Airbus Fly-By-Wire Visionary Bernard Ziegler Passes Away At 88

Ziegler - aviatorsbuzz
Bernard Ziegler

Airbus on Wednesday said is was saddened to learn of the passing of Bernard Ziegler, at the age of 88.

Ziegler, one of Airbus’ engineering pioneers, was instrumental in the introduction of the world’s first digital Fly-By-Wire (FBW) and side stick controls in a commercial passenger aircraft with the A320 in 1988.

Ziegler’s career spanned some four decades. He realised the full potential that digital FBW could bring, including flight envelope protection incorporated into the control software. Ziegler’s legacy lives on with digital FBW on all current generation Airbus aircraft, and its adoption as the standard on all modern passenger aircraft globally.

Born in 1933, in Boulogne sur Seine, Ziegler graduated from the French “Ecole Polytechnique” in 1954 and, later, from several engineering and flight training schools (Ecole Nationale de l’Air, Ecole de Chasse, Ecole Nationale Supérieure de l’Aéronautique, Ecole du Personnel Navigant Essais). For ten years, he was a fighter pilot in the French Air Force.

During the early 1960s he studied aeronautical engineering at ENSA (l’Ecole Nationale Supérieure de l’Aéronautique) in Toulouse, which is now ISAE-SUPAERO. He then attended prestigious flight test pilot school EPNER, before taking up a career as a military test pilot.

Ziegler was Airbus Chief Pilot

Ziegler joined Airbus as its chief test pilot in 1972 and was given the task of setting up a new flight test division.

He put together a team that shared the objectives of both the design office and the partner countries, fostering collaboration between flight test crews and design engineers.

As a test pilot, he flew the first flight of the first A300 in 1972. The programme was later on an early testbed for FBW which transfers the pilot’s commands to the aircraft via digital signals.

FBW Significant Benefits

FBW provides significant benefits through commonality, improved flight safety, reduced pilot workload, fewer mechanical parts, and real-time monitoring of all aircraft systems.

He also flew the A310, A320 and A340-200. In June 1993, Ziegler participated in the longest flight ever undertaken by a civil aircraft, when an A340-200, dubbed the ‘World Ranger’, flew around the world from Paris with just one stop in Auckland in just over 48 hours.

Up until his retirement in December 1997, Ziegler was Airbus Senior Vice President of Engineering.

What is the Fly-by-Wire

Fly-by-wire (FBW) is a computer controlled system that in the A320 series and A330 / A340 and now the new A350 aircraft replaces the conventional flight controls of an aircraft (like those found in the 737) with an electronic system.

Ziegler - aviatorsbuzz
Airbus Side Stick

The pilot controlled inputs to the side stick in the flight deck are converted to electronic signals transmitted by wires (thus the fly-by-wire term). The flight control computers then decide how to move the actuators at each control surface to provide the control response.

Additionally FBW concept allows signals sent by the aircraft’s flight control computers to perform functions without the pilot’s input, for example to help stabilize the aircraft or to protect the flight envelop.

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  1. Excellent work.. Very informative… I am a A-320/A-319/A-321 Pilot.. Have over 19000 flight Hours.. On the Airbus family aircraft.. I would be very keen to stay informed.

  2. Deeply Saddened by the sad demise of Bernard Zeigler.. FBW and flight control laws and the inbuilt safety protections are simply fantastic invention.. I am a Airlines Pilot.. Have flown over 27,500 hours.. Out of which approx 19000 hours are logged on Airbus A-319/A-320 A-321.. I can confidently say ..FBW concept is simply excellent.. My salute to the inventory/designer of FBW.. Airbus.

  3. Thank you so much for your feedback Capt Mohan, it means a lot to us as does us keeping you informed. Hope you have signed up for our weekly updates. Thank you once again !!

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