# Pilot-induced oscillation

Pilot-induced oscillation

Pilot-induced oscillation occurs when the pilot of an aircraft inadvertently commands an often increasing series of corrections in opposite directions, each an attempt to cover the aircraft's reaction to the previous input with an overcorrection in the opposite direction. As such it is a coupling of the frequency of the pilot's inputs and the aircraft's own frequency. During flight test, pilot-induced oscillation is one of the handling qualities factors that is analyzed, with the aircraft being graded by an established scale (chart at right). In order to avoid any assumption that oscillation is necessarily the fault of the pilot, new terms have been suggested to replace "pilot-induced oscillation". These include "aircraft-pilot coupling", "pilot–in-the-loop oscillations" and "pilot-assisted (or augmented) oscillations". [Witte, Joel B, An Investigation Relating Longitudinal Pilot-Induced Oscillation Tendency Rating To Describing Function Predictions For Rate-Limited Actuators https://research.maxwell.af.mil/papers/ay2004/afit/AFIT-GAE-ENY-04-M16.pdf]

The physics of flight make such oscillations more probable for pilots than for automobile drivers. An attempt to cause the aircraft to climb, say, by applying up-elevator, will also result in a reduction in airspeed.

Another factor is the response rate of flight instruments in comparison to the response rate of the aircraft itself. An increase in power will not result in an immediate increase in airspeed. An increase in climb rate will not show up immediately on the vertical speed indicator.

A pilot aiming for a 500 foot per minute descent, for example, may find himself descending too rapidly. He begins to apply up elevator until the vertical speed indicator shows 500 feet per minute. However, because the vertical speed indicator lags the actual vertical speed, the pilot is actually descending at much less than 500 feet per minute. The pilot then begins applying down elevator until the vertical speed indicator reads 500 feet per minute, starting the cycle over. It's harder than it might seem to stabilize the vertical speed because the airspeed also constantly changes.

Pilot-induced oscillations may be the fault of the aircraft, the pilot, or both. It is a common problem for inexperienced, and especially student pilots. The problem is most acute when there is a relatively short distance between the wing and empennage, so called "short coupled" aircraft. It was also a problem for the top research test pilots on the NASA lifting body program.

The most dangerous pilot-induced oscillations can occur during landing. Too much up elevator during the flare can result in the plane getting dangerously slow and threatening to stall. A natural reaction to this is to push the nose down harder than one pulled it up, but then the pilot ends up staring at the ground. An even larger amount of up elevator starts the cycle over again.

In February 1989 a JAS 39 Gripen prototype crashed when landing in Linköping, Sweden. Pilot-induced oscillation as a result of an over-sensitive, yet slow-response steering system was determined to be the cause. Subsequently, the steering system was redesigned.

Pilot-induced oscillation was blamed for the 1992 crash of the prototype F-22 Raptor, landing at Edwards Air Force Base in California. This crash was linked to actuator rate limiting, causing the pilot, Tom Morgenfeld, to over-compensate for pitch fluctuations.

* phugoid

References

* [https://research.maxwell.af.mil/papers/ay2004/afit/AFIT-GAE-ENY-04-M16.pdf Air Force white paper which includes definitions and history of PIO problems]
* Reed, Lister, Yaeger, "Wingless Flight : the lifting body story", p. xvii, 2002, University Press of Kentucky, ISBN 0813190266

* [http://www.dfrc.nasa.gov/Gallery/Movie/STS/HTML/EM-0084-02.html Video of Space Shuttle Enterprise landing with PIO during a test flight (Nasa)]
* [http://www.dfrc.nasa.gov/Gallery/Movie/F-8DFBW/HTML/EM-0044-03.html Video of an F-8 Landing with PIO (Nasa)]

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