OSHKOSH: Low-Cost Alternative to Fly-By-Wire Proposed for General Aviation
July 28, 2016
  • Share
  • A California-based start-up has launched sales of a new, mechanically-driven flight control system that the company promises will simultaneously improve performance and safety.

    LAM Aviation, founded by the late spacecraft, aircraft and missile designer Leonard Lam, is offering to modify an existing Columbia 300 with the Lam Aero System for $400,000.

    The system modifies the wing with a natural laminar flow wing, new control surfaces and a hybrid electro-mechanical actuation system.

    The company’s flight test results show the modified aircraft, which is renamed the Columbia Volant, is capable of reaching 180kt at 18,000ft while burning fuel at a rate of 22.2mpg, says Greg Cole, a consulting engineer.

    Most importantly, the Lam Aero System preserves the Columbia’s high-speed performance while making the aircraft nearly impossible to enter into a stall-induced spin, he says. An angle-of-attack indicator embedded in a wing senses a stall and automatically reconfigures the flight control surfaces to avoid a spin, he says.

    In most spin-resistant designs, the reshaping of the wing reduces the speed of the aircraft, but LAM Aviation concedes only a slight increase in the complexity of the hybrid-electric actuation as a trade-off in the Columbia Volant. The same controls that prevent a spin also can be used for yaw damping and gust-load alleviation.

    “We see this as a low-cost pathway to fly-by-wire for general aviation,” Cole says.

    In the absence of Part 23 regulations, the Columbia Volant will be certificated under as an exhibition aircraft type under the experimental category. LAM Aviation also believes the technology can be scaled up to business jets.