Flight Management System (FMS)

Pilatus PC-12 aircraft

A flight management system (FMS) is a specialized computer system found in modern airliner’s avionics. One can be found in a Bombardier Global 6000, for example. An FMS programs a wide variety of in-flight duties. This helps reduce the amount of work the flight crew is responsible for. It also reduces the need for a civilian aircraft to acquire navigators or flight engineers.

Managing the Flight Plan

One of the main functions of an FMS is to manage the flight plan. The FMS uses GPS sensors and radio navigation to figure out the aircraft’s current position. It then guides the aircraft along based on the coordinates entered into the flight plan.

An FMS Display

Although each aircraft differs, the FMS is typically controlled through some sort of a CDU (control display unit). This design has both a small screen and a keyboard or touchscreen. The flight plan can then be displayed on the Electronic Flight Instrument System (EFIST), Multifunction Display (MFD), or Navigation Display (ND).

If an aircraft does not have a fully functioning FMS installed, many manufacturers will provide Service Bulletins to help bring the aircraft’s avionics system to full capability. For example, Bombardier’s Global 6000 is offering operators the most updated software version.

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