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Squawks & HeadlinesWhy it really should be about the man and not the machine

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Why it really should be about the man and not the machine

Submitted
I will start this article with a short foreword. Although it may sound as though I am being critical of airline pilots, that is not the case. I believe there is a consequential gap in the way airline pilots are currently being trained. Yes, there are exceptions to this rule and there are some great airline pilots out there. My good friend Stan Humphrey in Galveston, Texas is one of them. When he is not flying a Boeing 737, he is out doing loops and rolls in his personal Starduster bi-plane. There are plenty of airline pilots out there who I would (and do) trust my life to. That doesn't mean that there is not room for improvement in our training programs.

There was a time when the first flight lesson for a pilot-to-be started by tying off the tail of a Stearman and hand propping its old 220 horsepower radial engine to life. The instructor would climb into the front hole, and the student in back. Most of the flight was briefed on the ground, because there were no headsets or intercoms in these days, which made communication once airborne nearly impossible. The student would often be flying 'solo' within just 8 hours of dual instruction. When the U.S. Military was cranking out pilots to keep up with the war effort, pilots with just 200 hours or less were being put into the P51 Mustang fighter and sent off to combat. These were the days when pilots were .... well .... pilots. They figured a lot of things out for themselves. It took a certain type of personality and mindset to become a pilot. In today's 'technologically advanced aircraft,' as they are so affectionately referred to as, pilots are no longer pilots. Instead, they have become computer operators. We can train almost anyone to become a pilot. Our stick and rudder skills have been long since forgotten, and pilots either don't know how or are afraid to 'think' through a situation. They have been trained to refer to a book when anomalies are encountered, and work through anything with the presumption that the computers are always right. They are taught that if the procedure isn't clearly delineated in a manual, it cannot be authorized and should therefore not be considered. I will cite the AirFrance 447 and Asiana 214 crashes as examples of what happens when we allow computer operators instead of pilots to fly airplanes.

Let's take AF447. The summarization is: Airbus flies into an intense high altitude storm which iced over the pitot/AOA tubes, causing air data discrepancies and an autopilot disconnect. The 'pilots,' who had a combined 20,000 hours of experience put the plane into a deep stall and held it there for over 40,000 ft until they impacted the water. So, how could such seasoned pilots make such a 'rookie' mistake just because of a little conflicting air-data information? How could they fail to understand one of the simplest concepts in aerodynamics? This concept which is drilled into student pilots by the third lesson. Let's analyze 20,000 hours of airline experience. In a typical 10 hour long haul flight in an Airbus, the autopilot is engaged just seconds after takeoff. The autopilot remains engaged for the entire flight, usually through-out a coupled approach, with the pilot disconnecting only a few hundred feet above the runway for touchdown. So, how much of that 20,000 hours was hand flown? Perhaps 1 or 2 percent? Most of that time is spent sitting straight and level cruise, with the pilots just working the radio, changing frequencies and checking in with air traffic controllers. The truth is that our current training mantra is 'USE THE AUTOPILOT,' and 20,000 hours of twisting knobs and pushing buttons does not make you a pilot. Another excellent example is the recent Asiana 214 accident in San Francisco. These 'pilots,' and it nauseates me to call them that, were actually 'scared' to fly an approach by visual reference. Why? Trading airspeed for altitude is lesson number 2 in your initial pilot training. I know student pilots with 4 hours in their logbooks who can hand fly a better visual approach than a 10,000 hour airline pilot. The airline pilots might be able to rattle off every speed and button sequence from memory, but often times they do not understand the 'why' behind the answer to a question.

So, what is the solution? I believe we need to get back to the basics. I am type rated in a small jet, which has the same training requirements and checkride as the airliners. When speaking with other pilots rated in the same aircraft, I am shocked to learn how they were trained to engage the autopilot as soon as possible and disconnect it as late as possible. I was once flying the right seat with another Eclipse rated pilot who had an ADC (Air data computer) failure which disconnected the autopilot while getting vectored for an instrument approach in IMC. He nearly put the plane inverted while trying to set the approach up. I stepped in, and got him back on track, but even once on the ILS, he nearly went full deflection several times. It was apparent that he had been using the autopilot as a crutch and was not actually capable of hand flying the aircraft.

The airlines need to take a lesson from the military training program. With just 100 hours in a Naval Aviator's logbook, they are doing actual aircraft carrier landings, both day and night time. Airlines need to put more emphasis on ACTUALLY flying the airplane and reinforce the abandoned concept that pilots are to be decision makers and problem solvers. Perhaps a 1 hour aerobatic flight in a Pitts to keep stick and rudder skills sharp should be required as part of our annual 61.58 checkrides.

A monkey can monitor systems. I want a pilot flying my airplane.

Theodore Wright Staff Writer
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n7224e
BC Hadley 13
"...but often times they do not understand the 'why' behind the answer to a question.
So, what is the solution? I believe we need to get back to the basics."

This applies to so many things - piloting, math, spelling, baking bread, etc. It is vital to learn how to do just about anything "by hand", so that the process is understood (and unforeseen problems can be solved based on a thorough understanding), before turning to the convenience of automation. I have long felt reliance on technology is dangerous.
james801
James Farnsworth Staff Writer 9
Pilot: Job #1 Fly the Dam Airplane Job #2 when all else goes remember to do Job #1 if you dont you dont get to Job #3 Get your paycheck for doing Job's 1 & 2.

I have been flying the 76 & 77 for years and wanted to stay in the US more so i was looking to move down to the 73 or 75 or even the A320. I ended up moving to the 75 but had i picked the A320 i would have had less then 30hrs before i would have become a line pilot on the 320's and i have no Airbus time. I think i am a good capt just paessed my line checks on the 76 & 77 this week but i would not have felt safe in the 320 with what to me is a crash crurse on the 320's.
flydennis
Congrats on passing your check ride this week. You are right with Job#1 and Job#2
In an emergency what do you do? "Fly the airplane!" aka Job#1. What I meant by my post is how many pilots think they can fly the airplane vs how many actually can fly the airplane are out there. Because in the cause of Asiana, Air France and Colgan I'm pretty sure they thought they could but when the situation came to hand they realized too late that they couldn't.
preacher1
preacher1 5
I think that a whole lot of it just depends on the work ethic of the individual themselves. You got button pushers, you got pilots, and you got LAZY pilots. I just hired 2 135 guys for a King Air 90 this morning. They came off earlier models with not near the bells & whistles that this one has and they were like kids in a candy store seeing it all but the point is the attitude is nice; they'll use it to ease the workload but not be dependent on it. They can Fly the plane. Two that we have that I started training on our CRJ the 1st of the year that had been on that KA. They have it now after about 6 months and are good enough that I can doze behind them. I started years ago as an FE on a 707, working my way up and have seen all the automation and change over the years. It is all nice enroute, taking care of the little stuff and really cuts down on the workload, but when I comes to taking off or landing, I want the yoke and throttles in MY hands. As the post below says, the autopilot is the most talented guy in the cockpit, EXCEPT ME. I realize there is an airline requirement that some have to follow, but personally, if you have the autopilot on under 10 grand, you are not doing your job. takeoff/landing is what we get paid for, and most pretty well. We need to earn it.
james801
James Farnsworth Staff Writer 8
I am known for taking on an extra 30 min of fuel if I think for ANY reason I may need or want it and for not using the AT’s of takeoff and landing both of them cost the airline money. I know it cost them money since I am told about it all the time and when I was young as a FO I would see Captions get it for hauling extra gas around. Me I am to the point if they want the airplane to go from A to B with me in it, it’s my way. Not a good way to make your boss happy but I just tell them if I got stuck out with low fuel the cost of a new seat and the removal of the old one from by butt would have cost more than having the extra gas. End of the day the airlines don’t want you to hand fly it cost more. I bet anyone that has been in a crash would have been happy to pay an extra $10 to know the pilots would not lock up when the auto stuff takes a dump.
SiuDude
SiuDude 1
Just curious. What airline lets you be qualified on the 76 and 777 at the same time?
PhotoFinish
PhotoFinish 1
You can be qualified on one (eg. 767), an then due to company need get qualified on the other (eg. 777). What so controversial about that? Most airline pilots are qualified on multiple types. Once qualified on a type, I would think that most pilots would try to keep their qualification(s) current, especially on popular aircraft still widely in use.
hbball36
H W 1
I think Boeing authorizes a single type rating for both airplanes because of their similar flight characteristics. That's coming from someone who only has a small idea :) Anyone else, feel free to add on to this because I'm not perfect.
james801
James Farnsworth Staff Writer 1
All the above is correct the 757/767 is the same type rating you must take a differences class on the variants 200, 300 so on. The 777 is the same way. I have been on both for years. Now most that fly the 757 will also fly the 767 as a line pilot I think AAL, DAL & UAL all do that. I was a very high time pilot when I started and my first ride was as a FO on the 767 then was ask to do the 777 and have done so. In Sept I am going to start flying the 757 and have not been told by anyone I can’t still fly all 3 if I wanted to but I do plan to stop flying the 777 for me I wanted to be in the US more and not do so much long haul trips is why I am moving to the 75’s. Even with about 12,000 hrs in the 76 & 77 to go to the 75 I do a Sim/Class and have to fly with a 75 check airman a few trips. But as far as I know you can fly 75,76 & 77 at any airline. And Part 135 pilots fly 3-4 as a normal thing. I am not sure but have been told if you are typed in the 777 all you got to have is a differences class and check ride to go to the 787 but I am not sure may be a 787 pilot on FA to tell us.
I would guess there may be a thing if you fly Airbus & Boeing but I have never and don’t want to ride an Airbus. I got in a SR-22 and the side stick thing after all the years in King Air, Gulf Stream, and Boeing so on that was just not for me. Kind of old school.
preacher1
preacher1 2
I'm not sure myself although I know who he flies for and will let him answer for himself. That said, there is a common type rating on the 57/67, not sure about the 77 but they are similar. That said, these are all FAA type ratings. I didn't know of an airline that had any restrictions.
SiuDude
SiuDude 0
The 757 and the 767-200 and -300 have a common type rating.
tduggan2010
Tim Duggan 1
Actually, all models/versions of the B757 and B767 share a common type rating. I know, because I have one.

When we get into the model variants, then it is simply "differences" training that is required.

BTW...if you notice on the B757/767...the flight deck entry. The B757 has a small step UP, the B767 a small step DOWN. Point is, for CAT II and CAT III considerations, the "sight picture" for pilots is the same. Seat position, window architecture, etc.


side note: The B787 cockpit design and layout was intended to be "comfortable" and similar to the B777. So, it was determined that an easy transition could be made by B777 experienced pilots.
james801
James Farnsworth Staff Writer 1
I will also say to me the FAA should require more time and training on some of the variants when that make changes to how Hydro’s & Air systems and things like that have got more than a few pilots in trouble not knowing till things went south. Let’s face it what we get is a “Crash Course” and if a pilot really wants to know he/she has to do the book work to find out what and how things have changed. It all goes back to cost I would guess all the big wigs got to get their big checks. They should give 20% or so of what they get to the guys that keep us All flying the MX staff we can’t fly what don’t run.
akayemm
Er.A.K. Mittal 1
Is it not a matter of common sense that in a life time every person, here pilots, goes through various stages of development, one aircraft to another? And higher/additional proficiency does not debar or disqualify from the older/previous ones! Yes, for the sake of extra safety, in case of pilots, a short refresher run through may be advisable depending upon the length of separation time.
Right? Wrong?
More over, is the Type Licence given time barred or is it for ever? It has to uniform all over the world.
preacher1
preacher1 5
I can't remember the occasion that prompted it, but a few months back, put out an ADVISORY to all the airlines that the ought to put HAND FLYING back into their training regimens. Maybe it needs to be MANDATORY. It is really no wonder that we are getting automation dependent but as our time on automated aircraft increases, we get farther away from our roots or our basic instruction and at some point, the automation is well in the majority.
Ace917
Cole Pierce 5
At <my airline>, I always hand flew to level-off, and I swear the passengers could never tell we were leveling. I hand flew every approach descending thru 10K all the way to the gate unless the regs said coupled due to low ceilings, and I was a microsecond away from knowing what that airplane was doing all the time. And I wasn't boresighted on the gauges. It bothered me no end to see the other pilot take-off, raise the gear, and start punching buttons. It's a no-brainer, and Asiana proves it in spades.
clapo2668
Well said and done, Mr. Pierce. It irks and scares me that I've read that so many pilots have had so little hands-on flying experience. As a Check Airman and instructor, I insisted that students hand-fly and use the A/P to proficiency on takeoff, to cruise, and landing. It wasn't my airline company requirement, but it was my belief, since my helo flying days, that a good pilot used every tool available to him to be successful at flying the aircraft. Those tools included "seat of pants", audio, visual, automation, and sometimes "gut feeling (;))." jj It wasn't too long ago that the some of us had to hand-fly a 707 across the Atlantic on several occasions.
preacher1
preacher1 1
FAA put out the advisory
joelwiley
joel wiley 1
"Gut feeling" sometimes is that, with enough experience,you intuitively know what is normal. When something abnormal happens you sense the abnormality without consciously think 'aha, XYZ happened'. It's like when your arthritic joint tells you the weather is changing. If you are sufficiently young or inexperienced, you won't understand that last sentence.
james801
James Farnsworth Staff Writer 1
Some think you are nuts to say the airplane talks to you. But they do. Just like my wife ;-)
preacher1
preacher1 1
Been there, done that on the 707
akayemm
Er.A.K. Mittal 1
If I am allowed, my car does. And I can say say with utmost confidence that every car/auto vehicle does. Aircrafts can not be any different. Crudest examples. How to know when to change gear? Or when you get a flat tyre? Or a door is NOT properly closed? And so on. I am avoiding complex examples like strange/unfamiliar engine sounds or change in responses of clutch pedal/brake/accelerator pedals etc.
That is where experience in the trade plus familiarity/closeness with the machine/car/vehicle/aircraft come in handy!
mpradel
Marcus Pradel 4
Ted,

the reason you can hand fly the Eclipse is because your SW version isn't rated for A/P use in all procedures.. Lucky you!
tduggan2010
Tim Duggan 4
Mr. Wright,

"Back to basics" was my take-away from the article. And, it is correct.

In both accidents that you cited, some very, very basic flying skills were seriously lacking. AF447 is more egregious, in my opinion, for many reasons not mentioned (that had to do with equipment deficiencies) but, notwithstanding, it WAS primarily the onus of the pilots to have used or relied upon those "basics" firstly, and not to be confused and inundated with the (many) conflicting 'Warnings' and other computer-based indications.

I mention AF447 because (and not elevating it above the Asiana214 case) because that EXACT scenario (clogged pitot tubes, or static ports, affecting the Air Data Computer) had happened before! Albeit in other airplanes, at other airlines. But, ANY pilot worth his or her 'salt' should always be aware of those mistakes that have gone before, in order to learn from them.

In the case of AF447, there was NO EXCUSE not to refer to (what I presume would be similar to a Boeing QRH procedure) titled "Unreliable Airspeed" (or similar).

Pitch attitude, and power setting. Stabilize the airplane. THEN, diagnose the faults.

Of course, we 'could' get into the specifics and oddities of Airbus thrust lever movement compared to the actual thrust settings...etc. There, we begin to show some cross-over to the Asiana 214 case ... EXCEPT that with a Boeing the thrust levers (when physically AT the Flight Idle stops) show what the engines are being commanded to do. Airbus? ...eh.....
marcarnold
marc arnold 3
Many arguments have been made here for (re)teaching professional flight crews basic airmanship, prompted by a few high profile accidents that can be attributed to obvious (at least in retrospect) pilot error. As a 5000 hr ATP Part 135 charter pilot, I am ALL in favor of improved training. As FlightSafety says, "The best safety device in any aircraft is a well-trained crew". Amen. That said, and at the risk of offending some of the very qualified pilots on this thread, I don't fully agree with the sentiment that we need to return to the 'good 'ol days' when men were men and pilots were, well, pilots.

Let's start with the premise that the primary goal in air transport is safety above all else. Then take a look at the overall statistics regarding airline safety:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aviation_safety


The data shows a steady decline accident rates... roughly speaking from 1 fatality in 1 Million passenger miles (1926) to 1 fatality in 2 Billion passenger miles (1997)... a 2,000x improvement. The most recent statistics are even better, showing 1 death per 30 billion miles (0.05 deaths per Billion Kilometers).

Of particular note, is the fact that safety has continued to improve during the very decades that automation proliferated in our cockpits.

Should we learn from tragic accidents and implement changes to improve safety? Of course. Are these highly visible accidents (Colgon, AF447, Asiana 214) reason to revise training syllabi? Sure. But it would be a mistake to attack the use of automation as an evil when it has, overall, contributed to dramatic safety improvements over the years.
data4unme
What comes to mind is the clerks that cannot make change at the Register without keying in the transaction amounts.
jzika
Jeff Zika 3
I've been telling anyone who would listen for as long as I can remember that upset training needs to be part of EVERY rating. Do it once for PPL, again for CPL, then periodically afterwards. How else to maintain stick and rudder skills and the muscle memory. Unfortunately, there are two types of pilots; those who can fly and those who can memorize procedures and run the computers that do the flying. There are increasingly fewer pilots that are both.

Go fly a Cub, Champ, Citabria, Deke, Pitts, anything that REQUIRES coordination to fly and rudder skills. Forget about a nose wheel. Learn again to FLY THE AIRPLANE. Isn't that the montra that is drilled into every PPL student... always FLY THE AIRPLANE and deal with everything else when you can.

We have a local retired Red Bull racing pilot who, as far as stick and rudder goes, is the best I have ever seen. He has more time in an Extra that most senior airline pilots have total. We could all learn from him and his like and maybe, just maybe incidents like those mentioned in the article and many, many more could be a thing of the past.
flydennis
I agree with Musketeer1 but lets all be real. It is not an airline's job to train pilots. Pilots are trained by Flight Schools. The airline's job is to make sure it's pilots are current in procedures of its aircraft types and thats it. Even the regulations state its the pilots responsibility to make sure he is current not the airlines responsibility. If the aircraft is autopilot centered then so be it that is the procedure, however the funny thing is: The procedures are made by pilots not the airlines!!! Meaning one airline might engage autopilot at 1000 AGL the other at 200 AGL and who is responsible for these procedures the airline's flight training department(which consist of pilots). Last time i checked most of these guys are not young 20 year old guys heading up the flight training department of these airlines its the older guys(the veterans) so clearly its a top down issue. Today its now required by most airlines to have a 4 year college degree to get hired but honestly tell me if i have a 4 year degree in economics how does that help me fly a commercial aircraft or even prove I'm more capable of flying an commercial aircraft more efficiently than the guy who doesn't? If it does why dont people get a degree in biology and go work on wall street.
Now during instrument training pilots are taught 3 important words "TRUST YOUR INSTRUMENTS". A perfect example was Air France 447. 2 veteran pilots none were the young cowboy type that most people are afraid to fly with and they placed the airplane into a deep stall because the Air Data Sensor failed. Sure Airspeed and Altitude data were inaccurate but they clearly had pitch and roll indication properly because thats not linked to the Air Data Sensor so the question becomes "who was monitoring the attitude indicator/EADI for this 40,000 foot free fall?
Sounds to me like we are not even good at monitoring the aircraft in the first place. Another perfect example that hits closer to home Colgan 3407. This accident occurred in IMC first rule of instrument flying "Trust Your Instruments" that aircraft got into an unusual attitude that went uncorrected by both pilots the Air Data Computer didn't even fail who was monitoring the flight instruments? In a stall training you are drilled add power push the nose over break the stall then recover. In both these cases the pilots did the exact opposite they pulled up making the situation worse. Pilots in flight school are also trained to recover from unusual attitudes. So was this pilot not trained in procedure or he clearly forgot what to do? Here is a link to the Flight Data Recorder of Colgan 3407 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33NUAy3eomg. So far i have not seen in any of these situations were the crew were not trained to deal with the situation at hand. Now I know someone will come and say pilots aren't trained for high altitude stalls in the cause of Air France 447. My answer would be yes they are back to private pilot training Slow Flight. Slow flight simulates decreased airflow over the wings and you have to maintain airspeed and altitude in this state its part of training same applies at high altitudes: decreased airflow over the wings because the air is less dense.
Seems to me the airlines aren't the one at fault it's the pilots. In both these cases the pilots were in a situation familiar situations and failed to apply corrective action. Not the autopilot's fault but pilot error. So maybe the real problem is pilots and not the flight school(because they do teach you what you need to know its up to you the pilot to retain this information) or the airline(because they bring you up to par with the operating procedures of that aircraft type).
Pilots ask yourselves honeslty "Have i forgotten the basis of my flight training" if so start taking corrective measures now before you end up in one of the bove situations and make headline news(and thats not the way you want to make the news.)
PhotoFinish
PhotoFinish 2
Sure, no need to throw the baby out with the bath water. Automation has surely contributed to safety over the decades.

But when a problem arises, a pilot should be able to be...well... a pilot. With or without automation, all pilots should be able to capably command an aircraft in such a manner that their performance and proficiency (or lack thereof) doesn't lead to the loss of the airplane nor any of the lives aboard.

Pilots must have the situational awareness to get themselves and everyone else on the plane along for the ride out of a mess. If pilots can't routinely recover from automation failures and other unusual situations (their most important job), the designers will improve the automation and get rid of the pilots.
LarryQB
LarryQB 1
In the case of Colgan I think both pilots thought they had a tail plane stall due to icing rather than the wing stall which actually occurred. They took the proper corrective action (retract flaps, pull back on the stick/wheel) for what they thought they had. Naturally it's better to be paying attention in the first place.
preacher1
preacher1 3
grude
grude 2
I am not a pilot but have been interested in aviation as long as I can remember and I am COMPLETETY SURE I would have recognized Air France 447's stall. It is as basic as it gets. If you have only ever flown a computer flight simulator you should be able to recognize a stall. I think that crash was the ultimate in pilot error.
grude
grude 2
Sorry, double posted.
bvargoaa
brad vargo 2
''Airspeed, altitude and some brains'. It takes at least two of the three to complete any flight.
exPiC
exPiC 2
I couldn't agree more with the article. I'm now training these new pilots after 30k hrs of airline flying. It is difficult to insist on " appropiate level of automation " while at the same time demanding adequate down-grade, mode-reversion or respect for raw data upon pilots who have long lost all ability or desire to fly the airplane, as opposed to pushing buttons.
To James 801 I'd like to mention that more fuel than planned makes the act heavy on RTOs, EFATOs, desired optimum levels, icing, turbulence, steep turns, landings and go-arounds. I carry the exact amount of fuel for safety ,if the company saves money, all the more power to them, but my reason to limit fuel on board to what I need is the integrity of the flight, not the company's gain. Over more than 15k airline sectors, I remember carrying extra fuel in less than 1/2 dozen times, never once landing with less than legal limits. Indeed, over the last 20 years of flying long haul, I seldom saw differences of more than 7 or 800 lbs on fuel figures computed more than 14 or 15 hrs before landing, and total burns of over 250k lbs. The idea of " always carry more fuel " was totally justified in the 1920s, when wx forecasts were iffy, on-board instruments primitive, means of measuring fuel out of the truck non-existent, burn figures unreliable and processes misunderstood. Things have changed
douglaswint
Douglas Wint 2
This is a really insightful article and it addresses a concern that I have thought about for years past. I look back to 2009, when the Northwest flight bypassed its destination by an hour because the pilots were on their laptops while HAL did the flying. It underlines just how automated flying jets has become and why a change is needed.

I expected an outcry for change following that incident but it never came. When the details of Air France 447 determined the cause to be pilot error, I thought a concerted effort within the industry would result. Never happened. Now the Asiana crash at SFO seems like it will fall into this category again; pilot's inability to handle their aircraft in an emergency when the machine it came with can no longer do so.

I hope that this latest, tragic accident will be the catalyst for change. I don't want to doubt it. I don't want to see another loss of life due to a pilot's lack of manual flying ability.
Lusty-Wallis
Carl L. 2
*This article does not apply to the Mighty Beech airline pilots :D
hwkrplt
hwkrplt 2
As a retired military and civilian pilot, I agree wholeheartedly with the author. In my years prior to retirement, I had occasion to fly with an assortment of non-military trained pilots, and, with one exception, none had the training to recognize "feel" of the aircraft, i.e. the bottom falling out feeling when the aircraft is sinking. All were nervous about more than 60 degrees of bank. It has always been my contention that ALL pilots-to-be should experience inverted conditions to be able to recognize unusual recoveries. We of the industry need more voice in demanding proper training for more than systems operators in the cockpits. Good "gamers" don't necessarily make good pilots!!
james801
James Farnsworth Staff Writer 1
Jaime Bordes
30K hrs is a long time with an airline. Don’t know what you were flying but I fly 76 & 77 that our Avg is about 198 Pax + per trip. I don’t take extra gas on each flight first off and as I said above more gas adds to you weight. But the required fuel that we are given is just that the minimum you have a lot less airports you can drop a 76 or 77 in to and you also hold more people so if you have to divert it cost more money and you have a bunch of mad people since they don’t get you are 10 or 12th in the line to get in and you have to say ok we get stay and hope the other storm cell don’t hit and we get in or we divert. I have far less then 30K hrs at the airlines but my choice to take 15 -30 min of extra fuel has let me get my Pax to the airport since I could hold the extra few min way more than 12 times. But I also will not push my luck I have never landed min fuel. I also have not done steep turns on a Pax flight. I bet it cost more to divert once then me take my extra gas for a year or two.
akayemm
Er.A.K. Mittal 1
How much veteran do you make at 30k+ I do not know, but you deserve esteem and reverence from me, a non aviator.
Coming to "iffys" I am tempted to add that safety factors have been getting smaller and smaller over the centuries and the decades. When I was studying for engineering(1965-70) we used Slide Rule for calculations giving always approximate results. For us 11 was 1.1X10, but 111 was 110(appx). 1111 was 1100 appx. All results between 1.1 and 1.2 were appx., and all multiples by 10 ! And so on. Todays' kids use calculators, 8/12/20 digit accuracy. Which in time will also become obsolete!
I am sure in time to come even the legal limit of reserve fuel will get reduced due to accuracy of measurements PLUS easy air-to-air refuelling systems. Add to this some more innovations so for hidden over the horizon.
joelwiley
joel wiley 2
And you still have your slipstick in your bottom drawer or in a box somewhere, right? And when the batteries go out, it still works to 3 significant digits.
exPiC
exPiC 1
I flew -47s for different carriers for the last 20 years. And, prior, about 15 year of short & medium hauls. That's 15 years of 800 hrs-a-year and, ironically, 30 years of only 600, precisely when the job gets easier :-)
But my take and experience are the exact opposite of yours.
A small, 30-acft airline I flew for, calculated it could absorb 9 diversions per year for the cost of the fuel uplifted by pilots over and above Flt Pln figures. Including Hotacs, crew displacements, landing fees and the rest, But, as I mentioned, that is only money, and none of my concern.
I found that a sensible and clear fuel policy ( e.g. 3%-of-cruise, max 5tons/min1ton, + reasonable alternate + holding ) with a well-defined In Flight Decision chapter does the trick. It takes some work to masage a continuation out of a MTOW re-dispatch SIN-ATH, or SFO-HKG, or BUE-MAD, but it can be done legally, safely and without any real preoccuation about falling out of the sky when you have plenty nearby alternates, non-intersecting rwys and good wx. In those cases, uplifting is not an option.
I totally agree on uplifting fuel in the presence of good reasons. In my experience, 250 people dead and a quarter-million thais in the streets of BKK was quite persuasive ,and left FCO with an extra 10-ton uplift. Likewise NRT on a CAT III forecast when it only had one rwy, or TSs in MIA at my ETA. But those are the only times I recall carrying extra fuel. I suppose there may have been another 3 or 4 situations when I did it, but I don't remember.
For the record, I've never piled enough ice to worry about lift-drag, and don't make a habit of practicing steep turn with paxs on board, but there's always the possibility of an upset, or unusual attitude recovery ( we still train for that ) and I'd rather be better protected by being lighter.
james801
James Farnsworth Staff Writer 1
Jaime Bordes
Looks like we do but I think a lot of the Airline pilots feel like I do. Some will stand up for it some will not it’s a personal choice if they do or don’t. We have last I seen over 4890 flights a day and about 700 aircraft. I can see how a smaller airline can do more with less and have a better hold on cost, most of our equipment is ran quick turn so it cost more to have to find a replacement bird or put the Pax on other flights. As far as how our fuel is done our load sheet gives us on fuel for A to B + 15 Min of holding and to get to your Alternant and the FAA reserves if you want more it is up to you. As far as MTOW I would drop cargo before not taking the gas.
exPiC
exPiC 1
O.K., you see ? looks like we're not so far apart on the issue after all: I remember SIA using a " suitable alternate only " criteria for airports with no forecast problems, at least two non-intersecting rwys and a few other conditions. Only then they would operate with 15' holding fuel, for all the rest, 30'.
I think the point of a smaller airline is the opposite, however: if a small carrier can afford all those diversions i/o uplifted fuel, one with thousands of flights daily must be able to absorb a whole lot more. My airline would fly long haulers 20 hrs per day in summer.
My point being that, in the absence of odds against you ( wx, tffc., no nearby alternates ) you can " take the chance " of going with Flt. Pln. fuel. Brackets intended.
Much is made of the real possibility of ending up several levels below optimum for a long time. As a Boeing man, you're familiar with the integrated-range tables, which allow you to calculate directly ( not through a computer, when still on the ground, as well as in the air ) what happens when flying below your planned FL for a couple of thousand miles. It seldom lasts longer than that, and the difference is covered by your contingency.
I don't refer to short hauls, as planning is far less involved and factors less subject to calculations. Forecasts are not so crucial, and the time and space for imponderables is limited.
But I don't think I'd be comfortable flying with '15 and no contingency, as you describe. Your " 30-min extra, " that triggered my first comment is what I've always had on board upon dispatch.
I don't know '67 or '77 figures, but I never landed a -47 with less than 8 tons on board. That's 50 minutes fuel on arrival, after using every drop of contingency on a a re-dispatch. With available, open alternates, cavok everywhere, and close AFB rwys which could be used before starving the engines. Not a snowball's chance in hell I was going to contemplate such a risk. I have to stress even that was a totally unplanned long string of negative factors, not one-of-many tight operations.
With respect to MTOW, the available payload is decided after calculating the re-dispatch, therefore the tight figures. Even in that case, the captain's decision was final, and payload would be taken off, but it had to be justified.
A good reason to offload payload, including paxs, would have been flight at a lower level, for an extended enough distance, that the contingency of 3% of cruise burn would not cover the extra burn. I recall one such case, where I offloaded about 1000 lbs of baggage due to stronger winds at a lower level btn SFO & HKG. And I wouldn't be shy about it. But on the other 99.9% of my operations, I found the planned fuel to be enough. I wouldn't compromise on a thing like that.
I agree with you that a lot of pilots would rather take the extra fuel. My issue is on what grounds. If it's a habit, like I've heard many proclaim that they add this or that amount to the Flt Pln as a matter of course, is something that deserves some discussion. If it's a thought through, analytically based conclusion, it leaves a lot to be said for that particular airline's Flight Planning process. In these days of super-accurate forecasts and to-the-pound gauges, I tend to trust the process in normal circumstances.
Last, not least, I reasoned that the instances when some " acceptable " extra fuel
would get me out of the pickle, - I'd find myself in if I didn't carry it -, were so rare as to decide to cross that bridge when I got to it, meaning the short duration wx phenomena, possibility of airport closure, lifting of the fog, etc. And not a philosophy of operation, one-size-fits-all criteria of agreeing with the planned figures, then adding fuel on top of that irrespective of length of flight, wx conditions, etc.
tduggan2010
Tim Duggan 0
grude, I tend to agree that the stall condition of AF447 'SHOULD' have been recognized based on the basic instrument indications, but point of this article is that modern jets are, in a sense, "lulling" pilots into relying too much on the automation. The automation was giving that crew conflicting "info", and they simply neglected to go "Back to Basics". The zone of confusion is a typical human response, yes...but, from cruise altitude until impact at Sea Level? Ample opportunity to regain control, using BASICS. Even if contrary to instinct, when the airplane is stalled, PUSH the nose down and add full thrust. It WILL fly out of the stall. Given enough altitude, of course......
PhotoFinish
PhotoFinish 1
From FL380, you figure they'd have plenty of time and/or space to recover from a stall.

They were already at full throttle. All they had to do was point the nose down. At cruise altitude, they had the nose up at 16º AOA in response to a bit of turbulence, after the AP and ATs were disengaged. AOA wasincreased up to 40º. From the time the captain returned to the cockpit at FL350, they never brought the AOA under 35º. With 35,000 ft between the plane and the waters of the ocean, you'd think they would consider pointing the nose down slightly to pull out of their aerodynamic stall.

They'd all still be alive today (an entire airliner full of passengers) if the pilots had ignored the conflicting alarms, and just "flew the plane".
james801
James Farnsworth Staff Writer 2
Y'all are correct about being able to recover. But when you are up in the flight levels the difference in stall speed Vs the speed of normal level flight is very small sometimes as little as 15 KTS if you are way up with a heavy load and I tail wind for say. The copilot froze up if I remember correctly and even with the other pilot pushing down the aircraft wouldn't take his nose down control inputs.
I did something yesterday I haven't done in 5-6 years and that was to ride in the jump seat. There was a check captain in the left seat and a mid time FO in the right and it was not only amazing to see how much the autopilot was used but also how little the FO scanned the main flight instruments. Now the check Capt seem to scan as much as 40-50% more then what the FO did but he also relayed less on the autopilot. Kind of an old school guy Vs younger per say. Had anything have happened I have no doubt the FO would have been slower to respond.

Overall we are seeing about 2-3 crashes a week in the USA that seem to end bad because they just forgot to fly the airplane. It is about impossible to say what any of us would or wouldn't do if things went south but we all need to make sure we know our drill for the problems we may face without having to rely on checklist as way to problem solve since by then it may be to late.
preacher1
preacher1 3
I have to agree with this, especially on the time thing. Generally when Mr. Murphy comes thru your cockpit door to tear up your playhouse, you need to be able to react without going to a checklist. A checklist is one thing if you have time and space to get out and hold and analyze things but generally there is a space of time between the happening and getting to that hold/analyze position. A checklist will help you make sure you have done everything but you had better know what to do to get there.
tduggan2010
Tim Duggan 1
Photo, you said "They were already at full throttle."

I've looked at the AF447 accident quite a bit. Once the SSFDR was recovered from the ocean floor, it all became clear what happened.

At about the same time the pitot tubes were icing over (and THAT is another thing -- Airbus and regulating agencies knew that the OEM equipment made by Thales was not adequate, but did not issue an emergency order to R&R them. The original design simply was NOT up to the task, in heavy icing conditions).

...so, as the pitot tubes were icing up, it was getting bumpy, and the PF set a slower speed on the MCP. The AutoThrottles complied by reducing power to a setting below what would be needed, as the airplane needed to decelerate. Airbus' thrust levers do not move, like they do on Boeings. That is an important difference.

When all hell broke loose, the engines were actually at a reduced thrust setting, and if the crew had only added power (referencing the N1) and pitched to a fixed attitude they could have stabilized the jet.

Here's a good article, (but with a broken link to the official report):

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/07/05/air-france-447-report-how-the-plane-went-down.html
PhotoFinish
PhotoFinish 1
One would consider the possibility that they'd eventually descend to sn altitude that could support sufficient lift to keep them afloat. But even at full throttles without tipping the plane forward and getting some forward momentum and air coming across the wings producing lift, the plane's engines alone (even at full throttle) are not enough to keep the plane from descending to the ground (ocean in thus case).

For me, this realization that AF447 was able to stall at full throttle from FL380 all the way into the sea, suggests that Asiana 214 got little or no help from the aggressive pull back, going low and slow, BEFORE increasing their throttle and significantly increasing their airspeed. Their high nose attitude put them into the same kind of stall that AF447 was unable to recover from a much higher altitude. Asiana just started their stall at an altitude of about 100 ft, rather than at cruising altitude, and so were guaranteed to not be able to recover.

Seems to me it was more important to stop the stall, and descent of plane, and buy time to build up speed BEFORE attempting to regain altitude. They were about to go over a runway, and had a little over 100 kts head start on the engine spool up, and over 11,000 of clear flat space reserved just for them in that moment to execute their go around.

You can't go from stall to go around without first building up airspeed, forward momentum, and lift on the wings. AF447 proves that. Asiana 214 doesn't prove it, but shows what can happen when you get the order wrong.
PhotoFinish
PhotoFinish 2
Oh I see you're referring to the earlier part o the incident that led to the stall, rather than their inability to recover from it (which is what I referenced above).

Here's their description of the earlier time period:
"At 02:10:05 UTC the autopilot disengaged as did the engines' auto-thrust systems three seconds later. The aircraft started to roll to the right due to turbulence, and the pilot corrected this by deflecting his side-stick to the left. At the same time he made an abrupt nose-up input on the side-stick, an action that was unnecessary and excessive under the circumstances.[18] The aircraft's stall warning sounded briefly twice due to the angle of attack tolerance being exceeded. Ten seconds later, the aircraft's recorded airspeed dropped sharply from 275 knots to 60 knots. The aircraft's angle of attack increased, and the aircraft started to climb. The left-side instruments then recorded a sharp rise in airspeed to 215 knots. This change was not displayed by the Integrated Standby Instrument System (ISIS) until a minute later (the right-side instruments are not recorded by the recorder). The pilot continued making nose-up inputs. The trimmable horizontal stabilizer (THS) moved from three to thirteen degrees nose-up in about one minute, and remained in that latter position until the end of the flight."
PhotoFinish
PhotoFinish 1
Tim, your info may be better than mine, but this is what I referenced:

"climbed to its maximum altitude of around 38,000 feet. There, its angle of attack was 16 degrees, and the thrust levers were in the TO/GA detent (fully forward), and at 02:11:15 UTC the pitch attitude was slightly over 16 degrees and falling, but the angle of attack rapidly increased towards 30 degrees. The wings lost lift and the aircraft stalled.[8] At 02:11:40 UTC, the captain re-entered the cockpit. The angle of attack had then reached 40 degrees, and the aircraft had descended to 35,000 feet with the engines running at almost 100% N1 (the rotational speed of the front intake fan, which delivers most of a turbofan engine's thrust). The stall warnings stopped, as all airspeed indications were now considered invalid by the aircraft's computer due to the high angle of attack and/or the airspeed was less than 60 knots. In other words, the aircraft was oriented nose-up but descending steeply."

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_France_Flight_447

The links to the full report are more likely to work from here too.
tduggan2010
Tim Duggan 1
Your info may be better than mine...your description of the thrust levers being in the "TO/GA detent" makes no sense to this Boeing pilot. What I mean is, thrust levers have no detent...unless you refer to the reverse thrust levers. Which would not apply to this situation, since reverse cannot be actuated without gear switch compression, or "Ground Sensing" (one, two and/or the nose gear struts being compressed, depending on the airplane and its design).

So at some point, according to your reference, the N1 was at least 100%. By the way, when in the cruise configuration, pushing the TOGA buttons on the thrust levers should have no effect. The Flight Data Computers are exact in the parameters for TOGA response, from the TOGA buttons. On the ground (TO mode is armed) If in a landing configuration.

Still, if full power was available from the engines, and if pitch attitude was paid attention to...then it's presumed that recovery from an aerodynamic stall is possible.

Mitigating factors were: Night time. No visible horizon. And (as the point of this article implies) over-reliance on automation, to the detriment of "basic" flying skills.
PhotoFinish
PhotoFinish 1
"Night time. No visible horizon. And (as the point of this article implies) over-reliance on automation, to the detriment of "basic" flying skills."

You're right. That's basically the problem. Had they ignored all the automation and just flew the plane, they and the passengers would be alive today.

They never brought their nose down below 35º all the way from 38,000 ft until breaking apart when impacting the water.

One of the dummies was holding holding his joystick forward (unbeknownst the other pilots) keeping the nose high attitude, which was causing the stall. That's bad design.since the joysticks operate independently, one pilot doesn't get any feed back from the other pilot's inputs.

Also the plane's alarms would stop when the plane was super-nose-high, but no one would possibly put the plane's nose so high at cruise altitude. It was inconceivable to the airplane designers. But the alarms would come back on any time the pilot tried yo do the right thing, which is to bring down the nose of the plane, to regain airspeed across the wings and regain lift would would allow recovery from the aerodynamic stall.

So between the pilots not being able to operate the plane manually at altitude after autopilot shutdown without putting the plane into a stall (lack of basic skills), not using their basic skills to fly the plane out of stall (lack of situational awareness, lack of basic skills), and the plane encouraging the exact opposite of the correct action (very bad design), and one guy not knowing what the other is doing (bad design); a planeload of passengers perished that day.

All are symptoms of a bad philosophical approach to flying. We're heading in the direction of more automation, which is understandable. But
1) if we're still going to have pilots in the pointy end, they should know how to fly the plane, not just know how to manage the monitors. (There's no place for encouraging overreliance on the automation, at the expense of not encouraging pilots to acquire and maintain basic manual piloting skills).

2) Airbus tries to get between the pilot and the plane. Numerous crashes have been due to the plane not allowing the inputs of the pilots, and/or (like this case) gives bad alarm feedback. When pilots are overreliant on the plane to tell them what to do, wrong feedback can be deadly (if not independently filtered through adequate situational awareness).

They make good planes, but I'm not convinced by their philosophical approach to airplane command.
PhotoFinish
PhotoFinish 2
* One of the dummies was holding holding his joystick BACK (unbeknownst the other pilots)

Had he actually pushed it forward long enough to level the nose, all the stall warnings would've ended, and they would've lived. (typed the opposite of what I meant by mistake. Was thinking if what he should do when writing about what he did.)
clapo2668
Pretty well said, PhotoFinish. But I'm not convinced that Airbus makes "good" planes. "Good planes" have good designs. Any aircraft that has pilots should give the pilots the ability to have control feedback and the immediate ability to override the automation when necessary.
preacher1
preacher1 1
I guess you can hear anything as I have never flown one but the lack of that control/immediate override scares me and the fact that the AT doesn't move when changing. I could never get used to that.
mjhend
Mike Henderson 1
The man speaks "THE WORD". Nuff said!
LordLayton
That is why those "autopilots" are just glorified bus drivers.
gearup328
Peter Steitz 1
I also was trained to use the autopilot. It was also drilled into me that if shit hit the fan, turn it off and hand fly. Another comment--I actually learned how to fly an approach better with a stiff crosswind or head/tail wind by watching what my autopilot did. It made nice small corrections and didn't chase the loc or glideslope like I've seen many other pilots do. It helps that I graduated from the Air Force Instrument Pilot Instructor School and first flew a Jetstream for 5 years with no autopilot. Those were great training opportunities that many pilots don't get.
rangerklop
tyler gelvick 1
I agree that airline pilots need more experience actually flying the plane but the autopilot is meant to ease pilot workload.
AmIDoinItRite
AmIDoinItRite 1
Your article reminded me of this one regarding the A350: http://www.flightglobal.com/blogs/learmount/2012/09/airbus_takes_pilots_back_to_ba/

...which could be seen as a much-needed step in the right direction for the industry in general.

As a student pilot (PPL/SEL) I don't have much experience to offer to this discussion, but my CFI told me a story about a pilot he knew who was flying a regional jet, climbing to cruising altitude, when both engines flamed out. They began descending, and managed to get one engine restarted and make a safe landing. He was hailed as a hero -- until the flight data was reviewed, and it showed that he simply forgot to advance the throttles as they gained altitude. He lost his job and his career over that simple mistake. (If anyone knows about this incident or could link me to a story on it, that would be great.)

Anyhow, in an industry where you wake up every day already knowing where you're going, what route you're flying, never seeing anything new, it's easy to get complacent. I make a conscious effort to resist that mindset in my current career as a bus driver, and I hope to someday be the kind of airline pilot who doesn't fall into the bad habits of relying on automation, skipping checklists, or anything else that has gotten people killed in the past.
grude
grude 1
I am not a pilot but have been interested in aviation as long as I can remember and I am COMPLETETY SURE I would have recognized Air France 447's stall. It is as basic as it gets. If you have only ever flown a computer flight simulator you should be able to recognize a stall. I think that crash was the ultimate in pilot error and did show that you have to learn to fly before you are a pilot.
JoanieLynn
Joan Murdock 1
Goes back to what my flight instructor always insisted upon, Avigate, Navigate, Then Communicate. Scary part is I returned to the US from Thailand a day before AF447 plummeted into the Atlantic and I made it home safely in a Boeing 777 and 767-300 in severe weather.
bevandter
Terry McKinney 1
My wife and I were schoolies at #1 Fighter Wing Marville in Northern France. Because we were both members of the Officers Mess and the fact that I played on our mess hockey team we made lifetime friends with several young officers, several of them pilots and now retired airline Captains I forgot to mention that the years were 1965 to 67. All of them started their training on th Chipmunck then moved to the Harvard (I think you call it the Texan) then to the T33 Shooting star and then some went to the F86 and some to the twin engine prop or piston. By the time they joined the airlines they had 3000 plus hours with lots of takeoffs and landings and aced the airlines one month training programme. However the srogs who came over in 1966 started on the Tudor jet and missed that single piston engine training. Unfortunately for the arlines the number of airforce pilots joining the ailines has diminished greatly. Your point about the long autopilot flights with little real flying should be heeded.
dtw757
mike SUT 1
The reality is that while we do tend to fly on autopilot a lot because of the need to provide a comfortable smooth ride for the passengers on board, you would be surprised at the amount of hand flying that is actually done by us (airlines) to keep stick and rudder skills alive. The problem arose for AF447 that you had a newly minted FO in the right seat that was holding his stick all the way aft with NO visual clues to the other FO in the left seat or the Captain when he came back in the cockpit. The setup here is that they lost airspeed indications, which sent the aircraft controls into a different set of "laws" (airbus term for feel and actions/protections) which we only get to play with in a simulator. To "practice" them in the aircraft would require turning off systems to make the aircraft go into those. Big No No of course. Couple that with trying to figure out what they did have, noise, darkness, inexperience and you have an accident. Probably would never have progressed that far if it had a yoke because you would have seen the inputs. Asiana is self explanatory....my union had a contract provision NOT to fly on Korean Airlines and any airline under Korean ownership due to the pilot standards observed at the time. There is a cultural difference in the cockpit that also contributes highly to the issue. Training tells them to rely on the "magic" and they don't get to perform hand flying as a result.

The good news...we do get to practice engine out approaches in the sims without the autopilot. Plus the occasional single engine Go around :-)

avaldes
This article is right on the money. Very enlightening.
devsfan
ken young 1
I cannot for the life of me disagree with any of your points.
I am not a pilot. My interest here is that of an aviation enthusiast.
With that said, I am what one would call "old school"...I believe in being prepared for the worst case scenario. With that in mind, no pilot trainee should be anywhere near the flight deck on an active PAX carrying flight, the trainee should be well versed in operating the aircraft in all conditions with an emphasis on hand flying the aircraft under adverse conditions.
clapo2668
Excellent article, sir. It's too bad that few, if any, of the aviation regulatory agencies will probably not read and heed your words. Though it would be a bit difficult, every airline flying to, and within, the US, should be required by the FAA to have the same training requirements and instruction.

Again, Sir, nice job.
merrill1940
I'm a wish-I-could-be-pilot (bad eye sight) and I wholeheartedly agree. It's scary to realize that those kids sitting up front on an airliner may not actually know how to fly the plane. I strongly believe that in all the modern technical fields of endeavor, the fundamentals should be reviewed periodically. My son is a mechanical engineer, and a good one, but does not know how to use a slide rule.
jhalin
james haling 1
The sad, and a bit scary reality, is that most aviation disasters are not the result of failures of structure, systems, or nature. Pilot error is the root cause of most aircraft crashes. In those instances where advanced systems existed, the vast majority of those blamed on pilot error would have been avoided by simply relying on the aircraft's own ability to "decide" actions to take, or to avoid. While AF447 could be cited as an example where the auto-pilot probably would not have saved the aircraft (due to other failures), human intervention certainly doomed it. In today's generation of highly-automated aircraft, we are far safer trusting the cability of technology to process more information than a human has the ability, and in fractions of seconds as opposed to (in many cases) several minutes to direct the airplane away from danger or toward safety. Neither humans nor technology alone are failsafe. The question is when we acknowledge the far safer of the two, and admit to our own natural limitations. Think of the comparison of this century's pilots flying aircraft more capable of flying themselves to the elevator operators in the early 1900's. Riding an un-manned elevator was un-thinkable at first. Elevator safety/technology advanced beyond any benefit to what human intervention or participation could ever offer. But we're on our way, like it or not. UAVs are a start, and the F-22 is the last aircraft of its type that will be required by the USAF to be human-piloted. It's just a matter of time before technology tips the scales so far that the argument to have a human involved is moot.
carlsonj
James Carlson 1
On the topic of misuse of automation, I highly recommend "Children of the Magenta Line:" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h3kREPMzMLk

It's from American Airlines back in 1997, and is still quite relevant and entertaining.
LarryQB
LarryQB 1
Although there were numerous problems here I believe one to be the Capt/PF had extensive Airbus experience. To him it was normal the throttles didn't move unless he moved them. Since his autothrottle wasn't working, either because it wasn't engaged or failed, he didn't notice the cue the throttles weren't moving.
s2v8377
I agree with the article 100%!!! However I think in the case of the AFR447 A332 crash you have to cut the crew and Airbus some slack.

What happened to them is something both Airbus and Boeing flight crews didn't train for before that accident and was a very unusual scenario. This applies for even the older generation of hand-flying pilots.
preacher1
preacher1 2
Agreed that it was out of the ordinary and we'll never know for sure but I can't help but feel that the unconnected yokes had a big hand it that one. Blind led the blind and they both went over the cliff. Add to that totally overwhelmed by all the bells and whistles going off and a total loss of situational awareness. This is evidenced by the Captain coming back into the cockpit and recognizing immediately what was happening but just out of time to do anything about it.
preacher1
preacher1 2
I'll disagree with that, to the point you have already date yourself with the F22. The F35 is there. The technology is wonderful, as long as it is used as a tool to accomplish something, BUT, I have had the entire glass panel on a 757 go out in front of me. Thankfully, I was just a few miles out on a strait in final to the home field on a VFR day. Point is, I still had to land the thing and that is what must be kept in perspective in this whole debate. I don't do figuring in my head or hand write letters anymore when a calculator and/or a keyboard, BUT, I know how to +- and write in cursive.
jhalin
james haling 1
I said the F22 is the "last" one required to be manned. The requirement from the USAF for strike fighters is now that they have the ability to fly un-manned. Like the F35, the "ability" doesn't necessarily mean "necessity".
jhalin
james haling 1
unless the panel going out was the end result of the loss of all the systems that provide the information to, and functionality from it, that's a further example of automation being the safer option in most cases. Had you been in Europe, most likely you could have simply let the aircraft continue, and already had auto-land set up. You would have been a safe passenger along for the ride, only abscent the data normally available to you as a pilot as you flew along. Instead, you were put in a situation where you had to manually take over and use dead reckoning and the feel of the airplane to make a safe landing. Again, I'm not saying technology is the answer in all cases, but I equate it to the argument motor cycle riders try to make about why it's better not to wear a helmet. I hear it all the time that when hit from behind, the weight of it can break your neck, or that in a high-speed collision, the outcome would be the same, regardles of wearing a helmet or not. The argument is nonsensicle. Those situations where a helmet could actually worsen things are so far fewer than those where it would save your life or keep you from/lessen injury, that it's ridiculous not to choose the option that makes you safer almost every time. There are absolutley instances where human reaction has trumped technology. I wish the data pointed to that proving to be the norm instead of the exception.
PhotoFinish
PhotoFinish 1
There's no excuse for the pilots not being able to fly minus automation.

I'm not saying that automation is bad. Nor am I saying that pilots shouldn't use auto automation. But when the tins vines that the automation says "I can't. All yours.", the pilot better be able to command the aircraft without killing everyone aboard.

AF447 is a perfect case that the automation couldn't and gave up. Then the pilots suddenly given the controls couldn't either, and everyone died.

No matter how good the automation, the pilots should ALSO be able to fly the plane.
james801
James Farnsworth Staff Writer 1
The NTSB or AAIB or any of them can say at the end of the day it was the pilot, BUT they will also say in most of the cases the data DOES show it was the automated systems that STARTED it or was the first line in the chain. It is very hard to even think at times when the man in the box is yelling at you telling you one thing and you are seeing others. And that is where the pilot must fall back on flying 101. If your ears pop and the cockpit fills up with fog you don’t need a dam ECAM to tell you what has happened or what to do if so you don’t need to be at FL350. You talk about Auto Landing in over 12K hrs in the 767 & 777 I have done 2 in real life and I have been all over the world. And if you are on an auto land and your PFD/MFD’s all go out how the hell do you know what has quit working? You go to you back up’s and you go around or at best you may have a 50/50 shot at walking out the door. I love not having to do all the math or use my E6B but I still can if I need to.
james801
James Farnsworth Staff Writer 1
preacher1
preacher1 1
Well, it's as he said, if your ears pop and the cockpit fills with fog you don't need an ECAM to tell you what has happened and know what you need to do and I have never seen anything like that announce itself that it is fixing to happen to where you could prep for it. Most cases of that or things like it, they happen RIGHT THEN, on their schedule and you ain't got time to read a checklist or QRH. You had better know what to do with what your sitting in the pointy end of. If you don't, the only way is down and in most cases, you and all on board are going to die.
PhotoFinish
PhotoFinish 1
Point well taken.

Except as far as the slide rule, inability of being able to use a slide rule or not, will not in 1, 2 or 5 minutes result in a catostrophic incident that results in $millions in damages and 100's of lives lost.

Not being able to pilot a plane, when the automation can't handle an aberration, certainly can and does regularly has such results.

Same. Same. But different.
preacher1
preacher1 1
Well, they do a pretty good job driving
clapo2668
I agree with the article as well. However, your statement "This applies for even the older generation of hand-flying pilots" couldn't be further from the truth. First of all, the A/C should not have been on that course, based on the NTSB report because of the known weather. A good pilot would have been able to detect and correct the varying attitude and speed of the A/C prior to destruction. Admittedly, a few of the pilots that I flew with between 1964 and 1999 would have had the same results.

BTW, I can't cut the airline, crew, and Airbus, any slack. To me, the Airbus is a poor design and the training by Air France, was inadequate.
preacher1
preacher1 1
Automation is not designed for aberrations. It is designed for normal flying. It cannot be programmed to handle a visit from Mr. Murphy. Pilots are supposed to be able to.
Musketeer1
Musketeer1 1
I like this article, but it isn't really grounded in reality.

Are you saying you want a pilot hand-flying your airliner into the flight levels? Hand flying Cat II's? (I'm guessing both of those are against SOP's). Should flight time only count when the autopilot is off?

The autopilot is the most talented guy in the cockpit, and as much as I hate to admit it (We all have sensitive ego's); All he needs is a good commander.

As far as takeoffs and landings go, which I think is all that this article is really about, I really like your idea with the Pitts...airlines should pay for their pilots once every 90 days to go do 3 in the pattern and some aerobatic stuff. I think this would solve the problems you are referring to.
PhotoFinish
PhotoFinish 10
The writer never says the autopilot is a bad thing. He's saying the pilots should be ABLE to fly the plane if a problem arises and/or the autopilot is unable to fly the plane.
akayemm
Er.A.K. Mittal 1
May be autopilots were invented to let a tired pilot take a cup of coffee in peace !
Am I asking for troubles from professionals ?
james801
James Farnsworth Staff Writer 1
Just if you act like an ass. We all love ya!!
TRWright
Theodore Wright Staff Writer 8
PhotoFinish is right. Of course, I don't want pilots hand flying into the flight levels. It is, of course, not even legal to hand fly in RVSM airspace. However, when the need arises to fly an approach by visual reference, or pilots are forced to hand fly the plane because of equipment malfunctions, they need to be ready to do it without breaking a sweat. This article is about more than the autopilot specifically. It's purpose was to raise questions about how pilots of technologically advanced aircraft are trained, and while it is absolutely necessary for us to know the systems inside and out, there are gaps in that training. I believe we can fix this.
Musketeer1
Musketeer1 2
I guess my comment came off as an attack...so, sorry about that. I like your writing, especially the "11000'" one!

Now: You fed the troll, as they say. I didn't say anything about RVSM. In addition, training for a twin Cessna job flying boxes 135 and the respective checkride are more similar to an airliner than a type in an Eclipse.

I agree with your points completely, but what I'm trying to say is that it's not going to happen the way we want it to.

If anything, the next steps are to use auto-land and takeoff for 'safety', followed by the removal of flight controls in the cockpit to keep those pesky pilots you speak of at bay (Think monorails at Disney or modern Subways). Pilots of the future will not regain skills lost by the progress of technology; pilots of the future will be sitting in a dark room on the ground managing 4 or 5 flights (20, if the brass upstairs can get away with it).

I just hope I can finish my career before it all comes to an end for us. I'm only asking for 3 or 4 more decades...

Just to reiterate...I agree with the you, and the well-written article. I have my tailwheel and use it, all that jazz. Regularly hand-fly down low in the Falcon. I agree.
TRWright
Theodore Wright Staff Writer 4
Unfortunately, I believe you are 100% correct. I really hope you get your 3 or 4 more decades, but that may be optimistic! BTW, I also hand-fly down low. Sometimes it in nice to cancel IFR passing through 180 above a scattered deck and have some fun working around and through the clouds! Keep those skills sharp. It sounds like you are a 'pilot' to me.
CaptJeff
CaptJeff 1
Theodore,

May I have your permission to read your post on my podcast, Airline Pilot Guy? I have been preaching this for four years now on my show.

Thanks.
Jeff
akayemm
Er.A.K. Mittal 1
The way you have rightly visualised, let me assure you, the role of the 'guy in the dark room' will be more complicated and stressful than that of of an ATC and a PF put together. Why ? How? This guy will be controlling/regulating multiple a'crafts as well 'flying' them. On top of it with no auto pilot to help !
PhotoFinish
PhotoFinish 3
You must've misunderstood the gist of the message.

The idea is that you'd get a pilot in a control room, controlling 5-20 planes simultaneously only because each plane would be autonomously flying under autopilot.

No one person could fly so many planes simultaneously without the help of autopilots.
bdetert
bdetert 1
Just pointing out... per FAR's there is no mention of autopilot engagement, just that the aircraft must be equipped with an operative autopilot. Use it or don't - but its not illegal. I frequently hand fly in RVSM - the difference in feel is noticeable, and when the bells and whistles fail at 370, I don't want to be a test pilot for the very first time up at that altitude. Now ops specs are a different matter - mine allow hand flying in RVSM - but speaking legally about strictly FARs, hand fly all you want (until the other guy tells you he's done spinning the heading bug for you)
TRWright
Theodore Wright Staff Writer 2
Thank you for bringing this up. I am almost certain that my RVSM authorization letter states that the autopilot must be engaged while in RVSM airspace. I do know that the authorization letters vary from type to type and even serial number to serial number within the same type. I will look further into this.
preacher1
preacher1 1
Please do research it. That's a new one on me too. Please post a copy of it or a link to where it can be found.
gearup328
Peter Steitz 1
I believe it is a company regulation. I was always on autopilot in RVSM. You only have to deviate a couple hundred feet and the other guy a couple hundred the other way and you have a near miss. Unless you want to stare at the altimeter on a two hour flight, the autopilot makes sense.
Musketeer1
Musketeer1 1
I'm curious too. Everyone's always told me it has to be in use, and no one has ever been able to tell me where it says that or why.
preacher1
preacher1 1
I've just got to reiterate BDETERT's post in that the FAR says it must be AP equipped but it does not say you have to use it.
james801
James Farnsworth Staff Writer 1
I sent you the one on my bird. CK ya email.
n7224e
BC Hadley 5
The autopilot is "the most talented guy in the cockpit" only as long as everything is working correctly.
douglaswint
Douglas Wint -1
This is a really insightful article and it addresses a concern that I have thought about for years past. I look back to 2009, when the Northwest flight bypassed its destination by an hour because the pilots were on their laptops while HAL did the flying. It underlines just how automated flying jets has become and why a change is needed.

I expected an outcry for change following that incident but it never came. When the details of Air France 447 determined the cause to be pilot error, I thought a concerted effort within the industry would result. Never happened. Now the Asiana crash at SFO seems like it will fall into this category again; pilot's inability to handle their aircraft in an emergency when the machine it came with can no longer do so.

I hope that this latest, tragic accident will be the catalyst for change. I don't want to doubt it. I don't want to see another loss of life due to a pilot's lack of manual flying ability.