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Aircraft need non-computerized backup systems

February 28, 2007

F-22A Raptor in flight, hopefully nowhere near the IDL

Numerous sites have reported on the now infamous F-22A Raptor systems crash as the first internationally deployed F-22 squadron crossed the International Date Line earlier this month. Read a transcript with CNN military analyst Major General Don Shepperd, USAF-Ret. for more details of what happened (Cntrl+F search for “F-22” to jump to the pertinent bits).

This is certainly not the first time software has caused an aviation malfunction. It’s but the latest in a long line of aerospace software snafus.

What is interesting about this one, however, is that for a manned system, one might have expected more physical, non-computerized backup systems than appear to have been in place. I’m versed in fly-by-wire and the basics of modern avionics (even have a BS in Aero Eng to prove it), but I have to wonder if there shouldn’t be at least a few critical backup gadgets that aren’t wired-in to the computer systems. Altimeter, compass, etc.

Perhaps there were, and they simply weren’t discussed in any of the coverage. If not, they should have been. F-22 pilots, you know what to add to your kit next time you’re heading up into the wild blue yonder.

BTW, the bug was fixed and the Raptors successfully arrived at Kadena AFB, Okinawa a few days later. Enjoy the arrival with a little video (the narration’s in Japanese, but jet noise sounds the same in any language):


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