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The Weakest Link?

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The Weakest Link?

Old 11th Nov 2009, 03:52
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The Weakest Link?

Uh, that would be pilots, according to William Langewiesche's new book.
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Old 11th Nov 2009, 04:07
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Hi,

Ziegler has said about the A320

My Concierge can fly it

No need to say more ...
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Old 11th Nov 2009, 08:04
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Interesting premise, but the author forgets that the plane is just a very sophisticated machine and that all the really clever stuff is done by the chaps up front.
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Old 11th Nov 2009, 08:18
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I quote the last line of the linked article:
“Like it or not, Ziegler reached out across the years and cradled them all the way to the water.”
.

Left to it's own devices the A320 would have wiped out all the pax and probably a number of people on the ground.

Shame the pages of books are too small to be used as wrapping for 'fish & chips'.


Regards
Exeng
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Old 11th Nov 2009, 09:17
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the article includes phrases like:-

No knock against Sully, he suggests, but almost any decent pilot could have done it.
seems annoyed that Mr. Sullenberger has yet to praise publicly his Airbus plane and its sophisticated design.
He obviously has not read Sully's own book!!! Sully says both of these things.

Mr. Sullenberger may not have needed the help — keeping the wings level, the nose up and the glide smooth — that his Airbus A320 automatically provided him during Flight 1549’s short time in the air. But he and his co-pilot, Jeffrey B. Skiles, did fly by wire during the glide.
In his book, Sully mentions how FBW helped to ditch at minumum speed without stalling in - but since when would FBW have kept the wings level?
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Old 11th Nov 2009, 09:47
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I cannot help feeling that Mr Langewiesche's comments serve to glorify his own writing.
When asked what I think of the Hudson incident by non aviators, I tell them that, for a pilot of Captain Sullenberger's experience, the vital action was his courageous decision to ditch; nothing to do with the aircraft he was flying.

@Basil
Very true Basil, very true.
Weakest link... try selling that to an insurance company and see how many flights will depart.

The absolute ludicrous bit is that he fails to recognise that the mighty machine in fact is build by the very same 'weak'. Parasitical behaviour, motivated by greed, triggered by an event that untypically turned out more than well. Mr Langewiesche can't leave it with that, must do something about that, this ain't right.... what a joke.
Chalk it up under the 'news' category .
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Old 11th Nov 2009, 10:19
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Vote for thread closure.
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Old 11th Nov 2009, 10:52
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the very long range view

as a leisure passenger I'm frustrated now that long haul flights are very expensive, it means we can't see our relatives in the States nearly as much as we used to. So we travel lots less, and holiday close to home.

Now, if the technology moved along, and given that right now I have a 99.99999999% chance of arriving alive, then if £100 were taken off all ticket prices and I only lose a 0.0000001% chance of arriving safely (cost saving due to near zero crew including cabin crew since the plane is remote controlled) then yeah, I might well take the chance. I'd also sign an insurance disclaimer waiving my survivors right to sue given I understood the risk.

So don't poop on what is coming, which could be 747's acting like UAVs. I mean, how often is it really really really the pilots up front that pull off something heroic that an autopilot would have given up on? Not to demean the profession at all, just looking ahead to where all the roads of technical wonderlust are leading to.

G
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Old 11th Nov 2009, 11:05
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@groundbum
Pilots don't get selected, trained and paid to do their daily routine. If so, any person would be suitable. Monkeys have been trained to fly aircraft and land them.
A pilot is there for when things don't go as advertised and sorry if I offend anyone here but the 99% of the people don't possess the skills to adequatly handle the situation. Having said that the people at the pointy end are still people, with their flaws. As are the engineers designing UAVs or iPods.
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Old 11th Nov 2009, 11:24
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groundbum,

Take a look at the ticket price to fly from the UK to the States. Take off the taxs! See what's left.

Even if removal of the pilots was feasable and did not introduce other costs, eliminating £100 from the fare would require the sacrifice of a lot more than just the pilots.

We could probably provide you with a tub of whale blubber, a pair of speedos and a compass and say start swimming! If you wanted to fly, you'd better be ready to flap your arms really hard

But with reference to the original point, actually I believe we have become the weakest link. Not surprising when cost cutting is paring our training, and support to the bone.

pb
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Old 11th Nov 2009, 11:39
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Like it or not, Ziegler reached out across the years and cradled them all the way to the water
Rubbish. Any Captain on the day, matters not whether Airbus or Boeing, as likely as not would have had a similar outcome. The TACA 733 deadstick onto the New Orleans levee without damage takes a bit of beating in my book. How would a festering computer have handled that one? Autocue a PA "Prepare to meet your maker" perhaps.
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Old 11th Nov 2009, 11:43
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Why single out aviation? Any industry or event where there is human interaction, has the human as the weakest link. We (humans) are not infalable and will never be (though some might like to think they are). This article is tomorrows chip paper!
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Old 11th Nov 2009, 11:49
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@PJ2 - Exeng has quite a bit of experience on the A320 as well as non-FBW types. I think his comment is quite correct. Left to it's own devices the A320 would simply have carried on flying whatever trajectory the crew had set until the low speed protections guided it into whatever terrain was there. The FBW didn't save those onboard, it simply made things easier for the pilots to do it.
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Old 11th Nov 2009, 12:54
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There's a place for both pilots and computers in the cockpit.

The great advantage of computers is that they will flawlessly execute a task for which they are programmed, again and again, without ever making a mistake or getting tired, and with precision that far exceeds anything a human being can manage.

The great disadvantage of computers (and all digital systems) is that they have catastrophic failure modes that they may enter whenever they encounter situations for which they have not been programmed. Digital systems have no physical constraints (unlike the analog systems of the old days) and will do extremely dangerous things whenever they are pushed into situations that they have not been designed to handle. In systems of non-trivial complexity, it is not possible to design for every conceivable situation.

The great advantage of pilots (and human operators in general) is that they will often make reasonable decisions even in very unusual circumstances. A computer might cheerfully flip an aircraft inverted if confronted with, say, clouds or an abrupt temperature change, but a human pilot knows better and will not make that mistake.

The great disadvantage of pilots is that they are unable to match the precision of computers, and they can make mistakes due to fatigue, inattention, lack of training or competence, forgetfulness, etc.

The role of pilots in modern airliners is increasingly to keep tabs on the computer, serving as "sanity checks" to catch anything that the automation is doing that might be odd. Normal flights are increasingly handled entirely by automation. Emergencies are (or should be) handled by pilots.

The trend is towards elimination of pilots, which I'm sure is the dream of every airline and many French engineers. It will be a long time before automation is trustworthy enough to allow flights without pilots, though, and chances are that the automation will be trusted too early, with many tragic results before people learn the hard way that you cannot just toss computers into the mix and hope they'll work.

Given all this, Airbus makes one serious, potentially fatal mistake in its designs: it does not let pilots override the computers (or at least not easily or universally). The pilots don't serve much purpose if they can't override the automation—their whole purpose is to handle things that the computer can't. Yes, certain movements might damage the airframe … but in certain situations, damaging the airframe might be preferable to crashing the aircraft. This is something a computer cannot foresee or evaluate, whereas an experienced pilot can.

As for French engineers, they are almost always the product of education, rather than inborn talent. That's why they always produce workable solutions, but the solutions are always vastly more complex than they really need to be. And they have a higher opinion of themselves than their skills can actually justify, which can be dangerous.
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Old 11th Nov 2009, 13:09
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not quite

saying pilots cannot override computers in FBW, unlike the old wire connected controls is a specious. A pilot couldn't decide, mid-flight, to rejig the flight controls and the wire runs and the pulleys and so forth, not since WWI biplanes where the observer climbed out the cockpit to repair battle damage. Since the 1940's pilots have by and large had to make do with the systems installed in their aircraft. wire, hydraulics and now computers.

A lot of the Airbus computers do just replace one function and one wire, and the pilot has plenty of control over the higher level functions that decide what lower level computers do what when. So really things aren't much more "hands off" in panic mode from hydraulics and wire pulley days.

G
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Old 11th Nov 2009, 13:11
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The great advantage of computers is that they will flawlessly execute a task for which they are programmed, again and again, without ever making a mistake or getting tired, and with precision that far exceeds anything a human being can manage.
You've never owned one with Windows Vista, then.
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Old 11th Nov 2009, 14:43
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so , tell me then , an Airbus driver has full control over his flight controls in manual flight on short finals on a gusty day ?
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Old 11th Nov 2009, 14:59
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Does a 777 driver? Do you even need it? Or is full authority sufficient?
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Old 11th Nov 2009, 16:31
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If Langewiesche doesn't already write for the WSJ, he should do

PJ - I can also assure you that exeng is well acquainted with operating Airbus, and I think you mis-understood his post?

EDIT: I see you have removed your post
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Old 11th Nov 2009, 16:48
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Carnage Matey!;
PJ2 - Exeng has quite a bit of experience on the A320 as well as non-FBW types. I think his comment is quite correct. Left to it's own devices the A320 would simply have carried on flying whatever trajectory the crew had set until the low speed protections guided it into whatever terrain was there. The FBW didn't save those onboard, it simply made things easier for the pilots to do it.
Thank you - I appreciate your response.

Your last comment says what I was thinking and what I intended to say.

Langewiesche's last comment, as quoted in Garner's article, and Exeng's fish & chips wrap comment regarding Langewiesche's book as described in the article, are hyperbole. Both are undeserved.

It seems as if Captain Sullenberger and Langewiesche are in agreement however, regarding the essence of the event - fbw made it easier, but would certainly not have "saved" the airplane, but that is blindingly obvious is it not? Are there those who actually believe that "the computers saved the day by 'choosing', etc"?

That's what I meant by observing that "computers/fbw" don't "choose" - Sullenberger did and I think he correctly states that many of his colleagues would have been able to do the same. I have never been a fan of making "heroes" out of those who do what they are trained to do and experienced enough to carry it off. That Captain Sullenberger is a superb spokesperson for our profession is a huge benefit at a time when such a person and such a message is greatly needed; Sully's "hero" status facilitates this but, knowing a bit about him as we now do, I strongly suspect he would be the first to admit he is under no illusions as to what happened and how, and what experience coupled with a facilitating technology is capable of.

If I have offended you through my lack of awareness of your aviation experience, Exeng, I apologize. I suspect however, that we are in agreement in re the fundamentals even though you may not like Mr. Langewiesche's work.

PJ2

BOAC;
Yes, removed the post as it was moot, and posted the above instead. Indeed, I suspect we concur on the broader issues.
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