"Airline pilots increasingly lack 'basic flying skills' and may be unable to cope with an in-flight emergency such as sudden machine failure, internal documents from Britain's major pilots' union claim"
" because pilots are not being encouraged or trained to fly manually"
As a humble but regular member of the SLF community I am obviously interested in the competence of the people in the front seats. I am probably in a minority but safety and competence -at least perceived- are factors in choosing how I fly not just who is the cheapest.
I read the full article from the link and one thing that came across to me was the spread of idiotic 'management speak' into the flying side of aviation. Witness the words of the spokesperson for the aviation industry. He said
'I don't share these concerns. Airlines are tying to make training more efficient but are not compromising on safety. It is true that we have moved towards a more simulator-based system, but that is more like a real aeroplane and is not a saving on safety.'
So a simulator is more like a real aeroplane than what ??? errrr a real aeroplane??? The quote sounds good but is actually rubbish.
I suppose the real balance that has to be struck ,and I am sure it is not easy to assess this, is can the automatics fly a Heathrow SID through the maze of Inbound tracks and holding patterns more accurately than a pilot -an every day occurance- as opposed the the less likely scenario of a engine out approach to Aberdeen in heavy rain and a 30kt cross wind when the automatic features can't do a lot to help and traditional handling skills are critical.
With a modicum of commonsense, it is easy for airline pilots to improve their skills at basic aircraft handling. On the majority of route flights there are many opportunities where turning off the flight director and the autothrottle and then disconnecting the autopilot, will not compromise perceived flight safety. Of course, you pick the time and place but it is a rare flight where the safety of the flight is compromised unless all the automtic gizmo's are locked in. But like I said -you pick the time and place.
It is my experience, however, that a good proportion of pilots are simply too lazy to be bothered to take the opportunity when it presents itself to actually fly the aircraft, rather than simply twiddle knobs and let the automatics take the aircraft from A to B.
While it can be a chore to fly by hand with the FD and AT switched off, this is a poor excuse. You have to decide whether you should maintain equal skills at both automatics monitoring and raw data hand flying - or whether raw data skills are simply irrelevant in glass cockpits. Ask yourself if a CAA examiner testing you for an instrument rating renewal would prefer you to conduct an NDB approach by basic RMI hand flying or by LNAV on automatics. Which one is a sure test of your basic handling skills?
Individual twitch factors come into play with some captains. Some mutter in their beards when the first officer asks can he please turn of the FD and hand fly a climb or descent. The comfort zone of the captain of the ship has been invaded. Others, more wise, will say go for it - within bounds of commonsense airmanship.
For some pilots the automatics are a vital crutch because deep inside they are aware of their own rustiness but dare not admit it in front of a junior. Arguments on the subject of automatics dependancy will go for many years to come. One thing is for sure and that is this blind dependancy erodes natural flying skills.
Fly a bus myself and i enjoy it much more when i can take out the automatics and fly the STAR manually. It is much better than only turning some knobs and kick out the autopilot at 500 feet.
However like you mentioned already not every captain likes it when you do this. Even on a calm, cavok day with almost no traffic around. But on the other hand some company's prohibit the use of manual thrust on the A32X. So you can't blame pilots from this outfit to be a bit rusty on the use of manual thrust.
Personally i think it's part of your job to keep your handflying up to scrath as well. If the autoamtics fail on a demanding SID/STARt at least you know what you are doing.
I do share this concern. Myself I have flown A32O family and A330 for several years now. I still fly very regularly raw dat take offs, landings and even sectors. As said before, all based on the right time and the right conditions. And I am proud to say that my hand flying skills are still as sharp asever.
However.....This can not be said of most of my colleagues. I used to fly for a major European carrier where everybody more or less had the same flying skills. We used to enjoy handflying a lot, in fact it was recommended to practice. Since a couple of years I have been flying in the middle east with people from all over the world....
And here those basics are totally gone. The company allows handflying ( AP, AT and FD off) but people are affraid of it. No practice so the skills go away eventually. And this shows in the sim.....AP off is ok but once we go further the plane is all over the sky.
Who is to blame?
First of all....ourselves! We should force ourselve once in a while to fly the plane iso managing the buttons.
Management can push their pilots more etc...
A lot of big ( mostly UK influenced ) companies however dont allow this hence the results...
Another flaw is the dissappearence of the aviation basics: 1/60 rules, holding entries and calculations, lapse rates, descent profiles etc.....OK, we do not really need all this in our daily lives but maybe, one day , we will need it again!!!!
I am not so sure about the well worn phrases regarding manual flying in the commercial world. I would be happier as a passenger, knowing that crews are making maximum use of the aircrafts facilities; especially those that release them to concentrate on the operation, as opposed to the handling.
In my experience, the hand-flying pilot is often oblivious to the worload of the non-handler. To fly, blinkers on, following a flight director, may make us feel more important, but I reckon it misses the point. I am certain there are more missed r/t calls, repeated requests cross-cockpit, and mis-selections by non-handlers caused by inappropriate hand-flying in busy environments.
Hand flying is best done without the flight director (if we are honest, our scan is much more concentrated this way) after a careful briefing at an airport that lends itself to it (less busy time of day, sensible weather etc) Re-engagement of the automation, and the FMA readout stages need careful consideration beforehand.
I would like to see formal research into how many stick shakes/alpha floors, level busts, over-banks, over-pitch and other similar events involved manual or hand-flying. I reckon the results may be illuminating.
People sometimes say, " I hand-fly to keep in practice in case something goes wrong" but in may companies, you are encouraged to engage an autopilot when something goes wrong... How many surprise total autopilot failures have been recorded in the last couple of decades I wonder ?
The situation when visual, high and hot, when you throw the wheels down, disengage the auto pilot and point the aircraft where you want to go, will still come up sometimes. (perhaps best to avoid that situation in the first place?)That, to me, is sensible use of manual flight providing both guys are in the loop. But unthought hand-flying for it's own sake, in a busy atc environment, I don't think so.
In my experience, the hand-flying pilot is often oblivious to the workload of the non-handler. To fly, blinkers on, following a flight director, may make us feel more important, but I reckon it misses the point. I am certain there are more missed r/t calls, repeated requests cross-cockpit, and mis-selections by non-handlers caused by inappropriate hand-flying in busy environments
I am not sure I get your point here;does it make someone feel important to do the job that they have trained for and are paid to do?You have inadvertently detailed the very dangers of over-reliance on automation,not those of manual flying.Manual flying that leads to attention deficit,whether it be on the part of the pilot flying or the pilot monitoring,is not reason to desist from that practice,but rather justification for continuing to practice it until the skill is mastered. Flightpath control by exclusive use of the FMCS makes you,by definition,a systems manager,not a pilot.It is a perfectly valid method of flightpath control and a skill in itself.Manual manipulation of the flt controls by reference to the flight director is yet another valid method of flightpath control and a skill that must be mastered(esp.the ability to anticipate the f/d or "see through" the cross-bars).Manual flying without any FMCS interaction is the third and final method of flightpath control and it too must be mastered to the point where no attention deficit exists.This final method is by far the most important as you might have to resort to this modus operandi during an emergency where any attention deficit could well prove fatal. Folklore says that a good skipper can fly an ILS to minimums at night with 20 knots x-wind on standby instruments and that he can do it in his sleep. How,where and when you keep these vital skills current should be left to the pilot's good judgement and not mandated in any SOP manual.The airline already trusts in your judgement;they hired you.
are we that lazy? FL100 bling bling autopilot disconnect A/T too, surely we know our power settings for each stage of flight.. not saying its "fun" but surley we know where everything sould be or else we not monitoring the automatics.
you know when it is the "sim" coming up, for me its the worst flying seen, but if you spend one flight a week raw data, no need for this sim next week give this a go attitude.....
Surely we're not suggesting that flying the airbus with those side-sticks is referred to as 'manual flying'!
I've always been Lockheed and Boeing trained, but to my mind, that side-stick is just another form of autopilot!
Further, airbus pilots don't have the capability to 'hand fly' their machines at any time, outside the airbus interpretation of hand flying.
I've always referred to 'hand flying' in the conventional sense, that is, with no computer aids at all, purely the inputs from the pilot on raw data. Surely you airbus pilots remember hand flying....don't you?
B-757 Captains during my 757 FO years (over three) sometimes hand-flew the plane to above FL 180 in good weather (but not on the east coast). Is this a disturbing thought for anyone? By the way, if you see a Resolution Advisory on the IVSI, you can react much quicker and better. As usual, this topic on PPRuNe might not apply to the pilot culture in the US. In the 1980s, pilots hired by major airlines here all had about 3,000-6,000 or more hours if from a transport background, and often 1,500-3,000 if they flew military trainers/tactical jets/small turboprops (i.e. T-34 or OV-10). In the 90s, most transport guys/gals (gals at my company) had at least around 4-5,000 hours, for the most part. They are our ("my") FOs .
Therefore, unless one was trained to avoid hand-flying in the simulator during Initial Training, i.e. using MCP/FMC modes for Cat 2,3 ILS and certainly " VS mode" for ALL non-precision approaches, a pilot always had a very solid background to lean on. Maybe the Airbus philosophy, being foreign, assumes that pilots will always use as much automation as possible? For many, older and even younger pilots, figuring out combinations of Boeing autopilot/flight director/autothrottles was a challenging experience. They never had a problem with real hand-flying, as long as they could guess which power setting to use (if autothrottles inop. per MEL, or not) and the non-flying pilot kept up with FMC and MCP changes plus radio calls and checklists during climbs and descents . "On a 'two to go' callout, how do we reduce thrust for a modest climb rate and avoid an abrupt level-off"? "Oh, somebody said to set the Vertical Speed mode and use 1500-2,000 fpm, etc!"
Reading PPRuNe, I'm always baffled by the fact that many foreign airline cultures tend to discourage hand-flying the plane. Is this in lands which have little general aviation, due to weather and very high cost? The ironic point for laymen is that until one gets used to most modern transport aircraft, the automation is NOT at all automatic-modes and changes are constantly required. The airplane does NOT know what we want to do, or change . There can be three vertical and three or four lateral navigation modes (enroute or approach). We must tell it at what point we need to be at i.e. 12,000' and 250 knots etc. Due to the constant need to extend speedbrakes, it takes a good bit of getting used to, due to the fact that they are difficult to descend and slow (757 and A-320).
Do many Fleet Captains and Chief Pilots not have faith in their line pilots, or do they feel that mgmt is not getting the most value from the airplane, or both? Do they only trust their standard operating procedures, or should developing pilot judgement and experience not translate into long-term safety, provided the traffic and weather situations/terrain are near optimum, along with normal system operations?
Last edited by Ignition Override; 24th Aug 2005 at 06:28.
It is, IMHO, our responsibility as pilots to maintain proficient hand flying skills. It is true that Autoflight systems are very reliable, but anything built by man is subject to failure at some point. Additionally there is always some contingency that the engineers did not think of, they cant possibly be expected to think of every remote possibility. Yes I know thats why there are two or even three of everything on board, redundancy and all that. Im sure there was also a group of United mechanics saying "they cant possibly have lost all 3 hydraulic systems" while 4 guys were fighting with a DC-10 over the midwest US a while back (United 232). My point is only this, anything can happen, and if doing a little hand flying when the opportunity presents itself can make you better able to handle more of "anything", well why not? Like I said, just my opinion.
It is difficult to forget or get "rusty" on something one has never acquired properly. I believe hand flying basics get to be learned from the very first hours in one's flying school. After that, one is supposed to build up on experience on those basics and later on eventually adjust it for the type of aircraft he/she is flying.
Hand flying should be allowed and even encouraged in airlines, as said above : choose the place and time.
From my experience, I am amazed how many experienced pilots just got through the "net" into airliners, with below standard raw data and hand flying skills, to the point that landings really look like controlled crashes. This situation of course being aggravated with the "Bus"type of automation where you actually never fly manually the aircraft, unless you go into "Direct law" following some failures.
I havent seen many guys doing a proper raw data ILS with a "Bus" with all the automation and Flight path vector taken out, although I reckon it might be a little bit of a hard work, due to the sidestick type of flying philosophy;"No FPV ! Kamikaze type of flying" they say in the airline I work for. Kamikaze may be, but the FPV is just another FD, and there goes your raw data hand flown approach.
The most interesting comment above is that the high cost of GA in Europe leads to pilots reaching the right seat of an airliner with the minimum of hand flying skills. I find this ironic that in the UK it is percived that we have the highest standards of pilot training we now have "Airline preperation programs" run by the big training companys ( Oxford, Cabair etc) that reject pilots who have done some GA flying.
Yes these companys will take the £20,000 that it will take these modular students to get a CPL/IR but even if they are very good will not help them to get a job, however pay £60,000 for the modular course that takes the student from zero flight time to the CPL/IR and the training companys will recomend these people to airlines.
I have seen APP students fail flight tests and then get recomended to airlines when modular students from the same company don't get an airline recomendation even when they pass all the tests first time!.
This skill errosion will only get worse with the CAA review of charges , this British airways driven idea is to try and get the CAA charges down and transfer them to the GA sector. This will only have the effect of further driving up the cost of GA flying, eventualy BA and the rest of the airline industry will pay the price for this "short term thinking" but by then the bean counters responsable will have moved on to mis-manage another industry with short term policys.
Now that the thread has got going I’ll put in my thoughts that seemed inappropriate when I started it.
First I agree 100% with A and C in his first post; a well balanced thread is an endangered species, lets not get into a Europe vs US or Boeing vs Airbus fight this time!
I’m only a 100 hour PPL having learnt late in life, but as a very frequent traveller (and systems engineer) I would much prefer both pilots to be current at flying the aircraft without the autopilot. One of my favourite aphorisms is that “A fail safe system fails, when it fails to fail safe”, the pilots are partly (largely?) there to cope with these potential failures, either by managing the systems appropriately or by “hand flying” as becomes necessary. It appears to me therefore that not being current at “hand flying” removes a large part of an important aspect of flight safety, after all why did you guys have to build the hours in SEP and MEP rather than in a low tech simulator before moving on?
Not having flown a full simulator I leave it to others to comment the effectiveness in practising for “hand flying” in them.
I often fly circuits from early downwind to 500 on finals using only trim and rudder, (sure its occasionally a sloppy circuit and difficult to be accurate- I only do it when its empty) but it gives me confidence that I know the aircraft and what she'll do If I ever lost aerlion or elevator or both). 3 deg approachs on a light single (as they are taught) also give me the willies.........
I know you guys are probably all RPT's , but do you ever get the chance to "see" what a 757/73 in a sideslip is like, or play with the asyms and not use rudder to pickup the wings ?
Ps was on an Egyptair bus into luxor a few years back, and that guy did a class 1 x-wind, wing low landing, even holding the wing down on the tarmac until opposite came down naturally, I spoke to the FO (same hotel) later and he told me the Xwind was 20-25 and that it was a manual landing. I was impressed, he did not use the rudder to "hunt" for his best picture, nor seemingly I recall bank, he just pretty much got it right, which in a 320/321 was pretty damn impressive.
May I add my two cents in this thread? Thank you. Hand flying is hand flying, even in the Columbia! I am not sure if the … Boeing guys have any experience in the new Airbus fleet, but the maneuvers that you need to do, with autopilot and autothrust off are almost the same (as I recall from my Boeing days, and they were a lot!). As a matter of fact, it would be more appropriate to put the yaw dumper off, even in the Boeing a/c and while we are at it, let’s switch the HYD off, so that the feeling will be completely “truthful”? Let’s get serious. Hand flying, which is allowed and encouraged in my airline, is a very good practice. You need the practice, so that whenever you have one or two automations missing, you will be able to cope easier. It doesn’t have to be completely manual and definitely you’re not going to do it into a busy airport, like LHR, for instance.
Our part A encourages you to take the flight director out. We have just started doing total electrical failures in the sim (manual flying on standbys only) if you want a reason to keep current with hand flying you need to look at the results.
My aircraft type mandates manual flying for the single engine go-around , TCAS avoidance , EGPWS and Windshear recovery. All relatively high stress manoeuvres which do not need to be carried out by people "frightened" of flying the aircraft manually.
Yes some of our AP in at 1000' out at decide pilots are afraid of the aircraft (stressed out / sweat like pigsetc ) when flying manual approaches.