Ever been on an airplane when the engines suddenly throttle up seemingly for no reason? It's probably because the pilot just switched from auto pilot (AP) back to manual control by disconnecting the AP and bringing the throttle levers back into the correct position. With SKF's new Automatic Throttle Control Unit, due out in two new planes in the coming months, that will no longer be an issue. "In older designs, the levers remained in a fixed position under auto pilot mode, so they were in the wrong place when the pilot resumed control. Further, the torque of the servo motors driving the levers was transmitted through a clutch, which made it very difficult for the pilot to override the automatic throttle without disconnecting it formally," says Product Manager Michel Giacomoni. "With our new system, the levers are driven by auto pilot and the pilot can override the AT through a force feedback system." Giacomoni notes that the force feedback comes from the corrective action of the AP computer, a modular avionic unit that gives the pilot feedback that the AT is engaged and that it is working correctly. Two new competitive aircraft will be the first to employ the system—the Gulfstream G200 (certified on July 2, 2004) and the Falcon 2000EX EASy, which is certified for delivery.
NASA and Boeing developed a huge, carbon composite cryogenic fuel tank for deep space missions, and started testing it last month. The 18-ft cryotank will enable heavy-lift launch vehicles to send both humans and robots into deep space.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.