Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Automation Dependency Review

A now classic video out of American Airlines, often referred to as "Children of the Magenta Line", this video provides a great refresher on attitudes on Automation Dependency.

Discussed are the levels of automation and what level is appropriate for what situation. That the autopilot is INCAPABLE of doing many things, like recovering from an upset condition, traffic avoidance and more. But most importantly, what we must do to avoid becoming automation junkies and incapable of handling an in-flight emergency requiring manual control - such as the famous Air France 447 tragedy.

The presenter, like myself advocated turning it all off to maintain pilot proficiency. To use my analogy, when you're called on stage to do your surprise solo performance, you want to have been practicing.

The video concludes: "To maintain pilot proficiency: AP and ATHR OFF".
I'll add one more very important step: FLIGHT DIRECTOR OFF.

For the flight director does 75% of the thinking.  Hand flying while following the flight director is well named. For, it's only your hands that are doing the flying, while your brain is may not be fully engaged. Indeed, the FD is doing the thinking! I have seen  that when the FD is turned off, pilots suddenly realize that they don't know what pitch attitude to fly for the desired performance. Their scan has to expand from the 1/2 square inch where the FD bars come together. They have to select and maintain a bank angle  using the roll reference, not just following the bars. Yes, hand flying with the FD off is a different skill that needs to be practiced.

So, set aside the next 25 minutes and prepare for some time well spent.


Karlene Petitt said...

Bill, interestingly enough, I was just having this discussion about automation today. I said to my husband, "I want to click everything off on my next flight,including flight directors, but I need a really good captain to fly with." As you know the person in the other seat is busier than normal when we do hand fly. But the thought occurred to me...
And will be a post coming soon...

What happens if the pilot is hand flying without AT, FD or AP, and an incident occurs? The FAA will say, "It's wouldn't have happened if the automation was on and you were not using everything available for the safe operation of your flight." And yet, they too are encouraging this.

An interesting case will develop the moment that situation arises. By the way... I also told Dick, "I wish Bill would get my flight, and then I would be comfortable clicking the FD off."

Thanks for sharing this!

Anonymous said...

Great book about AF 447.
About the recent Malaysia doomed flight, does the Boing 777 have the Acars maintenance transmitting feature? I don't see anybody commenting about this. Only Airbus has it?