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RAF and Autoland

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RAF and Autoland

Old 14th Apr 2018, 22:05
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RAF and Autoland

I read in a recent report that the Vulcans were equipped with Autoland in the wake of the 1956 Heathrow crash but I understood that the Autoland system was developed specifically for BEA and its Trident fleet in the 1960s.

Did the RAF develop a similar or more basic system before its introduction by BEA as I have also been told that the RAF Belfast fleet was also Autoland equipped as were the ex-BA Tristars that the RAF had after BA but when introduced into military service the Autoland facility was removed or not used?
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Old 14th Apr 2018, 22:37
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I believe that auto land was used in the Tristar, once anyway.....
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Old 14th Apr 2018, 22:43
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DC10, not my area but IIRC I think it was installed at Scampton where there were leader cables. It was not installed at Coningsby or Waddington. I don't think it was used..
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Old 14th Apr 2018, 22:46
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Originally Posted by Ken Scott View Post
I believe that auto land was used in the Tristar, once anyway.....
At least twice. I was sitting behind him when he used autoland at MPA on the very first landing at MPA.
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Old 15th Apr 2018, 00:10
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Originally Posted by Pontius Navigator View Post
At least twice. I was sitting behind him when he used autoland at MPA on the very first landing at MPA.
I think Ken is talking about at Brize PN.
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Old 15th Apr 2018, 00:41
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Loads of info on this thread from a few years back

The development of Automatic Landing

Should provide the OP with a lot of answers
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Old 15th Apr 2018, 00:53
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Wasn't the original auto-land trialled at Bedford using Anson's?
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Old 15th Apr 2018, 06:47
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The main post-war work was undertaken by the BLEU using Varsity aircraft.

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Old 15th Apr 2018, 08:03
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Originally Posted by MAINJAFAD View Post
I think Ken is talking about at Brize PN.
I thought he actually did it at Lyneham. Same Captain, MPA first. Ken did say 'at least'
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Old 15th Apr 2018, 08:54
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Auto land is a very loose term. The Vulcan system was used as a teaching aid for my Flight Systems training at Cosford in 1980. The aircraft basically flew the ILS, then at approx 50’, the throttle closed and the aircraft flared a bit. No real finesse in the action.
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Old 15th Apr 2018, 11:03
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I was led to believe that the Lightning was to be developed as a remotely operated interceptor and that auto ILS and auto throttle were developed for it.
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Old 15th Apr 2018, 11:12
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ZD 951 landed at Edinburgh back in 1992. As I was inbetween jobs on the ramp I had the chance to go along and have a look around it. I had a word with the Captain and he kindly allowed me into the Cockpit. I had recently finished my Auto-pilot course and recognised the ‘Barber poles’ of the para visual display indicating that the Aircraft had Cat IIIb capability. I commented on this and was told that although the Aircraft could do it, the Aircrew were only allowed to land in Cat I conditions.

From my course – as I remember – five requirements had to be met before an Autoland could be carried out; the Airline had to have procedures in place such as identifying and labelling the relevant black boxes, the Aircraft had to be Autoland certified, the Aircrew had to be trained and qualified, the Airfield had to have the necessary standard of equipment and those carrying out the Maintenance on the system had to be Autoland qualified.
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Old 15th Apr 2018, 12:08
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1964 or 65, A15 Cranwell to Lincoln for a play rehearsal with Nige Griffiths and others and in thick fog the Waddington traffic lights go red. Odd, we thought, in this fog, at which point a BLEU Varsity trundles into view and lands. Shape of things to come we thought
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Old 15th Apr 2018, 12:28
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There was a great story in “Air Clues” years ago about a crew en route to an airfield where the weather was supposed to be terrible. They were considering diverting but when they went to the approach frequency they heard someone saying the weather was “perfect, great”. After a very fraught approach they just got in to see the other aircraft had “Blind Landing Experimental Unit” painted on the side.
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Old 15th Apr 2018, 13:58
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I believe that a Tristar demonstrating autoland at Brize Norton suffered a very heavy landing with enormous damage to the aircraft. It happened late 1985 or early 1986. Maybe someone has more details.
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Old 15th Apr 2018, 14:30
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Decades ago I saw a picture of the BLEU Varsity parked neatly in the roof of a house, maybe someone with more tech savvy than me (not difficult) can find/post said photo.
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Old 15th Apr 2018, 14:36
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This one? (Can't do pics)

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Old 15th Apr 2018, 15:54
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Thanks for that link, what an incredibly well written and concise account.
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Old 15th Apr 2018, 17:02
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BLEU in the 1970s

My last flying tour in the RAF, having been on Hastings, Hercules and VC10s beforehand, was to be with the BLEU Flight at RAE Bedford where between 1975 and 77 our main trials workhorses were HS748 XW 750 and BAC 1-11 XX 105.

Whilst 'Fog Flying' with the HS748 was the activity most commonly associated with BLEU, in fact there were several other activities connected with approach and landing performance that kept us occupied. As Fog Flying required extremely low Runway Visual Ranges to meet the requirements of the boffins on clear days we used an in-house developed 'Fog Blind' that, located in the left hand windscreen area, obscured the forward vision of the pilot in that seat (P1). Stabilised in pitch and roll, it 'opened up' a visual segment as programmed by the on-board BLEU scientists who then recorded how the pilot and the aircraft responded as the external visual cues became progressively evident. However, when very low visibilities existed we would get airborne and make a succession of autopilot approaches with P1 deciding whether or not to land, whilst P2 remained head down throughout monitoring deviations from the ILS. The pilots changed over after three approaches as P1 would have started to become familiar with the cues visible over the threshold. We didn't stop between approaches but carried out 'touch and goes': in thick fog all you can see is the 'streaming' of white lights as they pass under the nose. With P1 making sure that the aircraft stayed on the centreline P2 carried out all the internal changes of configuration and all on board trusting that the aircraft would get airborne again before we ran out of runway!. I should add that the on-board scientists might (or might not) cause P1's ILS localiser indicator to be off-set left or right of the true course so that as P1 saw the external cues he had to decide whether or not he might safely make an 'S' turn to align the aircraft with the runway centreline. P2 saw only the correct, unbiased localiser and glide slope indications. All manoeuvres were recorded on board as well as by the Bedford team of ladies who operated the highly accurate ground-based kinetheodolites, helping to develop standards for ground and aircraft equipment. It was all quite exciting, really.

Together with the BAC 1-11 we conducted Two Segment and Steep Approaches trialling autopilot laws that would deliver a smooth initiation of the upper glide slope, transition to 'normal' ILS guidance, and flares together with developing optimal external guidance to assist the pilot handling to execute a smooth roundout and touchdown and associated noise footprints. One of the aids we used was a set of four boxes, each of which emitted red and white beams divided precisely - the forerunner of what became PAPIs, Precision Approach Path Indicators, that ICAO were later to agree could be chosen as an alternative to VASIs. The aviation Press were shown PAPIs when we demonstrated the capabilities of a Mk 1 Ground Proximity Warning System at Bedford: whilst the 'level flight towards rising terrain' mode was carried out over the Malvern Hills, the remaining modes were demonstrated at our airfield where the PAPIs (that our man on the ground set to different slide path angles as needed) provided helpful positional and steep approach slope guidance. The Press were in fact more interested in PAPIs than in GPWS! It was whilst subsequently when I was serving in MoD that I learnt that funds targeted for the introduction of Tornados would not be spent before the end of that particular financial year and persuaded my bosses to sponsor industry to produce some sets for use at two RAF airfields where stabilised approaches would be of benefit. The success of this experiment encouraged the manufacturer to continue building PAPIs and now, of course, they may be encountered at many if not most aerodromes in the world that serve international air traffic. Much of the credit goes to those scientists at Bedford who saw the potential for this research aid to benefit both civil and military operations.

Much more went on at BLEU whilst I was there with the two aeroplanes I have mentioned, plus a Wessex 2 (for Microwave Digital Guidance Equipment trials) and the ex Radar Research Establishment Varsity WF 379 that we used for communications flying. And of course we helped our colleagues in Aero Flight when they needed a second pilot to sit in any of the miscellaneous aircraft they rejoiced in flying such as VC10, Puma, HS125, etc.

One last comment. Alongside the main runway at Bedford there was a device for measuring RVR by the conventional means of having a beam of energy directed at a sensor that would detect any loss due to intervening moisture etc. Strangely, there were occasions when in the morning when the Met staff went to retrieve the recorded data they would find that the readings had dropped suddenly to zero visibility whilst there was no other evidence that fog had occurred. One night they kept the device under close observation and saw, to their surprise, that a little owl had landed on the transmitting element and snuggled himself in - to keep warm!
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Old 15th Apr 2018, 18:22
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Tristar autoland was excellent. THe R A F 'incident' was a product of the usual 'holes in the cheese' syndrome. When I was involved with the Tri, the, then, BA Fleet boss told me of a day's schedule LHR-CDG x2 which was flown , to schedule and with the only sight of the ground being the taxiing at each end. A good basic system was made better by the Tristar's DLC.
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