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March 7, 2003
NASA - Dryden Flight Research Center - News Room: News Releases: NASA DRYDEN RECOGNIZED FOR FLY-BY-WIRE DEVELOPMENT


March 7, 2003

Release: 03-14

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NASA's pioneering digital flight control research was recently honored with an award by the Air Force Association.

NASA Dryden Flight Research Center Associate Director Richard Christiansen received the Ira Eaker Fellow recognition award for fly-by-wire development on the Center's behalf from the Central Florida Chapter of the Air Force Association (AFA) and the Aerospace Education Foundation.

NASA Dryden, located at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., researched and flight-tested this technology during the Digital Fly-By-Wire (DFBW) program, which lasted from 1972 to 1985.

The award, along with four others given by the AFA to recognize significant technology contributions to aviation, was presented during the 19th annual AFA gala held Feb. 14, 2003, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

The General Ira C. Eaker fellowship program was established in 1981 by the AFA to perpetuate knowledge of the rich military and civilian aerospace history of the United States of America.

"I believe this honor commemorates the innovation, engineering excellence and can-do spirit of all the men and women of NASA Dryden, past and present," Christiansen said. "It also validates my belief that our long heritage of close cooperation and partnership with the U.S. Air Force has great value to each of our missions for the country."

On May 25, 1972, Dryden's highly-modified F-8 DFBW research aircraft, with pilot Gary Krier at the controls, became the world's first aircraft to fly completely dependent upon an electronic flight control system.

The DFBW concept, now commonly known as Digital Flight Control Systems, 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. Multiple computers "vote" instantaneously to choose the correct control input for maneuvers requested by the pilot, who uses the traditional stick and rudder controls in the cockpit. 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 pilot alone could provide.


Note to Editors: For media requests, contact Gray Creech at (661) 276-2662. Read Dryden's DFCS fact sheet online at: /centers/dfrc/Newsroom/FactSheets/FS-024-DFRC.html

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