… by Chip Tatum
According to Boeing’s super secret development company Boeing Phantom Works and the Federal Government, you can not handle the truth! It refers to the Safety of Flight in ”Fly by Wire” (FBW) Aircraft. What is a Fly by Wire Aircraft you ask? Well simply put it is an aircraft that is flown by electronic signals rather than by cables or hydraulic systems.
With the loss of Malaysian Air Flight 370, there has been a lot of speculation concerning the possibility of an electronic take over of the aircarft. Authorities have either evaded the questions or denied that there is the ability for the aircraft to be electronically hijacked.
Electronic flight controls systems have been used in commercial aviation for more than 40 years. With the introduction of the Concorde, the use of electronic systems (with mechanical backups) to manipulate the hydraulic controls used to fly by wire started the revolution on flight control. Digital systems were first used in the Airbus 310 where digital computers controlled flight control surfaces. European experience in Fly-by-Wire (FBW) application is now some 30 years old. With the entry into service of the A320, a new standard of FBW was defined in the flight controls and system integration.
The United States was lagging in these achievements. The Boeing Company embarked in an unprecedented journey to build a totally FBW controlled aircraft, completely designed and integrated by computer. The Boeing 777 is the first commercial aircraft manufactured by Boeing which employees a FBW Primary Flight Control System. Here we will provide an overview of the flight control characteristics and constraints for the Boeing 777 FBW aircraft.
Conventional primary flight controls systems employ hydraulic actuators and control valves actuated by cables that are driven by the pilot controls. The cable-controlled system is heavy and requires periodic maintenance. In a Flight by Wire (FBW) flight control system, the cable control of the primary flight control surfaces has been removed. Rather, the actuators are controlled electrically. At the heart of the FBW system are electronic computers sending signals to the control surfaces.
Fly-By-Wire (FBW) Primary Flight Controls have been used in military applications such as fighter jets for a number of years. It has been a rather recent development to employ them in a commercial transport application. The 777 is the first commercial transport manufactured by Boeing which employs a (FBW) Primary Flight Control System. The Airbus A320 and predecessors are examples of earlier systems developed in Europe. Many other aircraft were fully electronic with an electro-mechanical or electro-hydraulic backup.
Invention Secrecy Act Invoked
Someone discovered that there just may be a problem with this system of flight control. Boeing filed for a Patent to protect technology that they hope will keep any hijacking or jamming of the control systems in their 777 airliner protected. The Government immediately attached the Invention Secrecy Act to the Patent. It disappeared from the patent office online archives here.
The Invention Secrecy Act of 1951 (Pub.L. 82–256, 66 Stat. 3, enacted February 1, 1952, codified at 35 U.S.C. §§ 181–188) is a body of United States federal law designed to prevent disclosure of new inventions and technologies that, in the opinion of selected federal agencies, present a possible threat to the national security of the United States.
The U.S. government has long sought to control the release of new technologies that might threaten the national defense and economic stability of the country. During World War I, Congress authorized the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) to classify certain defense-related patents. This initial effort lasted only for the duration of that war but was reimposed in October 1941 in anticipation of the U.S. entry into World War II. Patent secrecy orders were initially intended to remain effective for two years, beginning on July 1, 1940, but were later extended for the duration of the war.
The Invention Secrecy Act of 1951 made such patent secrecy permanent, though the order to suppress any invention must be renewed each year (except during periods of declared war or national emergency). Under this Act, defense agencies provide the PTO with a classified list of sensitive technologies in the form of the “Patent Security Category Review List” (PSCRL). The decision to classify new inventions under this act is made by “defense agencies” as defined by the President. Generally, these agencies include the Army, Navy, Air Force, National Security Agency (NSA), Department of Energy, and NASA, but even the Justice Department has played this role…