Fly-By-Wire Autoland Bonanza Tested

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Just when you might have thought that engineers were running out of wonder boxes to put in light aircraft comes word from Hawker Beechcraft and Rockwell Collins that they’ve flown a fly-by-wire Bonanza A36 with an autoland system. Rockwell Collins spokesman David Vos called it a “digital parachute.” The Bonanza did a series of hands-off landings at Hawker Beech’s Wichita headquarters. The system is based on Rockwell Collins’ Athena system, which is used to maneuver unmanned aerial vehicles. Hawker Beechcraft came up with the fly-by-wire system and did the integration.

The system is being billed as a safety feature and perhaps a glimpse of flying’s future. “This project with Hawker Beechcraft shows what is possible by leveraging our [unmanned aerial systems] technology to potentially serve as a digital parachute in emergency situations,” said Vos. “While we are still in a demonstration phase, we’re excited about our continued work with Hawker Beechcraft as we look for opportunities to further enhance safety in a future airspace where manned, unmanned and optionally manned aircraft can coexist.”

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