The Navy’s Latest Flight Control Technology Ensures Safety In The Skies

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Imagine landing a fighter jet at 150 miles an hour on a small runway floating in the middle of the ocean – with just one engine.

Thanks to the latest version of the Navy’s Precision Landing Mode (PLM), landing in this extremely difficult scenario is now much safer and easier.

Latest PLM Upgrade Allows Pilots to Land Safely Under Outage Conditions

PLM – a capability managed by the F / A-18 & EA-18G Program Office (PMA-265) – brings a revolutionary improvement to aircraft carrier landings. This new flight control technology dramatically reduces the number of entries a pilot must make during the carrier’s final approach. With its optimized control laws and bespoke displays, PLM lightens the pilot’s workload and makes landing much safer and easier. Plus, it improves overall recovery time, reduces tanker needs, and streamlines training requirements.

Delivered to the fleet last October, the latest PLM upgrade allows pilots to use the technology even in the event of an outage. This was not possible with the previous version released in 2016. FA-18E / F and EA-18G Military Class Desk Cmdr. Luke Davis describes how the last iteration could come in handy in an emergency like an engine fire.

“During a single-engine approach, PLM helps provide the pilot with a platform that closely resembles a twin-engine approach, maximizing climb performance and helping the jet stay in balanced flight,” Davis said. “PLM provides the pilot with a reliable and stable platform to recover safely on the ship or at the airfield. “

Along with its improvements to aircraft landings, PLM has also changed the way the fleet trains. New F / A-18 E and F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler pilots now train with PLM from day one. Additionally, Air Wings utilize this capability during carrier qualification deployments, reducing training requirements by up to 50%. PLM enables aircrew to maximize flight time to train for a diverse and ever-expanding assortment of tactical and strategic missions.

From fiction to the flight line

So how did this game-changing ability go from fiction to the flight line?

Formerly known as Maritime Augmented Guidance with Integrated Controls for Carrier Approach and Recovery Precision Enabling Technologies (MAGIC CARPET), engineers at the Naval Air Warfare Center, Aircraft Division developed the business case and concept for the new tool. They worked with the Office of Naval Research to bring this concept to life and prove its feasibility. According to F / A-18 AD Deputy Program Director Dave Howe, intense collaboration among stakeholders has served as a backbone of this effort.

“PMA-265, after discussions with the fleet and Air Boss, embraced development and received funding for the PLM project in 2016. We have formed a team of flight control experts and fostered relationships within NAVAIR. [Naval Air Systems Command] and the industry enabling the success of the PLM contract, ”said Howe.

“Within NAVAIR, [Air Test and Evaluation Squadron] VX-23 pilots and flight control engineers were the bread and butter of the Navy. We have also worked hand in hand with our industry partners to address acquisition challenges. The ability to reduce training and increase readiness by reducing aircraft landings was given priority. Together, we remained focused on the fleet, ”he continued.

NAVAIR began commissioning the upgraded PLM to the F / A-18E / F and EA-18G fleet in the fall of 2020. Howe said hearing how Navy pilots use the latest PLM to landing safely motivates him in his daily tasks.

“Fighters are the reason we come to work every day. Our teams want to be able to deliver more products and solutions that help both training and mission execution, ”Howe said. “Thinking innovatively and integrating new technologies are part of our daily work. “


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