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Pilot experience reduced by flight automation

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Pilot experience reduced by flight automation

Old 5th Apr 2018, 22:32
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Pilot experience reduced by flight automation

From today’s Australian: https://www.theaustralian.com.au/bus...a8c818e66083fd

BYRON BAILEY
The Australian12:00AM April 6, 2018

Last month was not a good month for aviation safety statistics.

A Bangladeshi airliner crashed on approach into Kathmandu with 71 fatalities.

A day before, a private Turkish Challenger 604 crashed into the Zagros Mountains 370km south of Tehran, killing all 11 on board.

Conflicting reports put the private jet in cruise at 36,000 feet one hour 21 minutes after leaving Sharjah for destination Istanbul when it suddenly climbed to 37,700 feet before entering a pronounced descent, then crashing. The black boxes — flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder — have been recovered and should be able to answer the question of why this popular and safe large jet crashed.

I am interested because I fly a private Challenger 604. Its avionics and electrical/hydraulic systems place it in the small air*liner class plus, as a wide-body type jet, and it is very comfortable for the rich passengers, giving the cabin a loungeroom feel. The passengers of the crashed jet were Mina Basaran, socialite daughter of a wealthy Turkish businessman, and seven of her female friends who were attending her hens party in Dubai — now playground of the rich and famous (Beirut is passe).

The crew of two pilots and one cabin attendant were all female and the captain was a former military pilot.

There are several possibilities that come to mind.

There were thunderstorms active in this area of Iran so could it have been like the Asian Airbus A320 that crashed several years ago when the pilots lost control entering thunderstorm activity.

Perhaps the captain was trying to climb over a thunderstorm and stalled because the descent was rather sudden, which may indicate loss of control.

Maybe they had picked up some ice on the wings — unlikely because the Challenger has excellent anti-ice systems but they rely on the pilots to turn them on. The B777 anti-ice systems, in contrast, are automatic.

The Challenger, which has a supercritical wing, requires careful removal of even the smallest amount of ice before takeoff in low temperatures. When first introduced into service it suffered several takeoff accidents.

Could it be a bomb on board? The descent was sudden and the crew allegedly reported a technical fault. Sharjah is more like a secondary airport that is popular with eastern European airlines, especially Russian. I cannot comment on its airport security.

Sharjah is a small emirate — one of the seven that make up the United Arab Emirates — and is overshadowed by its close, glamorous neighbour Dubai.

The reason the jet was parked at Sharjah was probably because of lack of room at Dubai International airport.

Maybe Iranian air traffic control played a part. Iran has notoriously suspect control and poor communications. I encountered a Russian IL76 military/commercial freighter reciprocal on the airway over Iran. I was in a B777-300 and, according to the EOWE (east odds/west evens) flight level rule, cruising at cleared level 32,000 feet on the way to Paris.

This bogey popped up at my level at 40 nautical miles on my traffic alert and collision avoidance system at my altitude, the wrong altitude, and Tehran ATC was not answering so I immediately deviated 5nm right to let it pass.

Then, of course, comes the human element. The biggest problem facing airlines and corporate aviation is a lack of manual flying skills because of the dumbing down of pilots. The Challenger 604, same as the Airbus and B777, is highly automated. Immediately after gear retraction on takeoff the autopilot is engaged.

Lateral navigation and speed are all programmed before engine start into the flight management system computers, which then fly the aircraft to the destination.

The approach at destination is normally flown by the autopilot after the pilots enter arrival and runway details into the computer. Late on final approach the pilot flying disconnects the autopilot and lands the aircraft.

What this means is, on a typical — for example, nine-hour — flight, the pilot is hands-on for only several minutes. This is safe as modern aircraft are so reliable that air travel is safer than driving a car. The problem occurs when something unexpectedly goes wrong and puts the pilots out of their comfort zone.

Pilots get to refresh their aircraft systems knowledge and emergency handling skills every six months in simulators. Qantas does this every three months for its pilots.

However, even in the simulator, most training is done with the autopilot engaged as it is more reliable to fly an approach, even with an engine failed, with the autopilot engaged.

What this means is if you put a pilot in a situation they have never encountered the lack of a solid basic flying skill will surface.

Take, for example, the Air France A330 that after pitot tube icing, suffered a pilot-induced stall at high altitude. The panicked pilot froze and without realising it held the aircraft in the stalled condition all the way down until it crashed into the sea.

Corporate aviation, same as airlines, is subject to the same tyranny of cost. Pilot training is expensive and the trend, especially overseas, is for crews is to be less experienced even though on paper they appear to be equally qualified.

As remarked recently by the hero of the Hudson River landing of US Airways flight 1549 in New York in 2009, Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, “There is no substitute for experience in an unexpected and difficult situation.”

The automation of modern aircraft has resulted in the dumbing down of pilots, with many lacking adequate manual flying skills. But I guess it is something that aviation has to live with.

Byron Bailey, a veteran commercial pilot with more than 45 years’ experience, is a former RAAF fighter pilot and trainer. He was a senior captain with Emirates for 15 years.
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Old 6th Apr 2018, 00:07
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Why bother waiting for facts when you can just speculate!
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Old 6th Apr 2018, 01:53
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The automation of modern aircraft has resulted in the dumbing down of pilots, with many lacking adequate manual flying skills. But I guess it is something that aviation has to live with.
The dumbing down is very true.

I don't however believe it is something we have to live with. It is all about the airlines and their financial managers that usually know very little about operations having influence over matters that they see as cost saving, which may be true in the short term but at what risk in the long term?
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Old 6th Apr 2018, 01:55
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Wing ice at 36,000 ft @ .8+?

Highly highly highly doubt it.
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Old 6th Apr 2018, 02:12
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To be honest, it is just the way the world is going and it is something that we probably have to accept. Even the newbies who are training now are doing so in aircraft with full Glass Cockpits, FADEC etc, this is not going to return to the old bells and whistles style. Airliners are not going to change and are only go to get more and more automated, the answer to this is changing up the simulator training that we receive. Perhaps a couple of extra complete no jeopardy sims inserted between cyclics that focus purely on high altitude handling and unusual attitudes wouldn't go amiss. There has been a bit in the syllabus recently but it is very much a case of it being 'wedged' in between the usual checking tasks and if you fluke a good stall recovery then its a big tick and move on quickly.
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Old 6th Apr 2018, 03:21
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Originally Posted by Ollie Onion View Post
Perhaps a couple of extra complete no jeopardy sims inserted between cyclics that focus purely on high altitude handling and unusual attitudes wouldn't go amiss.
An excellent idea that, unfortunately, is unlikely to get traction in the current stretched training environment. At the very least this type of sim session would prepare you for when a bogey pops up at your FL.
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Old 6th Apr 2018, 06:29
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Folks,
And what about doing a bit of hand flying each sector, to keep the skills up to date??
A "glass cockpit" as opposed to old electro-mechanical instruments does not preclude you hand flying, only ratbag "airline policies" do that.
Tootle pip!!
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Old 6th Apr 2018, 06:41
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Originally Posted by LeadSled View Post
Folks,
And what about doing a bit of hand flying each sector, to keep the skills up to date??
A "glass cockpit" as opposed to old electro-mechanical instruments does not preclude you hand flying, only ratbag "airline policies" do that.
Tootle pip!!
Not so easy to do in these days of RVSM and RNP. And hand flying in straight and level flight or even on an ILS with auto thrust and flight director engaged does little to enhance anyone’s manual flying skills.
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Old 6th Apr 2018, 07:17
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Not so easy to do in these days of RVSM and RNP. And hand flying in straight and level flight or even on an ILS with auto thrust and flight director engaged does little to enhance anyone’s manual flying skills.
DHC8 driver,
Maybe it will come as no surprise to you, but based on now 50+ years flying, and 35 years in airlines, with the usual Check and Training stints, and with little real change in the "technology" in the last 20, I totally disagree.
Indeed, hand flying straight and level can really sharpen up the scan.
It doesn't have to be a raw data hand flown ILS (or any other approach) to be of value in keeping up hand IF and visual flying skills.
Company/manufacturer "recommendations" to leave the auto-throttle engaged when hand flying are seriously misguided.
Tootle pip!!
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Old 6th Apr 2018, 10:09
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And hand flying in straight and level flight or even on an ILS with auto thrust and flight director engaged does little to enhance anyone’s manual flying skills.
There is one way to partially fix the problem of automation dependency; or at least to ensure pilots are forced to hand fly occasionally. That is for CASA to mandate that the usual two hour IPC in a simulator must consist of 50% automatics and the other 50% manual raw data. The only problem with that suggestion if ever implemented (it will never happen) would be the failure rate of IPC's would rocket to unacceptable levels.
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Old 6th Apr 2018, 11:07
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You are correct, C. Mandatory manual flight and manual throttle from an intercept heading would result in an unacceptable number of "deferred successes!"
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Old 6th Apr 2018, 11:34
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Is it a lack of Manual skills or a lack of situation awareness of automation/environment conditions??

Was it actually a technical issue with the aircraft??

Does it matter that the crew were all female??

Is QF safer because they do 1 sim every three months instead of 2 sims every 6 months?

Was the Air Asia flight really brought down by thunderstorm activity??

Is pilot experience solely based around how good a pole driver you are??

Does.30+ years of experience make you a safer pilot??

This article creates more questions than it attempts to answer.

As you can gather I was a bit disappointed with this article when I read it this morning.
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Old 6th Apr 2018, 11:57
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I was also a bit disappointed with this article. The initial headline and subject is interesting but it almost reads like a thought bubble/opinion piece by the author.

But I believe this is an area of aviation that will be explored further over the next few years. Most of us could agree that the pendulum had swung to far towards automation vs flying ability.
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Old 6th Apr 2018, 12:29
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Click bait

As others have stated the title of the article was not an accurate description for what was essentially an opinion piece. It appears the driving factor for the article was that the author, occasionally, flies the same model Challenger.

A refreshed version of something like this classic, tailored for the masses, and print media, would have been far more deserving of the title.

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Old 6th Apr 2018, 13:38
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Originally Posted by LeadSled View Post
Folks,
And what about doing a bit of hand flying each sector, to keep the skills up to date??
A "glass cockpit" as opposed to old electro-mechanical instruments does not preclude you hand flying, only ratbag "airline policies" do that.
Tootle pip!!

I would love to! However, there is also another part of the issue - "I don't need any troubles" attitude expressed by a certain percentage of pilots I know. It is hard to blame company policies when I see that there isn't much of a desire to make them any different as it will lead to increased personal responsibility.

In my view - hand flying has to become mandated in a company manual in some shape or form. Perhaps something like a sector hand flown up to and below FL100 once in a couple of days (more the merrier). There also has to be a desire to do this.
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Old 7th Apr 2018, 02:52
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I think the issue stems from initial flight training and won’t be fixed by mandating manual flight in airliners. I see pilots who “practice” manual flight often who are still bad at it, pilots who don’t practice much at all who are very good when their skills are called upon, and everything in between. Manual flight once the aircraft is cleaned up and climbing is tedious and I don’t particularly want to be forced to do it. If you want good flying skills, make aerobatics mandatory part of flight training. Even then, some folk just aren’t all that gifted when it comes to flying and no amount of practice or training will fix it.
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Old 7th Apr 2018, 06:38
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AercatS2A,
If there is one thing I have learned over many years, it is that the basis of good instrument flight is a good scan, and changes in instrument presentation from WWII to the present day have not altered that fact.

And sitting there watching doesn't cut it, you have to be hands on ---- and something that has always been very obvious to those of us who take notice --- a good instrument scan makes for efficient and confident use of the "automatics" that much better, because you are taking in ("seeing") more of what is actually happening than would otherwise be the case.

And, I would suggest, greatly reduce the probability of mode confusion.

And, on the day when things go pear shaped, because of your confidence and competence, you will not hesitate to do what you are paid to do: "Fly the aeroplane".

The very serious incident to a Qantas A330 north of Perth a few years back was a good example of "Fly the aeroplane" ---- to save it!!

Tootle pip!!
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Old 7th Apr 2018, 12:43
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Explain how you scan a pfd? All the information you need is right there..?

I suppose keeping an eye on the engine gauges and suspect first officers is a scan
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Old 7th Apr 2018, 12:57
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Explain how you scan a pfd? All the information you need is right there..?
Mattyj, you don't mean that!!??!! Do you really think a scan is not required within a PFD?? Sure, the info is "closer" but I for one can't absorb and process "all" the data without moving my gaze from attitude to altitude to vs to attitude to airspeed etc etc etc. Sure, it's "all" closer than on a traditional steam gauge panel, but an internal scan is still paramount! Maybe I'm just not very good at it!
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Old 7th Apr 2018, 14:55
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If you want good flying skills, make aerobatics mandatory part of flight training
That certainly helps. The problem is that it is manual raw data instrument flying skills that are degrading because of the accent on full automation. That is nothing new because it all started with the introduction of the first glass cockpits and ever more sophisticated automation.

Granted, these manual instrument flying skills may rarely be called upon in the career of an airline pilot. But, having observed countless simulator sessions where for various reasons, manual flying on instruments was introduced, there were some pilots who were brilliant and flying on rails but a higher proportion who lost situational awareness and simply were unable to cope without the automatics. Not a heart warming sight at times. And that's in a simulator let alone a real aeroplane.
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