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Cockpit blues. Has automation made flying easier? Or are pilots forgetting how to fly?

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You probably heard the recent news about the FAA study claiming that airline pilots are suffering from "automation addiction." Reliance on the high-tech autoflight systems found in today's jetliners, we're told, has resulted in a decline in basic flying skills -- a decline that has possibly manifest itself in several tragic accidents. (www.salon.com) 更多...

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preacher1
preacher1 0
I am kinda like Alistair, here we go again. Over the past 2-3 weeks, this subject has been batted around in comment strings on 2-3 different stories. The one under lying thread in all of it was "FLY THE PLANE". There is one line in Patrick's article that sums it all up, both previous and this current story,"A crew needs to know what its plane is doing, why it's doing it, and how to stop it from doing it if need be."
'NUFF SAID!!!!!!!!!!
johnelehman3
john lehman 0
Every time I fly commercially I use to look into the cockpit and see if it was a glass panel or steam gauges. I noticed I had a better ride on the flights with steam gauges. I figured this was because they put older pilots (more experience) in the planes with steam gauges and new pilots learned on the glass panel technology so that is the planes they flew. Now alomost everything is glass panel. Can anyone tell me if this is true?
preacher1
preacher1 0
Pretty much all glass. Steam guages are an option but generally not ordered by airlines due to extra cost. Very doubtful that it made any difference on crew type. Crews called in rotation and/or seniority. If you were typed, you could fly.Different cockpit instrumentation probably dictated by aircraft age and whether it had been upgraded or not. More than likely if you were seeing steam guages you were on an older aircraft.
usaerin
@ Wayne Bookout --

Whenever I read anything under your signature on this thread related to whether 1's and 0's should be flying the airplane or the pilot should be flying the airplane, and when, your position seems clear and to the point, uncluttered. A USAF Command Pilot friend of mine says 'in flying, experience is everything.' Your positions always seem predicated on experience and clear-headedness: you rule the airplane, it doesn't rule you.
preacher1
preacher1 0
Thank You My Friend. Get over on their story about Airline loans. Some guy just really pissed me off there and I lost it. It's not uncluttered.lol
Av8nut
I think people are just running out of things to write about. When there's an accident in the cockpit or the control tower, they are so quick to rip to shreds the intellect and reputation of anyone involved. However here, nothing has happened, and they still want to bash pilots. Give them a break!
beasinthezone
Carlos Bea 0
I found out awhile back that my "over utilization" of automation and reduction of stick time had a negative effect on my own flying skills. As a result,I resist the temptation of utilizing it every time in terminal areas in order to maintain my skills.
zfrankowski
zfrankowski 0
I kind of agree with this story. Yea I'm sure I will be attacked for it but if you look at quite a few accidents basic flying skills were ignored. For instance there have been too many accidents when the pilot inflicted a stall when pulling back on the stick when he should've pushed down resulting in a crash of a perfectly running aircraft. That's like pushing the gas when you want to hit the brakes in a car, it just shouldn't happen.

On the other hand there have been a few crashes because pilots didn't know about features in the airplane that nobody was trained on, or it wasn't readily published by the manu.
preacher1
preacher1 0
Well, I don't think you should really get attacked on it, but as in earlier comments, there are 87,000 flts per day(+-) and about half being commercial flights. We only hear about the few crashes and/or actions of a few. We don't hear about all them upsets that are in airline files from which there is a very sucessful recovery. Like driving or anything else. A few mistakes gives everybody a bad name and there are a bunch of damn good pilots out there that can still FLY A PLANE.
tdidsi
Lot's of opinions here. I have been watching this "story" unfold for a while now. I can see through the thoughts of others many ways to look at the percieved problem. I agree with position that most of issue revolves around money and/or efficiency. I fly a high performance turbo prop and have flown with and without the AP on similar routes. My experience has been that the AP is 12% more efficient trip to trip. Fuel is weight and weight takes fuel to fly. Power changes, pitch changes, heading changes all effect time and that equals fuel. At $5.00 plus for Jet A, the fuel difference for me is $33.00 per hour. Imagine that scaled up for say a 747 or a CJ that has to point to point three times a day. If everyone feels so adamantly about hand flying the airplane lets ask the airlines to set up an non flight management based route. Is anyone willing to pay the additional costs to fly that way? My guess is no.
preacher1
preacher1 0
Anthony: I don't think anyone, including myself, would argue with the efficiency that automation brings. You are correct in reading some thoughts here about the hand flying but the underlying thread to it all is the complancency that it may bring, which is why maintaining the hand flying skills is essential. Automation is fine and a welcome relief, especially on a long flight, relieving a lot of routine and mundane stuff but even you would admit that you know how to hand fly that HP turboprop if you have to and I think that is where most of these folks are trying to come from. I alluded to the fuel efficiency in an earlier comment here as well as unpublicized upsets that come along that nice recoveries are made on.
bgriffithsspain
Having balanced perspective is essential here. Pilots "operate" aircraft on automatics and "Fly" aircraft manually. Of course the modern airliner has been proved to be more operationally efficient with full use of the automation and under normal conditions provides a smooth ride too.
The resulting significant fuel saving is also recognized, but reasonably regular manual operation particularly in T/O, departure, intermediate approach and landing phases of flight is a small price to pay. Being at one with the automatics is one thing - being at one with your aircraft should be the reason why you are there and in the final analysis - when all else fails the outcome rests totally with your ability to cope with the situation and FLY the Plane. Fundamental principles?
preacher1
preacher1 0
Barrat: Very well said
tdidsi
I do not disagree with anyone's position. In the end it is the pilot's responsibility to "fly" the aircraft. That is why they are pilot In Command. There will be a solution and hopefully it will be brought about within the industry. I beleive Barratt's comment of balanced perspective is well said. I just hope it happens in time to forgo another catastophic incident.
preacher1
preacher1 0
Anthony: I think all of us here are pretty much saying the same thing, and that is FLY THE PLANE. That's my soapbox and I see that Barrat said it as have a few others. Part of the big problem is what you state in your last line about "Another Catastrophic Accident". We hear about those in the news for several days and some are even over sensationalized. As I commented earlier hear today, what we don't hear about are all the upsets that occur in the normal course of business and from which there is a good recovery, which is what a pilot gets paid to do, but those things don't sell newspapers or get TV ratings
rick737
richard weiss 0
The literary skills used in this response will not approach those used by Patrick Smith. It is with that said I believe he speaks for many of us that believe automation is an aid to flying, not a crutch. The pilot must make the necessary effort to state current. That is to say he/she must actually grab the yoke and hand fly the jet now and then for no other reason than to prove to him/herself they still have "it." Because, without "it" they are glorified gamers.
preacher1
preacher1 0
Richard you are very correct in your feelings on automation but you do have that small group of pilots that want to rely on it rather than take the yoke.I have a workshop full of hand tools as well as power versions of all of them, BUT, althogh the power tools make life much easier, I still know how to use the hand tools.
dakotadoc
dakotadoc 0
I saw a parallel in this article with my own occupation, when the author states that the autopilot is overly complicated and over-engineered.
The electronic health record that I use to take care of patients is the same way. It makes previously simple tasks more complicated and time consuming, because it was developed by computer scientists, with the too-frequent input of attorneys. I suspect the newer autopilot systems were developed in much the same way, without adequate input from the people who were actually going to use the system.
preacher1
preacher1 0
Boeing is not so bad but they tell me that is the biggest fallacy with the Airbus system
Ttchockey27
Ttchockey27 0
half the pilots still love hand flying the airplane as long as they can anyways
mswanson
myron swanson 0
pilots should be paid 50% more.....that will fix the problem.
bgriffithsspain
Not this problem...
madogdriver
yea, i think it will just make ex-wives happy!
MrTommy
MrTommy 0
Not sure how more money will fix anything. Paying teachers more, certainly hasn't resulted in smarter kids...
HunterTS4
Toby Sharp 0
this crap again???!
PA28Aviator
Jimmy Reekes 0
How will more pay help pilots not rely on automation? Although pilots need better pay, that alone will not change the view of articles like this
Ttchockey27
Ttchockey27 0
guaranteed that passengers will be more happy with the autopilot on while traveling 500 mph through the air at 35000, then having the pilot hand fly the airplane, when going that fast, any little bump of the yoke, could send the passenger sitting in the last row right through the roof..
preacher1
preacher1 0
Tyler; 35000 is where the autopilot needs to be on and was designed to be on at. That is not the issue, the issue is pilots relying on all that automation and getting complacent on stick and rudder skills. I have logged upsets at that FL and IAS, and a successful recovery depends on knowing what to do when that AP goes off.
Ttchockey27
Ttchockey27 0
im aware of this, i just posted an example.
preacher1
preacher1 0
Ttchockey27
Ttchockey27 0
roger that
preacher1
preacher1 0
You know, what is really bothering me, and although flying big iron I was flying corporate for my career, is that I always believed and still do, in getting on top and flipping on the AP, in other words flying the plane. I still do some RJ backup work for DAL(Pinnacle) and AA(Eagle),and although they SUGGEST following the rules in some parts as their connection, they are not yet REQUIRED. It is my understanding that DAL and AA are requiring the AP on at 1000'. I'd rather take my plate and fly it out manually rather than program it and pray nothing gets in my way. Nothing wrong with preprogramming but any heavy control zone requires you to be on your game until you are clear; there is plenty of chance for error. Of course you can always turn it off but that is just one more step to make when you may need to be grabbing throttles and/or yoke and getting the hell out of the way
shattuckb02
Shad Bell 0
Modern technology is great, but pilots need not get "dependent" on it! For example, when I first started flying years ago, the cessna 172 I was training in had a garmin gps and bendix autopilot... My instructor was very serious about never letting me use this equipment!
EliteAirInc
EliteAirInc 0
Mine did the same... And we are better for it!
madogdriver
not required, but strongly recommended, emphasis, emphasis. if you going to hand fly the sid's, you better make damn sure you stay on track or your gonna get busted. sometimes its better to let the automation fly you out. most of the time, in the md88 anyway, flying out of the smaller cities its more fun to fly it out yourself!!!! we are pushed to use the automation to the fullest extent possible especially as they keep looking down the road for those idle decents that take you to touchdown (not at idle of course). connect all the dots, stay in VNAV. again though, smaller airports and the 88 mean we can have a little more fun flying the sheen!!!
preacher1
preacher1 0
That's what gets me. Flying a 757 corp. most of my life, I could pretty much do as I pleased and most of the time that was flying it out myself til I got on top. Doing fill in for Pinnacle, DAL and Eagle/AA for the past couple of years, it blows my mind as to their requirements on takeoff and landing for the automation and fuel saving. For instance, comin out of ATL or DFW, I liked to come out full bore and get out of the pattern. Pisses me off to have to kick in all the auto and feel it go back on power; just that much more of a safety risk to me, but, they are paying the bill.
madogdriver
just tell them no sid! then your kinda on your own, with a little vector help of course, but usually no speed restriction!
preacher1
preacher1 0
Yeah, but you and me both know you won't get away with that for log and then you WILL piss some folks off.LOL

BTW, I'm outa here for the nite
PaulHohman
Paul Hohman 0
I agree with Shad Bell. If you can't fly a plane without automation, then you shouldn't be flying. I needed to demonstrate how to fly a plane in Alaska in 1961, long before there was automation. I flew the plane, the plane was not flown by installed equipment taking place of a pilot. What is going on now is pilots playing with cockpit games and don't understand the plane they are flying.
usaerin
@ Wayne Bookout --

I looked through the articles in this current newsletter for 'airline loans' - couldn't find anything - give me a heading. Thanks.
preacher1
preacher1 0
They have pulled it down: go to POPULAR SQUAWKS (24 hours): Airlines should get gov't loans, committe says.
MrTommy
MrTommy 0
Not sure how more pay will help pilots fly better (or make better use of the technology). Paying teachers more certainly hasn't resulted in smarter kids...
Ttchockey27
Ttchockey27 0
Why they put on the AP so soon kind of makes me think, because I fly 172's, climbing out at 72 knots. I would never get tired of flying out a climb at 3 times that! My old flight instructor who now flies for the airlines said that he never gets tired of hand flying the airplane as much as possible.
preacher1
preacher1 0
Well, there is a fuel saving theory behind it in that with all the systems together it may be a little more efficient than hand flying it and fuel can be measured right down to the pound/gallon when computing cost on a flight. There is the assumption there that a pilot hand flying it may have on more power longer, etc., etc.or a little different flap, climb rate, etc.It's all in the name of the almighty $ BUT, Airlines are in business to make a profit and gaining efficiency is what they should be doing. That being said, I have came out of various places before flying as a PAX and have felt a power cutback when, if I had been on the filght deck I can guarantee you I would have had full power on, as, on any takeoff, whther a hub or farmer's field, I want off the ground and UP. The higher you get, faster, the better chance you have of correcting if something goes wrong. In those particular cases, I know it was the AP taking over as there was no other traffic. Myself, I am like your old instructor, I like to FLY THE PLANE.lol
zfrankowski
zfrankowski 0
If there was a power cutback on take off they could've been doing a vertical noise abatement procedure or a vnap as they are now called in canada.
alistairm
alistairm 0
Here we go again.... ugghhhh :(
Yazoo
Yazoo 0
Yes, probably pilots are loosing some of the basic stick and rudder skills. These events are also VERY rare. The 2005 statistic was that there were 87,000 flights per day in the U.S. (30,000+/- air carrier) Yet how many of these "I forgot how to fly events are there?
DAL does not require the pilot to turn the autopilot on at 1000'. For a long time that was the limit as to when you could turn on the autopilot. (now 400 feet for some aircraft) You are required to use the highest level of automation available for the situation. That level might be "OFF"!
Aviation (especially the FAA) needs to get out the mentality of .."that's not how we did it on the DC-3."
Is a surgeon losing their surgical skills because they are using some type of robotic or scopic surgery?
As I heard an FAA inspector say .."Who has the type rating? You or the autopilot?"
Hand fly when you want to, so you are not caught off guard when you have to.
bgriffithsspain
I do agree. However I would add to that the requirement to remain current and competent on any type demands regular honing of handling skills to be able to handle any situation without or with only limited automation. Fail to prepare - you prepare to fail...
preacher1
preacher1 0
@Yazoo: Thanks for the clarification on DAL. That may be the same with AA as well; just flying occasional on the connections, I may have either missed or misinterpreted that. At any rate, like you said,"that level may be off".lol.Sounds like we both feel pretty much the same though, FLY THE PLANE.
MACGSO
MACGSO 0
As a mechanic, I see a lot of different pilots. As is the case in any career field, there is a "bell curve" of ability, with a few exceptionally good pilots on the far side of the bell, most of them in the "hump" in the middle, and a few who should never be allowed in the cockpit on the left side of the curve.

That being said, I think that automation, properly designed and used, would help to smooth out that bell curve: that is, it would help bring everyone's level of ability to be closer to that of the really good pilots. Unfortunately, all too often it appears the various systems were designed by ivory tower thinkers who did not take into account the fact that the pilot will have other tasks besides operating this particular piece of equipment! If a pilot has to punch buttons, flip switches and twist knobs on five or sixteen different "labor-saving" systems, all the while trying to attend to the more traditional flight tasks (talk to ATC, make announcements to the passengers, etc.), he will rapidly hit overload.

Some attempts at system integrations have been made, with varying degrees of success. Some pilots really are pilots: that is, rather than just flying the plane, they actually control it, in all aspects. It has been said that "anyone can learn to fly a plane." This is largely true, in the most basic sense. However, it takes a lot of hard work and true dedication to become a pilot. Someone who can (in essence) "drive" the airplane in normal conditions, but can't deal with unusual conditions well, is a "flier". (Note that passengers who ride in a lot of aircraft are called "frequent fliers." Does this mean they're qualified to operate the aircraft? I don't think so...) A pilot is in full control of all aspects of the aircraft, in all situations, and is completely prepared to do whatever might be necessary and correct in any given situation.

Until the time comes, though, that all of this technology becomes truly and fully "automatic", there will always be the dichotomy of "flying" and "piloting" the aircraft. How many people that sit in the cockpit do you know are "pilots", rather than "fliers"?
preacher1
preacher1 0
so true
Ektock
Ektock 0
In my opinion, it has always been a matter of experience and qualification in general rather than a nightmare of the “automation era”. I mean that we can always imagine and can find in reality around us very professional pilots who know there “iron birds” as good as there loved ones, and who can take care about them almost in every possible situation, and save the passengers and themselves. If they have mastered this particular type, than it is safe to fly at any level of automation. If they have not, than it is not completely 100% safe, both in 20th and 21st centuries. So, let the pilots be masters everywhere! Let them spend more time on training, on simulating more and more even rare abnormal situations, let them know all of the tricks and complicated responses of there newly designed and smart flight computers! They say “knowledge is power”. We can add: “knowledge is safety”.

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