Fly by wire pioneer Bernard Ziegler dies at 88

Bernard Ziegler 1933 - 2021
Bernard Ziegler 1933 - 2021

One of the Airbus’ engineering pioneers who was instrumental in the introduction of the world’s first digital Fly-By-Wire (FBW) and side stick controls in a commercial passenger aircraft has died aged 88.

Bernard Ziegler was born in 1933 in Boulogne sur Seine and graduated from the French “Ecole Polytechnique” in 1954. He then attended several engineering and flight training schools and for ten years was a fighter pilot in the French Air Force.

Ziegler studied aeronautical engineering at ENSA (l’Ecole Nationale Supérieure de l’Aéronautique) in Toulouse and joined Airbus as its chief test pilot in 1972.

Airbus' chief test pilot and fly by wire pioneer Bernard Ziegler
Airbus’ chief test pilot and fly by wire pioneer Bernard Ziegler

It was at Airbus that he was tasked with setting up a new flight test division which fostered collaboration between pilots and engineers.

During his flight test career he flew the Airbus A300, which later became the test bed for Fly-By-Wire, the A310, A320 and A340-200. It was on the A340-200 that he participated in the longest ever flight by a commercial airliner flying around the world from Paris in just over 48 hours with one single stop in Auckland. The flight was dubbed “World Ranger”.

Ziegler became Airbus Senior Vice President of Engineering, a role he continued until he retired in 1997. He passed away on there 5th May.

Bernard Ziegler 1933 – 2021

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Nick is the senior reporter and editor at UK Aviation News as well as working freelance elsewhere. He has his finger firmly on the pulse on Aviation, not only in the UK but worldwide. Nick has been asked to speak in a professional capacity on LBC, Heart and other broadcast networks.