The two main competitors in the commercial aircraft space, Airbus and Boeing, work on different automation philosophies concerning what goes under the bonnet.

While Boeing places the pilot at the centre of its design philosophy; Airbus, according to flightdeckfriend.com, places the autopilot and the ‘hard limitations’ at the centre of its design. Examples include stopping pilots from stalling the aircraft or exceeding certain pitch or roll parameters.”

Boeing ensures pilots have complete control authority — meaning at any point, they can disconnect the autopilot and fly any maneuvers required at a given time.

Control system

In the case of the A320 — one of the most popular jets to come out of the Airbus stable — it uses the fly-by-wire system, while Boeing B737 uses conventional mechanical controls. In the fly-by-wire system of A320, when the pilot makes an input into the sidestick, the information is turned into an electrical signal. This electrical signal passes through a flight control computer, which then provides an appropriate output to the flight controls, i.e. the pilots are not directly controlling the aircraft; instead, a computer is constantly working out what the pilots are trying to do, judges if it is safe and then provides an appropriate control output. For example, if the engineers don’t want an aeroplane to stall, they can allow the yoke to travel as far as the pilot wants to pull it, but digitally limit how far the elevator physically comes up. If they want protection from over speeding, autothrottles can pull back power digitally.

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In the case of Boeing B737, traditional mechanical controls ensure a direct connection through cables and pulleys (hydraulically assisted) from the control column to the aircraft’s flight controls. The pilots are directly manipulating the aircraft's flight controls to manoeuvre the plane. According to airline experts, both A320s and B737s are incredibly safe aircraft. The accident rate for both aircraft is very minimal. There are more chances of people getting involved in a car crash than a plane crash. But the chances of surviving an aircraft accident are minimal too.

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