View Full Version : A no automation Zero Zero Landing with finesse

15th Apr 2017, 15:29
A friend of mine sent this story to me. With ever increasing autopilot sophistication the majority of airline pilots today now "manage" instead of flying their aircraft. This has resulted in significantly fewer accidents than the `old` days. Along with the now normal acceptance of recruiting of low experience cadet pilots into the second in command position of big jets, there is no shortage of reliable evidence that automation addiction has caused erosion of manipulative skills that were gained during elementary and advanced flying training.

This where flight simulators come in on their own and allow pilots who see handling skills as equally important to automation management skills, to practice their pursuit of excellence. Next time you fly a simulator ask the check pilot to switch off the visual screens and let you practice a zero/zero approach and landing without the help of autothrottles, flight director and automatic pilot.

The following story from yesteryear beautifully illustrates the importance of the pursuit of excellence in pure flying skills.

The article was in Flying's November 1976 issue, and the article was called Zero/Zero, by Charles D.
Svoboda. Unforgettable. It was #438 in the series "I Learned About Flying From That".

Charles Svoboda

It happened sometime in 1965, in Germany. I was a copilot, so I knew, everything there was to know about flying, and I was frustrated by pilots like my aircraft commander. He was one of those by-the-numbers types, no class, no imagination, no "feel" for flying.

You have to be able to feel an airplane. So what if your altitude is a little off, or if the glideslope indicator is off a hair? If it feels okay then it is okay. That's what I believed. Every time he let me make an approach, even in VFR conditions, he demanded perfection.

Not the slightest deviation was permitted. "If you can't do it when there is no pressure, you surely can't do it when the pucker factor increases," he would say. When he shot an approach, it was as if all the instruments were frozen - perfection, but no class
Then came that routine flight from the Azores to Germany. The weather was okay; we had 45,000 pounds of fuel and enough cargo to bring the weight of our C-124 Globemaster up to 180,000 pounds, 5,000 pounds below the max allowable. It would be an easy, routine flight all the way. Halfway to the European mainland, the weather started getting bad. I kept getting updates by high frequency radio. Our destination, a fighter base, went zero/zero. Our two alternates followed shortly thereafter. All of France was down. We held for two hours, and the weather got worse. Somewhere I heard a fighter pilot declare an emergency because of minimum fuel. He shot two approaches and saw nothing. On the third try, he flamed out and had to eject.

We made a precision radar approach; there was nothing but fuzzy fog at minimums. The sun was setting. Now I started to sweat a little. I turned on the instrument lights. When I looked out to where the wings should be, I couldn't even see the navigation lights 85 feet from my eyes. I could barely make out a dull glow from the exhaust stacks of the closest engine, and then only on climb power. When we reduced power to maximum endurance, that friendly glow faded. The pilot asked the engineer where we stood on fuel. The reply was, "I don't know--- we're so low that the book says the gauges are unreliable below this point. The navigator became a little frantic. We didn't carry parachutes on regular MAC flights, so we couldn't follow the fighter pilot's example. We would land or crash with the airplane.

The pilot then asked me which of the two nearby fighter bases had the widest runway. I looked it up and we declared an emergency as we headed for that field. The pilot then began his briefing.

"This will be for real. No missed approach. We'll make an ILS and get precision radar to keep us honest. Copilot, we'll use half flaps. That'll put the approach speed a little higher, but the pitch angle will be almost level, requiring less attitude change in the flare."

Why hadn't I thought of that? Where was my "feel" and "class" now? The briefing continued, "I'll lock on the gauges. You get ready to take over and complete the landing if you see the runway - that way there will be less room for trouble with me trying to transition from instruments to visual with only a second or two before touchdown." Hey, he's even going to take advantage of his copilot, I thought. He's not so stupid, after all.
"Until we get the runway, you call off every 100 feet above touchdown; until we get down to 100 feet, use the pressure altimeter. Then switch to the radar altimeter for the last 100 feet, and call off every 25 feet. Keep me honest on the airspeed, also. Engineer, when we touch down, I'll cut the mixtures with the master control lever, and you cut all of the mags. Are there any questions? Let's go!" All of a sudden, this unfeeling, by the numbers robot was making a lot of sense. Maybe he really was a pilot and maybe I had something more to learn about flying.

We made a short procedure turn to save gas. Radar helped us to get to the outer marker. Half a mile away, we performed the Before Landing Checklist; gear down, flaps 20 degrees. The course deviation indicator was locked in the middle, with the glideslope indicator beginning its trip down from the top of the case. When the GSI centered, the pilot called for a small power reduction, lowered the nose slightly, and all of the instruments, except the altimeter, froze. My Lord, that man had a feel for that airplane! He thought something, and the airplane, all 135,000 pounds of it, did what he thought.
"Five hundred feet," I called out, "400 feet........300 feet.......200 feet, MATS minimums.......100 feet, Air Force minimums; I'm switching to the radar altimeter ........75 feet nothing in sight......50 feet, still nothing....25 feet, airspeed 100 knots,"

The nose of the aircraft rotated just a couple of degrees, and the airspeed started down. The pilot then casually said, "Hang on, we're landing."
"Airspeed 90 knots....10 feet, here we go!"

The pilot reached up and cut the mixtures with the master control lever, without taking his eyes off the instruments. He told the engineer to cut all the mags to reduce the chance of fire. CONTACT! I could barely feel it. As smooth a landing as I have ever known, and I couldn't even tell if we were on the runway, because we could only see the occasional blur of a light streaking by.
"Copilot, verify hydraulic boost is on, I'll need it for brakes and steering." I complied.
"Hydraulic boost pump is on, pressure is up." The brakes came on slowly---we didn't want to skid this big beast now. I looked over at the pilot. He was still on the instruments, steering to keep the course deviation indicator in the center, and that is exactly where it stayed.

"Airspeed, 50 knots." We might make it yet.
"Airspeed, 25 knots." We'll make it if we don't run off a cliff. Then I heard a strange sound. I could hear the whir of the gyros, the buzz of the inverters, and a low frequency thumping. Nothing else. The thumping was my pulse, and I couldn't hear anyone breathing. We had made it! We were standing still!

The aircraft commander was still all pilot. "After-landing checklist, get all those motors, radar and un-necessary radios off while we still have batteries. Copilot, tell them that we have arrived, to send a follow me truck out to the runway because we can't even see the edges."

I left the VHF on and thanked GCA for the approach. The guys in the tower didn't believe we were there. They had walked outside and couldn't hear or see anything. We assured them that we were there, somewhere on the localizer centerline, with about half a mile showing on the DME.

We waited about 20 minutes for the truck. Not being in our customary hurry, just getting our breath back and letting our pulses diminish to a reasonable rate. Then I felt it. The cockpit shuddered as if the nose gear had run over a bump. I told the loadmaster to go out the crew entrance to see what happened. He dropped the door (which is immediately in front of the nose gear) , and it hit something with a loud , metallic bang. He came on the interphone and said "Sir, you'll never believe this. The follow-me truck couldn't see us and ran smack into our nose tire with his bumper, but he bounced off, and nothing is hurt." The pilot then told the tower that we were parking the bird right where it was and that we would come in via the truck. It took a few minutes to get our clothing and to button up the airplane. I climbed out and saw the nose tires straddling the runway centerline. A few feet away was the truck with its embarrassed driver.
Total damage---one dent in the hood of the follow me truck where the hatch had opened onto it.

Then I remembered the story from Fate Is the Hunter. When Gann was an airline copilot making a simple night range approach, his captain kept lighting matches in front of his eyes. It scarred and infuriated Gann. When they landed, the captain said that Gann was ready to upgrade to captain. If he could handle a night-range approach with all of that harassment, then he could handle anything.

At last I understood what true professionalism is. Being a pilot isn't all seat-of-the-pants flying and glory.
It's self- discipline, practice, study, analysis and preparation. It's precision.
If you can't keep the gauges where you want them with everything free and easy, how can you keep them there when everything goes wrong?

15th Apr 2017, 16:10
Next time you fly a simulator ask the check pilot to switch off the visual screens and let you practice a zero/zero approach and landing without the help of autothrottles, flight director and automatic pilot.

Why switch off the visuals? Simply fly a CAT 2/3 approach manually and allow you to see if you succeed. It requires very soft calm hands <500', both control column & thrust.

I was flew with a very unassuming captain: B732. He was Polish and had flown Spits in WW2. He enjoyed classical music, history books and a gentle 1/2, not many pints, on night stops. A real soft calm gentleman. Excellent pilot also. The B732 had very basic avionics & autopilot. It was CAT 2, manual throttle, Man Land. We were approaching in CAT 2 weather with a shifting turning varying wind. The A/P was not making it comfortable, and with manual thrust he did not feel in touch with the a/c. I was astonished when he said he could do better on his own and disconnected the A/P. Now his senses were in control of the a/c using both hands, eyes, ears and feel. He had a sense when to let the ac/ bounce around and not follow every twitch of the LOC & G/S. There was a calmness in all the accuracy, and there we were, at DA in there slot.
"I learnt about flying from that".

16th Apr 2017, 18:14
Fascinating story. Shame it has been moved to the nostalgia forum where I guess many won't see it.

17th Apr 2017, 08:02
Fascinating story. Shame it has been moved to the nostalgia forum where I guess many won't see it.

Agree and thanks for mentioning it. When initially I posted the story on Tech Log I was conscious that many of the younger generation would probably read it since Tech Log is always a popular forum. It had a technical aspect since thoughts on automation were discussed and automation dependency is a flight safety issue. I added a note to my post specifically requesting the Mods to leave it on Tech Log for that reason.

That was because a few days earlier, another thread, this one where inadvertent thrust increase instead of reverse decrease was the main cause of a 747 accident, was posted on Tech Log. It disappeared from Tech Log almost as soon as it was posted. The duty Mod(s) had switched that to Aviation History and Nostalgia forum. The 747 accident occurred in 1985 but many current Pprune readers would not have been aware it.

So it seems once a date from years gone by is mentioned, someone switches it to the Aviation History and Nostalgia Forum without regard to the fact the subject matter is technical and very much still relevant to readers of Tech Log. My personal opinion of course.

If nothing else, if a Mod decides in his wisdom to switch a subject to a different Forum, a short note should be placed on the original forum that this action has taken place. This would enable interested readers to follow the offending thread.

17th Apr 2017, 11:04
Not aware of the history of this thread but will chase it up and endeavour to get it transferred back to Tech Log.

For info, on the infrequent occasions I move a thread, I leave a redirection note for a suitable period so that folks can see what has transpired. Generally, I only move a thread if it is overtly inappropriate for Tech Log.

17th Apr 2017, 12:57
Centaurus: A great read in the "Ernest Gann" style however what got my interest was the fact that they held for TWO hours and then ran themselves short of options! Surely this would have made an interesting CRM module on marginal decision making?

17th Apr 2017, 14:41
Not bad that - best I can claim is a Canberra T17 at St Mawgan, as the country went out in fog - 125 ft on the rad alt. Boss forgot I only had the (only) white card on the squadron and left me at the top of the stack of six. On the other hand, maybe he left me until last in case I blacked the runway.....

17th Apr 2017, 21:49
The decision to make a half flap landing to reduce the attitude change in the flare is an interesting one.

I think I would prefer full flap landing to reduce the approach speed, which would reduce the rate of descent, and also reduce the speed at which I might run off the runway and/or hit something.

17th Apr 2017, 22:47
Always luved that story.
There was another story published in Flying around the same time, I think by Ernest K Gann, of "Fate is the Hunter" Fame. It was called "Kwajalein" and concerned an aircraft that disappeared off radar on approach..suddenly reappeared 12 minutes later in the last position. Landed ..all was well except that the folks on the plane watches were 12 minutes behind those on the ground. I have never been able to find a copy of it.
Anyone have a clue?

18th Apr 2017, 07:22
The C124 had a pronounced nose down attitude on approach requiring a significant flare, tough to judge when you have no vis so a lower flap setting giving a higher pitch attitude was a good idea.

18th Apr 2017, 13:02
At flying school (CPL) my instructor was an ex-RAF pilot, and we had a good relationship. He liked to push & challenge, and reward. Mistakenly I told him I had read the EKG story of burning papers in the cockpit on approach. So there I was doing my night introduction circuits and on base turn out came the burning book of matches wafting under my nose. The more I blew the more they flamed, of course. (silly me to have forgotten my cubs camping stuff). We enjoyed a laugh & a pint in the pub afterwards. I'm glad I didn't tell him about reading Francis Chichester's Lonely Sea & Sky. Who know's where that could have led. Or even about Neil William's inverted finals.
Oh that it might still be possible today, in training.

18th Apr 2017, 13:50
While the old stories are good to review, their main value, such as with this one, lies in the underlying message regarding fall back stick and rudder and flight management/CRM skills on those rare occasions when the gee-whizz gadgets fall over .. and that does happen on occasion.

It is for some exposure to this sort of thing that some of us, in sim training (especially with initial commands and intake F/Os), find time to fit in short snippets of stick and rudder skills training amongst the standard autoflight work.

It is very gratifying to see a student, at the end of the course, able to shoot a handflown, raw data, 0/0 approach to a good landing ... the chances of doing so in real life is miniscule .. but the confidence building and satisfaction the trainees derive make the instructor effort all worth while.

.. and, very rarely, someone finds themselves in a situation where such exercises from the past might just help out in extremis.

Certainly, Centaurus, whom I have known for many years (and a superb instructor) introduces this sort of exercise when appropriate in endorsement and other training programs.

18th Apr 2017, 14:31

Although this thread has been moved back to Tech Log, there is still another version running on the AH&N forum. Please can you investigate and maybe merge the two? Thanks.

Loose rivets
18th Apr 2017, 16:17
Kids of today . . . kah!

I suppose I'm unusual in having done lots of blind landings on basic instruments. However, I hasten to add every one had a safety pilot in the loop. For one very happy winter that pilot was Col. Carl Crane, an aviation pioneer and by then honorary lecturer at the Advanced Instrument Flying School/department at RAFB San Antonio Texas. He couldn't tell them much about the modern kit, but by god, he'd got a tale or two to tell. It had all started when he'd tumbled out of the clouds in an open cockpit biplane - with a senator's son on board. He spent the next few years trying to convince pilots that they should believe their instruments. Many agreed, but argued that they seemed to go wrong when in cloud. It was a long hard struggle and included throwing hooded pigeons from aircraft. Mostly, the poor little things para-glided back to earth. Another thing he tried was a huge pinging cone in the belly of the aircraft and stethoscopes to tell when he was near the ground. Yes, he used a big field.

Carl's modern prototype was the subject of one of his patents. Landing after landing, on the line and as soft as you'd like. All achieved with pressure instruments.

Keeping on the centreline. Mmmm, sudden changes in power at a crucial moment? Not sure about that, but heck, it worked, so his machine-like accuracy allowed him to overcome any resultant swing. Neat.

When I had the temerity (in the early days of pprune) to suggest that taking the Turn & Slip instrument* out of transport aircraft was a VERY bad idea, I got totally flamed. Strange how many hours I'd flown with the horizon covered up - one advantage of working for an airline that was going broke: we had a lot of empty sectors and in those days the freedom to try things out.

When I tried a blind landing in a DC3, it was a tad harder. I'd read the Lysander guys held it straight with the T&S, so gave it a go. Super young bloke in the right hovering over the controls. When we stopped, I said, Flaps up, Mate. Nothing. Flaps up! Nothing. He was slumped in his seat just managing to say, Blimey . . . several times.

Afer a time in command, I found myself back in the right with a great young skipper - heading to Tenerife. It was a fuel-stretcher at the best of times. Clamped. Diverted. Diversion clamped. That island with a mountain a a runway. Open. ADF appoach. Nothing. I tried to reassure the skipper we'd done everything right. Next shot was to be the last. The Channel Airways Viscount at Palma came to mind. (Okay, but broke a runway light with the nosewheel.) Bloody good effort. Now we were in the same situation having chased good weather in a circle. But my ace card was that I'd been allowed to play with aircraft, and we had a T&S in our lovely little BAC 1-11. Two ace cards.:)

It was a non event. Disappointing, we could see the sides with ease. I don't know if it's irresponsible, but I never felt alive unless I was being challenged. Now, I'd hate some of the things I've been hearing. One pal gets invited for tea because he was holding the (side) stick back a tad during the deceleration run. The damned aircraft had reported him.

I was on the flightdeck of a 777 in recent years and the young crew were listening to my tales of old. "I think it was better in your days." the toddler in the 3rd seat said. I recalled my fir-lined boots, and pressing the headphones to my head so hard it hurt. Mmmm . . . I have a feeling I'd go for the giant computer game if I was suddenly 40 years younger.

*A proper T&S, not that strange thing they put in American light aircraft.

18th Apr 2017, 20:46
When I did my command course, B757, the TRE wanted to see me fly a SBY ILS approach. That's the tiny instrument that no-one looks at and is like what they had on a BAC-111, except that was black & white. Reason? Because it's there for a reason and you might have to do it one day. If there was an AC failure all the screens went dark, but the SBY's kept functioning.
It was a simple calm pitch power thing to do, because we had been well trained for it before all the fancy screens stuff. The technique of B732 was just transferred to B757. The SBY ILS is still there on B757/767 B738's and still no-one looks at it. Flying an approach on it is no longer a requirement. Why not? When asking the question I was told that B738's have the full screens on SBY. (but I also hear it's a customer option. True?)
Should flying limited panel still be a required skill? IMHO yes, because it gives you confidence. It's not something you'll be likely to do any time soon; but it gives you the confidence you are in control of the beast. 'cept it's never done. And then on the day the static or pitot is blocked, or the ADI is frozen, or ...... you can be a live hero instead of a dead wannabee.
I still say we train too much for 99.9% an ideal day with near perfect SOP's and the easy to follow QRH non-normals & repetitive emergencies. The pax expect us to solve more problems than that and to get them on the ground safely when Murphy & Sod choose to combine their antics. Sadly we are reminded every year that some training is better than others.
The crime to me is that skills have been allowed to deteriorate. Normally in life skills and associated things improve with time. They evolve to higher grades. Why has the opposite happened in our game? IMHO I believe that technology has been allowed to dilute our skills. The MPA philosophy, real a/c replaced by sims, the basic hours for a CPL much reduced, the cost of self-funded training, the necessity for speed to get cadets on line. I know many think the new style of intense SOP orientated airline training is excellent. Indeed it can be, but it is not sufficient, and there are too many who think it is sufficient, and being above average on the very basic bi-annual check items with excellent SOP's makes you ace of the base. Sadly, it's a false security.

It's a great shame how this debate keeps coming around almost yearly. I suppose we'll keep regurgitating the same old arguments, but will anything ever be done? As long as XAA's are not run by active experienced pilots I doubt it. Their minds and priorities are elsewhere and not where they should be & Flight Ops managers are governed by budgets more than standards.

18th Apr 2017, 23:44
Should flying limited panel still be a required skill? IMHO yes, because it gives you confidence

I train as a line check airman at a very large airline. My brief to my trainees: "By the end of your Initial Operating Experience (line flying) you will demonstrate to me your ability to operate this aircraft in a fully automated mode and also demonstrate to me your ability to hand fly the A/C from take off to landing (no AP, no AT, no FD)" (commensurate with company regulations - we are required to use the FD for takeoff...)

In my world we are still pilots. We are not paid for when things go right, we are paid for when things go wrong. Yeah, I am an old geezer, just a few years left...

19th Apr 2017, 07:56
(commensurate with company regulations - we are required to use the FD for takeoff...) While impossible to prove beyond reasonable doubt, this obsession with Flight Director information may have been a contributory cause of numerous IMC accidents in the past. Over-concentration at the two crossed FD needles when good airmanship dictates the pilot should be scanning all of his flight instruments, is a common sight during simulator training.
Who can ever forget the chilling CVR evidence of that Egypt Air (?) Boeing 737 spiralling at high speed into the sea at night; the captain frantically shouting to his co-pilot to engage the autopilot. No doubt as per company SOP, the FD on that 737 would have been on, its needles dancing around meaningless, but always seductive, to pilots brought up to be almost totally dependent on the automatics, including the FD.

19th Apr 2017, 08:09
Flight Directors – A Fatal Attraction

My first encounter with flight directors was in 1966 while undergoing conversion to the Avro 748. The RAAF had seen fit to send me to Woodford in Cheshire, all the way from Australia to ferry the second of several new 748’s for the RAAF VIP squadron at Canberra.The conversion was conducted on a battered 748 demonstrator G-ARAY known as Gary.The contract allowed four hours of dual for the captains and nothing for the co-pilots. G-ARAY had the basic instrument flying panel of that era and no flight director.

Our instructors at Avro’s were well known test pilots Bill Else, Tony Blackman and Eric Franklin. Jimmy Harrison was chief test pilot. Unlike the bog-standard civilian 748, the RAAF 748’s were to be equipped with a Collins FD 108 FD. So the situation existed that the RAAF 748’s had a British Smith’s autopilot system which was married (somewhat expensively and painfully) to the American Collins FD 108. For the life of me I could not see why a flight director was needed in the RAAF 748. After all, the approach speed was that of a DC3 – 80 knots and the aircraft a delight to handle compared with the venerable Dak. In retrospect, I think the old Wing Commander Transport Ops at Department of Air, who was charged with the procurement of the 748 for RAAF service, and hadn’t flown for years, was perhaps conned by the Avro sales people in conjunction with Collins, into buying the Collins systems.

Certainly in my view as the squadron QFI, flight directors were not operationally needed. In the event, the RAAF machines came with Collins FD 108 flight directors and as the contract specified each captain would be given only one hour of dual instruction once the 748 came out of the factory, we needed to learn how to operate the FD.

First, a course was arranged at the Collins establishment at Weybridge in Surrey. The two RAAF captains and their co-pilots attended and our two navigators and our instrument fitters also turned up to enjoy the Collins hospitality. We learned about 45 degree automatic intercepts of the VOR and ILS beams and other goodies including V-bar interpretation. We were showered with glossy brochures of the flight director by white dust-coated lecturers and shown a film. By lunchtime the presentation was complete and we were shouted to a slap up pub meal with lots of grog, all paid for by Collins. We asked what further lectures were to take place after lunch. We were told the course was over – it was just a morning’s job and we were free to leave unless we would like more drinks. Naturally it was churlish to refuse and hours later we staggered to the railway station (Ithink), smashed to the eye balls and having forgotten all about the marvels of 45 degree auto intercepts on the FD 108. .I must say it was an excellent three hour course;what with the free grog and all that.

A few weeks later, I flew the second RAAF aircraft, A10-596, under the watchful eye of Eric Franklin DFC and he demonstrated flight director stuff. For example to climb using the FD, you first put the aircraft into a normal climb and when settled you switched on the FD and carefully wound up the pitch knob so that the little aeroplane sat in the middle of the V-bars. I quickly realised that you hand flew the basic artificial horizon to whatever attitude was appropriate for the manoeuvre then told the FD 108 V bars where you wanted them. The ILS intercept of 45 degrees was never used because radar vectors didn’t do such angles. I became more and more convinced the 748 didn’t need flight directors and that they were a load of bollocks in that type of low speed aircraft. We were told theUSAF used the FD 108 in its F4 Phantoms and that Collins was anxious to makes sales in the UK market. The RAAF Wing Commander got sucked in by good sales talk and from then on all RAAF 748’s became so equipped.

I held personal doubts about the usefulness of flight directors in general as I could see even then, their extended use could lead to degradation of pure instrument flying skills.Today’s flight director systems are light-years ahead in sophistication compared with the old Collins FD 105 and 108 series.But the problem with blind reliance on FD indications and thus steady degradation of manual instrument flying skills is as real now as it was back in 1966.

Now to the present day - although first some background history. First published in 1967, “Handling the BigJets” written by the then British Air Registration Board’s chief test pilot David Davies, is still considered by some as the finest treatise still around on jet transport handling. Indeed, thebook was described by IFALPA as `the best of its kind in the world`…written by a test pilot for airline pilots, the book is likely to become a standard textbook…particularly recommended to all airline pilots who fly jets in the future…valuable to those pilots who are active in air safety work”.

All that was back in 1967 and little has changed since then; apart from an increasing propensity for crashes involving loss of control rather than simply running into hills. LOC instead of CFIT. Mostly these accidentswere caused primarily by poor hand flying and instrument flying skills which certainly explains why aircraft manufacturers lead the push for more and more automatics. A colleague involved with Boeing 787 training was told by a test pilot on type, that the 787 design philosophy was based on the premise that incompetent crews would be flying the aircraft and that its sophisticated automatic protection systems were in place to defend against incompetent handling. Be it a tongue-in-cheek observation, it contains an element of truth. With the plethora of inexperienced low hour cadet pilots going directly into the second in command seats in many airlines in Asia, the Middle East and Europe, these protection systems are important.

Towards the end of his book, David Davies discusses the limitations of the flight instruments in turbulence and in particular the generally small size of the active part of the basic attitude information or the ‘little aeroplane” as many older pilots will remember it. He continues: “the preponderance of flight director and other information suppresses the attitude information and makes it difficult to get at... and the inability, where pitch and rollinformation is split, to convey true attitude information at large pitch and roll angles in combination”

Finally,Davies exhorts airline pilots “not to become lazy in your professional lives…the autopilot is a great comfort, so is the flight director and approach coupler…but do not get into the position where you need these devices to complete a flight”. There is more of course but best go and read the book.
Having done the unforgiveable and quoted freely from an eminent authority, it is time to say something original and accept the no doubt critical comment that is freely available on Pprune. Flight Directors can be a fatal attraction to those pilots who have been brain-washed by their training system to rely on them at all times. While Boeing in their FCTM advise pilots to ensure flight director modes are selected for the desired manoeuvre, it also makes the point that the FD should be turned off, if commands are not to be followed.

Recently a new pilot to the Boeing 737 asked his line training captain if he could turn off the FD during a visual climb so he could better “see” the climb attitude. His request was refused as being “unsafe.” Instead he was told to “look through” the FD. I don’t know about you, but I find itimpossible to “see” the little aeroplane when it is obscured by twin needles or V-bars. In fact it takes a fair amount of imagination and concentration to do so. Which may be why Boeing recommends pilots to switch off the FD if commands are not to be followed.

I well recall my first simulator experience in the 737 of an engine failure at V2 where I was having a devil of a time trying to correct yaw and roll and the instructor shouting at me to “Follow the bloody flight director needles”. I learned a good lesson from that tirade of abuse on how not to instruct if ever I became a check pilot. In later years, having gravitated to the exalted – or despised maybe – role of simulator instructor, my habit was to introduce the engine failure on take-off by first personally demonstrating to the student how it should be done on raw data;meaning without a flight director. I hoped by first demonstrating, the student could see the body angles or attitude rather than imagine them by trying to “look through” the dancing needles of the FD. I have always been an advocate of the Central Flying School instructional technique of demonstrate first so the student then knows what is aiming for. Of course in the simulator, the instructor runs the risk of stuffing up (been there - done that!) but it at least proves he is human and not just another screaming skull.

Recently, a 250 hour pilot with a type rating on the 737-300 and trained overseas, booked a practice session prior to putting himself up to renew an instrument rating. His last rating was on a B76 Duchess. As part of the 737 instrument rating would include manual flying on raw data, he was given a practice manual throttle raw data take off and climb to 3000 ft. He protested, saying he had never flown the simulator without the flight director. His instructions were to maintain 180 knots with Flaps 5 on levelling. He was unable to cope and when the instructor froze the simulator to save more embarrassment, the student was 2000 ft above cleared level and 270 knots still accelerating with take off thrust.The student had been totally reliant on following flight directors with their associated autothrottles during his type rating course and without this aid he was helpless. I believe this is more widespread than most of us would believe; especially as we tend to move in our own narrow circle of experience.

At a US flight safety symposium, a speaker made the point that it is the less experienced first officers starting out at smaller carrierswho most need manual flying experience. And, airline training programs are focused on training pilots to fly with the automation, rather than without it. Senior pilots, even if their manual flying skills are rusty, can at least draw on experience flying older generations of less automated planes.

Some years ago, the FAA published a Safety Alert for Operators (SAFO) entitled Manual Flight Operations. The purpose of the SAFO was to encourage operators to promote manual flight operations when appropriate. An extract from the SAFO stated that a recent analysis of flight operations data (including normal flight operations, incidents and accidents) identified an increase in manual handling errors and “the FAA believes maintaining and improving the knowledge and skills for manual flight operations is necessary for safe flight operations.” Now let me see, I recall similar sentiments nearly 50 years ago published in“Handling the Big Jets” when David Davies wrote ” that airline pilots should “not become lazy in your professional lives…the autopilot is a great comfort, so is the flight director and approach coupler but do not get into the position where you need these devices to complete the flight.” See my earlier paragraphs.

It is a good bet that lip service will be paid by most US operators to the FAA recommendation to do more hand flying. It may have some effect in USA but certainly the majority of the world’s airlines, if they were even aware of the FAA stance in the first place (very doubtful), will continue to stick with accent on full automation from lift off to near touch-down and either ban or discourage their pilots from hand flying on line.

If you don’t believe that, consider the statement in one European 737 FCOM from 20 years ago that said: “Under only exceptional circumstances will manual flight be permitted.” After all, when at least two major airlines in SE Asia have recently banned all take off and landings by first officers because of their poor flying ability, then what hope is there to allow these pilots to actually touch the controls and hand fly in good weather? One of those airlines requires the first officer to have a minimum of five years on type before being allowed to takeoff or land while the other stipulates the captain will do all the flying below 5000 ft . It might stop QAR pings and the captain wearing the consequences of the first officer’s lack of handling ability, but it sure fails to address the real cause and that is lack of proper training before first officers are pushed out on line.

I think the FAA missed a golden opportunity in its SAFO to note that practicing hand flying to maintain flying skills will better attain that objective if flight director guidance is switched off. The very design of flight director systems concentrates all information into two needles (or V-bar) and in order to get those needles centred over the little square box, it needs intense concentration by the pilot. Normal instrument flight scan technique is degraded or disappears with the pilot sometimes oblivious to the other instruments because of the need to focus exclusively on the FD needles. Believe me we see this in the simulator time and again.

Manual flying without first switching off FD information will not increase basic handling or instrument flying skills. The flight director is amazingly accurate provided the information sent to it is correct. But you don’t need it for all stages of flight. Given wrong information and followed blindly, it becomes a fatal attraction. Yet we have seen in the simulator a marked reluctance for pilots to switch it off when it no longer gives useful information. Instructors are quick to blame the hapless student for not following the FD needles.This only serves to reinforce addiction to the FD needles as they must be right because the instructor keeps on telling them so. For type rating training on new pilots, repeated circuits and landings sharpen handling skills. Yet it not uncommon for instructors to teach students to enter waypoints around the circuit and then exhort the pilots “fly the flight director” instead of having then look outside at the runway to judge how things are going.

First officers are a captive audience to a captain’s whims. If the captain is nervous about letting his first officer turn off the flight director for simple climbs or descents, or even a non-threatening instrument approach, then it reflects adversely on the captain’s own confidence that he could handle a non-flight director approach. The FAA has already acted belatedly in publicly recommending that operators should encourage more hand flying if conditions are appropriate. But switch off the flight directors if you want real value for money; particularly with low hour pilots. It may save lives on the proverbial dark and stormy night and the generators play up.

19th Apr 2017, 10:33
there is still another version running on the AH&N forum. Please can you investigate and maybe merge the two?

Probably not an option .. the deal with getting it moved back per Centaurus' request involved leaving the original in AH&N and running a copy back here. We can live with that ..

Following on from Judd's comments, I am reminded of a medical, many years ago with an old DAME. In discussion, he observed that he did most of the diagnostic thumping, listening, etc. .. not so much that he thought I might have a problem .. but that, if he didn't practice those medical trade skills .. they would atrophy. And this fellow, although a local GP, was a visiting lecturer at a major university medical school .. certainly nobody's fool. The comment, I suggest, transfers readily across to piloting skills. Not that maintaining the skills will be a life saver day in, day out .. just gives the pilot a fighting chance should the JB kit's battery fail ...

19th Apr 2017, 11:04

Thx, very nice. A must for the children of magenta.

19th Apr 2017, 11:52
An extract from the SAFO stated that a recent analysis of flight operations data (including normal flight operations, incidents and accidents) identified an increase in manual handling errors and “the FAA believes maintaining and improving the knowledge and skills for manual flight operations is necessary for safe flight operations.”
Manual flying without first switching off FD information will not increase basic handling or instrument flying skills.

An excellent review of the topic, but sadly one that is at odds with many so-called top training airlines. Their philosophy is opposite to the 2 statements. A problem occurs, perhaps with a manual flight manoeuvre e.g. a visually flown circuit with FD's & A/T off. There is an increase in GA's. Solution? Ban the whole damn thing. Mandatory use of FD's at all times: discouragement of shortened manual circuits; mandatory LNAV/VNAV guidance to medium finals on visual circuits; recommended use of automatics to fly visual circuits; the only raw data flying in the TR sim is the mandatory raw data ILS; reduced manual flying in TR syllabi i.e. no raw data GH. Everything is FD or full automatics.
It is very common, even if briefed, DO NOT rotate to the pitch bar on lift off, especially on engine failure. Rotate to an attitude pause, and THEN the pitch bar. So often the pitch bar is above the ideal attitude and so the speed falls, and on SE that is not a bon ideé. You watch guys porpoise their way up the first 300' and settle at what was the correct ideal attitude all along. If only they had paused on first rotation the FD 'would have followed them'. The dog would wag the tail. Same with slaloming down the ILS chasing the LOC FD.
The correct philosophy, as stated, is follow the FD if the guidance is correct, or re-program it or switch it off. How do you know it is correct unless you scan the basic instruments that are feeding into the FD. Once you have confidence that is kosher, then use it as a tool. The best computer should be between your ears. That is too often forgotten and not enough good data & programs are downloaded and updated often enough. Manual practice will help in that regard and also as a healthy 'reboot'. One way the sports players keep sharp is practice, then play and keep the skills tined with gentle practice. Under stress they can draw on those skills and confidence gained during the practice and succeed. In many accidents we detect headless chickens and arms flashing around like an orangutang on acid.
A competent pilot under stress should not be operating at 100%, you hope. The better the training and more confidence the pilot has the more capacity they will have in a non-normal scenario to manage & handle it. Assessment & decision making will still be possible while you handle the a/c. It's easy if HAL is in CMD, but you should be able to manually stabilise the a/c enough to think outside basic control functions.
Many airlines say that non FD pure manual base training is sufficient to ingrain those skills; and then forbid such heresy ever again. They also say that a line flight is not the place to practice; that's what sims are for. Maybe if you give enough opportunity, but they don't. In any case it shouldn't be 'practicing on the line' it should be maintaining a basic skill that was gained and never lost.
There are airlines that follow this idea and we don't hear them trumpet their high levels of training & skills. There are others who straight-jacket their crews in rigid SOP's and claim a supreme level of training. It's an interesting and open debate with 2 very defined camps. It is a topic that a professional training symposium could debate over a 2 day conference of other topics, and a show of hands amongst the delegates would be an interesting finale. Has that ever happened? There have been lectures from both camps; there have been published learnings as per the FAA above; has there been an open debate? Without a learned opinion from the training and regulatory departments how can a solution be found to move forward in an improving and evolutionary manner?

19th Apr 2017, 12:26
One observation I would make is that the modern European SH loco environment is frequently not a great context in which to encourage an FO to practice their manual, un-directed hand flying skills. In a previous company, flying to regional airports, I was more than happy, and indeed encouraged FOs to practice their skills.

Where I am now, SH from a busy London airport, tiring rosters, tight block times, minimum spacing between departures and arrivals, operating at all hours of the day, lots of destinations which are infrequently visited - I rarely see good opportunities for guys to practice basic flying skills. I am glad that my past gave me plenty of opportunity for hand flying, but looking across the cockpit at younger guys having joined straight onto shiny autojet from flying school, unfortunately they won't have the opportunity to develop that reserve of experience for that super rare event. Having said that I do think that the current system equips them well for the 99.9% routine day job and those risks more usually posed in that environment.

19th Apr 2017, 12:39
One observation I would make is that the modern European SH loco environment is frequently not a great context in which to encourage an FO to practice their manual, un-directed hand flying skills. In a previous company, flying to regional airports, I was more than happy, and indeed encouraged FOs to practice their skills.

That's sad, & curious, because i would have thought it an ideal multi-sector environment to hone skills and keep them tuned. I note you comment about regional airport flying, and indeed in my apprenticeship days, it was in that kind of flying, including the Med airport & Greek islands, that we maximised manual flying. LGW, MAN, STN, LTN etc. didn't stop us. What we did do was use good judgment when it was appropriate to do so. After a night TFS back into UK was not a good time, but over a 4 day block with 1 captain it became a matter of pride for both to demonstrate their skills at a variety of airports. Low fuel low drag CDA's from TOD was the target. Spool up before OM and it was beer time.
Many EU SH LOCO's operate in & out of regional airports all the time. If not tired then do it. It should be your judgement.

19th Apr 2017, 12:42

Thx, very nice. A must for the children of magenta.

The height of arrogance being the failure to appreciate that we are all "children of magenta" even those of us weaned on the first generation of jets and older. The accident statistics have failed to provide much evidence to the contrary.

5th May 2017, 12:05
Bear with me on this: and there will be others with more inside knowledge. Please criticise any facts. This is one a basic review of the program.
I was watching a Nat Geo documentary on fighter dog-fights. The period under review was from end WW2 to end Vietnam and was about USAF pilots and techniques. After the many victories towards the end of WW2 and in Korea, plus others, it was accepted that the ground victories were because the skies were owned by USAF & allies. The greater skill in dog-fighting, plus better training & armaments was the winner. This was achieved with Mk.1 eyeball use of guns. I can't remember if it was the Korean conflict, but the kill/loss ratio was 750/75. Then came missile technology and the ability to kill at medium range without dog-fighting. 'The powers that were' declared that missile technology no longer required pilots to be taught close counter dog-fighting tactics and it was removed from fighter pilot training.
The reaction from the 'old farts' was predicable, and the quote from one senior pilot was that the decisions had been made by people who had outlived their usefulness or had been promoted above their capabilities. Easy to say, I know.
The F4 was introduced without guns; only missiles & bombs in dual roles. It's performance was astonishing from previous jet fighters, but it's opposition in Vietnam were Migs, with missiles & guns. After a few years in Vietnam USAF did not have ownership of the skies as they wished, and they wondered why they had fired huge number of missiles for few kills. They needed to get closer to the enemy a/c, but if they were too close they couldn't fire the missiles. They needed guns & dog-fight skills. The USAF were flying with one kind of strategy, but the enemy was using another. This due to the weapons & skills.
It was then deemed necessary to reintroduce basic dog-flight skills and Top Gun was born. The pilot was reduced in the very basics of manual aerial combat and became less reliant on the long range automatic lock-on electronic/radar missile kill tactic. They had to be able to do both. Once again, in conflicts USAF regained ownership of the skies. Back to Basics. Have guns returned, or another close encounter weapon?
Watching this it sounded familiar to what many of us have been discussing about the demise of the modern commercial MPA piloting skills. The Powers That Be have allowed automatics to replace basic skills; not enough education about the automatic systems, and not enough skill to take over when necessary. It seems, perhaps history is being repeated, but what will be the motivation to reverse it? Accident statistics are the driving force in the civil world. Risk/Cost equations.
I appreciate it may be considered apples & oranges by some, but IMHO the comparison might be more oranges & tangerines.

6th May 2017, 14:19
Watching this it sounded familiar to what many of us have been discussing about the demise of the modern commercial MPA piloting skills. The Powers That Be have allowed automatics to replace basic skills; not enough education about the automatic systems, and not enough skill to take over when necessary

On this subject, the British aviation journalist, David Learmount, wrote the following on 4 August 2011 under the title of "AF557 and the loss of control epidemic." Edited for brevity.

"Contrary to a lot of comment you will hear, this is not a function of the atrophying of manual motor skills, it is brain skills and awareness that has been lost. I would qualify that statement about loss of manual skills by saying that flying on instruments is a skill that needs frequent practice, because it requires sophisticated cognitive skills. But even in instrument flying, it is not the loss of motor skills that's the killer, it's the loss of that ability to recognise, believe, and understand what the instruments are telling you.

But the loss of these skills is being covered up by the cleverness and reliability of flight management systems and the autopilot/autothrottle systems they direct. Even the pilots don't know whether they've lost these skills or not. They don't find out until the automatics fail. And with the stress of a systems failure reducing your brain's capacity to take good decisions, that's a bad time to find out you no longer have the skills to cope.

Just a simple analogy for you about loss of skills: I recently discovered I had forgotten how to do long division. I don't need the skill any more because my calculator has rendered it redundant. But my life and the lives of those around me do not depend on these atrophied skills of mine.

Whereas a pilot's cognition of what's going on, gleaned from raw data sources when that's all there is left, is essential for survival. The training regime pilots are required to undergo is the underlying cause of Air France 447. The training regime is not set by the airlines, it is set by the world's civil aviation authorities. They have failed to update pilot training requirements to take account of the massive changes in the nature of an airline pilot's job with the arrival of modern, highly automated aircraft.

So it's the world's civil aviation authorities who, above others, shoulder the responsibility for Air France 447, and for the six other loss-of-control flights since 2000. Let me list them. And remember these have been the cause of 976 unnecessary deaths:

2010 Ethopian Airlines Boeing 737-800 in the Mediterranean Sea near Beirut.

2009 Yemenia Airbus A310-300, in the Indian Ocean near the Comoros Islands.

2009 Air France A330-300, South Atlantic

2007 Adam Air Boeing 737-400, Java sea near Sulawesi

2006 Armavia Airbus A320, Black Sea near Sochi

2004 Flash Airlines 737-300, Red Sea near Sharm el-Sheikh

2000 Gulf Air A320-200, Arabian Gulf near Bahrain

This has to stop, and a modernised system of training for pilots that recognises how automation is causing essential skills to atrophy, is the only way of doing it.

6th May 2017, 16:11
Words of wisdom indeed. But a responsible airline can programme more than the minimum recurrent training defined by the regulatory authorities. It needs little in the way extra expense, only imaginative training routines. However, this presupposes a company where the flight operations department has sufficient clout. It can be done.

6th May 2017, 18:38
I was not trying to re-open a longtime circular debate about this subject. I suspect all has been said than needs to be said on it. Whether anything will come of it is another matter. My observation was that the Powers that Be in the military made the same mistake as is being made now in the civil world. The difference is they realised later on and had some motivation to correct it. Lives were at stake and wars needed winning. I doubt the civil world will have the same level on incentive, but there does need to be a shift in emphasis.

7th May 2017, 02:13
I was not trying to re-open a longtime circular debate about this subject

On the contrary, I for one am glad you did. . With a bit of luck, State Regulatory staff, some of whom read Pprune as a window on the operational side of airline flying, will be stirred to take positive action to ensure operators are compelled to increase the amount of hands on flying during simulator training and testing.

7th May 2017, 07:34
I did hear one interesting comment from an oldie, who used to pole manually around the sky in & out of some challenging places; thus he is on our side, but...

he had come to the conclusion that some airlines were satisfied that if they could teach their cadets to use the autopilot to bring the a/c into landing configuration at 1000'-500' and in the slot then they should be capable of disconnecting and completing the last 60secs of a gravity defying challenge without screwing it up too often. If this was achieved on 99.99999999% of the flights everyday with only a couple of G/A's then job done. They had kept their side of the bargain with the pax. Every 6 months the pilots jumped through historic hoops and the XAA was satisfied. It s going to be very difficult to shake them from that philosophy. There does not appear to be any incentive. Sadly he might be correct. Those CP's who like to encourage their crews to be more pilot than operator are free to do so, but it will not be easy to mandate it across the board. What is disheartening is that there are some operators who forbid/discourage those with the manual piloting skills to use them.

7th May 2017, 11:27
A difficulty in resolving circular debates is having a clear and universally acceptable understanding of the problem.
Many posts choose to categorise the list of accidents above as loss of control and thus relate this to manual flight practice, training, or degrading cognitive skills. There is support for this view in The Retention of Manual Flying Skills in the Automated Cockpit. (http://hfs.sagepub.com/content/56/8/1506.full.pdf)

Similarly there are alternative categorisations with causal factors such as insufficient awareness, illusion, disorientation, or startle; these categories can also be related to training and experience depending on viewpoint. We are biased by our experiences and operations, that's normal; but these same biases may prevent agreement on solutions.

Most of the views are based on accident outcomes: 'the aircraft crashed because the crew could not recover the situation'. These overlook aspects of how the situation was encountered, the preceding events, and thus opportunities for avoiding unwanted situations.

The difficulties above are typical of seeking improvement in complex operational systems, which may resist conventional (single point of view) solutions.
The industry is being exposed to 'new' ways of approaching safety, but because these involve change they may be difficult to implement. The industry may suffer a subconscious illusion of 'we are safe enough' because of a low accident rate, an old style of safety thinking, conflict between safety and economics, and belief that safety can be 'regulated' and human performance can be improved with training, all without considering the operating environment.
If this is so, then it is necessary to resolve these issues before we are able to break out of circular debates of operational safety. The higher echelons of the industry need to adapt their safety thoughts, both on the current and evolving safety issues, and not just rely on the sharp end becoming even more adaptable in a constraining regulatory environment.

Some 'break out' reading, particularly sections 1, and pages 34 - 40, 56 - 59, section 5 (page 75),
Connecting the Dots - No Single Way. (https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/3754/f3514bcdabcffcac7225cca3805f89421f10.pdf)
Sorry no solutions, but if we change our thinking we might progress.

10th May 2017, 14:17
I recently went through 767 school, yet again and presumably for the last time. My sim partner was coming to the airplane for the first time, after 20+ years on the Airbus 320. We had to constantly remind him to put his hand on the throttles. To say he had no scan would be an understatement. It was a very tough training exercise, not least because the standard company training profile cannot be altered. If it’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium…or non-ILS day, or whatever. The company idea is that if you need extra training, they will provide that at the end of the course. In this gentleman’s case, I’m pretty sure I could have worked out most of his kinks with a two hour sim block at the beginning…just for basic instrument stuff. The man was not a dummy. But he had become inured by years of flying an airplane that does everything for him.

Contrast that with one of my very favorite first officers, a woman who, with her husband, owns a small airport and several light airplanes. She cut her teeth flying auto parts around in Lears on the back side of the clock, and regularly tootles around the family patch in a Luscombe. Her ability to hand fly the MD80 is a joy; it is literally fun to watch her work. Autopilot/autothrottle off in the downwind, and when it comes time for the 500 foot call, all you need to do is fold down the top of your newspaper, make the speed and sink calls, and go back to your article. Obviously I’m being slightly facetious there, but in fact, no matter what the condition, the airplane is going to go where you want it to go, without a word spoken. When we were getting a line check last year from the FAA, I waited until she had called for LNAV after the takeoff, then I leaned back toward the Fed and said, “Watch this”. Sure enough, all the way through the RNAV departure turns, with maybe 0.1 nm lateral deviation in the 90˚ turn. I have seen many autopilots that couldn’t hold those tolerances.

What’s the difference? My MD80 friend has a genuine feel for the airplane, and I’m pretty sure that’s any airplane. My sim partner, not so much. She has probably never let any airplane fly her; he had become accustomed to an airplane that would, without some opposing effort, gladly fly him.

10th May 2017, 22:20
My confusion is this. What Mansfield describes is the way it was, and IMHO he way art should still be. It was the way I was taught & the way everyone flew in my outfit. Captains demonstrated it and we apprentices follow suit. It was what our pilot management expected of the crews. Plus, the network required such skills for the airfields down route, and the basic kit of the a/c also required a high manual skill set.
What has happened is that the a/c have become technically more sophisticated, more capable in automatics, and the airfields have become more updated in their equipment. It is possible to manoeuvre the a/c to 3nm finals via automatics and then disconnect, when the a/c is in full & stable landing configuration, and perform the role of a real pilot for 45secs as you bring your steed back to earth. Job done. Indeed that is a necessary skill, but it has caused the earlier required skills to become museum pieces. Why, because those other skills are not taught, no demonstrated, not encouraged nor expected by some flight ops management. There are some operators who hold true to classic standards, but there are far too many who do not and create a fleet of trained monkeys. What is sadly true is that a pilot, from old school with high level basic skills, joins an airline of the restrictive kind and is no longer allowed to demonstrate his skills on line even for his own enjoyment and latterly for the education of the apprentice. The airline wants max use of full automatics.
It is a tragedy, and it will bite them one day.

11th May 2017, 10:53
Tragic, isn't it ?

I look back fondly to flying freight on the L188 and B727 35 years or so ago. Back of the clock, next to no traffic, and the stick and rudder/IF skills were honed and rehoned ... and it was all a great deal of good clean fun. Autopilot ? .. only of use when eating one's meal.

Sometimes I wonder whether I should have transitioned to the Airbus .. not often, though.

Ian W
11th May 2017, 11:43
I can remember driving vehicles that required double declutching for gear changes, using 'heel and toe' to do so when braking ... those days are also long gone - should they be brought back?

The problem is that the FMC manufacturers still believe that the pilot can pick up the bag of bolts when their software fails and seamlessly go from fully automatic back to double declutching. The software is designed so that the more difficult to cope with cases and the 'who would have ever thought that could happen' cases result in the FMC software 'going into alternate mode' and 'you have control'.

The philosophical question that is now faced is 'which way to go now?'. One way most often seen on here is to ensure that flight crews retain their manual flying skills, the art of flying so that the FMC is not an essential for safe flight but an aid for the crew. However, this is not the way that aircraft are now being designed and the FMC (and other avionics) are being designed so that there are less 'otherwise' cases where the crew needs to take over. Indeed, the 787 is claimed to have a defensive approach to the human interface to recover from erroneous crew inputs. The ultimate direction this moves in is the partially crewed or uncrewed aircraft - or full automation.

In human factors terms the pilot has moved already from 'in-the-loop' to 'on-the-loop'. The next step to human 'out-of-the-loop' or autonomous flight is already the case in some military UAS. The direction of development of the future of flying is being decided now; the decision should not be left to accountants.

11th May 2017, 13:45
Centaurus (#1),

Not being a techie, I've never ventured on this turf before: my home ground being Military Avation Forum, "Gaining a R.A.F. Pilot's Brevet in WWII" Thread.

What a wonderful story ! Yet the old "seat of the pants" method still has its uses. I did my first 60 hours on the "Arnold Scheme" with the US Army Air Corps in Florida. The ASIs had been taken out of our Stearman (back) cockpits. We were taught to fly by feel and Attitude alone. As most of us had never been off the ground in our young lives, we felt no pain. Did any other Air Forces do this ? Does the USAF do it now ? Never occurred to me to ask, will do so on "Pilot's Brevet" shortly.

On that Thread, read Padhist's: "RAE Bedford. Blind Landing Experimental Unit" (Page 113, #2258).* It ties in nicely with your story of what the human pilot can do (at its very best).

Yet the old idea often came to my aid in Monsoon cu-nims in Burma ! And it is arguable that it might have saved AF447. As I see it, each of the three pilots was quite capable of flying the thing out of trouble if they'd only ignored the Flight instruments on the panel and simply "flown Attitude", as I had to at Carlstrom Field all those years ago. But none even thought of doing so - they'd been brain-washed into being no more than simple Systems Managers.

Note * above: my weary tale starts Page 114, #2262 (advt.)

11th May 2017, 18:07
Man / RAT, ' flying as an art' , but art has no boundaries, no set format; we know what it is because we 'know what we like'. ;)

Ian W, expectation - 'the pilot can pick up the bag of bolts' . Yes.
The industry chooses to automate functions to mitigate less reliable human activity, yet when automation fails the industry then expects the 'less reliable human' to manage the situation and blames then when they cannot meet that expectation.
We are unlikely to progress safety until this line of thinking changes. Not that the industry is unsafe, but there is increasing need to maintain and improve the current standards as aviation expands, yet this expansion is driven by the same automation which the human is expected to manage in all circumstances. Round and round.

'On the loop' or 'out of the loop', like art depends on what you see. A backward, reminiscent view (I include my self in that age group) may see the flying loop, whereas today the issue is more a flight and systems management loop. The future has to include the human loop; not just the crew, but the interactions of design and certification ... the manufacturer, regulator, and investigator loop.
I fear that we will never catch up, never break out of the circular argument, because it will always be some loop or other.

The required safety activity could be described as 'loop management', but more practically, how to manage the unexpected. Yet this form of management is exactly what has been discussed under flight experience, and the current problems of low levels of experience, - manufacturer, regulator, operator, and finally the crew.
I still argue the need for experienced thinkers; starting with the regulators and management - top down. But as long as they believe that they can manage their 'loop' with bottom up regulatory constraint and more training the industry will continue to be surprised.

Danny, to add to the 'been there, done that, T shirt', etc; I probably occupied Padhist's house and job some 15 years later, but instead of evaluating automation the task was to map human capability if the autos failed. The human is more capable than many believed.
And then a further 15 years later certificating a highly reliable, but cheap autoland system, being surprised by unexpected in-service failures. Crews did not follow the abnormal procedure as landing below 50 ft in fog was judged safer than a GA - it may have been; and that the system failures were 'caused' by the crew's apprehension - 'white knuckling' the controls and inadvertently disconnecting the autos! Lack of confidence , low experience ... C'est la vie.

11th May 2017, 18:24
I vaguely recall an arcticle in "Flying" in the late 60's early 70's.
It seems they gave, as an experiment, some ab initio students their first 5 hours totaly on instruments.
I assume this gave them a good scan but wonder what effect this had on their later VFR training.
I can't remember what the conclusions drawn from the experiment were.
When I started training... looking at the instruments was initialy discouraged. Looking around was encouraged. LOL

12th May 2017, 01:28
I can remember driving vehicles that required double declutching for gear changes ..... The problem is that the FMC manufacturers still believe that the pilot can pick up the bag of bolts when their software fails and seamlessly go from fully automatic back to double declutching.

Therein lies the difference .. the synchro/auto gearbox doesn't fail back to a Road Ranger box reversionary mode. The aircraft, on the other hand, does .. ergo, if the pilot is not up to speed on the day then it all turns to custard on occasion.

I have a non-synchro truck licence .. my proficiency probably isn't pretty .. but, if necessary, I can drive one. Same philosophy.. why let a skill (which may have a value) atrophy ? ... with a sideline consideration that risk probabilities should drive the decision to a large extent .. ergo, the truck thing isn't all that important .. while the aircraft AFCS failure still is until, and unless, systems reliability can get up amongst the structural failure probabilities ..

Yes, it costs in money and time .. as safetypee observes, it's largely to do with risk management and desired outcomes. I might look back to yesteryear wistfully but I was only too happy to do an autoland at the end of a long tour in lousy weather conditions ....

12th May 2017, 12:56
There is a way to deal with this which can satisfy all parties, but it needs more radical thinking than most pilots are currently prepared to contemplate. Readers will think I am flogging a dead hobby-horse but here goes....

We are talking about maintaining (and to an increasing extent, initially acquiring) basic aircraft manoeuvring skills, in a world where those in charge of operations believe automation is capable of doing this manoeuvring more consistently and efficiently than the human pilots. They prefer to regard crew members as system operators whose presence is primarily concerned with economic efficiency and satisfying regulatory needs. They write rules and procedures for crews to deal with what they BELIEVE are the most demanding circumstances - even if in reality they are not.

If one thinks that way, then basic manual flying skills become a low priority, because for what THEY consider to be demanding situations, the automation is required to be used anyway. This is despite the fact that automation CAN'T actually solve all problems and may actually create an even more demanding situation by dumping a problem back into an unprepared crew's hands, as John T just said. This is belatedly being recognised by some of those at the top.

From the currently prevailing perspective, it is a "given" that automation reduces pilot workload and improves efficiency. So it follows that deliberately using less than maximum automation is unacceptable, because it adds to the workload of the PF. Normally the PF is also responsible for the overall management of the flight which must be a higher priority. With manual flying on instruments especially, the less it is practised, the more concentration it requires on very short term inputs and responses, which must divert attention from overall situational awareness and "flight management". It's a vicious circle and inevitably, managements increasingly regard it as unacceptable, especially if the PF in question may be an inexperienced F/O, or if it is done merely for personal satisfaction.

But IF pilots themselves are also willing to be open-minded, this "automation must always be used because it's needed in our limiting cases" attitude is vulnerable to two facts. These are (1) there is also a second pilot (PM), and (2) the vast majority of the time conditions are NOT close to "limits".

The fundamental objection to manual practice is that it diverts PF's mental resources from the more important overall management task. But if you can make the philosophical leap that it's not necessary for the PF simultaneously to have overall responsibility for management, that doesn't matter. The PM's basic workload isn't much affected by whether or not the automatics are being used. Some readers will recognise where I am going with this......!

Although it will be heresy to most, if you routinely separate overall management responsibility from aircraft handling, it is easy to make manual practice in appropriate conditions entirely consistent with getting maximum benefit from automation when needed. Leaving aside all other aspects, routinely using a pilot-in-charge monitored approach procedure would make it much more acceptable to practice manual flying, and especially it opens up the route to more rapid acquisition of skills by low experience pilots. As others have said, it's largely to do with risk management and desired outcomes. Instead of an "all or nothing" situation - give the leg away or not - as a Captain you can have much more control of how much freedom you are giving an F/O to learn and practice.

While many people are horrified by the idea of a 20 year old with 225 hours, a CPL and an IR, being in the right seat of the latest, most sophisticated aircraft in high density short sector operations, let alone with an ex-military Captain who has never heard of CRM, that was exactly my initial situation over 50 years ago. The "delegated flying" used by my operator then resulted in cadets like me building at least that element of their experience extremely rapidly.

Line flying became effectively an extension of training, as Captains who had no formal training responsibility were supervising this learning and experience building process, using their own discretion as to how much freedom they allowed us to dispense with autopilot, flight director etc. on any individual occasion. But it has to be seen as an entire package of procedures, limits and recommendations.

There is a very informal discussion going on elsewhere among a group of experienced pilots including former manufacturers test pilots and instructors, to try and evaluate a "best practice" recommendation that covers this. I'm open to making the current version available for comment if there's a desire to see it and discuss it seriously, but not if it is just going to get "flamed" as would happen in Rumours and News. JT, as moderator what do you think?

12th May 2017, 13:19
I'm open to making the current version available for comment ...

You put it up and I'll take care of anything inappropriate in the responses ..

12th May 2017, 13:55
OK. I will do it ASAP. It will need some background to be provided and might also need a bit of re-formatting as some of it is tabulated.

12th May 2017, 15:55
The thought behind this was to have a simple statement of principles that any operator could insert in its policy manual with minimal amendment. At present it seems that operators are adopting increasingly restrictive policies about the use of automation, which experienced pilots feel are actually inappropriate and even long term hazardous.

The objective here is to provide such operators with a rational and defensible framework to achieve a minimum risk to their overall operation. It could be adopted without "loss of face" and indeed it could be presented as a logical extension of their current restrictive policy.

Applying this would result in a default operation that results in the highest possible THEORETICAL degree of safety on every IFR approach, whatever the actual conditions. This would include all operational "worst cases" catered for in the ops manual. This is described in the opening section "Standard normal operations policy". It requires a "Pilot-in-charge Monitored Approach" (PiCMA), with the discretion for the Captain to take control above DH in defined conditions.

For preference I don't think we should debate the details or merits of the PiCMA procedure in this thread here, but my view is that it is essential to operators' acceptance of the subsequent manual practice during line operations. Amongst other things it means that inexperienced F/Os in particular can concentrate on instrument flying, and are not burdened with concerns about transition to visual cues and completion of the landing, which remain the Captain's responsibility.

After stating the default, high automation, procedure, the policy then allows the Captain (Commander) to use discretion to vary specific aspects of it, to trade the existence of increased safety margins in some aspects against reductions in others in a closely controlled manner.

This trade enables the operator to balance marginally increased short term risk to the individual flight against significantly reduced long term risk, to achieve the highest ACTUAL degree of safety across their operations as a whole.

The principal areas of discretion are in role reversal and manual practice. For both of these compensating conditions must be applicable - the detail of these may be company specific but the principles are obvious. They are applicable either separately or simultaneously.
____________________________________________________________ ____
A "best practice" example operations policy - draft for discussion.

1. Standard normal operations policy.
For all IFR approaches (regardless of expected weather) duty allocations will in accordance with the tabulated PicMA procedure, including all specified call-outs, and terminate in an automatic landing if available.
1. The Captain as P1 will monitor the approach and make the landing.
2. If landing, the Captain will take control following the "Decide" call at Decision Height.
3. Autoland will be used if available, if not the autopilot should remain engaged to the lowest permitted altitude for the type of approach in use.
4. The F/O as P2 will fly the approach and go-around.
5. The F/O will use the aircraft's auto-flight capabilities to the maximum available extent.
6. The F/O will resume Pilot Monitoring duties after the Captain takes control, with particular emphasis on monitoring of flight path by instruments.
7. When an IFR approach terminates in a visual circuit, visual circuit procedures will apply from the point where the approach is broken off.

At the Captain's discretion, he/she may resume control above DH/MDA provided the following criteria are met:
1. The aircraft is established on final approach in stable landing configuration.
2. The probability of a go-around due to inadequate visual reference is nil (e.g. touchdown point is visible).
3. The probability of a go-around due to other factors is low (e.g. runway clear etc).
2. Role reversal.
Captains should use their discretion to allow role reversal (operation in the P1 role by the F/O and the P2 role by the Captain), in appropriate circumstances. This means:
1. The weather expected at the time of the approach is better than [relevant Company First Officer minima].
2. Both crew members meet [relevant company criteria].
3. If any non-normal aircraft condition arises or other circumstances change, once the appropriate checklist items and other immediate safety items have been completed, the Captain should assess whether conditions now require that the role reversal should be terminated for the remainder of the flight with the Captain operating in the P1 role.
3. Manual flying practice.
During normal operations, at the Captain's discretion and after considering the additional impact on workload for both pilots in the prevailing weather and other circumstances:
1. The Captain may allow the First Officer to disconnect elements of automatic guidance systems at any point during the approach.
2. Each element disconnected should result in increased emphasis on purely instrument monitoring of the flight path by the Pilot Monitoring, i.e. the P1 prior to resuming control, and the P2 subsequently.
3. Disconnection is similarly permitted during role reversal sectors, provided the Captain is confident that the First Officer understands the additional monitoring emphasis.
4. If either pilot considers that workload is becoming excessive, autopilot and autothrust must be re-engaged.
5. The [example below] criteria must be fulfilled.
Desired practice: Minimum conditions.
Manual flying, flight director and autothrust engaged: IMC, destination weather better than 1000ft/5 miles
Manual flying, raw data, autothrust engaged: VMC, day or night. PM must set flight director modes appropriately
Manual flying, flight director, manual thrust: VMC day. PM must set flight director modes appropriately
Manual flying, raw data, manual thrust: VMC, day. PM must set flight director modes. PF must have minimum 1000 hours or 400 sectors on type.

Ian W
12th May 2017, 20:54
From the currently prevailing perspective, it is a "given" that automation reduces pilot workload and improves efficiency.This is not always the case and depends upon the pilot and the automation design. All automation unless completely autonomous creates workload (called by some 'parasitic workload') it is the work required to understand, initiate and use/monitor the automation. Indeed failure to understand 'what it's doing now' or monitor automation has been the cause of several accidents.

With a pilot who is relaxed flying an aircraft manually it may actually be the case that the parasitic workload of managing the automation is greater than the workload using the learned skill of flying an aircraft manually. At the other end of the scale are the pilots who rely on automation and given a sudden reversion to manual flying (direct law) will be unable to cope with the perceived workload due to lack of (continuation) training - this would seem to apply to probably a majority of younger pilots.

Unless as suggested in SLAST's 'Best Practice' pilots ensure that they have practice in manual flying, the next step will be full automation and reduced crewing as the unpracticed flight crew 'cannot take over' in any case.

13th May 2017, 09:35
Ian, just for clarity, by "currently prevailing perspective" I meant that of the managements that are predominantly putting excessive emphasis on automation. I disagree with them and I agree with your point.

13th May 2017, 12:00
Apropos the subject matter under discussion. Strongly recommend the article "The Rise of the Machines" by journalist Matt O'Sullivan in the Saturday "Age" (Good Weekend magazine 13 May 2017) where he interviews Qantas Captain Kevin Sullivan who was flying QF 72, an A330 from Singapore to Perth on 7 October 2008 when a serious computer defect caused a jet upset. Five pages of riveting reading.

ATSB Report: https://www.atsb.gov.au/publications/investigation_reports/2008/aair/ao-2008-070.aspx

13th May 2017, 12:55
Amongst other things it means that inexperienced F/Os in particular can concentrate on instrument flying, These "inexperienced" first officers are, in theory and by legislation, second in command of a jet transport aircraft that is capable of having over 400 passengers aboard. They have a command type rating.

and are not burdened with concerns about transition to visual cues and completion of the landing, Are you suggesting that inexperienced first officers do not have the necessary handling skills to not only fly manually on instruments during an instrument approach, but find themselves over-burdened when required to transition to visual cues on breaking visual and land the aircraft?

Are they not required to demonstrate their competency to a command standard during instrument rating tests? Or is that only on automatic pilot controlled approach and landing?:E

13th May 2017, 16:21
Excellent article, thanks Centaurus
The untold story of QF72: What happens when 'psycho' automation leaves pilots powerless? (http://www.theage.com.au/good-weekend/the-untold-story-of-qf72-what-happens-when-psycho-automation-leaves-pilots-powerless-20170510-gw26ae.html)

18th May 2017, 15:59
New FAA SAFO 17007 (https://content.govdelivery.com/attachments/USAFAA/2017/05/11/file_attachments/815236/SAFO17007.pdf)! interesting reading material!

An extract:

An air carrier’s line operations policy should permit and encourage manual flight operations and should
incorporate the following:
1. Encouragement to manually fly the aircraft when conditions permit, including at least periodically,
the entire departure and arrival phases, and potentially the entire flight, if/when practicable and
2. When deciding to fly manually, crews should apply basic threat and error management principles
and take into account the various factors affecting operational workload. Factors to consider
• Weather conditions, terrain, and/or other environmental threats
• Time of day
• Psychological and/or physiological factors
• Level of crew experience
• Traffic density
• Condition of the aircraft, and/or any non-normal conditions
• Air Traffic Control and/or instrument procedural challenges
• Any other operational threats
Distributed by: AFS-200 OPR: AFS-280
3. Allow pilots to conduct manual flight with all approved combinations of automation based on
aircraft equipage, e.g.,
• FD on, AP off, AT on
• FD on, AP off, AT off
• FD off, AP off, AT off
• FD on, AP on, AT off

pa12 pilot
18th May 2017, 18:59
@Judd, based on your post #18 in this thread I'll bet you are one of those sim instructors with whom pilots strive to train. Although I have no jet aspirations (I'm a lowly Navajo pilot in the bush), your writing tempts me to come do a rating with you. Please continue sharing your wisdom and experience here!