View Full Version : When was the autopilot invented?

6th Jan 2005, 18:29

does anyone know when the first autopilot became available on a plane? What plane was it on?

Also, am i right in thinking that the first plane to feature a CRT display in the cockpit was the Airbus A310?

Thanks, Mark

6th Jan 2005, 19:47
so does that mean that autopilots were around even before the jet age? Or was it one of those things like Da Vinci's helicopter, that just lay dormant for years and then got resurrected later?

John Farley
6th Jan 2005, 22:30
Autopilots were common features in WWII bombers. Usually referred to as 'George'

Do a search on Google

7th Jan 2005, 01:46

JF and All

How did APs come to be called "GEORGE" ?

Something like Spitfires being called "CAPSTAINs" when they first came into the Pacific area during WW2. But that was a code word.

7th Jan 2005, 11:44
Autopilot story:

Around the end of WW2, a rather prissy US major just had to get from island A to island B in the Pacific - an overnight flight. He managed to hitch a ride on a freight flight - likely C-54/DC-4. He was told to bed down on the cargo.

Around dawn he decided to go to the cockpit to find out how long before they arrived. There was no one "home". The plane was on autopilot and the crew was "resting" on the cargo. I'm 100% sure this is a true story.

IIRC, the DC-3 had some sort of autopilot, perhaps not in 1935.

In 1951/3 we had a B-25 on a ground controlled intercept project. By 1952/3 we were able to insert heading commands iinto its autopilot over a ground-to-air digital data link. It was directly commanded by MIT's Whirlwind digital computer at least a few times in 1953.


7th Jan 2005, 11:44
1930's comedian George Formby had a catch phrase'' Let George do it'' Maybe from there

Iron City
7th Jan 2005, 13:30
Certainly invented well before jets. May try Kettering and the drone aircraft late in WW I. Probably also turns on the definition of autopilot. Believe single axis automatic stability was attempted very early (pre The Brothers) by various inventors. Sperry with gyros would be needed for a wing leveler and a heading hold systems with selectable heading would go with some control in the vertical to produce a true autopilot. IIRC in B-17/24s the autopilot feature was a limited authority heading control system to allow the bombadeer (or bomb aimer if you are British) to control the aircraft from the IP to the target.

Or was it a New Zelander named Pearse who built one out of old tractor and sheep parts (two things there were a lot of on New Zeland farms) but never got proper credit?

Sultan Ismail
7th Jan 2005, 17:09
The inventor of the Autopilot was George DeBeeson who collaborated with Sperry to create a Robot. Poor old George stayed just that "poor", Sperry got the better of him in the Project Management stakes.

This was late '20's when the phonetic alphabet included George, perhaps handing control to Gyroscopes meant giving it to "George".

My 2 sens worth

p.s. check on Google, there's plenty of info

John Eacott
9th Jan 2005, 07:24
From this website: (http://www.whittsflying.com/Page6.37Learning%20fromHistory.htm#ACG)

Autopilot Called George

When autopilots first became available, there happened to be a saying, "Let George do it", which was part of a wartime poster that said, basically, that you couldn't do that- you had to do it yourself, or no one would do it. The "Let George do it" attitude was something to be stamped out during the WWII war years, you see...The autopilot was the only "George", or "the other guy", that you could legitimately delegate to. Thus, using the autopilot became "letting George do it".

John Farley
9th Jan 2005, 19:32
What an amazing site John, Thank you.