An autothrottle allows a pilot
An aviator is a person who flies an aircraft. The first recorded use of the term was in 1887, as a variation of 'aviation', from the Latin avis , coined in 1863 by G. de la Landelle in Aviation Ou Navigation Aérienne...

 to control the power setting of an aircraft
An aircraft is a vehicle that is able to fly by gaining support from the air, or, in general, the atmosphere of a planet. An aircraft counters the force of gravity by using either static lift or by using the dynamic lift of an airfoil, or in a few cases the downward thrust from jet engines.Although...

's engines by specifying a desired flight characteristic, rather than manually controlling fuel flow. These systems can conserve fuel
Fuel is any material that stores energy that can later be extracted to perform mechanical work in a controlled manner. Most fuels used by humans undergo combustion, a redox reaction in which a combustible substance releases energy after it ignites and reacts with the oxygen in the air...

 and extend engine life by metering the precise amount of fuel required to attain a specific target indicated air speed, or the assigned power for different phases of flight. A/T and AFDS (Auto Flight Director System) work together to fulfill the whole flight plan and greatly reduce pilots' work load.

Working modes

There are two parameters that an A/T (autothrottle) can maintain, or try to attain: Speed and Thrust.

In Speed mode the throttle is positioned to attain a set target speed. This mode controls aircraft speed within safe operating margins. For example, if the pilot selects a target speed which is slower than stall speed
Stall (flight)
In fluid dynamics, a stall is a reduction in the lift coefficient generated by a foil as angle of attack increases. This occurs when the critical angle of attack of the foil is exceeded...

, or a speed faster than maximum speed
V speeds
In aviation, V-speeds are standard terms used to define airspeeds important or useful to the operation of all aircraft including fixed-wing aircraft, gliders, autogiros, helicopters, and dirigibles...

, A/T will maintain a speed closest to the target speed that is within the range of safe speeds.

In Thrust mode the engine is maintained at a fixed power setting according to the different flight phases. For example, during Takeoff
Takeoff is the phase of flight in which an aerospace vehicle goes from the ground to flying in the air.For horizontal takeoff aircraft this usually involves starting with a transition from moving along the ground on a runway. For balloons, helicopters and some specialized fixed-wing aircraft , no...

, A/T maintains a constant Takeoff power until Takeoff mode is finished. During Climb
thumb|right|An [[Embraer ERJ 145]] climbingIn aviation, the term climb refers both to the actual operation of increasing the altitude of an aircraft and to the logical phase of a typical flight following take-off and preceding the cruise, during which an increase in altitude to a predetermined...

, A/T maintains a constant climb power; in Descent
Descent (aircraft)
A descent during air travel is any portion where an aircraft decreases altitude, and is the opposite of an ascent or climb. Descents are an essential component of an approach to landing...

, A/T retards the throttle to IDLE position, and so on. When A/T is working in Thrust mode, speed is controlled by pitch
Flight dynamics
Flight dynamics is the science of air vehicle orientation and control in three dimensions. The three critical flight dynamics parameters are the angles of rotation in three dimensions about the vehicle's center of mass, known as pitch, roll and yaw .Aerospace engineers develop control systems for...

 (or the control column), and NOT protected by A/T.


On Boeing
The Boeing Company is an American multinational aerospace and defense corporation, founded in 1916 by William E. Boeing in Seattle, Washington. Boeing has expanded over the years, merging with McDonnell Douglas in 1997. Boeing Corporate headquarters has been in Chicago, Illinois since 2001...

 type aircraft, A/T can be used in all flight phases from Takeoff, Climb, Cruise
Cruise (flight)
Cruise is the level portion of aircraft travel where flight is most fuel efficient. It occurs between ascent and descent phases and is usually the majority of a journey. Technically, cruising consists of heading changes only at a constant airspeed and altitude...

, Descent, Approach, all the way to Land
thumb|A [[Mute Swan]] alighting. Note the ruffled feathers on top of the wings indicate that the swan is flying at the [[Stall |stall]]ing speed...

 or Go-around
A go-around is an aborted landing of an aircraft that is on final approach.- Origin of the term :The term arises from the traditional use of traffic patterns at airfields. A landing aircraft will first join the circuit pattern and prepare for landing in an orderly fashion...

, barring malfunction. Taxi
Taxiing refers to the movement of an aircraft on the ground, under its own power, in contrast to towing or push-back where the aircraft is moved by a tug...

 is not considered as a part of flight, and A/T does not work for Taxi. In most cases, A/T mode selection is automatic without the need of any manual selection unless interrupted by pilots.

According to Boeing published flight procedures, A/T is engaged in BEFORE the takeoff procedure and is automatically disconnected 2 seconds after landing. During flight, manual override of A/T is always available. A release of manual override allows A/T to regain control, and the throttle will go back to the A/T commanded position except for 2 modes (Boeing type aircraft): IDLE and THR HLD. In these two modes, the throttle will remain at the manual commanded position.


A primitive autothrottle was first fitted to later versions of the Messerschmitt Me 262
Messerschmitt Me 262
The Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe was the world's first operational jet-powered fighter aircraft. Design work started before World War II began, but engine problems prevented the aircraft from attaining operational status with the Luftwaffe until mid-1944...

Jet aircraft
A jet aircraft is an aircraft propelled by jet engines. Jet aircraft generally fly much faster than propeller-powered aircraft and at higher altitudes – as high as . At these altitudes, jet engines achieve maximum efficiency over long distances. The engines in propeller-powered aircraft...

Fighter aircraft
A fighter aircraft is a military aircraft designed primarily for air-to-air combat with other aircraft, as opposed to a bomber, which is designed primarily to attack ground targets...

 late in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. Today it is often linked to a Flight Management System
Flight management system
A flight management system is a fundamental part of a modern airliner's avionics. An FMS is a specialized computer system that automates a wide variety of in-flight tasks, reducing the workload on the flight crew to the point that modern aircraft no longer carry flight engineers or navigators. A...

, and FADEC
Full Authority Digital Engine Control is a system consisting of a digital computer, called an electronic engine controller or engine control unit , and its related accessories that control all aspects of aircraft engine performance...

 is an extension of the concept to control many other parameters besides fuel flow.

See also

  • Thrust lever
    Thrust lever
    Thrust levers are found in the cockpit of aircraft, and are used by the pilot, copilot, or autopilot to control the power output of the aircraft's engines....

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