Fly by Light in Aeroplanes Systems - Analysis

Fibre optic cables are widely used in telecommunication and network. It is known for its properties which is lighter than standard copper cable, able to bring multiple signals in single cable, no electric current mixed up in cable television, cheaper than copper cable connection because it is made from silica (goblet), and does not

List of abbreviations

  1. FBW- Fly-by-Wire
  2. FBL- Fly-by-Light


At the first level of aviation, airplane utilized wires and pulleys for control buttons also called mechanised linkage. This wires and pulleys become pull and press system to go the trip control's surfaces at the expense of the pilot's effort. Utilizing the cords and pulleys, every causes work on the airline flight control surfaces are being transmitted to the cockpit control and believed straight by the pilots that they have to counter these causes using their own strength without any assistance. Early plane were compact and the plane can only take a flight at a slower acceleration thus aerodynamic push is not strong so that it is possible to manoeuvres the aeroplanes.

With new appearing technology and conflict in those days, air superiority is becoming an advantage. Aircraft needs to fly faster, hold more payload and strong. This is when hydraulic systems plays an important role in airplane control system. By using hydraulic systems, aeroplanes can travel faster because of the pilot does not have to put extra effort to move the control areas with increasing aerodynamic forces. Hydro-mechanical control system is a system which mechanised linkages are connected to the hydraulic system. This technique utilized wires, pulleys, and gears at the cockpit control and hydraulic system consist of pipes, reservoir, valves and pushes at the control surfaces. With hydro-mechanical system, the aerodynamic forces acting on the control surfaces are not noticed by the pilots rendering it easy to settings. Stay shaker and artificial feedback are the methods to replicate the aerodynamic makes acting on the control floors to the cockpit control. It had been to ensure that the pilot does not manoeuvre the aeroplanes beyond its limitation.

Although the hydro-mechanical system provides plenty benefits to the pilot, it was deemed as heavy, hard to maintain and not sensible for larger airplane as the cords would need to run over a long distance of aircraft fuselage.

Commercial airplane nowadays are bigger, faster and fly higher than before. Hydro-mechanical control system may not able to hold the complicated and hypersensitive controls made for passenger's comfort. Nowadays, majority commercial airliners use Fly-by-Wire system. FBW system replaces the cords, pulleys and gears with copper wires which carries electrical impulses from the cockpit control to the control surfaces. FBW get rid of the needs to keep up with the cords, pulleys or the gears thus lowering weight of the airplane. FBW is very useful due to it being electronically control by pcs which take care of the autopilot system and aeroplanes system.

Although FBW is recognized as your best option available today, it is still must be upgrade. Copper line can only hold one signal for every wire which means for an individual system that may needs four signs, it requires four copper wires. Because of this nature, typical airplane with FBW will have a bundles of copper wiring as well as for maintenance side, dealing with bundles of wires does take time and whole lot of manpower. FBW system is still regarded as heavy because of the amount of copper cords included and caging due to susceptible to electromagnetic rate of recurrence.

Fly-by-Light is a technology that might be the solution for future aeroplanes development. FBL technology is not a new thing but the research is slowly and gradually improvement as it still being tested and research because the 90's. Although FBL may not be implemented in forseeable future but the concept have been use in the current inflight entertainment system which utilised fibre optic cable television to accommodate all passenger's desire.


In the world of aviation, safety comes first, earnings comes second and followed by everything else. The info gather in this analysis might verify that FBL has prospect of future aeroplanes development. Aeroplanes manufacturers and aviation providers such as flight companies and private industries always be consider more reliable airplane, weight-fuel keeping and easy to maintain. This study will prove whether it is possible or never to replace the old fly-by-wire system with new fly-by-light system and provide more advantages.


The shoot for this study is to investigate whether fly-by-light is the future for aircraft system and how it will impact the traditional maintenance practice. In order to complete this analysis and also to achieve desire to as mentioned, few aims must be completed such as
  1. To discuss advantages and down sides of using fibre optic wires over standard copper cable on commercial aeroplanes and military aeroplanes.
  2. To discuss the development and probable of fly-by-light on aircraft system.
  3. To show the problem of using fly-by-light system on commercial and armed service aircraft.
  4. To find out whether it'll be less expensive for airplane manufacturers to produce new airplane system in future plane development.
  5. To find out the cost and its effect on traditional maintenance practice.


Technology growth always research for a fresh alternative to make aircraft brighter, less expensive and increase consistency. Fly-by-wire system have the ability to make modern airliners bigger, travel higher, more reliable, save cost and upsurge in earnings. If fly-by-light system is going to replace the FBW system in the future, commercial and military services aircraft will see a great deal of improvement in conditions of fuel saving due to weight reduction, faster response rate and more standard system installed that is not hard to manufacture and keep maintaining. Fly-by-light might not be the machine in near future because of the dynamics of fibre optic technology that is not suffice to withstand plane environment but with improvement and further research into fibre optic technology, Fly-by-light soon will replace the fly-by-wire system.


The main reason for this study is to do a research whether fly-by-light system might replace the fly-by-wire system in the future. It generally does not discuss about execution or direct costing which may entail specific value because this system is yet still under research and development. Any costing stated in this research is principally an estimation based on current market value.

2. 1 Overview

Today's aircraft have shown a substantial improvement in trip control system. Boeing 787 and Airbus 380 have efficiently flown on a fully fly-by-wire system separately. Having the flight control system operates solely on electrical power, the respective aircraft have were able to change every aspects that are normal to previous plane. Boeing 787 and Airbus 380 are using no-bleed engine unit as the airfare control system now operate on electricity, the actuators hydraulics are being pumped by electrical pump and air-conditioning are also operate on electrical power. This technological progress have yet to own its drawback which is the aeroplanes require a lot of shielding to be able to protect the electrical power system from electromagnetic disturbance or EMI. The shielding to keep carefully the EMI at least have its own drawback because shielding is heavy and it creates it hard to gain access to during maintenance. It could be successful for fly-by-wire system in Boeing 787 and Airbus 380 but by knowledge of what FBL may offer for further airplane development is very encouraging.


2. 2. 1 Benefits of using fibre optic cables over copper cables

Fibre optic cable television comprises of bundle of wine glass strands layered in insulated cover. Fibre optic wires nowadays trusted for networking and communication as it offers many advantages over copper wires. Regarding to Collins (2015) this is actually the features of using fibre optic cables

Fibre optic offers high bandwidth compared to copper line. High bandwidth means that fibre optic wires can handle carrying multiple indication over one cable connection rather than one indication over one cable with copper cable. Aircraft system delivers multiple signals for one air travel control and using conventional copper line in FBW system, it requires a bundle of wires just for one airfare control. Using fibre optic wire to replace copper wire will certainly reduce significantly the amount of copper line thus lowering the weight of the aeroplanes.


By understanding the idea of fibre optic cable connection, it has a faster sign transfer rate compare to copper line. Fibre optic cable carries light indication in which the rate of light moves much faster than electrical power current in copper line.


Fibre optic wire capable of transporting sign on longer distance without degrading the grade of the sign as the light have less susceptibility to indicate lost during transmission. It does not require any intensify or step down voltage like copper wire does.


Copper wire are easily tap into and less secure in comparison to fibre optic wire. Electrical sign in a copper wire are also easy to be change by intercepting the sign and can be done by non-professional. Whereas fibre optic cable tv are made from glass strands which makes it amazingly difficult to intercept the transmission without breaking the wire. Even with pros, the cable are very challenging to intercept midway of course, if it were done at the source, it continues to be very tough to change the indication without the proper equipment.


Copper wire and fibre optic wire both susceptibility to exhausted as time passes but instead of posing a fire threat like copper wire will, fibre optics does not pose any risk of fire risk as it only carries light signals. Temperature, moisture and severe weather condition might lead to copper line having signal reduction or even complete loss of connectivity but it does not happen with fibre optic cable. In conditions of studier, fibre optic cable tv can endure around 100-200 lbs. of pressure without destroying the cable while copper line typically are fragile and enough to hold up against only at about 25 pounds. of pressure before damaging the line.


Higher amount of relationships require more copper wire to be able to process all the indicators at an increased velocity as copper line performance in transmission transferring is directly linked with the cable size. Fibre optic cable tv size does not determine by the size of the cable connection and by that, it could be used for multiple alerts transfer without affecting the velocity or the quality of the signal. Fibre optic cable connection are much simpler to use and relatively lighter than copper cable.

  • COST

Although fibre optic cable tv today are still considered as more costly than copper wire in a short term but with it being lighter, more reliable, and much better performance than copper cable makes it a very important investment for an extended run. Fibre optic cable tv are also easy to keep up which in turn less cost needed.


Copper wire provides electrical signal which runs through in bundles of cable in close closeness. When electrical signal flow via a wire, it generates an electromagnetic field. Electro-mechanical signal are easily affected by electromagnetic field which in turn deteriorate the signals. Not only got it afflicted by its electromagnetic field, additionally it is influenced by electromagnetic occurrence given out by other gadgets like a hand mobile, microwave, or even lightning affect. Using light impulses by fibre optic cable, it does not create any electromagnetic field or damaged by other electromagnetic regularity. Being immune system to EMI, fibre optic cable connection will not require shielding as copper cable does. No shielding means a supplementary weight reduction using fibre optic cable connection alternatively than copper line.


According to Garg, Linda and Chowdhury (2014), FBL system will uses the same theory as the FBW system except for FBL, the sensors will be changed with optical somewhat than standard electro-mechanical or electronic digital as on FBW system. All the cords routing will be no different than copper cable in FBW but with added good thing about using less amount of fibre optic wire because it is with the capacity of transmitting more than one signal per cable tv making it light and portable and its immune system to EMI needs no shielding thus minimizing weight even more.

In order to improve all the receptors and actuators into optical, Photonic Controlled Actuation System or PCAS is introduced. This actuator system is a revised version of standard Electro Mechanical Actuator or EMA but with added optical controller that orders EMA. The indication that being delivered to EMA is the same transmission delivered by the airline flight control computer. In order for the EMA to received and react to the transmission, the technicians have modified the EMA to make certain the signal dispatched via light from the optical controller is readable. As the PCAS will utilized light signal to react, all other sensors such as the actuator position, engine position and current are substituted by optical receptors.

Figure 1: Fly-by-Wire standard line routing in aircraft (ICCCI, 2014)

Figure 2: FBL utilised the same cable routing as the FBW but with reduced cable television amount (ICCCI, 2014)


Based on John R Todd (1996), during the middle-1994, McDonnell Douglas team start working for two years task called the Fly-by-Light Advanced System Hardware Program or also known as FLASH Program. FLASH program was initiated to build up a reliable and affordable FBL system and hardware for aeroplanes in armed service and commercial. This Adobe flash program is designed to have the ability to demonstrate the FBL system use on plane specifically. In warmer summer months 1996, the team was able to put on two demonstration of plane using FBL system. Floor demonstration with the FBL system over a partial trip control system and during trip demonstration, aileron trim control system was changed with FBL system. The FBL system that was installed on the test aircraft was built on open up architecture platform that have its own benefit.


In the computer industry according to Computerhope. com (2017) the definition of "open architecture" can be an open system and was built on common program so that any hardware and software can be use, reconfigure or improved to match the platform like the IBM computer. In aviation, Flexible Vehicle Management System or adaptable VMS is the same as "open architecture" found in computer industry. Adaptable VMS means that the plane system will be built on basic system using common hardware and software that can be widened, outsourced and reconfigured to match any airplane system platform whether it is in commercial or armed forces configuration. The advantage of having open architecture in versatile VMS will encourage more development on something and even more integration of new role with potential growth. Other reap the benefits of using an open up platform in adaptable VMS could it be will reduce cost significantly as the system will use an extremely indistinguishable and same modular blocks so there is no need for further research for new platform each time new idea and invention present itself. Future aircraft system including the FBL system can be built on wide open structures which not only save cost for development but also time.

By using wide open architecture idea on flexible VMS, the McDonnell Douglas Plane Control and Avionics System or ACAS has were able to expand and contracted a single platform to fit new FBL system according to the need of carry aeroplanes with various size and shape. Using the flexible VMS for ACAS has were able to increase the commonness and the ability to promote hardware on any program regardless of the commercial plane or the military aircraft while keeping the development cost low and save time. The ACAS structures is also area of the FLASH program to build up and built sustainable and reliable FBL system in future aeroplanes system.

2. 2. 2. 2 MAJOR ASPECTS IN Adobe flash PROGRAM

As stated by John R. Todd (1996), FLASH program consist of two major aspects that is needed to achieve. The first major aspects of Adobe flash program responsibility is to develop integrated fibre optic cable vegetation and every components needed to make it work. The first development focuses on producing reliable cable connection plants and its components and to find out the installations treatment as well as the maintainability of the new system components. The wires and components must be able to withstand airplane environment to fit the reason. This facet of development has been given as Process 1A. Major associate with MDA-TA for TASK 1A in the Display program was Berg Gadgets.

TASK 2A is the progress from Job 1A development where in fact the cable plant life and components that were developed and stated in Process 1A were used to show FBL system on adaptable VMS. Honeywell as the major team mate along with HR Textron, GEC-Marconi and Allied Transmission were involved in the development of Job 2A as the effort of develop and put into practice the new FBL system on plane. The team have were able to produce and develop the key air travel control fibre optic data bus system, Fly-by-Light primary flight control computers (PFCs), a representative remote control terminal/ distribution product (RDU) which is a smart actuator with low cost fibre optic data links to the RDU and finally, a journey test done on the FBL aileron cut system.

Figure: Activity 1A and Job 2A in Display Program

FLASH Task 1A efficiently developed high thickness fiber optic ribbon cable tv and connectors that approved the aircraft environment test and deemed as flightworthy. This ribbon wires and connectors would be the backbone of the FBL system for airplane control system. Single-fiber fanout assembly, conduit systems including clamps, splitters and connector backshells were also produced by Activity 1A for Adobe flash program. MDA - Advanced System & Technology also liable in developing a safe and reliable set up treatment as well as maintenance process that are affordable for both supplier and clients. Increased trustworthiness and maintainability also ensure a reduction cost in installation and maintenance labour.

AVMAC was the high denseness fiber optic connector being produced by Task 1A under the Adobe flash program that was meant to be the termination of fibre optic ribbon cable connection. The ribbon cable is basically created using 18 materials established into linear set up into one ribbon. The advantage of having the fibre optic ribbon cable television for FBL system is that the ribbon cable provides several optical fibers in a single small integrated program aside from bundles of copper cables as with FBW system. But the fibre optic ribbon cable consist of 18 optical materials, the physical aspect and looks of the ribbon cable connection is not far from a single route fiber optic cable connection. The ribbon wires are also has been categorised as flight certified by MDA - AS&T which attained all the aircraft environment specifications, mechanical requirements and optical requirements established by MDC requirements. The ribbon cable tv is not develop limited to 18 optical fibres installation but it can be reduce or increase according to the requirement but Activity 1A team considered 18 optical fibers is the best option and suited to FBL system on airplane.

Identical to fiber optic ribbon cable assemblage is the optical fan-out set up. The difference between both of these cable is one of them bears all 18 optical fibers in one protecting casing and the other one turns the offer into 18 individual fiber optic route. Fan-out assembly designs and materials use is the same as the ribbon cable tv set up but fan-out assembly use to split up 18 optical fibres into single route so that all single optical fibers route can be routed to several locations on aircraft.

During FLASH task 1A, the team encountered many challenges to ensure the dependability of the installation and maintenance for fibre optic cable. One of the option they chosen was using a tube to accommodate the fibers optic wire. This tube is a conduit that comprises of clear plastic tubes. The conduit is the best option to safe safeguard the fibre optic cable connection since additionally it is light in weight and with the added benefit for it being easy to replace, remove or add fiber optic cable easily. Maintenance sensible, this clear clear plastic conduit is relatively clear makes it easy to detect any damaged fiber optic cable using a laser mistake finder. The team also create a special connector which is the backshell or the conduit adapter to ensure the conduit is easy to gain access to and protect the fiber content optic cable tv.

Task 2A for Adobe flash program is to build up and installing the journey control using FBL system using parts and components made by Task 1A. Activity 2A will be dependable to put up FBL system onto test airplane but limited by certain air travel control surfaces for ground and flight demonstration.

Ground demonstration team for Job 2A have were able to develop and installed the main flight control fiber content optic data bus system, the FBL main flight control pcs or the PFCs, a remote terminal/ syndication unti or the RDU and a good actuator along with an affordable fiber optic data link to the RDU.

The demonstration from ground team for Activity 2A will validate if the aircraft shut down loop system with FBL assembly will function appropriately. The ground demonstration includes all ACAS architecture including: Active Palm Controllers (AHCs), Most important Flight Control Pcs (PFCs) the optical data buses (ARINC-429 and AS-1773A). a smart actuator for spoiler, a smart Remote Distribution Product (RDU), and AVMAC connector that Job 1A previously developed.

According to John R. Todd et al (1993), the real challenge of FBL system is the set up process and maintenance that should be done just like every other systems. MDA-TA/DAC have come up with few options how to install and maintain the FBL system on aeroplanes. A number of the options are adjustment of present product and some than it are an improvement from earlier product to match with fibre optic and the FBL system.


As FBW nowadays advances into more electrical power aircraft, the amount of copper cable increasing to cater huge demand of electrical power system. Aircraft company have come up with the idea of tray unit installation which provide a specific compartment to set up all the wiring to ease the task for maintenance by separating each compartment according with their function. Number below is the exemplory case of tray assembly concept being use for FBW system.

Figure: Exemplory case of tray assembly for fibre optic/wire on aircraft

This tray installation notion from FBW system will give more benefits for FBL system because of the reduction of the amounts of interconnects making FBL configuration more functional and effective.


All of MDA-TA/DAC production aircraft applied conduit assemblage which is actually a clear tubing. The main purpose of this conduit is to provide extra security to the cables where work is performed on a tight spacing and less workshop. When the conduit is accidently bent, the tubes will always maintain a safe bending radius and prevent any physical harm to the cords. The tubes is also lightweight and very durable which gives another advantage. Making use of the conduit assembly, cross configuration may be achieve by merging both electrical and fibre optic cable tv into a same conduit. The next body will show the types of conduit set up as MDA-TA/DAC are using on their production aircraft.

FIGURE: Versatile Conduit for Fibre Optic Installation


Active Optical Contact or AOC can be an lively optical device that is inserted into the electrical power contact point or connector shell. This sort of installation fundamentally use standard electronic connectors but inside the connectors, the electrical power transmission from transmitter is being converted into light indication and send through fibre optic cable that may reach the end of the cable television by means of light indicators. This light indicators then will be converted into electrical signal inside the receiver connectors which likewise have the inlayed optical device. The AOC will act as the connector between two electrical power signal port that is the transmitter and the recipient but will be mailing the signal by means of light sign via fibre optic wire. This brings about no optical contact between transmitter and the device thus eliminating the necessity of extra devices by the end of both dock to convert light indication into electrical transmission.

FIGURE: Active Optical Contact

FIGURE: Example of AOC working principle (https://www. slideshare. net/allanlee/sfp-trrx-selection-guidejan2014)


Multifiber Array Connector II or MACII that had been use is going to be replace with the new Avionic Multifiber Array Connector or AVMAC. The new AVMAC originated with AT&T with the purpose of updating the old MACII for fibre optic interconnection. The primary function of new AVMAC is usually to be the termination point of fibre optic ribbon assemblage. Ribbon fibre is actually several fibres, 12 or 18, assemble into a linear array. This ribbon fibre will be jacketed, wrap with buffer coating and durability member which will be nearly the same as the single channel fibre as MDA/TA-DAC approved. The AVMAC is a tool which will connect the array of fibre in the ribbon to hold each individual fibre so that it can be align and easier to mount

to the other mating one half.

Figure: Cross-sectional of ribbon fibre assembly which consist of 12 fibre optic cords.


During maintenance and unit installation, fibre optic needs to be splice to fit. After testing several fibre optic mechanical splices in support of two mechanical splices that achieved MDA/TA-DAC approval. Although both mechanical splices is considered to date fit their assembly and maintenance procedure, it is still cannot withstand the plane environment and nothing is consider as the right mechanical splices for aviation level quality. The reason why for this effect originated from several factors of the disadvantage of using market-ready mechanical splices in plane environment. First reason, fibre optic cable television need to remove the buffer and the power member to carry out splicing. When the buffer and strength member removed from the cable tv, every mechanical coverage for the wine glass fibre ends at the splicing. Second, having the glass fibre subjected to the atmosphere, moisture in the air are certain to get into the micro-cracks that normally exist and can further expand the severe nature of the breaks into larger splits. Increase in optical power loss as the micro-cracks elongated and propagated. Lastly, apart from past problems with market-ready mechanised splices, it is also imposed a open fire hazard due to this fusion splicing creates spark while being use on airplane. Regulation managed to get clear that any devices that create spark or available flame aren't permitted on fuelled aircraft. Because of the disadvantages described, MDA-TA has develop their own designs for his or her fibre optic mechanised and chemical relationship splices.

The new invention of splices/connectors will be a small, one piece construction that is light in weight and could endure aircraft environment. The new connectors which were design with environmentally sealed development should be accepting an individual mated pin and socket termini for either fibre optic wire or standard copper cable. The connectors is very adaptable and can be install everywhere immediately onto fibre optic cable that may need repairs like a splices, adjustment or maintenance goal. Next figure will show the exemplory case of the recently design connectors to match aircraft use and legislation.

Figure: Fibre Optic/ Electrical Single-Channel Splice/ Connector/ Feedthrough









Part 2: Books Review

2. 1 Overview


2. 2. 1 Advantages of using fibre optic cords over copper cables





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