Drucella Andersen Headquarters, Washington, D.C.

April 22, 1993 (Phone: 202/358-4733) Don Nolan Dryden Flight Research Facility, Edwards, Calif. (Phone: 805/258-3447) RELEASE: 93-75 NASA F-15 MAKES FIRST ENGINE-CONTROLLED TOUCHDOWN With its flight controls deliberately locked, a NASA F-15 research aircraft yesterday touched down using only engine power for control at NASA's Ames-Dryden Flight Research Facility, Edwards, Calif. The milestone flight was part of a NASA project to develop a computer-assisted engine control system that lets a plane land safely with only engine power if its normal control surfaces such as elevators, rudders or ailerons are disabled. "After several incidents where hydraulic failures caused aircraft to lose part or all of their flight controls, including the crash of a United Airlines DC-10 at Sioux City, Iowa in 1989, we started work on developing this automatic engines-only control system. Within a few months, I was pretty sure we could make it work, but I wasn't sure we would get a chance to fly it," said Bill Burcham, Chief of Dryden's Propulsion and Performance Branch. "Now that the technology is proven, I hope to see it incorporated into future aircraft designs," Burcham added. "I also hope it never has to be used."

Changes to the NASA F-15's digital flight control system include a cockpit panel with two thumb-wheel controls, one for pitch (nose up and down) and the other for banking (turn) commands. The system converts the pilot's thumb-wheel inputs into engine throttle commands. The flight control system automatically programs the engines to turn the aircraft, climb, descend and eventually land safely by varying the speed of the engines one at a time or together. - more -2The first flights of the system in February 1993 tested the engine control program as the F-15 performed pitch and bank maneuvers and did checks of the safety features at 5000 feet (1524 meters). Later flights made progressively lower approaches to a runway. The landing mission, flown by NASA research pilot and former astronaut Gordon Fullerton, was the high point of almost 2 years of studies that resulted from incidents in which the hydraulic control systems on large aircraft failed during flight. The pilots in those cases were left with little or no ability to land normally using their control surfaces. "Having the capability to control and land an aircraft without the use of the flight control system, nor the movement of the aircraft control surfaces, is a real breakthrough in technology for improving the safety of future aircraft, both civil and military," said Dr. James Stewart, NASA Project Manager. In the initial Dryden studies, an engineer-pilot research team used simulators to check the handling and control of a four-engine transport and the F-15. They "flew" the simulated plane in both the computer-assisted mode and with manual engine control using hand throttles. The study showed both aircraft could be controlled somewhat with manual engine inputs during level flight and easy maneuvers, but they would be extremely difficult to land successfully. When the control system was optimized for engine control, simulated safe flight and landings were possible even in air turbulence and

crosswinds. The propulsion control software on the F-15 is a research concept only. In the future, this type of technology could be applied operationally to multi-engine aircraft with electronic engine and flight control systems. McDonnell Douglas Aerospace (MDA), St. Louis, is the main contractor for the propulsion-only control system. MDA did engineering analyses, integrated the software into the F-15's flight control system and supported the test flights. -end-