Wednesday, January 19, 2011

US Army revives interest in fly-by-wire for Black Hawks

SOURCE FLIGHT INTERNATIONAL A fly-by-wire upgrade for the Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawk is back under serious consideration by the US Army.
Army acquisition officials "have a plan" to reinsert funding for fly-by-wire technology, which was removed from the UH-60M programme after 2008, says Maj Gen R Mark Brown, deputy for acquisition and systems management in the office of the assistant secretary of the army for acquisition, technology and logistics.
Brown's remarks come as Sikorsky nears the end of a two-year, 400h flight demonstration programme for the fly-by-wire upgrade, and show a revival of interest in the technology. Fielding an aircraft without mechanical linkages should have arrived with the Sikorsky/Boeing RAH-66 Comanche, but the aircraft was cancelled in 2004.

 © US Army
Fly-by-wire was also inserted into the UH-60M upgrade, but the army declined to move the technology into production two years ago.
"We thought it was more important to buy less-capable aircraft faster and relieve our force structure," says Brown.
Inserting fly-by-wire into the UH-60M will save about 220kg (484lb), says Col Neil Thurgood, programme manager for utility helicopters. The technology also enables the army's vision to convert at least some of its Black Hawks into optionally piloted vehicles by the end of the decade.
The key benefit of fly-by-wire, however, is improved handling, says Thurgood. Pilots would no longer have to worry about controlling the aircraft in the last 650ft (200m) of a flight, when their eyes should be scanning the area outside the cockpit, he says.

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