- The use of computers to partially or completely control an airplane in flight. The computer determines how best to control surface movements, the rate of fuel consumption, and so on. A pilot may give instructions to the computer, which in turn sends electrical signals, via wires or cables, which actuate the appropriate control surfaces, so there is no mechanical linkage involved. If desired, the computer can handle all processes automatically, including landings. Since a computer can update all setting thousands of times a second, the use of this system should result in a safer, smoother, and more efficient flight. Also called fly-by-wire.