back to article Aircraft now so automated pilots have forgotten how to fly

The US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) is failing to ensure that American pilots can manually fly passenger jets if the automated systems controlling the aircraft fail, a report by the US Department of Transportation Inspector General has found. "While airlines have long used automation safely to improve efficiency and reduce …

Re: ...ABS...

I had an 82 Colt (Mitsu Mirage) hatchback and it seemed to be all front brakes and no rear (front discs, rear drums). I even replaced the rear brake shoes thinking I might have glazed them. Made no difference. I later learned that discs and drums have different rates of application applied to braking force achieved. I've suspected that ABS might be able to correct for this but don't know -- hadn't thought of the drums not being able to react quickly enough for ABS. The ultimate problem with that Colt was no weight on the rears, but I haven't had a car with rear drums since and would avoid them.

I'm on my third version of the same car model, two with ABS and one without. I'll take the ABS.

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Re: The human pilots just do the easy bits...

The IT industry is on an interesting cusp as people who joined the industry in the still-pioneering 1960/70s are now retiring. With them goes a lot of wide and deep knowledge about what the evolved technology does - and why.

At first I thought "what a crock". But then I looked around me and found that not many IT people around me (and even at uni) are/were interested in system design, engineering basics, information processing basics, history of computing and the classics from the 80s or even the mathematics that you actually need to think about the systems in front of you. The assumption seems to be that somebody else does the hard job and good stuff appears from an information-generating magical font. We'll just overpromise and rake in money while outsourcing coding to offshore fly-by-night outfits. A recipe for disaster.

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Re: ...how many landings are fully automatic...

Of course the people who really shoudn't be allowed anywhere near a manual car are the under 21s. However I wonder to what extent, if under 21s (far more dangerous than the elderly) were banned from driving the problem would go up the scale a bit.

Sudden vision though, of a charge of "driving whilst under the influence of raging hormones"...

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Re: The human pilots just do the easy bits...

"Gas turbines don't tend to have breaker ignitions..."

Gas turbines are even simpler than piston engines. They barely need any systems at all - just a starter system, igniter and fuel flow control.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The human pilots just do the easy bits...

"[gas turbines] barely need any systems at all - just a starter system, igniter and fuel flow control."

That's not far wrong, if you go back to Whittle's days.

We're not in Whittle's days any more, as the nice people in Derby would be only too pleased to explain.

Modern RR big jets have lots of precision engineering, and tight tolerances on that precision engineering allow the engines to work efficiently and (ideally) safely. Probably the same with the competition's big jets too (GE etc).

Even in the 1980s, digital "performance trimming" systems were being used on production RB211 s to optimise fuel flow rates in conjunction with a clockwork (ok, hydromechanical) primary fuel flow controller (whose failure modes and effects were widely known and largely predictable).

Nowadays the fuel flow control is driven by computer(s): a full authority digital engine control system. The fuel flow control output (which is really the only significant control output, there's lots of others but mostly they're "just" sequencers and interlocks, etc) is derived from input air temperature and pressure, engine speed, and throttle lever angle, and maybe a few other odds and ends.

They could go back to clockwork, but there would be a *massive* reduction in efficiency. The reduction is bigger than you might initially expect because clockwork is less accurate than electronics, which means an electronically controlled one can be driven much closer to the engine's ultimate mechanical (shaft RPM) and thermal (blade temperature etc) limits, whereas a clockwork one requires much more generous safety margins.

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Re: ...how many landings are fully automatic...

"take control of an automated car in an emergency at 70mph after maybe having not driven for 10 years IS a recipe for disater."

Many years I ago I was quite ill and did';t leave the house for nearly two weeks. It was quite an odd feeling getting back into the car which I would normally have driven at least 60 miles per day every day. I was VERY aware of what was going and felt a bit uncomfortable. I can't imagine what it would be like after a year or more suddenly having to take over in an emergency!

Having said, we are already seeing it happening now. Cruise control, lane "nudging", automatic headlights (often dazzling in dull conditions or dusk when sidelight are all you need), automatic windscreen wipers etc. leading people, at times, to not take enough care or pay enough attention because the machine normally carries out those functions for them. Especially if they switch to a car without those features.

I'm seeing a lot more cars (still only a few in reality, bit more than previous years) driving with "no" lights on because the dash is always lit up and the "daylight running lights" are almost like headlights from the drivers perspective (especially some of the LED ones) so they can easily forget to switch on if they don't have automatic ones.

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Re: The human pilots just do the easy bits...

"They could go back to clockwork, but there would be a *massive* reduction in efficiency."

ITYF thats what I said in my original post. The point was you don't need the electronics, they're useful but not absolutely essential.

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Re: ...how many landings are fully automatic... (@ John Brown)

In general, I agree with what you are saying - about four years ago I was unable to drive for about three months. Getting back behind the wheel took a lot of readjustment.

However, I have to take issue with one point : "... when sidelight are all you need ..." No, no, no, no, no!! Highway Code, Rule 226: "You MUST use headlights when visibility is seriously reduced, generally when you cannot see for more than 100 metres (328 feet)." The only exception, (which should have been got rid of years ago), is at night on a lit street: Rule 113: You MUST ... use headlights at night, except on a road which has lit street lighting. These roads are generally restricted to a speed limit of 30 mph (48 km/h) unless otherwise specified." Only then is driving on sidelights allowed.

I drive with my headlights on all the time, even when I rent a car with daylight running lights - I want the back of the car lit up as well as the front.

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Vic

Re: The human pilots just do the easy bits...

Gas turbines are even simpler than piston engines. They barely need any systems at all - just a starter system, igniter and fuel flow control.

Errr - you might want to take a look at a functioning jet engine.

Although they're theoretically very simple, getting one to work involves a fair bit of complexity.

Vic.

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Re: ...how many landings are fully automatic... (@ John Brown)

"However, I have to take issue with one point : "... when sidelight are all you need ..." No, no, no, no, no!! Highway Code, Rule 226: "You MUST use headlights when visibility is seriously reduced, generally when you cannot see for more than 100 metres (328 feet)."

I agree, but dawn/dusk, or just a dirty, dark cloudy winters days doesn't reduce visibility to less than a 100 metres but it does seem to trigger the auto headlight on sensor in the cars fitted with them. With normal human eyes adjusted to the lower light conditions, bright LED headlights and the newer high intensity lights can be dazzling in the rear view mirror. "Dazzling" is specifically mentioned in the Highway code as something you should avoid doing to other drivers, but auto on HID lights pretty much do that all the time.

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Re: The human pilots just do the easy bits...

"Errr - you might want to take a look at a functioning jet engine."

"Although they're theoretically very simple, getting one to work involves a fair bit of complexity."

The complexity is in the construction, not the operation.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The human pilots just do the easy bits...

"The complexity is in the construction, not the operation."

There certainly is complexity in the construction; e.g. single crystal turbine blades operating in exhaust gases hot enough to melt the blades, which therefore need internal cooling to keep things working (this is one reason not to fly through volcano ash clouds, whatever Ryanair might tell you).

I don't know if you are familiar with what goes into the operation of a modern engine controller (FADEC). I used to know some people that understood some of that stuff.

The stuff that goes into a modern FADEC is not just about normal operation, it's also about problem prevention (e.g. preventing an engine surge) and trouble recovery (e.g. excess water ingestion).

And then there are a zillion and one interlocks (a readily understandable one might be the one that prevents reverse thrust being operated during flight). And there are (often) ancillary functions such as bleed air and anti-icing that affect engine behaviour.

Then there's all the in-flight diagnostics and fault codes for when things don't behave as expected, and the self test functions so that aircraft don't dispatch when stuff is broken, and that ensure smooth changeover from master system to slave system in the event of a control system (or sensor, or actuator) fault.

How much of that was there in Whittle's day? Very little. But without it, a modern engine wouldn't exist.

It's complicated.

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Vic

Re: The human pilots just do the easy bits...

The complexity is in the construction, not the operation.

Not for a liquid-fuelled jet, it isn't. Fuel flow is a critical operation - too fast and you overheat the turbine, too slow and you flame out.

Take a look at the Hunter turbine failures for what happens if you over-fuel. They were notorious for it.

Temperature is critical for the safe operation of a gas turbine engine - if it gets too hot, it can fail in seconds. That's why early transport aircraft carried a Flight Engineer, whose main job was to keep the engines at optimum temperature. Modern FADEC systems have largely replaced that job, but temperature monitoring is still a major part of the flight crew's job.

Vic.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The human pilots just do the easy bits...

"Temperature is critical for the safe operation of a gas turbine engine - if it gets too hot, it can fail in seconds"

Same goes for shaft RPM, except the timescales to failure are potentially even shorter so there's little point crew monitoring it, only an engine-mounted system can realistically do that (e.g. in the unlikely but not impossible case of a shaft break between turbine and compressor, the turbine overspeeds very very rapidly). See e,g.

https://www.atsb.gov.au/publications/investigation_reports/2010/aair/ao-2010-089/si-02.aspx

"The airworthiness directive required all Trent 900 engines to be modified within 10 flight cycles."

In days gone by, for reasons of resilience and compute power the overspeed protection was sometimes in a different box from the engine control FADEC (e.g. some Trent engines). Nowadays there's a good chance it's part of the FADEC box.

Either way, if an overspeed ultimately leads to an uncontained failure (QF32 was an uncontained failure) the consequences may well be quite drastic.

Not sure where this "it's not very complex" is coming from.

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Re: ...how many landings are fully automatic...

"in the case of elderly people or people with physical (and even mental) disabilities who would gain independence without endangering themselves or other road users."

Umm, no.

That's what:

- buses/trains/public transport;

- taxi's;

- uber and other ride-share's;

- friends/relatives;

are for.

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Re: The human pilots just do the easy bits...

"Not for a liquid-fuelled jet, it isn't. Fuel flow is a critical operation - too fast and you overheat the turbine, too slow and you flame out."

You can say exactly the same for a piston engine - flood the cylinders and it stalls, too little fuel and it stalls. That doesn't mean it needs a computer to control all that.

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Re: The human pilots just do the easy bits...

"Not sure where this "it's not very complex" is coming from."

Odd how they managed to build working jets in the 40s isn't it. They might have been unreliable but the point was they worked without a single computer in sight. Just like old piston engines. Which was my original point.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The human pilots just do the easy bits...

"Odd how they managed to build working jets in the 40s isn't it."

Not odd at all, hence my repeated references to the Whittle era. Another one in a moment...

However, modern jet engines in general do not work without computers in control. And modern aircraft do not work with Whittle-era engines.

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Re: The human pilots just do the easy bits...

"However, modern jet engines in general do not work without computers in control. "

That doesn't mean they couldn't.

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Vic

Re: The human pilots just do the easy bits...

You can say exactly the same for a piston engine

You can say what you like. Doesn't make it true...

flood the cylinders and it stalls, too little fuel and it stalls

But if you run the fuel within the nominal fule settings, that will not happen at any stage of the flight. You can go to min[1] or max at any time - as long as you don't over-rev to the point where it simply falls apart, the engine will keep turning.

The same cannot be said for a jet engine; fuel control is critical.

That doesn't mean it needs a computer to control all that.

It needs some form of computation. Whether that computer be a human flight engineer, a mechanical computer, or an electronic one matters not. You still need one.

Vic.

[1] I'm ignoring ICO for reasons I hope are rather obvious...

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Vic

Re: The human pilots just do the easy bits...

They might have been unreliable but the point was they worked without a single computer in sight.

They didn't. It just wasn't a *digital* computer.

Vic.

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Vic

Re: The human pilots just do the easy bits...

That doesn't mean they couldn't.

How many hours do you have on jet aircraft?

Vic.

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Re: The human pilots just do the easy bits...

"How many hours do you have on jet aircraft?"

What a stupid bloody question. Do you think Lewis Hamilton knows much about the engine sitting behind him? Being a flyboy doesn't make you an engineer.

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Vic

Re: The human pilots just do the easy bits...

Do you think Lewis Hamilton knows much about the engine sitting behind him?

Yes, I do. He might not know as much as the developers, but he knows more about that engine than you or I do.

Being a flyboy doesn't make you an engineer

Yes it does. Knowing how the engine works and how to diagnose and fix problems are part of the mandatory training for that engine type - that's why the rating specifies which engines can be flown.

You'd know this if you'd ever done the training; that you think it's a "stupid bloody question"[1] implies that you haven't.

Vic.

[1] Alongside your other incorrect assumptions about how the technology works.

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Re: ...how many landings are fully automatic...

Hit the nail on the head there, and it applies to aircraft as well.

I think that pilots are fully capable of flying an aircraft unaided. The problem is that when there is a genuine problem which causes the autopilot to "give up", there is usually some missing information and the pilot is faced with guessing his (or her) way out of it. And usually with not much time.

Its easy to criticize when things go tragically wrong, but give them a bit of credit.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/7832439.stm

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Unhappy

Not surprised

When I was a young lad, and looking around at what career to follow, I was quite interested in being a pilot. Even back then, it was obvious to me that flying was less about actual flying and more about watching a computer.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not surprised

This is the "Children of the Magenta" problem.

This is more or less where we're heading with respect to IT security and privacy where "the computer" has to do it all and the users absolves him/herself from any responsibility for their actions such as providing admin rights to install the latest malware laden toolbar, game or gadget.

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Pilots will soon only be needed for taxiing

Don't laugh, that's the most difficult bit for a computer since pilots have to read signs about which runway is which, planes are sometimes where they aren't supposed to be, etc. I suppose some good GPS maps of the runways and computer vision could lick that though.

By comparison the air is much easier since ground instructions are all based on heading and altitude and it would be simple to just have that input directly from the ground into the autopilot. Yeah yeah there's still a potential problem if another plane is where it shouldn't be in the air due to pilot error or ATC error, but you don't need zero crashes, just fewer than manually flown planes.

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Re: Pilots will soon only be needed for taxiing

The technology for automated taxiing to the runway and back exists.

Likewise TCAS/ACAS (traffic collision avoidance system) has been around for over 30 years now and that prevents mid air collisions even if only one aircraft is fitted with it SO LONG AS THE PILOT DOES NOT OVER-RIDE/IGNORE IT (as has happened - The Überlingen mid-air collision, between a Boeing 757 and a Tupolev Tu-154 in 2002 as an example).

Do not forget that airliners in cruise have a closing speed of over 30km/20miles per minute so no human can see the approaching aircraft until seconds from impact. Without TCAS the accident rate would be much higher.

The USA mandated TCAS in 1993, many other countries in 2000 and some as late as 2014. Some countries call it ACAS because they like to be different, like Australia who will not even use the same definitions of Aerodrome/Airport or Aeroplane/Airplane (and other items) as the rest of the world!!

That said the excellent 20yr old FAA report on "The Interfaces Between Flightcrews and Modern Flight Deck Systems" raised many issues on automation and a review of the automation accidents up to that time showed that at that time Airbus had far too many accidents related to technology.

I am sure there are more modern reports from FAA on the same subject but I have not needed to see them (the joys of retirement).

Despite all this aircraft accidents kill less than 1000 people per year - compare that with your countries vehicle or medical error and smoking deaths

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Re: Pilots will soon only be needed for taxiing

totally agree and the airbus technology vs. boeing less-technology debate is still raging on these days. Recent automation and training disaster is the AF447 over the Atlantic in 2009.

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Re: Pilots will soon only be needed for taxiing

"training disaster" doesn't even come close to that one.

Both pilots in the cockpit were attempting to fly the same plane at the same time. Never touching the controls unless you've ensured that the other bloke has taken his paws off the thing is something drilled into you in your hour's "experience" flight before you even start training.

"I've got her"

"You've got her"

Or vice-versa, depending on the situation. Even the most basic aircraft isn't going to stay in the air long when both seats are pulling the controls in different directions at the same time.

Airbus will be fitting an idiot alarm to the system to point out when it's getting inputs from both sides.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Pilots will soon only be needed for taxiing

Both pilots in the cockpit were attempting to fly the same plane at the same time. Never touching the controls unless you've ensured that the other bloke has taken his paws off the thing is something drilled into you in your hour's "experience" flight before you even start training.

"I've got her"

"You've got her"

I'd look at what sort of personal relationships these people had - it's not really a new idea to start with :).

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Re: Pilots will soon only be needed for taxiing

Re. AF447 over the Atlantic in 2009

The aircraft was stalled and remained stalled for over three minutes, with the pilot still applying nose up inputs. They totally failed to recognise the stall, as it said in the official report. Angles of attack of up to 40 degrees were recorded in its flight recorder (wings stall at 16-17 degrees AoA). If they had recognised the stall and pitched nose down to recover, it would not have been the disaster it was. Even just looking at the vertical speed indicator would have told them they were stalled.

One airline's safety office (an airline pilot, not a desk operator) has seriously suggested at a safety conference that airline pilots should be given glider flights regularly, as stalling training is very routine and easy to demonstrate in gliders. You can stall the glider 10 or 12 times or more from 3000' with no problems. The total lack of any automated controls means it's manual flying all the time. All stall warning symptoms can repeatedly be demonstrated and the correct recovery demonstrated repeatedly, until it becomes automatic without having to think about it. And for fun you can spin the glider as well ;)

I've flown with a 10,000 hr military pilot who struggled flying the glider, and a Concorde pilot-to-be (the grounding prevented him flying it when his training was finished) as well, who had a lot less problems but didn't go solo. Concorde would have had less automation...

I've had power pilots almost panic when told to do a stall at 1000' in a glider, they are so unfamiliar with stalling.

I know many airline pilots who fly gliders to keep their manual skills at a high level. Depending totally on the computer is not a good idea, and over time the basic handing skills can decrease, as in the unfortunate French incident.

PS It's "I have control" and the acknowledgement is "You have control", not "got her".

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Re: Pilots will soon only be needed for taxiing

Indeed - I remember one time being in the cockpit for a landing at Zurich.

The tower announced the gate number - the crew looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders.

The co-pilot reached into the pocket next to him and out came a printed map of the airport, which he turned until it looked right and then said - take the 2nd left ....

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Re: Pilots will soon only be needed for taxiing

They manage to cock up take-off calculations even with fancy electronic briefcases:

https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/easyjet-urges-cross-check-rigour-after-take-off-data-420811/

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Vic

Re: Pilots will soon only be needed for taxiing

airliners in cruise have a closing speed of over 30km/20miles per minute

I think you might want to revise that figure. It's a bit on the high side...

Vic.

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Vic

Re: Pilots will soon only be needed for taxiing

Recent automation and training disaster is the AF447 over the Atlantic in 2009.

AF447 wasn't an automation issue; it was simply pilot error. PNF was holding the stick back, causing a stall. The whole point about PNF is that you're Not Flying...

Vic.

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Vic

Re: Pilots will soon only be needed for taxiing

"I've got her"

"You've got her"

Not quite the wording generally used, but near enough.

In the AF447 stuation, the PF specifically asked if he had control - and PNF confirmed he did. But still had his stick fully back...

Vic.

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Vic

Re: Pilots will soon only be needed for taxiing

You can stall the glider 10 or 12 times or more from 3000' with no problems

You can spin a K-13 form 1200ft. Power pilots training today are unlikely to experience more than one spin in their lives[1]...

Vic.

[1] And that one is usually fatal. That said, the incidence of spins has reduced dramatically since spin training was withdrawn form the syllabus.

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Re: Pilots will soon only be needed for taxiing

I seem to remember that one of the recommendations of the Air France crash report was that pilots should do a bit of high altitude flying every so often, and take the autopilot off. As at high altitudes you have quite a small amount of leeway, as the stall speed is so high. Didn't the U2 have something silly like only 10-15 knots difference between crusing speed and stall speed at 70,000'?

I did hear a nice comment from one a pilot and controls expert on one documentary about it. He said described how the computer got the point where it could no longer make sense of all its inputs, so simply gave up and dumped the whole mess on the poor pilots, who had even less information to go on than it did. On the other hand, there was some strange breakdown of discipline and control going on in that cockpit. Two people can't fly the same aeroplane at the same time.

Although at least 3 people were flying the Sioux City plane, and they did pretty well. One poor guy sitting on the floor, steering with the throttles, while the pilot and copilot struggled with what controls were left working, and no hydraulic fluid. It's amazing they all survived - especially the one on the floor without even a seat, let alone a seatbelt.

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Re: Pilots will soon only be needed for taxiing (Not likely)

Tell that to the heirs of the 49 people killed in Colgan Air Flight 3407 to Buffalo NY USA (Continental) when the plane came out of automatic control on approach and the young inexperienced pilots couldn't cope with the icing on the wings, the plane stalled and nosedived into the ground. It crashed almost in one of my coworkers back yard in the middle of the night.

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Vic

Re: Pilots will soon only be needed for taxiing

He said described how the computer got the point where it could no longer make sense of all its inputs, so simply gave up and dumped the whole mess on the poor pilots

That's not the case for AF447, if tyhat's what you were talking about.

The pitots had frozen, meaning that the autopilot had no reliable way to measure airspeed. Under these conditions, it mode-switches from "primary" rules to "alternate" rules. The biggest difference between these is in attitude control - under primary rules, the aircraft pitch is automatically constrained such that airspeed cannot be reduced to the stall point. With no pitot readings, that's not really possible, so the controller switches to altenate rules - informs the pilots of this - and then does the best it can.

who had even less information to go on than it did

They knew they had a pitot problem. Standard practice in such a situation is to fly straight-and-level for 60 seconds. They failed to do that.

But significantly worse, they simply failed to monitor their instruments. The stall warning sounds for the entire descent - that's a loud voice saying "stall, stall". I do not understand how they could have possibly ignored it, yet they did.

Vic.

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Vic

Re: Pilots will soon only be needed for taxiing (Not likely)

the young inexperienced pilots couldn't cope with the icing on the wings

There should always be at least one experienced pilot on hand.

The requirements for ATPL have been reduced - but you still need 1500 hours flight time to get there. These days, even First Officers often have ATPL, even though they generally only need MPL (200 hours).

I'm not familiar with the incident you describe, but the pilots should have been able to cope with the conditions they put themselves into...

Vic.

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Anonymous Coward

"Swiss cheese" theory - lots of holes have to line up

With greatest respect Vic, you're bang on on a lot of stuff here (as are many others) but you've omitted a couple of important things.

1) On an aircraft, by design it's supposed to take multiple failures to turn a fault into an incident. This applies whether it's a people failure or an equipment failure or a bit of each.

It's sometimes called the "Swiss cheese" theory - so long as the various bits don't all line up the wrong way at the wrong time, things can go wrong but individual failures won't cause a crisis.

In the case of the AF447 incident, lots of things lined up inconveniently. And fatally.

2) The pilots *didn't* initially know they had a pitot problem. As you know, the pitot tube (airspeed sensor) is an essential part of flying an airliner, which is why airliners have three of them of two dissimilar designs.

As with other triple voting dissimilar systems, the theory is that in the case of a single random failure, two of the three will still work, and the control system will know to trust the two that agree.

On AF447, two pitot tubes failed *identically, at the same time* due to a weather-related design fault (which again was provoked by a combination of factors- aircraft design and pitot design).

This is a "must never happen" condition - two simultaneous identical failures - but it did happen, and to make things worse, it was actually already known that the combination of aircraft design and pitot design in this picture had "issues" but the proper fix (change to a different design of pitot) hadn't yet been put in place on this aircraft.

Additionally, the fault wouldn't have become visible (the pitots wouldn't have frozen) if the crew hadn't decided to fly *through* rather than *round* a storm.

Two out of three pitots feeding identical duff info to the control system, and nothing (and no one) spots it - no need to check, because it's a "must not happen" failure mode. Right...

So that's several pitot-related opportunities for things to have gone differently.

There are other opportunities which are not pitot-related which could have seen a different outcome; one of the more notable ones would have been for the senior captain (who was resting) to be dragged in to the cockpit rather earlier. Or to have flown round (rather than through) the storm.

Stuff like this rarely has one single cause. It's all described in great detail in the accident investigation reports, and the AF447 Wikipedia article isn't bad either.

Hope this helps, and that you don't mind the clarification. Apologies for any minor errors on my part - I'm doing this from memory.

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Vic

Re: "Swiss cheese" theory - lots of holes have to line up

The pilots *didn't* initially know they had a pitot problem.

Listen to the CVR. THey were discussing an airspeed problem. Now they might not have realised that this was down to a frozen pitot, but they knew there was an airspeed problem. The procedure for that situation is to set cruise power and fly straight-and-level for 60 seconds. That would have fixed the issue - but they didn't follow procedure.

Hope this helps, and that you don't mind the clarification.

I never mind any clarification, although in this case, I don't believe this is such; despite the additional lead-up events that you have outlined, the reason AF447 went down is that PNF couldn't keep his hands off the controls. If he'd had his hands in his lap, the aircraft would not have crashed.

Vic.

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"One way of looking at this might be that for 42 years, I've been making small, regular deposits in this bank of experience, education and training. And on January 15 the balance was sufficient so that I could make a very large withdrawal."

- Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, retired airline captain and aviation safety consultant.

He was hailed as a national hero in the United States when he successfully executed an emergency water landing of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River after birdstrike to both engines.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/US_Airways_Flight_1549

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Anonymous Coward

Sully

See also : "Brace for impact", a forty minute 2010 documentary from TLC

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mmPZyWl4wjY

(not seen it myself yet).

And various others on similar lines, some of which I have seen.

Respect is due. Much respect

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Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger

He certainly deserved the applause (only ever successful landing of a passanger aircraft on water, other than flying boats?)

But one pilot of genius doesn't mean that all pilots are that good. I am sure there are many who would have messed it up regardless of the level of automation they were used to using. On the other hand, how many accidents have been avoided because the human pilot wasn't in charge?

(I'm reminded of a certain Mexican airline which was famous for the numbers of uncontrolled descents - or level flying in the case of mountains - into terrain subsequent on the pilot and co-pilot fighting over a woman while supposedly flying the plane - something I was kindly not told about until after I came back from a trip to Monterrey.)

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Re: Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger

@Voyna i Mor

You raise some good questions.

Indeed, Sully averted disaster in a rare incident. And yeah, he was an unusually experienced and skilled pilot who prior to the incident spent lots of time in simulators practising emergency scenarios.

But that has to balanced against the incidents that have been caused by human error (either of an individual pilot, a communication issue, or an issue with procedure or training)

I'm sure there are people with more knowledge, better statistical skills, and data who have spent time seriously studying this question.

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