Naval Aviators Can Be Slow to Embrace Technology

By Sandra I. Erwin
Flight-control software that makes carrier deck landings easier and safer was not initially well received by the Navy’s fighter pilot community. But after a decade of development and testing, the technology soon will be widely used in the fleet. The system, dubbed “magic carpet,” illustrates why naval aviators need to be more open-minded about using unfamiliar new technologies, said Vice Adm. David A. “Decoy” Dunaway, commander of Naval Air Systems Command.

Sometimes cultural issues can slow down innovation in naval aviation, Dunaway cautioned a crowd of aviators at the annual Tailhook Association reunion in Sparks, Nevada.

“Are we receptive to change?” Dunaway asked. In the case of magic carpet, it took 10 years to get a “cultural acceptance” even though it promises to save hundreds of millions of dollars in operations and other costs over the coming decades. “But we thought in our own head that we had to stick with our old ways and couldn’t imagine a new way of doing business,” he added.

Navy commanders around the fleet are now raving about magic carpet, and are looking at new ways to apply the technology to fighter maneuvers, Dunaway noted. “It’s important we don’t drink our own bath water.”

Magic carpet completed sea trials in April aboard the USS George H. W. Bush. Two F/A-18F Super Hornets assigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, tested the system. The flight control software and display symbology were designed to make carrier landings less demanding for Navy pilots.

The name magic carpet is short for “maritime augmented guidance with integrated controls for carrier approach and recovery precision enabling technologies.” According to a Naval Air Systems Command news release, the system makes landing on an aircraft carrier easier by incorporating direct lift control, an augmented pilot control mode that maintains a commanded glideslope. It also has heads-up display symbology tailored for the shipboard landing task.
Dunaway said this was a huge technology milestone in the history of carrier landings. If the system works as promised, pilots will have a safer, more predictable method for carrying out dangerous shipboard landings.

NAVAIR said magic carpet will help to minimize hard landings, reduce the number of required post-hard landing aircraft inspections and improve overall aircraft availability. It also should reduce initial and currency training for pilots.

Production-grade software for the fleet is scheduled to start flight tests in 2017.

Topics: Aviation, Science and Engineering Technology, Test and Evaluation

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