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The lost art of precision flying among airline pilots.

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The lost art of precision flying among airline pilots.

Old 26th Nov 2011, 02:20
  #1 (permalink)  
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post no 5: bring up to modern day

if this happened today in the civi world...what would be the tea and biscuits session like......

this situation, ie fog causing many many diversions is standard situation many months of the year in several locations, in UAE....

when we used to operate a PA31 into Northolt many times we did Z/Z ( PAR) procedures for atc training, as well as PIC training, SIC had a full view.... each time on centreline, and as suggested, not full flap, and thus less pitch change, on power reduction.

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Old 26th Nov 2011, 04:26
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The lost art of precision flying among airline pilots.

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.

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?
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Old 26th Nov 2011, 10:19
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What do you think of that story, JW411?
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Old 26th Nov 2011, 10:29
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Thank you for posting that, a super piece of writing.

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Old 26th Nov 2011, 14:39
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Yes, it's a very good story which I read somewhere in the past. I am all for keeping your hand flying skills up to scratch. You never know when you might need them!
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Old 27th Nov 2011, 15:29
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TM et al, the story is a excellent example of a ‘total’ flying solution; real management. In addition to excellent physical flying skills necessary to execute the chosen option, there were skills of assessment and understanding to judge the severity of the situation. Also, there were decision skills enabling the selection of the course of action, although the article does not explain how or on what basis this was achieved; this begs the question ‘what is expertise’.

This ‘total’ view encompasses much of what is missing in modern aviation. As much as individuals attempt to maintain proficiency, the physical skills will deteriorate as fewer opportunities and organizational constraints continue to reduce the base standard.
Similarly for thinking skills. Although the need for situation assessment and decision making skills remains high or more so in modern ‘managed’ aviation, these too are being eroded. Also, there may be even less opportunity or motivation to maintain proficiency in the soft skills in an ‘automatic’ world. These skills may not have been taught, or there is reduced opportunity for experience in use, which is a necessary part of their effectiveness. In addition, the industry is becoming more controlled, constrained, SOP dependent, and there is a looming threat of retribution, job loss and litigation.

I compare the story with the recent Hudson ditching accident. Many commentators cite that only that pilot (or one with similar, high ability) could have accomplished the landing in the Hudson. This is a cursory view; all type qualified pilots would have had the physical flying skills to complete the approach and landing. However, if we consider how many of those pilots would have decided to choose that course of action (IMHO a much reduced number), and then the number of pilots in that subset who would have made the decision in time to execute the chosen option (even fewer), then the extent of industry’s skills shortfall becomes obvious.
Accidents similar to this and the focus on the more generic problems of loss of control result in calls for more manual flying to improve the skill level; in most cases this overlooks the shortfall in soft skills.

Is it practical for the industry to attempt to ‘retrain’ pilots to the old skills level whilst there are still skills shortfalls in the requirements for modern operations? Furthermore, it would be unrealistic to expect the retrained ‘old’ skills to be remembered in rare, abnormal situations if these skills are not exercised on a regular basis as in ‘the old days’.

It may be time for the industry to consider the status quo. There is a need for modern management skills (predominantly soft skills) and these have to be exercised to maintain proficiency. What is within these skills and the associated training which could be used to ensure that crews have an appropriate response in the rare abnormal situations. What more should/could be trained; would this be cost effective, or does the exposure to abnormal situations have to be limited – higher reliability systems or constraints on operating situations?

We need the exemplars from the old stories, but we might not be able to achieve those same standards or the necessary proficiency and experience levels. We have to look at the current stories, the good and not so, in order to assess what is required and what might be practical.
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Old 11th Mar 2012, 08:31
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Automation Addiction

Hello, I am new to this forum and have never in the past felt compelled to add my humble opinion but as I continue to see perfectly good aircraft smashed up and all those lives lost because the pilots were unable to deal with an automation issue I feel compelled to try and promote the process that my fellow pilots and I developed during a 4 year research project I was the primary author of. At the time I was the chairman of my company's ALPA Air Safety-Special Projects committee. Our research paper and a copy of the presentation is available from the Flight Safety Foundations IASS conference in Paris France, October of 2006. It was also presented by IFALPA at a latter conference.
Automation Addiction: When a pilot is no longer able to fly the aircraft without reference to FMS generated guidance or thrust management, he/she has become automation addicted.
Automation Exception: occurs whenever the FMS generated guidance is out of sequence with the desired flight path. AN "Automation Exception" can be the result of an aircraft malfunction ie: AF447 loss of pitot/static system, FMS program error by the pilot or manufacture, ATC demands the "Slam Dunk Visual", TCAS or Windshear recovery, or a host of other maladies.
Automation Addicted pilots are particularly susceptible to failure when confronted with an automation exception.
Project goals:
Develop a methods that pilots could maintain manual flight skills that were robust enough to "Keep the shiny side up" while they resolved some issue with the automation. The final project was reviewed by the company's FAA -Principal Operations Inspector who rode on my flights for 3 days. The inspector felt quite strongly that ALPA should promote the concepts and ALPA as well as IFALPA have adopted automation policy guidance that encourages training departments to provide the pilots with guidance to help maintain "Manual Flying Skills" I would humbly request that your review of the paper Automation Addiction and the application of the concepts within might help our industry to reduce this issue as a primary factor in loss of control accidents. I look forward to future discussion s of the research and you thoughts
Aeronaut A320

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Old 12th Mar 2012, 13:57
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I note that Aeronaut A320 is 58.

That tells a story in itself!
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Old 12th Mar 2012, 17:08
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I wonder if this was Tee Emm leaving Lajes Field in the Azores?

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Old 12th Mar 2012, 20:11
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Like the chap on the flying bridge.
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Old 12th Mar 2012, 21:45
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A major issue in this arena is loss of control and then an inability to recover from the resulting unusual attitude. Simulator training is ineffective for the following reasons:

1. The simulator is not certified as accurate in these situations. You can not do aeros etc in a A380 which is the only way in which the simulator can be programmed to copy.

2. The physiological affects cannot be simulated.

Pilots need regular time in an aerobatic aircraft.
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Old 13th Mar 2012, 17:49
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Here is the Zero/Zero article from the original Flying Mag: Flying Magazine - Google Books
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Old 17th Mar 2012, 20:13
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Zero Zero

It can be done and was done in the 1960's on the Eastern Seaboard of NSW, using a combination of GCA /PAR, plenty of practice, good controllers, keen pilots.

All hand flown and when the "man" said "look up and land" all you had to do was kick off the drift and land.

Part of the secret was the term "Command Heading" and as it was true in those days, it remains true also to this day.

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Old 17th Mar 2012, 21:13
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All hand flown and.....
What on earth else do you fly an aeroplane with?
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Old 17th Mar 2012, 23:55
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Here is the Zero/Zero article from the original Flying Mag: Flying Magazine - Google Books
The original artwork of that C-124 illustration is hanging on a stairwell wall about six feet from where I'm typing this, a souvenir of my 10 years at Flying Magazine. I walk past it half a dozen times a day, but until that identifying post, I had no idea it was Svoboda's airplane. It was probably me that bought his ILAFFT article...
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Old 18th Mar 2012, 00:48
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It can be done and was done in the 1960's on the Eastern Seaboard of NSW, using a combination of GCA /PAR, plenty of practice, good controllers, keen pilots.
Don't know how wide spread the practice was among the instructors, but some in the USN used to, during instrument training, have you do a GCA to touchdown while under the hood to demonstrate it could be done in extremis situations. Confidence building.
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Old 19th Mar 2012, 08:53
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Zero Zero Hand Flown

Lightning Mate:

I can remember some aircraft had Autopilots.

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Old 19th Mar 2012, 13:12
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Friend of mine at Seattle told me that Boeing designed the 787 on the presumption that pilots flying that aircraft are incompetent - hence the numerous `protections`. He added that the message has finally got through of the problems with automatics addiction and now some major US airlines are bringing back more manual flying both in their training programs and on the line.
There is no sign of that occurring in Asia where blind unswerving addiction to automation is here for good.
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Old 19th Mar 2012, 21:16
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Lightning Mate:
I can remember some aircraft had Autopilots.
So what?

I was taught to fly, properly of course, without one. Is that what "hand flying" is?

Later marks of Lightning had full auto ILS and autothrottle - IN THE

Nobody gave a damn of course - we just flew the aeroplane.

Most of you were being breast fed at the time prolly.

..during instrument training, have you do a GCA to touchdown while under the hood to demonstrate it could be done in extremis situations. Confidence building.
Too right!
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Old 20th Mar 2012, 04:32
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I guess a lot depends on the equipment fitted to your aircraft. When we certified the Flight Dynamics Head Up Guidance System on the CRJ, the FAA Project Pilot stated he thought they needed to require at least one conventional Autopilot-coupled approach per month as he thought most pilots would prefer to use the HGS so much that they could lose proficiency!

Interestingly enough, quite a few of the more successful US majors do have HGS installed - Southwest, Alaska & Horizon on their 737s & Dash 8s for example.
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