as single-bit errors in the middle of seemingly normal operation; ...
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  • 540
30 votes

Are there take-over requests from autopilots?

I assume in your question the autopilot is engaged. When the auto-flight system reaches the limits of its capabilities it simply disconnects. On Boeing aircraft you get a ...
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  • 1,590
28 votes

Do fighter jet pilots ever use autopilot?

Military pilots are not unlike most other pilots: we're lazy and love booze, and we become just as autopilot crippled as the next guy. Fighter aircraft controls are designed around the HOTAS ...
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  • 8,508
28 votes

Why are critical flight computers redundant?

As other answer pointed out: A CPU can fail. Either partially (giving erroneous answers), or totally. Moreover all computer are subject to cosmic radiations that can once in a while flip a bit in ...
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  • 4,113
25 votes
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What is the difference between autopilot and fly-by-wire system?

An autopilot can fly the aircraft based on pilot selected modes. The autopilot therefore reduces the pilot's workload by replacing manual inputs via the yoke or sidestick. A fly-by-wire (FBW) system ...
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  • 45k
24 votes
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What are the reasons for autopilot restrictions on instrument approaches?

It's the fact the autopilot works more accurately than a pilot which is actually the cause of the restriction. The decision to restrict the use of the autopilot usually comes from the certification ...
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  • 67.7k
23 votes
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Do modern aircraft require rudder input in order to perform a coordinated turn?

Most transport aircraft use yaw damper systems to take care of minor rudder inputs. Most autopilot systems are actually only 2-axis - pitch and roll since the rudder's job is only to keep the tail ...
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  • 104k
23 votes

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

The "autopilot" is a fairly basic control system. Usually it is composed of just a few components (logically speaking) like a wing-leveler, heading mode, and altitude mode. The autopilot can control ...
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22 votes
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What is the purpose of multiple autopilots?

Redundancy, particularly during autoland operations. How it works depends on the specific airplane type. In the most advanced systems with triple (or more) flight guidance computers (FGCs), a "voting"...
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  • 10.5k
22 votes
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Which commercial aircraft are capable of computer-only landings, without human assistance?

None. While a number of aircraft are certified for autoland with automatic rollout until safe taxi speed, and some can have the autopilot control rollout until the aircraft completely stops, no ...
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  • 4,183
21 votes
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How does envelope protection work in Airbus vs. Boeing aircraft?

There are two sorts of "autopilots", and it is important to make a distinction between the two. One is for the behaviour of the aircraft around its Centre of Gravity (CoG), the other one is for ...
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20 votes
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What does the autopilot do if activated in a stall condition?

In the AF447 accident, the autopilot disconnected because of inconsistent airspeed: Temporary inconsistency between the airspeed measurements, likely following the obstruction of the Pitot probes by ...
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  • 45k
19 votes

Is a pilot allowed to sleep during a flight?

The correct answer is that the answer to this question, like many in aviation regulations, varies greatly by country. As SentryRaven's answer mentions, some countries allow Flight Crew In-seat Rest. ...
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  • 18.9k
19 votes
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Did these pilots break any regulations by hand-flying an A320 for most of the cruise?

I think they were humouring you Cloud. Hand flying a jet at level cruise speed is not fun. It takes a lot of concentration and the novelty quickly wears off, and there is a high risk of getting ...
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  • 104k
19 votes

What happens if the autopilot fails to initiate a flare?

In the B767 and B757 the autopilot (autoland) system (triple redundancy) monitors required system components throughout the approach. The flare mode is displayed at 1500 ft and at 45 ft it activates. ...
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  • 18k
18 votes

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

The first point I would stress on is that you don't program the autopilot. You program the FMS (Flight Management System), which looks like a very large calculator. In this picture it is the device ...
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18 votes
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Could aircraft already do a safe auto-takeoff with todays equipment?

With some refinement and programming, the technology is easily there, sure; it just needs a few million dollars of design and certification costs for very little benefit. The main reason we have ...
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  • 13.2k
18 votes

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

There are two types of autopilots, one for the behaviour around the CoG and one for control of the CoG, as mentioned in this answer. Also sometimes called Inner Loop and Outer Loop. In short: The F-...
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  • 57.8k
17 votes

What is the difference between autopilot and fly-by-wire system?

Fly-by-wire system removes physical link between cockpit controls and flight control surfaces. To do this, there must be some sort of rule how pilot's input is interpreted and converted into control ...
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