AIRCRAFT AUTOMATIC LANDING

J. A. McDonald

Peer Reviewed

Abstract: This article originally appeared in the trade journal British Petroleum in 1960 and is believed not to have been reprinted in any U.S. publication. It is presented here because it contains information of particular interest and historical significance to the navigation community. The article describes a series of tests and demonstrations that included several “firsts”: The first successful demonstration of coupled automatic approaches on precision beam landing systems. Possibly the first demonstration of direct reading (dial instrument) distance information used in conjunction with instrument approach. The first use of coupled orbiting in which an aircraft automatically maintained a set distance from a DME beacon while circling an airport preparatory to landing. Of greater impact than the listed “firsts” was the activity generated on both sides of the Atlantic as a result of the tests. The British quickly grasped the significance of the automatic guidance and established a program that has been carried on continuously ever since. The work at the Blind Landing Experimental Unit (BLEU) was a direct outgrowth of the interests generated during the 1944 trials. The highly successful Auto-Land program emerged from these activities. Similarly, Col. (later Brig. Gen.) Benjamin Kelsey and Col. (later Maj. Gen) J. Francis Taylor, impressed by the American demonstration in the U.K., formed the All Weather Flying Division at Wright-Patterson AFB as an immediate post war activity and contributed significantly to automatic approach and landing. To those who have been frustrated by the rigid controls characteristic of present day research and development it may be interesting to note that the automatic demonstrations were not a part of the prescribed program. Col. Kelsey, on his own initiative, carried the basement workshop coupler in his personal luggage and it was installed and operated as an unauthorized extra curricular activity. Although not to come into its own for several decades, the automatic approach demonstrations were an important factor in the adoption of ILS as the World Standard System.
Published in: NAVIGATION, Journal of the Institute of Navigation, Volume 27, Number 1
Pages: 23 - 29
Cite this article: McDonald, J. A., "AIRCRAFT AUTOMATIC LANDING", NAVIGATION, Journal of The Institute of Navigation, Vol. 27, No. 1, Spring 1980, pp. 23-29.
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