The flight management system (FMS) is a core component of modern aircraft avionics, revolutionizing the way that operators conduct in-flight tasks. As a computer, the flight management system functions to automate various operations, including those such as position determining and flight plans, reducing the workload on the flight crew. With the implementation and improvement of FMS technology, modern aircraft now no longer require the need for flight engineers and navigators to successfully carry out flights. In this blog, we will discuss the flight management system more in detail, as well as its various facets that make it so beneficial.
Before the debut of the flight management system, most aircraft had to rely on radio systems such as VOR or ADF to navigate. With short range radio systems, pilots were unable to utilize area navigation capabilities, and long range systems required point navigation through manually entered waypoints that were limited in number. These processes often resulted in complex procedures and crowded deck space to accommodate the required tools for flight. As the flight management system began to develop, pilots could readily access global navigation information through a common control display unit (CDU) and master computer, providing for a single control point for all navigation systems. Alongside real-time navigation capabilities, developed FMS also brought other interfaces that created a more simplistic, automated operation to increase safety and efficiency of flight.
In general, a standard flight management system contains four main components. These include the Flight Management Computer (FMC), an Automatic Flight Control or Automatic Flight Guidance System (AFCS or AFGS), the Aircraft Navigation System, and an Electronic Flight Instrument System (EFIS). The FMC is a computer that utilizes a database collection to permit pre-prgrammed routes to be fed into the system for use. To ensure that the system is efficient and safe, it is consistently updated with the position of the aircraft with the use of available navigation aids. When the FMC conducts its update, it utilizes the most appropriate navigation aids.
Whether the aircraft has an AFCS or AFGS, such systems are used to receive sensor information from other various aircraft systems. During flight, the AFCS may automatically govern the aircraft flight control systems or provide the pilot with flight director commands for specific statuses based on whether or not the aircraft is in autopilot or manual control.
With the aircraft navigation system, the most current aircraft position is calculated constantly. The navigation system is integrated within the flight management system, and it may use inputs from the Inertial Reference System (IRS), Global Positioning System (GPS), and other areas to determine position. With an Electronic Flight Instrument System, these navigational input predictions are conveyed to the pilot on the Attitude and Heading Reference System (AHRS).
As compared to previous systems, the FMS provides for a much safer and efficient method of conducting flight operations. While equipment such as the Inertial Reference System (IRS) may only be beneficial for en route navigation, FMS opened up the capability for a pilot to be guided to landing during aircraft instrument approach. FMS also may provide the pilot with important information regarding fuel management, weather data, control of cabin briefing, and much more, making them extremely useful for flight.
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