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Old 28th Feb 2009, 10:20
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Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: UK
Age: 68
Posts: 338
Automation versus "Mandraulics"

To continue the theme started in another post, I thought it might be useful to start a discussion on the benefits, or otherwise, of automation versus good ol' hand-eye co-ordination.

My experience dates back to when automation was a system of linkages, levers and air driven valves that controlled your rotor rpm whenever you moved the collective. Things moved on quite quickly of course, and soon we had RNAV which, in the case of the offshore B212s at least, gave you a line to follow superimposed on the radar picture.
As soon as any automation is introdcuced, it is my experience that pilots were very quick to opt for relying on the automated items and "old fashioned" skills were quickly left to fester.

I was one of a small group of 212 pilots that were checked out to fly single-pilot IFR many moons ago. This included clearance to fly offshore, night at 200 ft with a 300 ft cloudbase, provided you could see your destination. The clearance was made possible by the judicious use of the usual instruments, including a Radalt, and a moving map display - Decca Danac!!
To say that we were being stretched is an understatement, but it most certainly honed up your night handling skills! Sadly, one of our number had a daytime accident. Perhaps we all thought that day flying, VFR or IFR, was easy by comparison, and I for one know that it could just have easily been me that had the accident.

In the other thread, several Rotorheads have mentioned the need to ensure that the handover between IF and Visual is properly managed. Not so easy when you are operating alone, unless you raise the limits substantially to ensure sufficient time to transfer.

Moving on to more recent automation. Many modern helicopters have the ability to fly hands-off down to whatever minima are imposed for the type of approach you are making. This includes some pretty tight minima when making a CAT3 approach. So what happens when one of the "automatic bits" fails at a critical time during the approach, ie just before minima. Are our manual skills still sufficiently honed to take over without prejudice to the safety of the flight? If not, how do we ensure that such skills are there and maintained?

Let battle commence........................
flyer43 is offline