The early 1960's saw embedded computers advance sufficiently to be used in Apollo spacecraft. By the late 1960s, NASA Flight Research Center (previously Dryden Flight Center, now Armstrong Flight Research Center) engineers began work to replace mechanical flight-control with digital fly-by-wire technology. Support came from Neil Armstrong who backed the transfer of a U.S. Navy F-8C Crusader to NASA which became the F-8 Digital Fly-By-Wire (DFBW) research aircraft. Proven performance and solid cooperation between NASA and industry translated into use of DFBW systems in new aircraft design in a remarkably short time.
Today DFBW equipped aircraft maintain constant speed and altitude over long distances to increase fuel efficiency. The elimination of bulky hydraulics, cables, rods and pulleys allows for increased payload and greater range. The electronic systems require less maintenance and improved reliability with fewer mechanical parts to fail. These systems are also easier to install and troubleshoot which make assembly and maintenance more efficient. And the reduced vulnerability to battle damage makes DFBW ideal for military aircraft. DFBW technology has enabled a quantum jump in design and performance to deliver vastly improved flight characteristics that could not have been achieved otherwise.Â Safer and more efficient aircraft around the globe represent a major aeronautics success and as well as another prime example of how technology developed for space exploration directly benefits life on Earth.
*Credits - photos by Nasa