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B737 @ Aberdeen

Old 10th Dec 2021, 22:26
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Originally Posted by meleagertoo View Post
Boeing Bashing took on fever pitch over the MAX accidents which once again were caused in the immediate sense by just this, pliots who appeared lacking in their systems knowlege.
It's a bit hard to have system knowledge of an addon that Boeing deliberately kept secret
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Old 11th Dec 2021, 03:39
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meleagertoo is essentially right that a 737 crew should be able to fly a 737, no matter what the mode and what the situation. My guess - purely a guess - is that probably the F/O was flying and was given an extensive (18 second) briefing about what to do, then unfortunately cocked it up. We've all been there.

As you say, a proper crew should have been able to fly a go-around either manually or with help from the automatics, such as they are. Why this crew - or one of the crew - couldn't do so is the real question, and the answer will be to do with their training and what competency standards were required to pass the SIM in that airline.

'Children of the magenta' often gets trotted out, but unlike that crusty old guy, pilots of today must be able to programme and operate the automatics in today's aircraft and today's skies. There is no shame or weakness associated with using the automatics, and there are plenty of valid reasons for using them. It is not very satisfactory in my opinion to have to keep taking manual control when trying to fly on automatics which are design limited.
There is or used to be a driving licence only for cars with an automatic gearbox, and a person could obtain such a licence and drive only autos. I am not saying that we should ever allow pilots who can only fly with the automatics, but pilots today do need to be able to fly with the automatics.

In a situation like this, you are right, the basic-ness of the aircraft is not directly relevant, but we are naturally going to ponder if its design was a factor in any incident. The 737 is a 1950's electro-mechanical and hydro-mechanical aircraft with some electronics bolted on here and there. Literally - I was amazed to see a box labelled 'fuel quantity computer' bolted to the ceiling above the F/Os head in a 737-300/400 - why not put it in the avionics bay?

Although not directly relevant, we are bound to ask ourselves why this manufacturer has not updated their aircraft. Why does it still have auto-pilots and auto-thrust that can only do part of the job? Having to have one pilot looking inside to adjust the take-off thrust as you roar down the runway, is not very satisfactory - both pairs of eyes should be looking out at what is going on. I understand it would cost a lot of money to update and also about the commonality required by SouthWest, but the so-called MAX should have been a proper modern update of the 737, with much more capable and properly integrated electronics.

The pitch-power couple is not a particular issue by itself, but having to push and trim forwards to go up during a go-around is quite a design flaw. If it can be designed out with modern electronics, then why not do so? If by some quirk of physics our cars all veered to the right with increasing speed and to the left with decreasing speed, we would all be used to compensating and would no doubt have a manual trim system to compensate. But it is so much nicer that we don't have to do this, and like-wise it is so much nicer not to have to constantly pitch trim in a FBW aircraft. We could all drive around in cars with non-synchromesh gearboxes, having to double de-clutch for every gear change, but it is so much nicer that we don't.

Drivers are able to concentrate more on the driving, and the driving task is much less tiring with modern devices. Ditto aircraft.
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Old 11th Dec 2021, 07:59
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personally,
meleagertoo: 2
zero/zero: 0

Is a level-off from an announced, briefed MisAp too much to handle for pilots in 2021? Not the G/A itself, the level-off at the end of it. Boeing shut Classic's production around 1999, IIRC. If the NG is a beast, it should be tamed by now.

This from someone who
- only learned here, 15 years after having changed the type, that his THS trimming techinque was completely wrong resulting in severe overcompensation
- only learned here what speed-tape confusion means and is still scared of his second (yet to come) real encounter with it
- took whole 4 SIM training sessions to get his G/A's polished after the pandemic break - on the mainstay, 'properly designed and pilot-friendly' type.

​​​​I think an honest investigation needs to evaluate the size of the holes in cheese slices too.



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Old 11th Dec 2021, 13:27
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Originally Posted by Chris2303 View Post
It's a bit hard to have system knowledge of an addon that Boeing deliberately kept secret
You illustrate my point perfectly.
There was, of course, no need to, and it is only the pavlovian reaction type pilots that would think it necessary.
Any properly trained pilot would have recognised that the auto-trim was running incorrectly - in other words a trim runaway and remembered (!!!) there is a memory drill to cope with that...

Back to the pitch/thrust couple; a ridiculous suggestion that this is a "design flaw". It is what it is. Is the asymmetric thrust/yaw couple a "design flaw"? No more than oversteer/understeer is a "design flaw" in front and rear wheel drive cars! Is the ideal-handling aircraft a Cessna 337 then? What bothers me is why anyone should aspire to this? Can't pilots cope with differences? Where would Al Haynes be today if that idea had been implemented earler on?

Autopilots and autothrust that "can only do part of the job". They can't taxi or track the runway on take-off! Because they don't need to. Why shouldn't one person have eyes inside on take/off? I thought it was a requirement! There's nothing the least bit odd about that. What is this suddenly urgent need for two of you to be looking outside ignoring the instruments? You can't see anything much in a low viz take-off - so it clearly isn't essential. Any more than it is in IMC.

What is this craving for total automation and totally benign handling? One isn't desireable and the other pointless. Unless you advocate pilotless aircraft of course.

Until this thread I never knew there was a feeling that the 737 had handling flaws - I always thought it was a magnificent aircraft with its own particular characteristics (as does any other aircraft) that were not a problem once they were pointed out. Damn sight nicer to fly manually than an Airbus though - but then maybe we now have a generation of pilots who don't actuallyexpect to be asked to fly any more and expect the autopilot to do everything for them, even when it isn't engaged, a la Airbus...and consider actually flying an aeroplane as a black art. Let's hope they never encounter an aircraft that really does have unpleasant handling design flaws. Let alone a helicopter.

The above merely reinforces my fear that there are too many out there who regard any individualness or character in an aircraft a design flaw and any system that isn't totally automated or that even permits them to mishandle it is a design fault. No pilot error any more, it's all the manufacturer's fault.

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Old 11th Dec 2021, 15:16
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Well, I agreed with many of your earlier points, but you are wilfully misunderstanding and misrepresenting what I said, so I will leave you to it
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Old 11th Dec 2021, 15:51
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Hidden assumptions

Assuming that all crews (any crew) will be able to fly an aircraft, in any situation, etc, does not match the reality of human behaviour; each of us understand situations differently, according to our view at the time, influenced by experiences, knowledge, training.

Concluding a reason for an event without considering the situation as the crew might have done, not appreciating the context without adequate thought, then our views are no better than a guess. Safety is not based on ‘a guess’.
Although safety is not fact, the requirements are based on judgements, including assumptions (although rarely published). A regulator might assume that the tasks (physical, mental) for flying a developed aircraft can be accommodated with a ‘same type rating’.

The 737 has changed; from a conventional swept-wing low-thrust design where controls (and trim) were harmonised with the thrust pitching moment, and a simple (by modern terms) dual channel AP and AT.

The need for Cat 3 auto-land, automatic trim up, an advanced dual FGS requires alternative procedures for GA, for AP/FD, single or dual modes; added complexity. Increased demand on awareness, knowledge and recall, different skills.
More recently increased engine thrust; the manual control system has to cope with a larger pitching moment, but unable to match previous flying qualities exactly - but ‘the crew will manage’ (differences training). And a final mitigation, an afterthought at the end of the checklist ‘If TOGA thrust is not required, then …’; more demand on awareness, decision, action; more complexity in identifying a safety alleviation.

Within this, a critical assumption that the aircraft can be flown with the same basic techniques taught ab-initio; control for pitch, trim to reduce force, a sequential action.
Uplinker identifies the 737 weakness - pitch and trim simultaneously, where any delay adds workload, getting being behind the aircraft.

In this incident, given a need to discontinue an approach: the crew assess the situation, altitude, system status, auto or FD, is the procedure ‘GS’ or ‘discontinued’, and then decide.
A button press on previous variants; now preceded by a multiple choice actions dependent on understanding the situation.
We assume that new technology aids operation (747, 76, 77, 78), but retrofit in an old aircraft changes human activity, with higher mental workload.
Without changing the aircraft or operational situations (money, money, money), all we might change is our thinking - what we assume and why; and with this understanding adjust how we learn from incidents.


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Old 12th Dec 2021, 06:38
  #67 (permalink)  
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Originally Posted by safetypee View Post

1. Assuming that all crews (any crew) will be able to fly an aircraft, in any situation, etc, does not match the reality of human behaviour; each of us understand situations differently, according to our view at the time, influenced by experiences, knowledge, training.


2. The 737 has changed; from a conventional swept-wing low-thrust design where controls (and trim) were harmonised with the thrust pitching moment, and a simple (by modern terms) dual channel AP and AT.

3. The need for Cat 3 auto-land, automatic trim up, an advanced dual FGS requires alternative procedures for GA, for AP/FD, single or dual modes; added complexity. Increased demand on awareness, knowledge and recall, different skills.

4. More recently increased engine thrust; the manual control system has to cope with a larger pitching moment, but unable to match previous flying qualities exactly - but ‘the crew will manage’ (differences training). And a final mitigation, an afterthought at the end of the checklist ‘If TOGA thrust is not required, then …’; more demand on awareness, decision, action; more complexity in identifying a safety alleviation.

5. Within this, a critical assumption that the aircraft can be flown with the same basic techniques taught ab-initio; control for pitch, trim to reduce force, a sequential action.
Uplinker identifies the 737 weakness - pitch and trim simultaneously, where any delay adds workload, getting being behind the aircraft.
1. That would seem to be a reasonable expectation from the self-loading freight, those under the flight path, the company and the regulator...

2. the -100 and -200 series were quite nice performers, In particular ROC. the thrust line was slightly less offset than the CFMI blenders, but doing the maths on the moment arm gives little difference in the resultant, except the thrust level is increased... The -300, -400 and -500 are vanilla designs. The -600, -700, -800 are same again, and the -900 adds some geometry issues that should be a point of concern, but, they all fly the same. Then we got the Max, and essentially the Max is the same except for the high alpha lifting body effect that arises from the cowling. Boeing went for reasons of their own logic that are incomprehensible to me with a repurpose of a system to resolve that particular test point. Aerodynamic modification was an alternative and would have been a benefit in weight and drag as well, but, the repurpose was the solution that was incorporated, and the rest is history.

Neglecting the high alpha Max issue, every B737 behaves the same in principle, in fact, exactly the same as a B747, B744, B757, 767... [The 777 and 787 in normal modes have the PFCs giving a trim reference speed which the plane will settle to, however, they also are both FBW systems that have a phugoid, and that means the pilot may well get to see more sky than expected in a lightweight, double-tap of the TO/GA levers]. The A300-600, and the A310 are spectacular in their ability to get out of sorts in trimming. Perpignan's A320 and many others have shown that the mindset change from normal to direct law in Airbus aircraft can end up being challenging for the driver, while the remainder to use manual THS comes up on the ECAM, history suggests that this little gem in a situation of cognitive overload kind of gets missed, the old "I couldn't hear your go-around call over the sound of the gear up warning horn". Lears, Hawkers, Falcons, Gee whizzes etc (other than the FBW variants (falcon goes C* ways, like the Bus, Boeing likes C*U... and gets a phugoid for its pains) all of these need trimming in Go Arounds, in fact, they usually all need trimming all the time. About the only plane that doesn't need trimming is a Soko Galeb, from stall to 430KIAS you can leave the trim alone and fly by fingertip. At the other end of the scale, a T-28 with the -86R at 1425hp doesn't do anything without trimming in all 3 axis, at the same time, so having 5 hands makes for smooth formation aerobatics... The bottom line, changing the noise level in almost all aircraft needs a trim input to manage the outcome, and aircraft with large speed differences between low and high-speed envelopes, and with large CG ranges will always have a stabilizer that has a high authority compared to the elevator. [neglecting F4's... F8's, A7's, etc... ] The ability to get out of trim is not a unique factor of the B737.

3. Cat 3. itself didn't require the nose up trim input, which is a dual autopilot issue, where it has to achieve a fail passive outcome, If a 3rd AP had been added, 3rd power source, independent instrument transfers etc... then fail-operational would have been possible which does not involve a nose-up trim bias input. B747s, triple or dual autoland could be conducted, Triple avoided the out of trim if a manual landing was made with a late AP disconnect. The B737 dual AP has to be fail passive, hence the trim bias.

4. for the variants, the moment arm change for the tail offsets the thrust change on most heavier models. the shorter body big blender types will usually want some additional thumb flickering for a full thrust GA, but all need trim input.

5. Attempting a GA in an A300 or 310 by a sequential application of elevator then trim is going to be.a great airshow. bring popcorn. Same with a light B763 with big GEs or PWs. Doing the same with a T28B or D will give a neat tight barrel roll, [ well, things get fun]. Hit the TOGA 2 times on a light B744 and try to fly with elevators only and you will get sore arms, and still see lots of sky. MD11's were fun too. A large thrust change in most jets requires prompt elevator AND stabilizer trim inputs, commensurate with the rate of change of the moment and the magnitude of the moment change. nothing magical in that.

Swept wing high-speed transports have a high ratio of Vmo/Vs, fairly large Cp changes from transonic Mach effects, and wide CG ranges, and almost invariably have a limited elevator authority relative to stabilizer authority. (Boeing always used to desire a plane that could be flown by the driver using just the control column in an engine failure, which while a wonderful sentiment is itself a lousy real-world proposition.... just as if the thrust couple changes it necessitates a trim change (trim=stab...) a thrust asymmetry requires an appropriate trim change for the yaw, that is a rudder input. [countering roll only with aileron in almost all modern and not so modern jet transports results in the potential for an increase in stall speed where yaw has not been controlled].). going right off track, Cp rearwards shift with increasing mach No is a relatively gentle affair, however, the term tuck certainly comes to have a meaning when a shock develops on the lower surface of a wing, which results in a rapid change in Cl, and a reduction in the flight path angle from the loss of lift.


The B737 is just a plane, it is not my favorite Boeing, it has sloppy ailerons, and the dual-acting single servo rudder control valve was about as bad as the. concept of MDD's fail-safe stab screw jack design, or airbus's A300 vertical stab secondary structure failsafe design... . but push and pull is conventional, even with the MAX where the crew is let into the secret of the MCAS system being fitted.

Between C* and C*U, the C* flies nicer when it works. The C*U as Boeing implemented it has the need for the driver to use the trim switches to re-index "U", and so the reversion from normal to degraded laws is not a difficulty. The Airbus obviates the trim wheel use by the driver in normal flight, but then when stuff gets rowdy the crew has to have the presence of mind to use the stab trim (THS) lest they conduct an impromptu Aresti series.
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Old 12th Dec 2021, 08:50
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3. Cat 3. itself didn't require the nose up trim input, which is a dual autopilot issue, where it has to achieve a fail passive outcome, If a 3rd AP had been added, 3rd power source, independent instrument transfers etc... then fail-operational would have been possible which does not involve a nose-up trim bias input. B747s, triple or dual autoland could be conducted, Triple avoided the out of trim if a manual landing was made with a late AP disconnect. The B737 dual AP has to be fail passive, hence the trim bias.

The 737 is perfectly capable of fail operational CAT IIIb operation. It is just that most carriers do not want to spend the extra money on the maintenance for the rudder servo that is fitted additionally. The autoflight system is inherently capable of CAT IIIb out of the box though, it is just not activated for most carriers. And the CAT IIIb fail operational airplanes still have the same trim up thing going on, both in dual engine and one engine out autolands (yes, those are approved as well if one has the fail operational version, flaps 30 for landing as well).

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Old 12th Dec 2021, 12:03
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Originally Posted by Denti View Post
The 737 is perfectly capable of fail operational CAT IIIb operation. It is just that most carriers do not want to spend the extra money on the maintenance for the rudder servo that is fitted additionally. The autoflight system is inherently capable of CAT IIIb out of the box though, it is just not activated for most carriers. And the CAT IIIb fail-operational airplanes still have the same trim up thing going on, both in dual engine and one engine out autolands (yes, those are approved as well if one has the fail-operational version, flaps 30 for landing as well).
That is quite correct. It has a curious 2 APLT 3 IRS reference architecture that provides for the fail-operational capability. With 2 APLT and without the option, it is fail passive with 2 APLTs. There is a note in the FCTM for the plane that says, for single-channel ops, refer to limitations section of the AFM, and in most cases that requires a single channel to be disconnected no lower than 50ft AGL, for FAA and 158ft AGL for EASA....
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Old 13th Dec 2021, 09:28
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fdr, thank you for the additional information and safety views.

Reflecting on the 737; yes another aircraft. However, not ‘just another’ in comparison with others.
What is the level of change in the 737 in comparison with other types, i.e. % increase in thrust, aircraft mass, … Also, noting the increased tail-plane area, adapted wing shape and profile.
These changes are not seen as cause, but contributing factors influencing normal operations, which over time have increased the complexity of operations.

Re passengers expectation - the same for the crew, but safety is judged on outcome, where the gap between the extremes - expectation and reality, has to be managed by the crew.
Crews create safety; the crew in this incident recovered the situation, a safe outcome.
There have been many opinions as to how the event was initiated, but few (none) about the recovery - how was this achieved.

P.S. only flew the T28 at half boost (3 flts). A7 LoC, hands off everything (3 flts)
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Old 13th Dec 2021, 10:13
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Originally Posted by fdr View Post
That is quite correct. It has a curious 2 APLT 3 IRS reference architecture that provides for the fail-operational capability. With 2 APLT and without the option, it is fail passive with 2 APLTs. There is a note in the FCTM for the plane that says, for single-channel ops, refer to limitations section of the AFM, and in most cases that requires a single channel to be disconnected no lower than 50ft AGL, for FAA and 158ft AGL for EASA....
Yup, pretty much the same as the A320, which uses a two autopilot and three full IRS (737 uses two full IRS and one ARS) system. The three autopilot thing had to be used in the past, technology has evolved and two are enough now. The 737 fail operational system is actually more modern than the A320 one, by around 15 years. Still, the operation is in many ways hampered by the insistence on single channel approaches which is neither necessary nor clever. Although, to be honest it wouldn't have made a difference in the original case of this thread.
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Old 13th Dec 2021, 11:56
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To answer safetypee, I suspect the recovery was initiated when the crew belatedly realised that the autopilot was not engaged. The report will confirm who was flying. However I am familiar with Aberdeen and whilst not difficult it is relatively short and as already pointed out busy mainly with North Sea helicopter traffic. My money would be on the captain giving the easy leg to Palma to the FO who had not done a lot of flying recently with the captain flying to Aberdeen. The report says he had a lot of hours but less than 10% of it was on the 737. He had also been off flying for an extended covid related period, only returning the previous month. This is pure speculation. But I could easily imagine a scenario where the captain pressed TOGA (reverting perhaps to old habits) and thinking the autopilot would fly the go-around and the two of them became task saturated cleaning up the airplane and not overspeeding the flaps with nobody flying. As the sink rate and speed increased someone (quite probably the captain) took control of the aircraft. It is salutary how quickly a high rate of descent built up and the time it took them to react. It seems the authorities were also alarmed that this could be indicative of wider problems with out of practice crews.
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Old 13th Dec 2021, 12:06
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On the NG when the yoke elec. rocker sw is activated, does the trim wheel spin always at the same speed? Asking here to learn whether or not there are different 'sensitivity' settings among the various flap positions - seem to recall from somewhere it actaully was configuration dependent.

Two more, if I may: What is the standard retraction sequence for flaps/slats after G/A, i.e. which of the intermediate postions are used: 30-15-5-0 ? When cleaning up, does any of the configuration changes introduce a N.D. moment?

Last edited by FlightDetent; 13th Dec 2021 at 12:20.
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Old 13th Dec 2021, 12:39
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Manual electric trimming rate is fast with any flap extended and slow with flaps up.
Go around is initiated by calling "go around, flap 15" whether at flaps 30 or 40. You're correct that the normal cleaning up sequence is 30/40 - 15 - 5 - Up.
In terms of trim change it's hard to say because a lot of other things are going on at the same time; probably thrust change, increasing speed, speed trim system and levelling off. I'd summarise by saying that no flap changes have an immediate and large pitch effect but the effects are masked by drag/profile changes anyway.
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Old 13th Dec 2021, 14:56
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The 737 fail operational system is actually more modern than the A320 one, by around 15 years. Still, the operation is in many ways hampered by the insistence on single channel approaches which is neither necessary nor clever.
Ever had the AP disconnect close to DH on an actual CATIII appr? I have. There is a certain startle effect to it and still in the milk, there isn't much visual to go by. It's essential that the crew has the motor skills quick at hand to perform a manual go-around. I again boast that a single channel approach should be standard if the weather is reasonable, as it might be the only real (and I mean real, not simulated) practice you may get at one. One day you might need it.
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Old 13th Dec 2021, 18:42
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Originally Posted by 172_driver View Post
Ever had the AP disconnect close to DH on an actual CATIII appr? I have. There is a certain startle effect to it and still in the milk, there isn't much visual to go by. It's essential that the crew has the motor skills quick at hand to perform a manual go-around. I again boast that a single channel approach should be standard if the weather is reasonable, as it might be the only real (and I mean real, not simulated) practice you may get at one. One day you might need it.
Of course there is a startle effect, which is why good training tries to focus on startle effects and how to get out of that startle, by the way, the startle effect hits you the same on more stable aircraft like the A320, probably even more so as the alert height is only half as high. That said, apparently there is quite a big risk for pilots to really mishandle manual go arounds, many people have paid the ultimate price for that. I would argue that a dual channel approach would have been better in that case: click the TOGA button, let the automatics do the rest, wrap your head around the somatogravic illusion, and once settled one can use whatever he wants including manual flight. Granted, it wouldn't have helped the TUI guys, but it certainly would have helped the FlyDubai crew.
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Old 14th Dec 2021, 01:45
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Originally Posted by 172_driver View Post
Ever had the AP disconnect close to DH on an actual CATIII appr? I have. There is a certain startle effect to it and still in the milk, there isn't much visual to go by. It's essential that the crew has the motor skills quick at hand to perform a manual go-around. I again boast that a single channel approach should be standard if the weather is reasonable, as it might be the only real (and I mean real, not simulated) practice you may get at one. One day you might need it.
This discussion will always be there. Automation makes aviation safer, automation dependency makes it less safe. In order to avoid automation dependency, you have to avoid automation. If you only avoid automation when there is no other stressors, it will be less safe when the automation fails when there is..... As a pilot who avoids automation more than most on my fleet, I think if we tried avoiding the kind of accidents like what happened on the MAX by having everyone hand fly to and from TOC/TOD, we would see much better flying skills on average, but more accidents as well.

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Old 14th Dec 2021, 02:24
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And if employers had to hire from the pool of people capable of hand flying to and from the cruise they would have to pay a lot more, and they will never let that happen again.
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Old 14th Dec 2021, 11:56
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This discussion will always be there. Automation makes aviation safer, automation dependency makes less safe.
Well put, and I understand the catch. What would be an ideal balance is that aircrew at least aspire to better themselves, try the water, on every flight. Start with visual conditions at a calm airport. Next time try it when the ceiling is lower. Or at a busier airport with headings, altitude, speed instructions. If you're approaching overload, engage! Shying away from it will make you less ready the day you need it. And prone to suffer from illusions more easily. It's been done to death before, I know.
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Old 14th Dec 2021, 13:25
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Originally Posted by 172_driver View Post
Well put, and I understand the catch. What would be an ideal balance is that aircrew at least aspire to better themselves, try the water, on every flight. Start with visual conditions at a calm airport. Next time try it when the ceiling is lower. Or at a busier airport with headings, altitude, speed instructions. If you're approaching overload, engage! Shying away from it will make you less ready the day you need it. And prone to suffer from illusions more easily. It's been done to death before, I know.
Couldn’t agree more. Hopefully the person sitting opposite is willing to do their bit.
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