Sikorsky Tests Fly-By-Wire Helicopter

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Sikorsky last week announced that its upgraded UH-60M Black Hawk, which could become the first fly-by-wire (FBW) helicopter for the U.S. army, has begun flight testing. The digital triple-redundant FBW system involves dual-channel flight control computers and actuators as well as active control sticks. It eliminates mechanical control linkages, saving weight and reducing maintenance requirements, lowering pilot workload and increasing the aircraft's handling qualities, according to Sikorsky. "The UH-60M Upgrade will reduce pilot workload, increase lift, offer better protection and enhance survivability," said Sikorsky president Jeffrey Pino. The entire system is coupled with a Rockwell Collins glass cockpit suite and upgraded engines with full authority digital engine control (FADEC). The first flight took place at West Palm Beach, Fla., and tested forward flight as well as hovers and hover turns over the course of about an hour. The Army hopes to one day operate more than 900 of the new fly-by-wire Black Hawks following first deliveries currently scheduled for late 2010.