D21 – F-8

F-8 Digital Fly-By-Wire aircraft in flight on October 27, 1972.

The Digital Fly-By-Wire (DFBW) concept uses an electronic flight-control system coupled with a digital computer to replace conventional mechanical flight controls. The first test of a DFBW system in an aircraft was in l972 on a modified F-8 Crusader at the Armstrong Flight Research Center. It was the forerunner of the fly-by-wire flight control systems now used on the Space Shuttles and on today’s military and civil aircraft to make them safer, more maneuverable, and more efficient.

The computer-controlled flight systems pioneered by the F-8 DFBW created a revolution in aircraft design. The F-117A, X-29, X-31, and many other aircraft have relied on computers to make them flyable. Built with inherent instabilities to make them more maneuverable, they would be impossible for human pilots to fly if the computers failed or received incorrect data.