NASA Logo, National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Tactical Flight Management System and Maneuvering Envelope Estimation

Loss of control (LOC) in flight has been a leading cause of fatal aircraft accidents for many years. In a recent study of LOC accidents and incidents, the Commercial Aviation Safety Team (CAST) identified a growing trend in loss of Airplane State Awareness (ASA) by the flight crew. This has led to recommended safety enhancements that include flight deck technologies with the potential of enhancing flight crew awareness of airplane energy state (SE 207).


The goal of this research is to develop and evaluate technologies that predict and assess the future aircraft energy state and autoflight configuration, and provide appropriate alerting to anticipated problematic autoflight inputs, with the aim of enhancing pilots’ situational awareness.


Building on the concept of a tactical flight management system (TFMS), prediction algorithms are developed to extrapolate the current state of the aircraft by combining knowledge of the control laws and mode transition logic for the flight management system, autopilot system and autothrottle system. Current and future estimates of the safe flight envelope (or maneuverability envelope, ME) are computed in near real-time. The onboard trajectory predictions of the aircraft state are assessed relative to estimates of the safe flight envelope to trigger alerts to forecasted impending dangerous situations.


TFMS-ME Piloted Simulator Experiment

In September 2014, new TFMS-ME driven display features and alerts were evaluated in the Advanced Concepts Flight Simulator (ACFS), where commercial airline crews flew multiple problematic approach and landing scenarios to investigate the impact on aircraft energy state awareness. Results show that the technologies have the potential to improve situational awareness of what the automation is doing now and what it will do in the future.


This research is supported by the NASA Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate’s Airspace Operations and Safety Program under Technologies for Airplane State Awareness as well as the Marie Curie International Outgoing Fellowship.


T. Lombaerts, S. Schuet, D. Acosta, J. Kaneshige, Advances in Aerospace Guidance, Navigation, and Control chapter "On-Line Safe Flight Envelope Determination for Impaired Aircraft." Springer Verlag, April 2015.

T. Lombaerts, S. Schuet, D. M. Acosta, J. Kaneshige, K. H. Shish, L. Martin. Piloted simulator evaluation of maneuvering envelope information for flight crew awareness. In AIAA Guidance, Navigation, and Control Conference. American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, January 2015. [PDF]

K. H. Shish, J. Kaneshige, D. M. Acosta, S. Schuet, T. Lombaerts, L. Martin, and A. N. Madavan. Trajectory prediction and alerting for aircraft mode and energy state awareness. In AIAA Infotech @ Aerospace. American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, January 2015. [PDF]

S. Schuet, T. Lombaerts, D. Acosta, K. Wheeler, J. Kaneshige. An Adaptive Nonlinear Aircraft Maneuvering Envelope Estimation Approach for Online Applications (AIAA 2014-0268). In AIAA Guidance, Navigation, and Control Conference, January 2014. [PDF]

J. Kaneshige, J. Benavides, S. Sharma, L. Martin, R. Panda , M. Steglinski. Implementation of a Trajectory Prediction Function for Trajectory Based Operations (AIAA 2014-2198). In AIAA Atmospheric Flight Mechanics Conference, August 2014. [PDF]

T. Lombaerts, S. Schuet, K. Wheeler, D. Acosta, and J. Kaneshige. Robust maneuvering envelope estimation based on reachability analysis in an optimal control formulation. In 2nd International Conference on Control and Fault Tolerant Systems. IEEE, October 2013. [PDF]

T. Lombaerts, S. Schuet, K. Wheeler, D. Acosta, and J. Kaneshige. Safe Maneuvering Envelope Estimation based on a Physical Approach (AIAA 2013-4618). In AIAA Guidance, Navagation, and Control Conference, August 2013. [PDF]


2015 Presidential Rank and NASA Honor Award for Group Achievement in commercial aviation safety through the development and evaluation of prediction, assessment and alerting technologies to improve energy state awareness.


Diana Acosta
John Kaneshige
Thomas Lombaerts
Avinash Madavan
Stefan Schuet
Kimberlee Shish

First Gov logo
NASA Logo -