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April 15, 2002

Release: 02-27

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Most modern aircraft use digital flight control systems (DFCS). Engineers at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif., pioneered DFCS, and the 30th anniversary of the first flight of Dryden's F-8 Digital Fly-By-Wire (DFBW) aircraft is May 25, 2002.
F-8 Digital Fly-By-Wire

Interviews with the program's chief research pilot, Gary Krier, now Dryden's director of flight operations, and other former project personnel, are available.

The DFBW concept, now commonly known as DFCS, used an electronic flight-control system coupled with a digital computer to replace conventional flight controls. Dryden's work paved the way for the common use of digital flight control systems now used on the space shuttles and on today's military and civil aircraft, making them safer, more maneuverable, and more efficient.

Modern digital flight control systems make flying safer for both civil and military aircraft because of redundancies. Digital systems make aircraft more maneuverable because computers command more frequent adjustments than human pilots. Aircraft designers are no longer confined to designing features that make the aircraft more stable and thus harder to maneuver. For airliners, computerized flight controls ensure a smoother ride than a human pilot alone could provide.

In addition, digital flight control systems are more efficient because they are lighter and take up less volume than hydraulic controls aboard aircraft. This serves to either reduce the fuel required to fly with the extra weight and/or permits the carrying of more passengers or cargo. Digital flight controls require less maintenance than the systems they replace.


Note to Editors: For interviews, contact Gray Creech at (661) 276-2662. Photos of the F-8 DFBW aircraft are available online at: /centers/dfrc/Gallery/Photo/F-8DFBW/Small/index.html

Read Dryden's DFCS fact sheet online at: /centers/dfrc/Newsroom/FactSheets/FS-024-DFRC.html.

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