Russia's Gromov Flight Research Institute near Moscow is studying technology aimed at enabling aircraft to automatically recover from in-flight upsets.

Concern about the issue was heightened by the loss of an American Airlines Airbus A300-600R shortly after take-off from New York JFK airport in November 2001 after it encountered wake vortices generated by a preceding aircraft.

The final report on the A300 accident is still awaited, but the US National Transportation Safety Board has released controversial interim advice to all pilots to be careful in their use of rudder to control large aircraft during upsets.

Gromov recently invited Airbus, Boeing and the Flight Safety Foundation to observe their work, which looks at human factors in upsets but is further researching the use of aircraft automation to carry out recoveries from situations such as stalls, extreme attitudes, overloading or overspeeds.

Boeing's chief pilot flight operations safety Capt Dave Carbaugh has seen Gromov's work and says: "By using algorithms that protect against maximum speed, minimum speed, maximum loading and altitude they have formed a basis by which more advanced systems could recover aeroplanes from upset situations."

Gromov is using a fly-by-wire Sukhoi Su-27 fighter and a conventionally controlled Antonov An-24 utility transport in the tests, and is examining the capacity of existing onboard systems - with increased capability - to recover aircraft from upsets. This would negate the need to install flight envelope protection to prevent upsets, as Airbus's fly-by-wire fleet is designed to do. Full flight-envelope protection would limit the manoeuvring capability of fighters like the Su-27, but commanded upset recovery could be useful.

Source: Flight International