Autopilot on older planes?

cforst513

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I was watching a video posted in another forum about a 707 and the golden age of flight and i got to thinking: did those old 707s have autopilots? if so, was it just altitude and heading, or did they have autothrottles too?
 

UA-RESURRECTED

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First ever fully automated landing was in 1966. I'm sure less-capable autopilot systems had been developed even before this date.
 

bafanguy

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I used to work with an ex-Cubana pilot who flew the Bristol Britannia in the late 50's-early 60's. He said it had a great autoland system on it ( Smith Industries ? ). Don't recall mention of autothrottles.

Our DC9's had ATs but I never saw anyone use them. Nothing new under the sun, as they say.
 

EagleRJ

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I've seen even DC-3s that have original autopilots. I believe they were strictly wing-levelers, although they could also track a radio course. They were hydraulic instead of electric, and keeping them working was almost an exercise in futility!
 

sstearns2

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EagleRJ said:
I've seen even DC-3s that have original autopilots. I believe they were strictly wing-levelers, although they could also track a radio course. They were hydraulic instead of electric, and keeping them working was almost an exercise in futility!
The very early bonanza's (50s) had autopilots with vaccum operated servos. They were cloth bellows with wooden ends.

Scott
 

MauleSkinner

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sstearns2 said:
The very early bonanza's (50s) had autopilots with vaccum operated servos. They were cloth bellows with wooden ends.

Scott
Lots of older airplanes had vacuum-operated servos...I've flown several King Airs with them...makes for some interesting troubleshooting when things don't go quite right.

In fact, I heard story about a bored flight engineer in back of a cargo airplane who decided to pinch one of the vacuum lines...the airplane descended, and when he let go, it went back up to altitude. After doing this a couple of times, he went back up to the cockpit and proceeded to "help the captain and FO troubleshoot the problem" ;)

Early 707's had autopilots, though...Tex Johnston's autobiography makes mention of them, and Boeing developed the yaw damper after Tex was on a 707 where the flight crew didn't know how to deal with dutch roll, either on or off autopilot.

Fly safe!

David
 

NuGuy

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cforst513 said:
I was watching a video posted in another forum about a 707 and the golden age of flight and i got to thinking: did those old 707s have autopilots? if so, was it just altitude and heading, or did they have autothrottles too?
DC-9s had simple autopilots that remained the same for the 20 some odd years of their production.

It was pretty basic stuff. wing leveler, heading hold, airspeed and vertical speed hold. Altitude hold. VOR/ILS tracking. No altitude capture or LNAV.

There are flight directors, but they are totally non-integrated with the autopilots (separate systems entirely). NWA's DC-9 APs are Cat 2 qualfied, and they do the job well enough..

Most -9s have a very, very basic autothrottle system. When engaged, it simply follows the fast/slow pointer, and it was used only on approach. There is no way to tell it to do anything else.

NWA's autothrottles are all deactivated except on ome of the -50s, and even then, no one uses them.

Nu
 

Thedude

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Messed around with a Convair 550 that had an autopilot. I had a big switch abouve the glareshield to turn it on and a big green light to let you know it was on. The best I remember all it has was heading and altitude hold.
 

pilotyip

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B-17's had electric auto pilots. Beside heading and pitch they were linked to the Bomb Sight for precision guidence into the target. B-17 also had auto throttle, once the Man Press was set the turbo charger would maintain that setting as altitude and airspeed changed. The Waste Gate were regulated by a turbo controller.
 

JimG

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sstearns2 said:
The very early bonanza's (50s) had autopilots with vaccum operated servos. They were cloth bellows with wooden ends.

Scott

Made by Tactair if I remember the name right.

The old Bonanza I grew up in had one (more like a wing leveler). I remember my father using it's pull tabs and knobs. It was a little black box that sat on top of the center yoke.
 

CutEmUp

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Anything with an approach coupler has auto-land too....I didn't say anything about flare and "smooth" auto-land.
 

Donsa320

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Thedude said:
Messed around with a Convair 550 that had an autopilot. I had a big switch abouve the glareshield to turn it on and a big green light to let you know it was on. The best I remember all it has was heading and altitude hold.
Good Grief, what is a Convair 550?

DC
 

pilotmiketx

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Obviously he wasn't the first, but wasn't Bill Lear credited with some sort of AP design breakthrough?

That B-17 AP sounds pretty darn slick for it's time!
 

Lead Sled

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Eastern Airlines

I remember reading an article about airlines and autopilots many years ago. It seems that Eddy Rickenbacker wasn't to keen on the idea of paying good money for autopilots when he had two highly paid professionals sitting up front. For that reason, Eastern was the last major airline to equip their aircraft with autopilots and they only did so after a study showed something like a 5% fuel savings with them. (So much for real pilots don't need autopilots. :p )

'Sled
 

jbDC9

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NuGuy said:
It was pretty basic stuff. wing leveler, heading hold, airspeed and vertical speed hold. Altitude hold. VOR/ILS tracking. No altitude capture or LNAV.

There are flight directors, but they are totally non-integrated with the autopilots (separate systems entirely). NWA's DC-9 APs are Cat 2 qualfied, and they do the job well enough..
Yep, I thought that was a weird (or just old) set-up, usually a Collins FD-108/109 working with a Sperry SP-50 A/P... but they didn't "talk" to each other. Want to capture an ILS? Go for the FD control panel and switch it to AutoApp, then over to the AP panel and switch that to AutoApp. Everything was a two switch operation... no big deal I guess, just low tech. 1960's state of the art baby!
 
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