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Virtual pilot lands Qantas jet

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Virtual pilot lands Qantas jet

Old 14th Apr 2004, 01:42
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Virtual pilot lands Qantas jet

If this keeps on, in 30 years there won't be any pilot jobs around any more...

Virtual pilot lands Qantas jet
By Geoff Easdown
April 14, 2004

THE Qantas jumbo was at cruise altitude heading to Melbourne when aviation's latest gee-whiz tool took charge in the cockpit last week.

For 45 minutes last Wednesday the flight from Singapore responded to commands despatched from the tower at Tullamarine.

Flight QF10, carrying 400 passengers, went from 39,000ft to a standing stop on the tarmac without the pilots or tower talking.

A revolutionary landing process driven entirely by digitised commands was transmitted to the aircraft via the tower computer.

Qantas head of flight operations, Chris Manning said yesterday that the new "tailored arrival system" would be tested over the next six months and hopefully adopted afterwards by safety regulator Airservices Australia.

Except for a couple of relatively minor issues, the first trial went exceptionally well, he said yesterday.

Qantas is using Boeing 747-400 and Airbus A330 jets for the trials on selected in-bound international and domestic flights to Melbourne and Sydney airports. Capt Manning said the trial would involve about 100 flights until October.

Conducted in association with Boeing, Air Services Australia and Europe's Air Traffic Alliance, the aim is to find solutions to the go-around landing problem for pilots and passengers at busy airports.

Capt Manning said that, unlike present landing strategies, the new system gave controllers more time to plot procedures and give incoming aircraft direct glide paths.

"It will reduce noise, cut fuel burn and noise and generate substantial savings," he said.

It's estimated that a jumbo using the system operating between Melbourne and Sydney could save 300kg of jet fuel and about 200kg on an A330jet.

Details about the trial and last Wednesday's landing emerged yesterday when the national flag carrier demonstrated the technology at its new flight simulators at Essendon.

An Airbus A330 simulator, operated by Capt Duncan Pudney, was used to demonstrate a tailored landing from 41,000ft.

Tower commands received via a data uplink were loaded by Capt Pudney into the simulator's flight management system.

From that point on, Capt Pudney simply followed a voice command from the onboard computer. "It is just a matter of monitoring the auto flight system through to the auto-land arrangement," he said.

The only instruction was an order to adjust the thrust levers to idle. After touchdown, Capt Pudney manually activated reverse thrust to assist braking.

"Using reverse thrust and the automated breaking system the plane decelerates taxi speed," Capt Pudney said.

With the aircraft near to standstill, he deactivated the auto braking system and the automatic pilot. He was then able to manually move the plane off the centreline of the runway.

Capt Manning said the new system allowed pilots a "limitless range of flight path options."

"This ensures the most efficient arrival path possible," he said.

He said Qantas crew and air traffic controllers would constantly evaluate each flight during the landing and arrival phases. Qantas is also testing an initiative where computers coupled to glass displays are being tested on 737-800 aircraft to further improve precision landings.

The new system does away with the conventional way pilots scan flight instruments. Pilots need only glance at a see-through glass panel for a readout of instruments in front of the windscreen.
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Old 14th Apr 2004, 02:07
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Wink

Captain Pudney? That didn't take Duncan long- time to command in QF is now 2 years is it?
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Old 14th Apr 2004, 02:21
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The only instruction was an order to adjust the thrust levers to idle.
Impressive; no flaps, no gear!
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Old 14th Apr 2004, 02:54
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Err...do the SLF have a choice during this "trial"?
Details about the trial and last Wednesday's landing emerged yesterday when the national flag carrier demonstrated the technology at its new flight simulators at Essendon.
Whisch were supposed to be at Tullamarine!
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Old 14th Apr 2004, 03:44
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Impressive; no flaps, no gear!
I guess that would cut the noise of a 146 by another 50%
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Old 14th Apr 2004, 04:07
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Yet again a journalist displays his lack of knowledge about aviation in particular and anything technical in general. He obviously has no idea about how the new system works. GB
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Old 14th Apr 2004, 04:09
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Good to see the 'lawnmower man' has $cabbed his way to the top yet again..............
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Old 14th Apr 2004, 04:16
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I didn't realise commands happened that quickly in Qantas.
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Old 14th Apr 2004, 05:08
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the aim is to find solutions to the go-around landing problem for pilots and passengers at busy airports.
Gee, the "go around landing" would be very spectacular even if only the pilots could solve the problem. Imagine how difficult it would be for passengers at busy airports to do it as well.
Journalists ( once again ... )
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Old 14th Apr 2004, 05:34
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So how does this system work then? Is it through CPDLC or something similar? Anyone know where this is heading?
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Old 14th Apr 2004, 07:04
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Can't keep a 'good' man down.

'Virtual pilot' is one discription of him I hadn't heard.

Chuck.
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Old 14th Apr 2004, 08:02
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Don't panic - he is a second officer. The paper got it wrong. He is the technical pilot A330 as a second officer.
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Old 14th Apr 2004, 09:28
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Angel

I hope nobody gets hurt using the "automated breaking system".........
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Old 14th Apr 2004, 09:47
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From my experience, if it says Captain on your letterbox, drivers licence, Medicare card and bus tickets, then you must be a Captain! Hang on...scratch the bit about bus tickets!

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Old 14th Apr 2004, 10:29
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Can a -400 bloke explain what this gee-whiz system does that a simple radar vector doesn't? I mean, can't a set of verbal instructions give you the same sort of direct-glide, continuous descent flight-path?

I would have thought the current inefficiencies are actually the convoluted flight-path/STAR/SID arrangements (particularly referring to SYD) that are politically imposed due to noise sensitivities. No whiz-bang CPDLC method will necessarily absolve us of following those requirements in the general sense.

I am genuinely trying to understand what this is all about - there seems a lack of info available within QF. Maybe I'm just driving the wrong bus though...
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Old 14th Apr 2004, 10:55
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What I want to know is, does it work on lawn mowers or not?

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Old 14th Apr 2004, 12:24
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It's a shame that this is seen as an increased level of control automation... it's not in the slightest. Its an increased level of communication automation.

My understanding is that the system invovles the CPDLC uploading of a clearance (STAR/ILS), and bridges the gap between the end of a STAR and the beginning on an ILS - eliminating the need for the vectors and level-offs that normally take place between the two procedures. It will be interesting to see whether CPDLC is dynamic enough in practice for use within the terminal area.

One wonders that if one aircraft has been cleared all the way through, then all the others must be geting vectored, and levelled off all over the place to avoid any conflict!

I wonder why the journo didn't indicate that the only command the 'gee-whiz tool in charge' made, was to call the actual person in command a 'RETARD, RETARD!'

Lancer
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Old 14th Apr 2004, 13:39
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Exclamation

In FACT, almost all RPT aircraft have STARS and SID's incorporated into their FMC software these days.

It's only because of ATC trying to "regulate" the flow, that intervention is needed by the pilots.

IMO, with TCAS and the current systems we employ, it would be possible to do away with ATC right now, in Primaries.

Weather avoidance will always be the responsibility of the pilot-in-command..........New Flash - 1 pax died, and 10 pax required hospitalisation following an encounter with severe turbulence - the ATC'er guiding the aircraft has been held responsible" ....................as will be the responsibilty for keeping the aircraft within tolerance on descent - otherwise expect to see frequent excursions through the Barbers Pole, which will happen if the aircraft is left to its own devices on a Path Descent.

Hate to say it guys, but I think we'll more than likely witness a BIG reduction in controllers (to skeleton levels), due to the technology being introduced, before we see "remote controlled", passenger-transporting aircraft.

However,
That didn't take Duncan long- time to command in QF is now 2 years is it?
The way the industry is (rapidly) heading, I won't be at all surprised to see this - not specifically THAT "individual" - but in another 5-10 years (my guesstimate), that will be the norm, imho!
The "experience" limits are being tested right NOW.
I am seeing people who - in my opinion - are being put into the lhs of RPT aircraft, who (imo) are just not ready, but management are now calling the shots (here), as the unions - which traditionally insisted on a seniority system - have been watered down.
Aviation is undergoing a monolithic change on the flight deck, by people who are NOT aviation-experienced.

Like termites in a building, nothing is noticed for a considerable period - unless by chance, someone leans too hard here or there.
But once gutted, the WHOLE lot will collapse completely, totally, and irreparably.

Only mugs are going to be involved in aviation insurance!
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Old 14th Apr 2004, 21:59
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Kaptin.
I can certainly see where automation will reduce not only ATCers, but pilots as well.
It is still a few years off, but not as far as some want to believe.
It is only a matter of time until something like maestro (obviously it would be better) gives the flow instructions to the CPDLC straight into the FMS, and neither pilot or controller is doing anything except watching.
Let's face it- how much hand flying does the modern pilot actually do? If all he is doing is inputting commands into the FMS which end in an autoland........
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Old 15th Apr 2004, 02:56
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ferris

I think it is still a way off before we see no pilots on aircraft. If you ask the general public, ďwould you hop on a fully automated aircraft without a pilot?Ē, the resounding answer is no. If and when they are introduced, it will only take one accident with one, which I believe will be very easily blamed on the automation, to bring it all crashing down around the airlines ears.

In regards to what we do during decent and on approach, yes it is correct to say we donít do much flying, but it is equally true to say that we have to do have to do a lot of intervention through the auto-pilot because the FMS or FMGEC isnít doing the job that is programmed into it. Also any time ATC give us a heading or speed, this is through the autopilot not the FMS. In most cases trying to reprogram the FMS because of an ATC instruction on decent or approach or because the aircraft isnít following the profile as programmed isnít a viable solution because it isnít fast enough. Even if it was, it canít respond quickly to handle the very dynamic environment it may be operating in that a human pilot can.
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