Aerodynamics 101 - Software & Certification for Safe Flight

October 30, 2019

Have you ever wondered how an aeroplane flies or how a pilot controls an aircraft? Hop onboard to find out!

airplane in the sky

To the naked eye, an aeroplane is a big mechanical bird that carries us around the globe in almost unimaginable time frames. But a lot of the technology that makes this happens goes largely unseen. What most of us are not aware of is that modern aviation is only possible due to software.

Without software, things like flight plan management, air traffic control, autopilot systems and intricate maintenance routines would simply not be possible. There are many software systems operating at different criticality levels in an aircraft: from the software that manages the entertainment systems for passengers, all the way up to the software that controls the autopilot or the landing gear of the aeroplane.

Software provides a very powerful way of allowing humans to interact with the aircraft. One great example is the autopilot system in which the pilot simply does not need to control the plane – the software itself takes over. Another good example of automated systems are the control trim surfaces which exist to null aerodynamic forces without pilot intervention. Now, this human-machine interaction can only be successful when the software works in perfect synergy with the pilots, ensuring safety.

There are many classes and types of aircraft and pilots can fly any of them within certain categories, as long as they hold a valid license. These certifications require specific training, which can be quite expensive to obtain and maintain by the airlines. To avoid these costs, airlines often pick one brand and qualify their pilots to fly a certain type of aeroplane, ensuring that they can fly them throughout more years without having to renew their licences.

Meanwhile, manufacturers are encouraged to build safer and more efficient aeroplanes. Innovation looks to improve on previous aircraft models and software is one way to drive these evolutions while keeping costs down.

For example, some software lets manufacturers ensure that an aircraft feels very similar to handle as other model variants, despite differences in the physical design. The goal in this case is for an aeroplane’s main pilot interface systems to able to be kept the same so that pilots don’t need new extensive new training to fly the new model.

Want to know more about the software in aeroplanes and automated control systems? Check out our white paper!