- Joe Breitfeller
Airbus Fly-By-Wire Visionary Engineer Bernard Ziegler Dies at 88
Airbus has sadly reported the passing of the company’s Fly-By-Wire (FBW) visionary, Bernard Ziegler at age 88. Mr. Ziegler was one of the company’s engineering pioneers, instrumental in the introduction of the world’s first FBW system and side stick controls.
On Wednesday (May 5, 2021), Airbus sadly reported the passing of Bernard Ziegler, one of the company’s visionary engineering pioneers at age 88. Mr, Ziegler was instrumental in the introduction of the world’s first digital Fly-By-Wire (FBW) system and side stick controls in a passenger aircraft with the launch of the Airbus A320 in 1988. During a career spanning four decades, Ziegler realized the full potential that digital FBW could bring to the industry, including the inclusion of flight envelope protection in the software. His legacy lives on, as digital FBW is now included on all current generation Airbus aircraft and has been adopted as the global standard for all modern aircraft.
Born in 1933 in Boulogne sur Seine, France, Ziegler graduated from the French Ecole Polytechnique in 1954. He later graduated from several engineering and flight training schools including Ecole Nationale de l’Air, Ecole de Chasse, Ecole Nationale Supérieure de l’Aeronautique and Ecole du Personnel Navigant Essais. Bernard Ziegler also spent ten years in the French Army as a fighter pilot. During the early 1960s he studied aeronautical engineering at ENSA (l’Ecole Nationale Supérieure de l’Aeronautique) in Toulouse, which is now ISAE-SUPAERO, and later attended the prestigious flight test pilot school EPNER, before launching a career as a military test pilot.
Bernard Ziegler joined Airbus in 1972 as chief test pilot and was tasked with setting up a new test flight division. Ziegler put together a team that shared the objectives of the design office and partner countries, fostering an esprit de corps between flight test crews and design engineers.
As a test pilot, he flew the Airbus A300 in 1972, which was later an testbed for early FBW, transferring the pilot’s commands to the aircraft via digital signals. Later, he also flew the A310. A320 and A340-200. In June 1993, Ziegler participated in the longest-ever civil aircraft flight, when an Airbus A340-200 dubbed the ‘World Ranger’ flew around the world, stopping only in Auckland, in just over 48 hours. Until his retirement in 1997, Ziegler was Airbus’ Senior Vice President of Engineering.
Fly-By-Wire provides significant benefits including commonality, improved flight safety, reduced pilot workload, fewer mechanical parts and real-time monitoring of all aircraft systems.