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Navy announces new aircraft carrier landing technology

October 21, 2011, 04:28 pm

The U.S. Navy recently announced new flight control software technology that will improve landing safety on aircraft carriers. The new technology aims to simplify the process of landing on an aircraft carrier, a difficult maneuver that had previously required an extraordinary amount of concentration and skill. Pilots had to constantly adjust their flight path, trajectory and air speed in order to safely land on the flight deck.

The new software, the Navy says, will integrate an algorithm and a series of interactive displays that make the landing process simpler for the pilot. Instead of monitoring a series of instruments, the new program connects an experimental flight deck light system called the Bedford Array to heads-up display sensors in the cockpit, allowing the pilot to simply adjust his flight path to connect a green line on the HUD to light sensors on the flight deck.

"The precision that we can bring to carrier landings in the future will be substantial," said Michael Deitchman, deputy chief of naval research for naval air warfare and weapons. "The flight control algorithm has the potential to alter the next 50 years of how pilots land on carrier decks."

The technology, developed by the U.S. Navy and funded in part by the Office of Naval Research, will be available to a select number of Navy pilots for testing beginning in 2012. While the software is close to completion, officials say the algorithms still need to be refined. Extensive data collection from tests in the Navy's F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet flight simulator will lead to refinements in the algorithm before the software is installed in fighter planes.

Since the beginning of maritime aviation, landings on aircraft carriers have been little more than a controlled crash landing. The complexity and risk involved in these landings means it takes longer to train pilots, and maintenance costs on aircraft are often high. Officials and designers hope that the new technology will save on resources and make landing on an aircraft carrier safer for pilots.

Increased safety is a common goal of many aviation technology projects. Just as safety is a special consideration for pilots, general aviation aviators often take out pilot insurance policies to ensure they are adequately covered. Many pilot groups and associations offer group rates on products like term life insurance for pilots.

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