Modern Aircraft Need Modern Control Systems

Most new aircraft use fly-by-wire control systems. This short course addresses questions of "how it works" and "why it's designed that way". Although an aircraft manual tells pilots "what" to do, the fly-by-wire control system is usually treated as a black box and not explained in an easily understood way.

The videos and instructional material describe the fundamentals of aircraft fly-by-wire designs in an approachable way for professional pilots, aviation enthusiasts, and aspiring aerospace engineers. Although fly-by-wire flight control systems are designed by engineers, the concepts that structure the system can be explained without any math or complicated wiring diagrams.

Knowledge of fly-by-wire principles gives professional pilots an advantage to apply the flight manual procedures for their aircraft. This is not an engineering course and there will be no math! Rather than describe a particular aircraft’s design, it explains general concepts from a pilot's perspective. The math to design these advanced systems is complicated, but the strategies underlying modern aircraft designs are easily described and understood. 

Enroll in this course today and understand:

  • What are the problems/limitations with mechanical flight control systems?

  • Why are four computers better than one or two?

  • What the advantages of Fly-by-Wire flight controls?

  • What are the popular control laws for designers?

  • What sensors are needed, and why?

  • How do flight control designers mitigate risk?

Bonus material

  • Free copy of eBook included

    Includes the eBook in PDF format, "Introduction to Fly-by-Wire Flight Control Systems", a $6.99 value.

Single Enrollment

Immediate, on-demand, course enrollment. Certificate available upon completion. Group discount available for team enrollment.

Course curriculum

  1. 1
    • Introduction and Course Welcome

    • The professional pilot's perspective

    • Objectives and Overview

    • Module 1

  2. 2
    • Assumptions and Vocabulary

    • Fundamentals of Controlled Flight

    • Fundamental Problems with Mechanical Flight Controls

    • Fundamentals of Fly-by-Wire

    • Gain and Phase

    • Redundancy

  3. 3
    • Loops and Errors

    • Common Control Laws

    • Control Law Transitions

  4. 4
    • A Flying Network

    • Pilot Controls

    • Air Data

    • Inertial Reference and Acceleration

    • Flight Control Surface Position

    • Aircraft System Status

  5. 5
    • Electrical Power Failures

    • Software Faults

    • Sensor Confusion

    • Servo Jams

    • Communication Blackout

  6. 6
    • Wrap Up Discussion

    • Before you go...


Instructor Test Pilot

David Kern

David Kern is a graduate of the US Air Force Test Pilot School, with experience planning and flying hundreds of flight test missions for civil aircraft certification and military projects. In 2011, he was the USAF F-16 project test pilot for the Collier Trophy-winning Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (AGCAS). In his USAF career, he served as Instructor Test Pilot and Director of Operations at the USAF Test Pilot School, teaching all parts of the multi-engine and fighter curricula. David is an Associate Fellow with the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, Member of the Society of Flight Test Engineers, and serves as a flight test pilot for the Aircraft Certification Service with the Federal Aviation Administration. He holds a Master of Science in Flight Test Engineering and B.Sci. Electrical Engineering with a minor in Mathematics. He also holds an Airline Transport Pilot certificate with seven type ratings, is an active Certified Flight Instructor for instrument conditions, and has logged piloting time at the flight controls of over 80 different types of aircraft. His publications include "Flight Test Techniques for Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) Radar", "Accelerated Development of Flight Tested Sensors and Systems", and “Introduction to Fly-by-Wire Flight Control Systems: The professional pilot’s guide to understanding modern aircraft controls.”

Single Enrollment

Immediate, on-demand, course enrollment. Certificate available upon completion. Group discount available for team enrollment.