Aerospace Control and Guidance Systems Committee


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In Memoriam
Dave Ward
1963 - 2010


The motivation to put together this history came when I found copies of the first and second Piloted Aircraft Powered Surface Control Symposia in a dusty old file cabinet at the Naval Air Systems Command.

Duane McRuer once told me that the origins of the Aerospace Control and Guidance Systems Committee were closely tied to these two government/industry meetings, organized by Morse Chattler of the Navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics in October 1949 and June 1952.

I though I should do something to preserve this history. Herm Rediess was kind enough to take on the task of writing a brief history of the committee with the help of many committee members, so the idea of making a historical record was born.

Jerry Lockenour supplied the only volume of the original Bu Air Flight Control System Manuals that was missing from my collection, so I decided to include those volumes as well.

In honoring their enormous contributions and in keeping with the historical flavor of this page, Duane McRuer and Dunstan Graham’s historical paper, “A Flight Control Century: Triumphs of the Systems Approach,” is included.

Since I had several very early studies on high authority electronic flight control, I decided to include those, as well as the User’s Manual to MIL-F-9490. I’m sure there are other seminal reports that I’ve missed either by being unaware of them or not having suitable copies. Perhaps we can include those in an update to this page some time in the future.

Shawn Donley
Sep, 2009

A Historical Note on the
Aerospace Controls and Guidance Systems Committee (ACGSC)
By Herman A. Rediess
September 2009

Author’s note: I first attended the ACGSC in September 1969 at the invitation of Professor Phil Whitaker, who was my advisor at MIT. He asserted that if I could only participate in one professional society organization, this was the one because it is the most effective forum for controls and guidance disciplines. The “historical” information from before my time is based on recollection from sessions with the older members over beers in the evenings.

In the late 1940’s and early 1950’s Leo Chattler, who I believe was the lead flight dynamics and controls discipline specialists at the Navy Bureau of Aeronautics, was concerned that many of the same problems reoccurred in most new aircraft regardless of the manufacturing company. Leo called a meeting of the Nation’s leading experts in flight dynamics, controls and guidance to discuss current problems and how to improve systems in future military aircraft. Leo wanted an informal forum of trusted associates where concerns for solving important technical issues would overcome proprietary interests. There was general agreement that regularly scheduled meetings, where the aircraft companies’ controls and guidance leads could meet with leading technologists from universities and research organizations to discuss their challenges, problems, and new techniques, would help improve the state of the technology and future military systems.

Leo was active in the SAE at the time, so he convinced SAE to sponsor the Aerospace Controls and Guidance Systems Committee (SAE ACGSC). It was originally given a SAE Committee number, which I think was 318, but later was removed because ACGSC did not set standards. I believe the first meeting was held in the fall of 1954. Leo was the first Chairman and hand picked the initial members that included department heads from the aircraft companies, the systems venders and leading technologists like Duane McRuer, and Irv Ashkenas from Systems Technology Inc. (STI) and Dunstan Graham from Princeton University. Others from the Bureau of Aeronautics included Ray Bohling and Bill Koven. Leo eventually recruited members from Boeing, Lockheed, Northrop, North American Aviation, General Dynamics, Grumman, McDonnell Aircraft, Douglas Aircraft, Vought Aircraft, Martin Aerospace, Ryan Aeronautics, Vertol, Bell Aircraft, Sikorsky, Hughes Aircraft, Sperry, Honeywell, Collins, Lear Seigler, Moog, and others. R&D managers from Navy and Air Force were added as liaison members and later from NASA. Although I’m not sure who were the early participants, I remember Morry Ostgaard from AF Flight Dynamics Laboratory. Lew Urban from AF Aeronautical Systems Command and Charley Abrams from NAWC at Warminster were among the earliest. Attendance was by invitation only. An important characteristic of the Committee from the beginning was informality and open and lively discussions during and after the briefings. About every third meeting had a classified session which was held at a nearby military base or aerospace company.

Rumor was the locations for the meetings were essentially picked by Leo’s wife, in consultation with the other wives, based on where they wanted to go. Many of the wives came to the meetings and became good friends. Some of the favorite locations were New Orleans, Miami, Coronado Island, Atlanta, and for accommodating Subcommittee S locations included Salt Lake City, Palo Alto, Denver, and Reno. Leo was Chairman for nine years then convinced Walt Waymeyer to take over. At that time there was no fixed term for Chairman. Once a person was selected, he stayed Chairman until he had enough and could convince someone else to take it on. I was the third Chairman, serving for nine years. When I had enough and could not get anyone to take it over, Duane McRuer suggested we establish a fixed term. The Committee agreed and set it at two years. Duane McRuer took over from me, with the condition that he could go back to being Chairman of Subcommittee D when his term was up. For the first time, we elected a Vice Chairman with the understanding that he/she would become the next Chairman. While I was Chairman we also added a lead for the General Technical Session to spread some of the work around. The meetings were organized the same way they are today: each Subcommittee selected the most important topics of the day; and, the Planning Advisory Board (PAB) made the final selection the next day. The BAP consisted of the Chairman, Vice Chairman and all the Subcommittee Chairmen and Vice Chairmen.

When I joined in 1970, Walt Waymeyer was the chairman and the Committee was structured into the following Subcommittees: A – Aeronautical Vehicles; B – Space and Missiles; C – Avionics; D – Dynamics and Computation; and E – Flight Controls. By 1980 the Subcommittee names and scope changed to: A – Aeronautical and Surface Vehicles; B – Space and Missiles; C – Avionics and Integration; D – Dynamics and Computation; and E – Flight and Propulsion Controls. Surface vehicles was added to Subcommittee A because of research into dynamics and control of cars, trucks and busses, particularly in high cross winds. Integration was added to Subcommittee C in recognition of increased integration of avionics and weapon systems. Propulsion control was added to Subcommittee E because of the emerging full authority digital electronic control (FADEC) of engines and coupling of flight and propulsion control.

During the 70’s and 80’s the committee membership grew dramatically and typically had attendance of 80 to 90 at most meetings and over 100 at times even as the aerospace companies were beginning to consolidate. The Committee continually strived to include all the important technical contributors and responsible managers in controls and guidance. Marketing people were banned. Representatives from Martin Aerospace, McDonnell Douglas Astronautics, Aerospace Corporation, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, Draper Laboratory, Ball Aerospace, Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory (CAL - later Calspan), Parker Controls, HR Textron, Systems Control Inc., and others joined the committee. Space guidance and control was very active in the committee during this period. NASA had liaison members from Langley, Ames, Johnson, Goddard, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Dryden. Military had liaison members from, Wright Aeronautical Laboratory, Air Force Weapons Laboratory at Eglin, NAVAIR, NAWC at Patuxent River and Warminster, and the Army Flight Dynamics Laboratory. Early university members included Princeton, MIT, Kansas, Stanford, and Alabama. Later UC Davis, Minnesota, Georgia Tech, Colorado and others joined.

The topics at each meeting were always the most important of the day. Almost every new aircraft, spacecraft and missile system was briefed to the Committee by the developer. Flight control systems of every new aircraft were presented at the earliest time possible. The developers presented each new development in fly-by-wire, controlled configured vehicle, active controls technology and design and analysis techniques. Actuation technologies for pilot and augmentation systems from power boosted to fully irreversible systems were presented. Every type of missile guidance and control system was presented. I remember early in my involvement there were heated debates on the safety of hydraulic powered flight control actuators without a direct mechanical backup for transport aircraft; on analog vs. digital implementation of flight-critical functions; and, whether pure digital fly-by-wire without a manual backup reversion system would ever be implemented.

Bob Harper, from CAL who co-author of the universally accepted Cooper-Harper pilot rating scale, presented in-flight simulation handling qualities research at several meetings. George Cooper from NASA Ames may have also addressed the Committee but I don’t recall it. Alan Mulally, former President of Boeing Commercial Aircraft Company and current CEO of the Ford Motor Company, briefed a new Boeing transport flight control system to the Committee when he was an engineer working for Dick Schoenman. Duane McRuer (Mac) of STI presented his pilot modeling and systems analysis of pilot-in-the-loop aircraft control to the Committee. Mac was a strong advocate for analyzing pilot-induced- oscillation (PIO) for a wide range of aircraft from X-15 (some work he did for NASA Dryden) to the Space Shuttle (work he did for the Space Shuttle SPO). The MIT Instrumentation Laboratory (now the Draper Lab) briefed the Committee on the Apollo guidance and control systems. STI briefed the Committee on the dynamics and control of unusual entities, such as a remotely controlled pterodactyl for the Smithsonian Institution and analysis of the stability and control of the Wright Flyer based on wind tunnel results in the NASA Ames full-scale tunnel. Bob Johansson, creator of the term Controlled Configured Vehicle (CCV) arranged for results of the earliest Air Force sponsored CCV to be presented. A piece of trivia, some may not be aware of, is that Dr. Pete Kurzhals, who headed the Avionics and Controls R&D office at NASA Headquarters, coined the term Active Control Technology, which meant the same thing as CCV, because he believed Headquarters would not approved a new program if it appeared to duplicate an Air Force program.

These are just a few out of the hundreds if not thousands of important topics discussed at the meetings, but the main ones I can recall.

Important features of the meetings from the beginning were the briefings by the Navy and Air Force Labs of the ongoing and new technology programs of interest to the community. Later NASA Centers provided similar briefings of their research programs. Equally important were the briefings by universities and non-government research organizations on advanced topics in controls and guidance theory, design synthesis and applications.

I’m not sure when Subcommittee S was started but I believe it was underway when I joined. We tried a Subcommittee T for tennis when Ram Ramnath was active and Subcommittee G for golf, which started, stopped and I believe is underway again.

Logistics for the meetings has changed through the years. From the beginning through at least the1980’s, the Chairman and his wife primarily made the meeting arrangements, from selecting and reserving the specific hotel and conference setup. When I joined, there was no registration fee. Conference room and audio/visual equipment was free with sufficient rooms booked. There were no continental breakfasts or afternoon refreshments. A collection of about $5 per person was collected to pay for some hors d’ourves at a cash bar the first evening. It was during my tenure as Chairman that we started the registration fee to pay for the audio/visual equipment, continental breakfast, afternoon refreshments and the first evening reception. My wife registered the attendees, collected the fee and paid the bills. We had no SAE person to take care of logistics or financial matters. For many years SAE basically ignored us, which suited us well. During the late 80’s, SAE started providing a staff person to help with hotel reservations , collect fees and pay the bills and in return started putting pressure on us to sponsor technical sessions at the annual SAE Aerospace Congress, which we did.

The Committee legacy is that of the collective members. Here are a few others who may not currently be active in the Committee and were not mentioned above that I was fortunate to know and call friend:

  • Dick Shoenman and Jim McWha (Boeing Commercial Airplane),
  • Roger Schappell (Martin Aerospace),
  • Jack McDonnell (McDonnell Douglas Astronautics),
  • Dick Quinlivan (Lockheed Martin and later GE),
  • Gene Farr (Aerospace Corporation and later TASC),
  • David Yost (Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory),
  • John Deyst, Ram Ramnath and Phil Hattis (Draper Laboratory),
  • Ed Rynaski (Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory - later Calspan),
  • Ed Stevens (Parker Controls),
  • Phil Lane (HR Textron),
  • Lowell Lykken (Lear Siegler),
  • Jim Tyler, Steve Rock, Jim Vincent and Raman Mehra (Systems Control Inc. and later, for Raman, SSI),
  • TRW (Al Schmitt), and
  • others who joined the committee.
Other early members included
  • Fred Krackmalnic (McDonnell Douglas St. Louis),
  • Buster Seacord, Tom Cunningham and Rhall Pope (Honeywell),
  • Jack Leonard (Grumman),
  • Lou Nardie (North American),
  • Steve Osder (Sperry),
  • Bob Schwanz (Rockwell),
  • Charley Anderson and Carl Droste (General Dynamics),
  • Elliott Buxton and Dick Smyth (North American Avionics),
  • Bob Cannon and Dan DeBra (Stanford),
  • Rob Stengel (Princeton),
  • Wally Vander Velda (MIT),
  • Arnie Mueller (Boeing Astronautics),
  • Ed Stear (AF Chief Scientist & Washington U),
  • Hank Jex and Tom Myers (STI),
  • and Joe Gahallger, Jerry Lockenour and Peter Shaw (Northrop), and
  • Bob Fortenbaugh (Bell Helicopter Textron).

NASA had liaison members from Langley, Ames, Johnson, Goddard, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Dryden. Some of the names you might remember are

  • Jerry Creedon,
  • Bill Anderson,
  • Doug Arbuckle,
  • Vic Lebacqz,
  • Greg Condon,
  • Jack Franklin,
  • Ken Szalia,
  • Kevin Petterson, and
  • Ken Cox.
Some of the key military liaison included
  • Ron Anderson,
  • Bob Johansson,
  • Duane Rubertus,
  • Jim Ramage,
  • Dave Bowser,
  • Roger Burton,
  • David Key, and
  • Ralph A’Harrah.

I apologize for those I left out, for many other current and past members have made important contributions to controls and guidance technology and, more important, to operational systems that continue to advance aerospace.

Past Chairmen

ACGSC Chairman Dates
Brian Lee 2017 - 2018
Philip Hattis 2015 - 2016
Louis Knotts 2013 - 2014
David Klyde 2011 - 2012
Gary Balas 2009 - 2010
Dave Bodden 2007 - 2008
Shawn Donley 2005 - 2006
Gavin Jenney 2003 - 2004
Roger Burton 2001 - 2002
Dave Bowser 1999 - 2000
John Weyrauch 1997 - 1998
David Yost 1995 - 1996
Dick Quinlivan 1993 - 1994
Peter Briggs 1991 - 1992
Dwain Deets 1989 - 1990
Duane McRuer* 1987 - 1988
Herm Rediess 1977 - 1986
Walt Waymeyer 1967 - 1976
Leo Chattler 1957 - 1966
*Before Mac, there was no term limit -- a chairman stayed until he got tired of it. Mac would only agree to become Chairman if the term was limited to two years and a Vice-Chairman was named to take over after two years. It has stayed that way ever since.


Remembrances of Duane McRuer on the 10th Anniversary of His Passing (February 2017)

A Flight Control Century: Triumphs of the Systems Approach

BU AER Series:

Early Fly-By-Wire Redundancy Studies:

Piloted Aircraft Powered Surface Control Symposia:

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