BOEING or AIRBUS
Known to most Airbus is an aircraft manufacturing company that is based in Blagnac, France, which is a subsidiary of EADS, a European aerospace company. Whereas the Boeing company is a multinational Aerospace Company and Defence Corporation, with its roots in the United States of America.
Besides the iconic physical differences between the two like the Airbus’s curved nose compared to the Boeings pointed nose, there are big differences in terms of their control systems, which the lay-person is usually not aware of. Most commercial pilots strongly prefer one control system over another. So, what’s the difference between a Boeing and Airbus’s control systems?
AIRBUS’S CONTROL SYSTEM
Most modern Airbus planes use a ‘fly-by-wire’ system. This means that the system replaces the conventional manual flight controls of an aircraft with an electronic interface. The term comes from the fact that the movements of flight control are converted to electronic signals transmitted by wires, and flight control computers then determine how to move the actuators of each control surface to provide the ordered response.
The fly-by-wire system also allows automatic signals to direct the aircraft computer to perform functions like stabilization and safety operations without the pilot’s input. The pilot controls the plane with a joystick and a set of pedals. The joystick, which is next to the main console gets manipulated along with the pedals to transmit electronic signals
BOEING’S CONTROL SYSTEM
Most Boeings don’t have a joystick but a traditional yoke. When the yoke gets yanked by the pilot this, in turn, pulls on cables which, with the help of some hydraulic systems, move the plane’s control surfaces. There’s less electronic mediation between the pilot and the machinery in a Boeing compared to an Airbus.
CONTROL SYSTEM PREFERENCES
Some pilots prefer flying a Boeing because it has less electronic input, which they say give them a better ‘feel’ of the plane, while others enjoy the ‘video-game’ feel of the Airbus.
All planes have a flight envelope. A ‘flight envelope’ is the limit the plane is set at to fly so that the plane does not get pushed beyond normal safety limits. Airbus aircraft are programmed to ignore a pilot if the plane deems the instruction unsafe. This gives the pilot less control, which is not preferred by some pilots.
A Boeing is different in the sense that a pilot has more freedom to ‘push the envelope’. A pilot will be obeyed by the Boeing even if the commands could lead to mechanical failure. Many pilots prefer this feeling of being in full control.
It is debated whether a flight envelope protector makes air travel safer or not. It’s argued that pilots might need to take unorthodox measures in emergency situations to keep safe and these flight envelope protectors prevent these measures from being taken.
The difference between a Boeing and Airbus’s control systems are very significant, which explains why pilots tend to prefer one over the other. Airbus’s fly-by-wire system makes the plane more automated and restrictive for safety sake as opposed to Boeing’s traditional yoke with fewer restrictions. It all depends on a pilot’s personal preferences.