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Going the Distance

Four Aviation Innovations That Have Changed the Flying Experience

Taking Off

From military to commercial aviation, we’ve been behind great innovations that have transformed the structure and function of advanced aircraft. So sit back, relax, and enjoy as we showcase four game-changing advancements that have taken us further than ever before. 

1. Flight Controls

Active Inceptor Systems
Active Inceptor Systems


In the early days of flight, aircraft were operated using mechanical and manual flight controls with complex wire and cable systems to connect the pilot’s commands to the control surfaces. As time went on, technological advances introduced auto stabilizers and autopilot functions to reduce pilot fatigue and improve flight efficiency. From there, analog flight control computers came along to further reduce pilot workload. These advancements led to the advent of digital fly-by-wire flight control systems aboard military aircraft, allowing significant improvements in aircraft performance.

We were the first company to introduce digital microprocessors aboard the Airbus A310, and in 1994, we provided Boeing’s first commercial fly-by-wire system for the 777 aircraft. Today, our company has more than 30 years’ experience designing and certifying fly-by-wire systems.

Active Sticks

The next step in the evolution of commercial flight controls is the introduction of active pilot controls, also known as active sticks or active inceptors. Have you ever used a joystick during a video game? Usually joysticks send force feedback to your hands through cues, like a vibration, to alert you of any changes or to provide a warning. Active pilot controls function in a similar fashion by providing pilots with the ability to “feel” aircraft performance through the stick – a component not available using traditional passive pilot controls. Active inceptors, which are already used on military aircraft, alert each pilot of changes in the aircraft or provide warnings and other notifications by sending tactile cues, like a vibration or stiffening, to the pilot’s hands in real time. This in turn increases situational awareness for the pilot while also reducing workload as pilots can spend more time concentrating on what they’re doing rather than looking down at instruments. Additionally, each pilot can feel the forces and see the shifts generated by the other pilot, allowing for increased safety and crew coordination in dual pilot aircraft. So what’s our role in this innovative technology? We are the world’s only provider of flight-worthy active inceptors, with more than 25 years of design experience in active stick technology.

2. Electronic Warfare


Always vital, the complex field of electronic warfare (EW) helps protect military aircraft while maximizing mission effectiveness and warfighter survivability. For more than 60 years, we’ve been innovating in this area — from early radar defense and surveillance systems to state-of-the-art EW suites on the latest aircraft. In fact, we’re unsurpassed in this field, enabling our customers to dominate the electro-magnetic spectrum.

3. Aircraft Upgrades

F-16 Aircraft_
F-16 Aircraft

Through systems integration, military aircraft can be upgraded and sustained to increase their original expected lifespan. Our company is currently working with the U.S. Air Force to upgrade South Korea’s fleet of 134 F-16 fighter jets. The program marks the first time a non-original equipment manufacturer is performing a major upgrade for a 4th-generation U.S. fighter jet — but we’re not new to the world of F-16s. Our experience with the aircraft dates back to the original 1970s-era aircraft and has included flight control computers, cockpit displays, electronic warfare systems, and support equipment. Today, we’re a major provider of mission electronics and fighter systems for F-16 fleets around the world.

4. IntelliCabin


IntelliCabin is our next-generation cabin management system designed to provide a vastly improved flying experience for passengers and crew members, while at the same time benefitting the airline itself. IntelliCabin is an integrated approach to cabin management that is flexible, adaptable, and scalable, providing capabilities such as in-seat power, LED lighting, wireless tablet-based in-flight entertainment, and dimmable windows, all managed via a centralized attendant control panel or a crew handheld device. The IntelliCabinmakes for the ultimate flying experience and could be on commercial airlines as early as 2015.

More to come

Our advancements in aviation will continue to take to the skies for years to come as we build on our history within this game-changing industry.