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 …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pilots?

    Many years ago a friend of mine who was a pilot for KLM flying 747s joked that soon there would only be a pilot and a dog in the cockpit. The pilot was there to keep the dog company, and the dog was there to bite the pilot if he touched anything.

    1. Dr Scrum Master

      Re: Pilots?

      Sounds like it's time to remove some gold braid from so-called pilots' uniforms.

      I expect more from someone with 4 stripes on their cuffs or epaulets.

      1. Danny 14 Silver badge

        Re: Pilots?

        perhaps he picked the wrong week to give up sniffing glue?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Pilots?

      I heard (probably from the same pilot) that the pilot was there to feed the dog. So he did have some purpose. The dog's function remained the same.

    3. Charlie Clark Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Pilots?

      Works for me. I'm happy to fly in a plane completely controlled by the computer. Or even the dog!

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: Pilots?

        In the cockpit, nobody knows that you are just a dog.

        Nobody.

    4. Hans 1 Silver badge

      Re: Pilots?

      > Was that van Zanten, may I ask ?

      1. TaabuTheCat

        Re: Pilots?

        Was that van Zanten, may I ask ?

        Nope. Klaas ...

    5. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Pilots?

      This same issue will occur on a massive scale when self driving cars become common. When situations arise where the legally required driver has to take over, they won't have the skills nor the awareness to do so.

      1. Preston Munchensonton
        Facepalm

        Re: Pilots?

        When situations arise where the legally required driver has to take over, they won't have the skills nor the awareness to do so.

        How would anyone tell the difference? We're already at this point.

      2. monkeyfish

        Re: Pilots?

        So what if people can't drive self driving cars? It'll just pull over and wait for someone who can. Whereas planes have a tendency to fall out of the sky at that point.

      3. DanceMan

        Re: drivers?

        Two weeks ago, on the Barnet Highway, a four lane divided road near Vancouver, I saw a Nissan 360 that was probably attempting to cross the road at a traffic light ahead of oncoming traffic do two slow spins before sliding off the road into a ditch about five or six feet below the road. Likely could not catch a slide in a rwd car. Excess of money over skill.

        Don't know if that car has an electronic stability control system.

        1. Robert Heffernan

          Re: drivers?

          @DanceMan It was probably off so the tool could do some circle work

      4. Rasslin ' in the mud

        Re: Pilots?

        My experience is too many people sitting at the wheel of a moving automobile already lack the skills and awareness to be in control of the vehicle. What makes you believe self-driving cars won't be an improvement?

    6. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

      Re: Pilots?

      "The Dog and Pilot" would be a fine pub name.

    7. Sil

      Re: Pilots?

      More than 30 years ago, a school friend whose father was a pilot in a big international airline, told me that the mandatory exams that pilots had to undertake every few years, were a complete joke and that cheating was the norm.

      His father gave him the Playboys and other fancy magazines he had access to (can't remember if in planes or elsewhere), which he discretely sold at school, so he always had hadsome amounts of pocket money.

  2. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    The human pilots just do the easy bits...

    Yeah, taking off and landing. Leave the tricky cruise phase to the computers.

    But yes, there's an element of truth in the concern.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

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

      "Yeah, taking off and landing."

      It would be interesting to know how many landings are fully automatic.The technology has existed for some time for situations like fog. Has taking off ever been fully automated - rather than just having technological "assists"?

      As the pyramid of technology advances - people in all walks of life become less able to do even the "simple" jobs that the technology has taken over. 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.

      1. bazza Silver badge

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

        I think you'll find that most of the pioneers from the 1960s and 70s are already retired. A lot of them are dead and buried.

        Things are very thin in IT. How many people can design silicon chips? Hardly anyone. Even Intel struggle. A lot of their designs are Israeli, because that's where the guys who can do it live.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          bazza?

          What about ARM?

      2. Kobus Botes
        Boffin

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

        Years ago (more than ten, at least) I was on a flight to Cape Town, landing in driving rain with a gusting cross-wind, in deep dusk. Having experienced a couple, let's say, "interesting" landings, I paid particular attention to how the pilot was handling the plane. There were some very nervous passengers around me and flight attendants were going up and down the aisles reassuring people that they need not worry.

        In the event the landing was one of the smoothest I have experienced, as if there was no wind at all.

        I ws mightily impressed by his skill and passengers broke out in spontaneous applause and cheering all around me. When the noise abated, the pilot announced "Thank you for the applause, ladies and gentlemen, I appreciate it, but the credit must go to the plane, as it landed itself".

        The over-reliance on machines and loss of skills is a worrying factor to me. One can have a long discussion about self-drive cars, for instance (and whilst I very much prefer my car to be under my control (I do not like even ABS and traction control), I do appreciate the benefits that they bring), but I still feel that people want to compensate with automation for something that is largely a lack of proper training.

        (Drifting ever so slightly off-topic here). As far as self-drive cars are concerned, whilst my initial reaction was that it represent a huge mistake, upon reflection I came to the conclusion that there is at least one good case to be made for them, 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. And then there are people who should never be allowed near the controls of a car and who definitely need a vicious dog with them, as they have absolutely no clue about what they are or should be doing, who obliviously waft themselves along public roads daily. Self-drive cars should be compulsory for them.

        Mixing wet-ware and silicon-driven cars on the same roads, however, is a recipe for disaster as far as I am concerned. Ideally there should be seperate roadways for each mode of transport, but that is unfortunately completely out of the question.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

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

          "And then there are people who should never be allowed near the controls of a car and who definitely need a vicious dog with them, as they have absolutely no clue about what they are or should be doing, who obliviously waft themselves along public roads daily"

          Yes, it's always some other guy.

          In my experience, pretty much everybody should never be allowed near the controls of a car. Definitly including myself.

          1. boltar Silver badge

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

            "In my experience, pretty much everybody should never be allowed near the controls of a car. Definitly including myself."

            Given how many miles are driven every day the number of accidents are actually remarkably small. We humans are actually pretty good at driving, but take away that practice and then suddenly expect someone to take control of an automated car in an emergency at 70mph after maybe having not driven for 10 years IS a recipe for disater.

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              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.

              1. Intractable Potsherd

                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.

                1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                  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.

            2. Anonymous Cow Herder

              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

        2. The Vociferous Time Waster

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

          Aren't the separate roads called railways?

          1. Kobus Botes

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

            @ Vociferous Time Waster

            Depends on where in the world you are. Here where I live lack of vision and political will has over many years (and different governments) led to a serious deterioration in railways. Building a viable, efficient and cost-effective (not necessarily profitable, but the subsidies would be orders of magnitude less than the cost to the economy as a whole of having to transport most goods and people by road) will now be an extremely expensive and hence unpopular option. It would also take much longer than any politician would care to plan for.

        3. breakfast

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

          "Mixing wet-ware and silicon-driven cars on the same roads, however, is a recipe for disaster as far as I am concerned. Ideally there should be seperate roadways for each mode of transport, but that is unfortunately completely out of the question."

          Your suggestion answers itself in the previous few paragraphs. People are bad enough on the ground, but automated systems can manage flight quite adequately.

          Self-driving flying cars it is. Problem solved.

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

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

          I do not like even ABS and traction control

          Never had traction control, but I am convinced ABS contributed to an accident I once had.

          Driving down a local lane, I failed to stop before hitting the car in front. Under normal circumstances I would have stopped with plenty of clearance (wasn't driving that fast and quite far back), but in this case as I applied the brakes the car drove onto a patch of gravel / mud and instead of locking up and ploughing through the stuff to hit tarmac underneath, the ABS basically refused to let me brake at all. I've had better traction on ice. Fortunately, the car I hit was the wife's and damage was minimal (I said it was slow) so the insurance company wasn't involved.

          I'm also half-convinced that the ABS in "low end" cars isn't all we are lead to believe. The early ABS systems insisted on disc brakes on all four wheels because (apparently) drums couldn't operate quickly enough, yet now this isn't a problem. My suspicion is that what is actually happening is that ABS simply doesn't apply to the rear wheels of such cars. I'm also half-convinced that the brake modulation on these low-end cars is "all or nothing" rather than per-wheel. In the accident I mentioned, two wheels (one front, one rear) were still on tarmac and yet they appeared to add nothing to the braking effort.

          I've never been able to find out for sure though. Does anyone here know?

          1. wiggers

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

            If there is a considerable loss of resistance on one side of the car (both wheels on gravel) then I can imaging the total braking effort would be reduced. To maintain full effort on the tarmac side could result in a spin.

          2. Dabooka Silver badge

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

            You're probably correct.

            In most instances, manuals for cars suggest turning such driving aids off in trying to move in snow, mud etc.

          3. DanceMan

            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.

        5. JimC Silver badge

          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"...

        6. eldakka Silver badge

          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.

      3. Drs. Security

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

        So far as I know there is no fully automated take-off.

        As for fully automated landings there are however very strict rules before a airport, plane and crew are allowed to facilitate or execute a fully automated landing in fog or general bad visibility conditions. Under normal visibility landing is not automated, if one of the minimal two autopilots fails landing can not be fully automated etc.

        As for the comment by Airbus, interesting bit is that even if the pilot takes manual control it's still a computer (partially) flying the plane because of the fly-by-wire system, Boeing planes at least have a "very heavy" according to a airline captain (friend of mine) back-up cable system which fully works on manual aka crew power to move the control services.

        1. Gavin King
          Coat

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

          "which fully works on manual aka crew power to move the control services."

          The stewardesses on stationary bicycles? Or rowing machines?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

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

          "even if the pilot takes manual control it's still a computer (partially) flying the plane because of the fly-by-wire system,"

          The engines on most modern passenger jets are computer controlled with no mechanical alternative.

          1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

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

            "The engines on most modern passenger jets are computer controlled with no mechanical alternative."

            I hope all of them. A modern aircraft engine (and a modern car engine for that matter) is too complex to be controlled by mechanical systems.

            I certainly would not want to be riding the Velocette I had as a kid on modern roads, with its manual A/R to worry about as well as the gears and the throttle. In those days there was time to play with the lever safely in traffic. Not so nowadays.

            1. boltar Silver badge

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

              "I hope all of them. A modern aircraft engine (and a modern car engine for that matter) is too complex to be controlled by mechanical systems."

              Err, the electronics ARE the complexity, they're not a side effect of it! Fuel injection and ignition timing could still be done by mechanical systems if you're prepared for worse emissions and fuel economy.

              1. Vic

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

                Fuel injection and ignition timing could still be done by mechanical systems

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

                Vic.

                1. boltar Silver badge

                  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.

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    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.

                    1. boltar Silver badge

                      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.

                  2. 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.

                    1. boltar Silver badge

                      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.

                      1. Anonymous Coward
                        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.

                      2. 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.

                        1. Anonymous Coward
                          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.

                          1. boltar Silver badge

                            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.

                            1. Anonymous Coward
                              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.

                              1. boltar Silver badge

                                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.

                                1. 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.

                                  1. boltar Silver badge

                                    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.

                                    1. 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.

                            2. 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.

                        2. boltar Silver badge

                          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.

                          1. 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...

        3. Lars Silver badge
          Coat

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

          C'mon Drs. Security, we all know there is fierce competition between Boeing and Airbus, as there should be. I have no problem with Americans supporting Boeing and Europeans supporting Airbus, I, for instance, rather operate my own penis than somebody others. But the fly-by-wire is just stupid, if it was the other way around Americans would claim fly-by-wire is the modern way and Airbus is far behind using old technology. We both know this. As for your imaginary, or not, friend he certainly was not talking about the Dreamliner as that is fly-by-wire like are most fighter planes, probably all.

          As for the title "pilots have forgotten how to fly", looking at all the "air crash investigation" programs it seems to me it is more about "pilots who forget to fly" fucking around with light bulbs and similar.

          We also know that competition is a pain in the arse for companies like Boeing and Airbus, Coca-Cola and Pepsi and all the rest. For us consumers competition is good, but like always there is a drawback too behind each and every word. Just look at the internal traffic in the USA operated by the oldest fleet of aircraft in the western world by pilots who would have shorter hours and more or less the same pay working for McDonald's was it not for their dream of becoming pilots, and their lack of strong trade unions if any. Then again in Europe they go on strike every now and then witch of course is very annoying for consumers.

          As for the automation, there is no way back, and I suppose pilots, very much fucked by all the bean counters, have been left behind. Eventually pilots will not be needed in the air and on the plus side it will be impossible to repeat any 9/11 event.

          Regards Lars

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

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

            "[..] fly-by-wire like are most fighter planes [...]"

            IIRC to make a fighter very manoeuvrable then it needs to be intrinsically very unstable. It then needs computer control to keep it stable - a pilot could not do it unaided. A virtue of drones is that they can handle more Gs than a human when turning sharply.

      4. TheOtherHobbes

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

        >Has taking off ever been fully automated - rather than just having technological "assists"?

        I found out recently the first fully automated flight - take off, cruise, landing, no human input of any kind [1] - was made by a Lockheed Tristar. In 1972.

        Planes could easily be flown by a mix of automation and remote control for the occasional tricky bits.

        The reason no one wants this are political. Humans are terrified of potentially dangerous situations that seem out of their control. Human pilots provide a reassuring illusion that someone competent is in charge. Machines and remote pilots don't.

        [1] Except handing out the peanuts.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

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

          "Planes could easily be flown by a mix of automation and remote control for the occasional tricky bits."

          Errrrr...

          Apart from anything else, many (most?) airlines won't even pay for the comms bandwidth to have a realtime(ish) air to ground link for aircraft position and status updates, let alone a secure low latency reasonable bandwidth high reliability bidirectional link carrying all the data the aircrew (on the ground) might need to be able to see or to control either in normal operation or when Bad Things happen.

          Not every pilot is a Sullenberger or even anywhere close, which is probably a shame. (For those who don't know the name, look it up, read, admire, and wonder where today's equivalents are coming from).

          Equally, not every control systems supplier has the quality standards that that Toyota used for some of their safety-critical in-car systems[1]. We should probably be grateful for that.

          It's a matter of balance. Maybe at the moment it's about right in general, with a few unfortunate exceptions that we need to learn from (actually learn, not just spout "lessons will be learnt").

          That said, there is plenty of evidence (from aircraft and elsewhere) that de-skilling the pilot's/driver's job can bring its own new set of previously unexplored challenges.

          [1] http://users.ece.cmu.edu/~koopman/pubs/koopman14_toyota_ua_slides.pdf

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

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

          "Human pilots provide a reassuring illusion that someone competent is in charge."

          Now why did that trigger a vision of the movie "Airplane"? Shirley unwarranted?

          There was an accident in South Africa in the 1970s. A short haul passenger DC-3 had to ditch in the sea just off the shore. A passenger later said that before the flight the pilot had asked a few of them to help him straighten a propeller blade.

        3. R Callan
          Boffin

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

          Close, but no cigar. The first aircraft to do a completely hands off flight was the DH Trident, but regulations did not permit the use of the system as such, and it was only demonstrated on passenger free proving flights. The first hands off landing was done by a Trident in 1965.

      5. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        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.

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

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

      The landing part is more interesting.

      Computer aid is now used to way under 500 feet on some large airports in low visibility conditions - LHR (on a foggy day), BJS (smoggy day), etc. They simply cannot operate if the pilots do not use it as they have to close.

      So the idea to switch to manual at 500 rings rather hollow.

      From this perspective, you gotta love Luftwaffe's operating practice. There, the pilots from the long haul fleet regularly take a rota to fly a Junkers Ju-52 http://www.dlbs.de/en/Fleet/Junkers-JU-52/ to remind them that what does it mean to fly a passenger airplane with no computer aids.

      1. Ledswinger Silver badge

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

        pilots from the long haul fleet regularly take a rota to fly a Junkers Ju-52

        Are the rumours true that the short haul pilots have to take a spin in a 109?

        1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
          Happy

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

          Are the rumours true that the short haul pilots have to take a spin in a 109?

          To stay with Junkers, they could perhaps also try a Stuka

        2. nematoad Silver badge
          Happy

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

          "Are the rumours true that the short haul pilots have to take a spin in a 109?"

          Almost certainly not. If they were then the pilots concerned would get a real workout. Bf109s are notorious for their takeoffs. Narrow undercarriage, gyroscopic effect of the prop and so on made handling one a real challenge.

          So yes, maybe a good test of a pilot's skill but one using a very rare, expensive and irreplaceable aircraft to do it with.

          1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

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

            @nematoad

            Almost certainly not. If they were then the pilots concerned would get a real workout. Bf109s are notorious for their takeoffs. Narrow undercarriage, gyroscopic effect of the prop and so on made handling one a real challenge.

            There are plenty of aircraft available today that can provide a challenge - just try some of the tow aircraft that are used to take gliders up. You really will understand what it is like to fly an aircraft with a ludicrously powerful engine for it's size.

            I am type rated for, and have occasional access to a replica of a Sopwith Camel. And yes, I can confirm that it is easier to do a 270 turn in one direction, than 90 in the other.

            1. graeme leggett Silver badge

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

              " am type rated for, and have occasional access to a replica of a Sopwith Camel"

              You are Biggles and I claim my 10 pounds...

      2. toughluck

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

        From this perspective, you gotta love Luftwaffe's operating practice.

        The Luftwaffe? That would certainly explain the guns on their planes.

      3. JLV Silver badge
        Joke

        JU-52s

        Ah, so the Germans are going for world domination again?

        They pulled the old Ju-52 trick in the 1930s already, pretending they were running airliners rather than dodging the Versailles Treaty.

        Come to think of it, did you mean Lufthansa or Luftwaffe? "Long haul fleet" & Luftwaffe sounds a bit odd. I know, confusingly similar names and that's all part of the plan.

        p.s. don't mention the war!

        1. d2

          Re: JU-52s

          awww,just a wee tidbit about the Nagging Nachthexen, WWll aviatrix Witches of Stalingrad 'Any German pilot who downed a "witch" was automatically awarded an Iron Cross.--MEGAN GARBER,

          Night Witches: The Female Fighter Pilots of World War II Members of the 588th Night Bomber Regiment

          decorated their planes with flowers... and dropped 23,000 tons of bombs

          http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/07/night-witches-the-female-fighter-pilots-of-world-war-ii/277779/

          https://alexpowellauthor.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/po2.jpg

          http://www.seizethesky.com/nwitches/nitewtch.html

          The Witches developed the technique of flying close to their intended targets,

          then cutting their engines.

          Silently they would glide to their targets and release their bombs.

          [...a rustling sound above, almost like wind through a broomstick.

          Before you can investigate,

          the darkness lights up with a blinding flash and a deafening explosion.

          The Night Witches have struck again!

          ...The planes’ tiny engines ... tended to stall easily,

          requiring the pilot

          to climb out

          and turn the propeller by hand

          to get it started again.

          --Miss Cellania ]

  3. A Non e-mouse Silver badge
    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.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      1. Anonymous Coward
        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.

  4. DougS Silver badge

    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.

    1. Mi Tasol

      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

      1. Drs. Security

        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.

        1. TeeCee Gold badge

          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.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            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 :).

          2. dr john

            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".

            1. 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.

          3. 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.

          4. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            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.

            1. 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.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                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.

                1. 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.

        2. 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.

      2. 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.

      3. Dan Paul

        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.

        1. 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.

    2. Blue Pumpkin

      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 ....

    3. wiggers

      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/

  5. Dave 126 Silver badge

    "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

    1. Anonymous Coward
      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

    2. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      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.)

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        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.

        1. Vic

          Re: Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger

          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

          Sullenberger was a glider pilot. What he did was a relatively standard glider ditch.

          My most frightening flight was in a glider. The winch cable detached at just under 150ft. That's brown trouser time if you've only recently qualified to go solo...

          Vic.

  6. bazza Silver badge

    Well, Duh...

    There has been concern over this brewing for years. Hang around pilot forums for a while and you'll be amazed it's taken this long for a report to be published.

    The regulators have been fairly weak over this. There has been a lot of lobbying by airlines... The level of pilot skill back in the 1980s formed part of the safety case for this level of automation. By allowing the airlines to slacken off they have weakened that safety case. However they can point to air travel being safer overall now than it was before all the automation came in. Humans make a lot of mistakes, and there has always been a lot of diversity in pilot skill levels. Automation has prevented a lot of cock ups.

    The trouble is that a few recent accidents have happened to basically airworthy planes with minor or no technical defects.

    The problem varies between airlines. There are some airlines out there who put pilots on disciplinary measures if they turn off the autopilot between taxiing onto and off the runways. Guess how well their pilots can fly...

    Also you could take this report, swap "pilot" for "driver", and you basically have the report that will be published 10 years after the introduction of self driving cars.

  7. RIBrsiq

    "Pilots have forgotten how to fly".

    Seems like the right direction for things to take. Because it seems to me that every time I read why a particular air accident has happened, it's pilot error.

    Exceptions exist, of course, such as the awesome Captain Chesley Sullenberger landing US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson river back in 2009CE. But many more depressing cases of "controlled flight into terrain", it seems.

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      Another one that springs to mind is Richard Champion de Crespigny (Ok, had to look that up) who was the captain of the Qantas A380 that put the remains of the compressor disc of one of its RR Trent engine through much of the control systems.

      Top-notch work getting what was left of that down in one piece. This included electing to perform a last-minute control check on approach, to be sure of exactly what he had left by then for landing, in defiance of the emergency checklist. That's the sort of thing that gets you a medal if you succeed and prosecuted if you don't.....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Crespigny ? Trent uncontained failure? QF32

        That incident is more widely known as QF32.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qantas_Flight_32

        http://qf32.aero/

        etc

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: "Pilots have forgotten how to fly".

      "Relying too heavily on automation systems may hinder a pilot's ability to manually fly the aircraft during unexpected events."

      No surprises here other than how it has taken for those in official circles to see and commit to paper what is obvious to any normal person. Take any occupation that requires a high-level of skill and training to maintain that skill then simply make these people sit and watch; it doesn't take long for thinking and reaction times to degrade.

    3. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Holmes

      "Pilots have forgotten how to fly".

      It'll get ugly when they, like the kakapo, have forgotten they've forgotten how to fly.

      (can we have a Douglas Adams icon?)

  8. swm
    Mushroom

    Airline pilots used to be ex military pilots and knew how to fly the plane. Now, without enough military pilots, the airlines are hiring pilots from flying schools who haven't had the same amount of real flying. Also, the airlines love the automation because the automation carefully flies the plane in the most economical manner and pilots are told to use the automation because of this.

    In fact, the airbus won't let the pilot exercise total control if it thinks it can do better. Boeing gives the pilot final authority if he/she pushes the controls with over 40 pounds of pressure. This led to a crash of an airbus at the Paris airshow many years ago. Of course this allows a determined pilot the ability to rip the wings off of a Boeing aircraft.

    A major theme for most accidents is failure to recognize stall conditions and other high angle of attack scenarios and using the proper recovery procedures.

    There are some military planes that are fly-by-wire and are so unstable that no pilot would have fast enough reaction time to fly the aircraft.

    (Icon for the result of inadequate pilot training.)

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Airlines were used to have pilots trained at the taxpayers expenses (the military pilots). When there were not enough any longer, airlines didn't want to sustain the burden of full, comprehensive pilot training.

      Also, in low revenues short routes with a lot of competition, they looked for less skilled but cheaper pilots - often without proper training and experience in dangerous situations - hoping automation will compensate, unluckily it may does 99% of the time - but there are still situations it fails, and usually it when it fails its exactly because the situation is complex.

      It may be an issue too for pilots that shuould have a huge experience, but skills need to be properly refreshed.

    2. Vic

      the airbus won't let the pilot exercise total control if it thinks it can do better

      Nope. The autopilot system will modify the pilot's control inputs if they would take the aircraft outside its standard flight envelope - but the pilot always has the ability to disable the systems and fly directly. This is unlikely to be a good idea...

      Vic.

      1. leexgx

        on the airbus when in alternate mode it still has Flight envelope limits they are just set to their limits (like been able to pitch up 40 angle and have the plane in a sliding stall, an boeing plane would of likely kicked in self preservation anti stall mode at that point and nosedived the plane automatically so you could recover it)

    3. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Airline pilots used to be ex military pilots and knew how to fly the plane.

      WWII is effing long ago though.

      1. Vic

        Airline pilots used to be ex military pilots and knew how to fly the plane.

        WWII is effing long ago though.

        The air forces of the world didn't stop training pilots at the end of WW2...

        Vic.

  9. channel extended

    I no longer fly, so who cares!

    The airlines have made the seats so small and close together the experience is really bad. The TSA seems to make no sense as to what they do, I was searched three times in a concourse with only an entrance and an exit, it was only 80ft or 25m long.

    1. Gordon861

      Re: I no longer fly, so who cares!

      Who cares ... ?

      Anyone on the ground that may be under one of these things when it goes wrong and the crew do not have the skill to compensate for problems.

  10. Bernd Felsche

    SItuational Awareness

    There are parallels with "driving" of cars. The ones headed for "autonomous" control are likely to produce the same situation; with all those on board becoming payload in a confused missile.

    Autonomous vehicles fail to cope in certain circumstances and a human is required to jump in; to act quickly and correctly to respond to the situation. Absent sufficient situational awareness, the human reactions will tend to be counter-productive, useless or disasterous.

    Another situation where a pilot's "extra-curricular" experience saved hundreds of lives is the "Gimli Glider" incident; where pilot's experience with a sailplane gave him the skill and understanding to "slip" a very much larger glider to approach a runway that was too close for a normal approach.

    1. Drs. Security

      Re: SItuational Awareness

      yeps, interesting accident where in the end the runway turned out to be closed and a racing track. The build guide-rail in the end held up the nose gear preventing it to collapse causing more injuries.

      Other examples are a partially blind (one eye) pilot who landed his plane on a small grass waterworks (dyke or something) in New Orleans, an ethiopia Airlines pilot landing his 767 on the beach of a small island when it went out of fuel after it was hijacked (okay nearly), etc.

      1. TeeCee Gold badge

        Re: SItuational Awareness

        You need to look again at that Ethiopian job, you'll find the film clip of its crash somewhere.

        He's still banking when it hits the water. Coming in so that the first thing that hits the floor is a wing doesn't work well on any approach, regardless of circumstances.

        His coolness under pressure and his foxing of the hijackers into believing he was going where they wanted were great. The dead-stick landing on water, not so much.....

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: SItuational Awareness

          TeeCee,

          I thought in the Ethiopean case that the pilot had the wings nice and level (from memory of the footage) and the sudden back at the end was the hijacker grabbing the controls and spoiling his nice water landing. It was a long time ago though.

          My favourite crash is from Eric "winkle" Brown - who I believe is the most prolific test pilot in history, with more carrier landings than anyone else as well. At the end of WWII he got to go to Germany and test a whole bunch of thier experimental stuff, with no (or partial) manuals, and hoping that the few remaining ground crew were cooperating and not trying to kill him.

          He also taught himself to fly a helicopter while testing at Farnborough.

          He was flying a search and rescue helicopter in the late 50s, in a blizzard. And had an engine failure, while over a mountain. There was no flat bit to crash on - and through the snow he saw a barbed wire fence. Thinking to himself that this looked (to a desperate man) rather like an arrestor wire on a carrier, and that his tail was definitely hook-shaped - he decided to try his luck. And managed to hook the wire with the tail, and land on the slope.

          I believe he was also the guy that did the test for the Navy - where they took the undercarriage off a Gloucester Meteor in order to lose weight extend the rather pathetic range. Then build a rubber "trampoline" above the flight deck of a carrier, and he deliveberately stalled the plane such that it landed on this rubber sheet.

          ...Balls of steel...

    2. Francis Boyle Silver badge

      Re: SItuational Awareness

      The parallel with cars doesn't hold up. A self driving car needs to be 100% autonomous. There's simply no time for a driver to take over when another vehicle does something random and unexpected 10 metres ahead. Not that it would do much good - absent Lewis Hamilton at the wheel a human's not going to do better than a computer. Now, the same applies in the air. If the system haWhere a pilot has an advantage is in those situations (Gimli glider etc) where they can draw on experience to pull something original out of the hat. But those situations are by definition rare. And it conceivable that the same thing could be done remotely. Indeed in the Qantas engine fire incident it was the pilot plus a large team on the ground that was responsible for the successful outcome. (Someone above mentioned airlines not wanting to pay for bandwidth which may be true for day to day operations but in an emergency different rules apply.)

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yet self driving cars are perfect?

    If you believe the Google hype, self driving cars are perfect, even if their Maps navigations is not. If planes hit unexpected situations then so will self driving cars, and so the steering wheel needs to stay in.

    There's a more recent example of this: Air Asia QZ8501, a sensor was faulty, the pilot reset the system, the plane turned off auto-pilot and the pilot didn't fly it manually well enough to fix the sudden lurch. So he needed more training.

    But on Google's side there is this:

    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Hq1yQEZmZmQ

    DJI fixed the problem of people crashing the drone in manual mode, by removing manual mode.

    1. Afernie

      Re: Yet self driving cars are perfect?

      "If you believe the Google hype, self driving cars are perfect"

      You must have missed that report where Google points out that its self-driving cars are not yet perfect. I'll just leave it here for you.

    2. strum Silver badge

      Re: Yet self driving cars are perfect?

      >If planes hit unexpected situations then so will self driving cars

      The difference is - if a plane loses its electronic mind, it's likely to do so at 35,000ft. A bad outcome is guaranteed.

      If a Google car gets confused, it can simply pull over and wait for a towtruck.

      1. Anna Logg

        Re: Yet self driving cars are perfect?

        "If a Google car gets confused, it can simply pull over and wait for a towtruck."

        Maybe not, if there's 40 tons or more of HGV a few feet behind it at 59.99 mph.....

  12. Blofeld's Cat
    Facepalm

    Shirley you can't be serious ...

    May I draw your attention to the Quantas Gripe Sheets.

    Problem: "Test flight OK, except auto-land very rough."

    Solution: "Auto-land not installed on this aircraft."

  13. Chris G Silver badge

    1st

    If memory serves, the first fully automated landing in fog was a BA Trident in the '70s.

    I am amazed that manual flying refreshers are not mandatory for airline pilots.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: 1st

      I remember back in the 80's when BA took delivery of its first 757s, I was on one of the first shuttle flights in one of them. After a safe but very "firm" landing at Heathrow the pilot came on the intercom to apologise: "Sorry about the bump folks, but it's the first time we've flown one of these and we wanted to see how well it could land by itself." We were all glad he waited until after the landing to tell us...

    2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: 1st

      I know of at least two airlines that make pilots do manual landings every 'n' times they fly.

      Then there is all the hours they spend in the simulators.

      There are countless incidents where major loss of life was averted because the pilots just reacted and did what was right often without thinking.

      I think that BA flight that had an engine go out during takeoff in Vegas last year is a good example of that.

      I always knew when the SAS flight I was on was being landed manually. You came down with a big bump and stayed down.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 1st

        I always knew when the SAS flight I was on was being landed manually. You came down with a big bump and stayed down.

        I've been on two flights of Thai Air that touched down so gently in BKK that only the spin up rumble of the wheels gave away when they made contact. Whoever the pilots were on those occasions, their touchdowns are still the most gentle ones I have ever experienced. I was told they mainly use military pilots.

        A good touchdown is also a function of conditions. I was in HK when that plane overturned on the runway as storms were ramping up to tornado levels. According to my friend who had landed about 2 hours before that, he was in no doubt that they had touched down :).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: 1st

          A good touchdown is also a function of conditions

          If the runway is wet they don't want to aquaplane, especially if the plane's weight is still partially taken by lift from the wings. It tends to be "slam the wheels down, spoilers up as it hits" to make damn sure it stays in solid contact with the tarmac.

        2. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Re: 1st

          With US pilots, you can tell the difference as to who was Air Force and who was Navy. The AF pilots land gently and us up every bit of runway. The Navy drop the thing on the threshold firmly and brake hard.

          Anecdote.. back in the early 70's I was the tech writer on project for the USAF for automated flying as well as take-offs and landings. They had C-140 that had what seemed to be mainframe for computer control. Fascinating project. It could actually land, back up or turn around and go to the end of the runway and take off again on it's own. And this was before GPS.

          1. DocJames

            Re: 1st

            The AF pilots land gently and us up every bit of runway.

            The "using all the runway" really applies when doing medical retrievals. Certain problems (intracranial generally) mean that sudden accelerations/decelerations are bad for the patient, so a long run out can be requested from the pilot.

            When landing in a light aircraft at a commercial airport, that is a llloooooonnnnnnngggggg runway. I never actually timed it but it felt over 30 seconds from touching to turning off the runway.

            1. Vic

              Re: 1st

              When landing in a light aircraft at a commercial airport, that is a llloooooonnnnnnngggggg runway

              A bunch of us took a PA28 to Boscombe Down. I think we could have done about 3 or 4 touch-and-gos without turning...

              Vic.

              1. DocJames

                Re: 1st

                Yeah, you win. Dammit.

          2. JimC Silver badge

            Re: 1st

            My father was an immediate post war pilot in the Australian Navy. At the time of this incident he was mainly flying Sea Venoms, which as a 1st generation carrier jet required very 'positive' landings. However the squadron also had an Auster (think post war equivalent of Tiger Moth).

            Familiarisation/check flight in the Auster. Without thinking crew apply familiar landing technique.The Auster's undercarriage didn't survive... Fortunately the Auster did, indeed I noted last year that it survived its navy career and is still flying.

      2. Vic

        Re: 1st

        You came down with a big bump and stayed down.

        That's how you're supposed to land those things.

        A super-soft landing means that the tyres will be sliding around on the runway. Not only does this increase wear, it increases the risk of losing one or more tyres during the ground roll.

        Vic.

  14. Commswonk Silver badge

    A bit of editing might be useful...

    "...have shown that pilots drivers who typically fly drive with automation can make errors when confronted with an unexpected event or [when] transitioning to manual flying driving," the report states."

    "...reliance on automation is a growing concern among industry experts, who have also questioned whether pilots drivers are provided enough training and experience to maintain manual flying driving proficiency."

    "Relying too heavily on automation systems may hinder a pilot's drivers' ability to manually fly drive the aircraft car during unexpected events."

    Others have commented on the parallel between this report and (semi?) autonomous cars, and given that there are a lot more cars than aircraft, without the spatial separation mandated on aircraft, the possibilities for unwelcome events are all too obvious. I suppose Google and others will try to argue that the underlying problem somehow does not apply to self driving cars in close proximity on the ground.

    1. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: A bit of editing might be useful...

      The issue with that analogy - and the analogy is being discussed - is that drivers aren't nearly as well trained, or continuously assesssed, as pilots, and there is always a safe position available: stopped! That isn't possible with aircraft.

      The issue on the roads is that there are a large number of people who massively overestimate their own skills, and the damage they cause is frequently to those outside their vehicle....

      1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

        Re: A bit of editing might be useful...

        "The issue on the roads is that there are a large number of people who massively overestimate their own skills"

        I recall a study that showed that the majority of US drivers surveyed overestimated their own driving ability, and the majority of Scandinavian drivers surveyed underestimated it.

        Based on experience, figures.

      2. Commswonk Silver badge

        Re: A bit of editing might be useful...

        "The issue on the roads is that there are a large number of people who massively overestimate their own skills...

        Of course those designing both hardware and software for autonomous cars couldn't possibly fall into the same trap, could they.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    not all drivers are on the roads

    "drivers aren't nearly as well trained, or continuously assesssed, as pilots, and there is always a safe position available: stopped! That isn't possible with aircraft."

    Perhaps a more appropriate comparison would be with mainline train drivers. Hence my earlier mention that there's plenty of evidence that de-skilling and increased boredom can cause previously unexplored issues (sorry, no links right now).

    There's very little out there that *someone* hasn't seen before. But when no one sees the parallels until it's too late...

  16. Commswonk Silver badge

    I want more pilots who can handle situations like these:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=epKrA8KjYvg

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9KhZwsYtNDE

    In the latter scenario I would also like more Air Traffic Controllers with similar skills; those "helping" Chesley Sullenberger did not seem to appreciate the seriousness of the situation.

  17. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

    could be he knows

    It only needs the pilot once a day...

    The Notwist had a point even 15 years ago....

  18. Hans 1 Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Air France Flight 447

    cf title

    Aircraft is plummeting, the co-pilot did not realize that you have to push the leaver down to gain lift, pulled the leaver all the way back, kept it there even when the pilot, coming back from rest with only seconds to diagnose the problem, attempted to take over the controls. Sad ending for all ...

    1. leexgx

      Re: Air France Flight 447

      yep if he had let go of it at any time the plane would of automatically levelled off (self preservation mode), the problem was when they pushed forward the stall warning happened when he pull back it went into second LAW and the stall warning stopped as the plane now was to slow for it to understand its stalling (pitotubes not enough airflow) as when they went forward witch was the correct action for all of the flight it would of fixed the problem but Bowin was pulling back for the 5 minuets that the plane was in a stall

      the problem with airbus it is like flying a flight simulator but you're in the air, its not natural to fly when something goes wrong, almost all crashes on airbus have been due to confusion between pilot and the flight systems (but they just call it pilot error which is true, but it should have a better defined detailed name) ideally as its fly by wire system the main Law and second law should not allow the plane to be put into stall condition to the point it actually cuts out the stall warning due to the low speed and high pitch upwards (and as there is no force feedback there is no stick shaker on the joystick on airbus),

      if you had put a boeing plane in this same stall condition the plane would of automatically put the plane into a nosedive when it overrides sticks and engines automatically go to full power,it sets the Trims to Full and rudder goes hard left or hard right to force the plane into a nosedive so you can recover the plane

      or alternately witch you're trained to do in a stall warning condition on the new fly by wire boeing planes is just Let go of the Sticks, the self perversion will automatically level off the plane and recover automatically out of the stall by all means possible like flaps, engine power to level off (this happens when autopilot is off and no one had there hands on their sticks)

      almost all boeing crashes have been mechanical or genuine pilot error or (not flying the plane) some other factor that may of not been pilot error , whereas airbus it tends to be more complicated on why it happened

  19. dmacleo

    theres a huge muscle memory factor also, and just doing check rides in the sim yearly and spending rest of year flying my the flight director is not fixing that issue.

  20. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    You mean that when revenues drop and there are too many snouters at the directorial trough the first thing to get axed is primary staff training?

    Who could have predicted that?

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yet we still have overpaid berks running tube trains in London.

    1. Uffish

      Re: "overpaid berks"

      Don't forget the catastrophic crash caused by overpaid berks in the City and Canary Wharf, we're still paying for their incompetence.

  22. Florida1920 Silver badge
    Childcatcher

    A marketing opportunity

    Back in the 70s, when there were several successive commercial-airline crashes, Greyhound (a large long-distance bus company operating in the U.S.) started using the slogan, "Greyhound, in touch with America." Buses sometimes crash, but at least they don't fall from the sky.

    The way airlines are compressing seat pitch and charging passengers even for using the overhead baggage compartments, added to the frequency of crazed passengers and safety issues, you have to be pretty desperate to fly commercially these days. I'll keep my shoes on, thanks.

    Are the problems with aircraft automation a harbinger of things to come when AI reaches maturity?

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: A marketing opportunity

      Commercial aviation is far safer than buses. It's even safer than trains - which are also far safer than driving.

  23. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

    WWSD?

    Just ask yourself: What Would Sully Do?

  24. NanoMeter

    Old School

    " - Can I have everybody's attention! Is there an old school pilot onboard?"

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Happy

      Re: Old School

      You don't need a pilot. Just someone who knows how to re-inflate the automatic pilot.

      Saw that film for the first time in 20 years this Christmas. It's still great.

      Big smiley face icon for me. Sadly they don't have one for big smiley face and smoking a cigarette...

  25. DrM
    FAIL

    Killed by SW

    I just can't wait till the automated cars are everywhere.

  26. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    The fact is that computers do the job better than a human most of the time - and would be even better if programmed to handle common failure modes. I am certain that there would be far more aircraft accidents if the autopilots were removed and all aircraft were hand-flown all the way.

    Many of the things that computers control these days are too complex for any human (or team of humans) to be able to manage. Heck, as just one example, see how long you could keep a quadcopter in the air by using 4 throttles instead of a computerised control board ...

  27. Bucky 2

    Heinlein

    I think this very situation was described for the semi-ballistic transportation that the heroine like to use in "Friday."

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Former Pilot Here

    I flew commercially for a few years for a charter airline, before I moved on to less frustrating and more profitable things. I still keep a licence and medical but no longer fly.

    First off, I should note that the report in question is not an FAA report, but a US DoT report (that's the FAA's bosses) and it is not a technical report but one intended for consumption by laymen, most likely politicians.

    In other words, it's a political (not policy) report.

    And it does start off on the wrong foot, by jumping to conclusions, as it is clear from the introduction, where it says: "pilots who typically fly with automation can make errors when confronted with an unexpected event or transitioning to manual

    flying.", citing the specific incident of Asiana 214. Now, in a footnote to that bold, if tautologically true, affirmation it is stated that:

    The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that the crew did not appropriately understand the aircraft’s automation systems, allowed airspeed to decay due to improper monitoring, and failed to perform a proper go-around response.

    In other words, the crew got in trouble because they did not understand the automatics (and screwed up the go-around to boot). A more logical conclusion to take from that is that the crew need to spend more time learning the automatics, not less!

    As for manual flying: that's the way most of us were first taught how to fly, usually in a heap of aluminium and dirt that had no automation at all in the first place. It is great fun, gives you that feeling of being in control, and you can daydream of being one of those aviation pioneers flying around with a big grin and teeth full of bugs. It is also a terrible way to train for airline flying.

    Manual flying is what you do when you've got no better choice, e.g., when the autopilot gives up the ghost (which does happen often enough). You can still dispatch with autopilot and/or autothrotle inop (but on my aircraft, not with a blocked toilet). And sometimes, of course, they decide to pack up in the middle of the flight.

    However, manual flying is not in general a good idea in airline operations. For a start the boss won't like it because of the higher fuel consumption (turns out we humans are not as efficient as machines when it comes to monotonous, precision tasks). It is also more risky, as it requires attention which could be better directed to planning and monitoring, rather than just doing. Mental capacity is limited and easily subject to overload in a highly dynamic situation such as flying.

    Also, there is very little to be gained, in terms of skills or practice, by disengaging the automation during the cruise. The only real opportunity to hone one's manual flying skills is during take-offs, approaches, and landings (and go arounds :) ), and except for approaches the other two are always hand flown anyway (most aircraft are not autoland capable, neither is it possible nor convenient to use it for most landings). It is true that some people will engage the autopilot as soon as they passed the 500 ft mark or whatever the company's AOM says, even on an easy day with good weather and no traffic or other pressures, when you could just hand-fly the departure all the way out instead--I'm all for encouraging those pilots to take the opportunity and hand fly those when they can, and same for taking visual approaches when you're coming into a remote airport on a nice day, but at the same time one has to know the aircraft systems (including automation) like the palm of one's hand, to the point where it pretty much becomes an extension of one's mind. If you know your systems well enough, you end up developing a feel for it and will be able to sense when something goes wrong before you become consciously aware of it, while at the same time take a much more strategic approach to flying. To put an actual example, it is no good to end up short of fuel past your PSR (point of safe return) because you were too busy trying to coax the aircraft into maintaining your assigned level and forgot to check the fuel.

    In conclusion, automation is great: it saves money and it saves lives. But we have to be proficient in it, know how to use it and understand its capabilities and limitations. We also of course need to know how to fly without it, but at least in my opinion that supposed loss of manual handling proficiency is more imagined than real, and in any event, most accidents are caused by a series of bad decisions rather than bad execution of a good decision. Including Asiana 214.

  29. The Mighty Spang

    Listen to the these podcasts on automation paradox

    From the brilliant 99 Percent Invisible podcast. You should be listening to this anyway fellow nerds its brilliant.

    Children of the Magenta (Automation Paradox, pt. 1)

    http://99percentinvisible.org/episode/children-of-the-magenta-automation-paradox-pt-1/

    Johnnycab (Automation Paradox, pt. 2)

    http://99percentinvisible.org/episode/johnnycab-automation-paradox-pt-2/

    1. Commswonk Silver badge

      Re: Listen to the these podcasts on automation paradox

      @The Mighty Spang: I didn't listen to the podcasts but your post led me to all sorts of interesting material about the Automation Paradox, so thanks for your posting; much appreciated.

      I realise that this thread has probably run its course but I find myself wondering if the proponents of self - driving cars have ever bothered to consider the same material. Definitely food for serious thought.

  30. kb3m

    Those who do... do. Those who don't... can't.

    True for any skill... use regularly it or loose it.

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