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Automated recovery system design team wins Collier Trophy

The National Aeronautic Association will award the 2018 Robert J. Collier Trophy to the Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System Team, praising the lifesaving technology as “a sterling example of a project that brought together the best minds from many disciplines.”

Head-up display of an F-16 with Auto Ground Collision Avoidance Systems. Image courtesy of NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center.

Auto GCAS's software detects an imminent collision with the ground and warns a fighter pilot of the risk or performs an automatic recovery. The development team, one of 11 contenders for the trophy, was selected for “successfully completing a rapid design, integration, and flight test of critical, lifesaving technology for the worldwide F–35 fleet.”

The Collier Trophy is awarded annually “for the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America, with respect to improving the performance, efficiency, and safety of air or space vehicles, the value of which has been thoroughly demonstrated by actual use during the preceding year.”

The 2018 trophy will be formally presented at the Annual Robert J. Collier Trophy Dinner on June 13 in Washington, D.C. In 2017, the Collier Trophy was awarded to Cirrus Aircraft for accomplishing the design, certification, and entry into service of the Vision SF50 single-engine very light jet.

“I am so proud of the entire Auto GCAS Team and their commitment and dedication to saving lives through this revolutionary technology,” said Mark Wilkins, senior aviation safety analyst of the Office of Secretary of Defense for Personnel Readiness and Safety. “We are truly honored to be recognized with such a prestigious award and deeply humbled considering the aviation greats who won previously.”

In a news release announcing the award, National Aeronautic Association President Greg Principato said the Collier Trophy “was established more than a century ago to encourage the best minds in this country to continually find ways to advance and improve aviation. The Auto GCAS team, comprised of elements of the U.S. Air Force, to include the Air Force Research Laboratory, Lockheed Martin, the F–35 Joint Program Office, NASA, and the Defense Safety Oversight Council, is a sterling example of a project that brought together the best minds from many disciplines. The result is a game changing advance in safety that has already changed military aviation and can one day change the game for everyone.”

AOPA reported in September 2016 on Auto GCAS saving the life of an F–16 pilot on a training flight who lost consciousness during an 8-G maneuver, after which his aircraft—accelerating to supersonic speed in a 55-degree dive—was recovered automatically by the system. The May 6, 2016, incident was the fourth save with which the system had been credited at the time.

Dan Namowitz
Dan Namowitz
Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 35-year AOPA member.
Topics: Technology, Awards and Records, Jet

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