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Altitude PreSelect : Who Sets it?

Old 17th Nov 2007, 09:31
  #1 (permalink)  
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Altitude PreSelect : Who Sets it?

I am seeking a research based reference source which recommends who does what and when to the altitude preselect knob.
I need to able to quote a credible research source in my argument for us to return to the way the major manufacturers and the airlines recommend.
I have searched the Flight Safety Foundation and NASA to no avail.
Any clues?
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Old 17th Nov 2007, 10:13
  #2 (permalink)  
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I can't help you with a thesis on this but I'm intrigued as to why you ask. How do you do it in your company? Flapsassym described how it works in all airlines I've seen in action and the way I see it, it is the only reasonable way. This also applies to all other AP settings such as headings, modes, navaid setups: PF when AP engaged and PNF when flying manual.

Whoever has his hands free when ATC calls is a greyzone. I usually help out with frequencies and so on just to be kind, but if PF does something that will keep him/her from being able to perform the settings, he should hand over the plane to PNF. That way the cockpit is a little "cleaner" and the risk of misunderstandings is reduced.

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Old 17th Nov 2007, 10:42
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The appropriate flight crew training manual (Boeing, Airbus or other).'s not exactly rocket science
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Old 17th Nov 2007, 11:06
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Company SOPs

For us, with 747-200s...
If handflying...
PF calls "select LVL or ALT xxx"
PNF selects LVL and says "LVL or ALT xxx selected"
PF says "LVL or ALT xxx verified" (and I point to it when I am PF)
If on autopilot...
PF is in charge of all selections on "P10 panel" (glareshield)
PF announces selection "LVL or ALT xxx selected"
PNF says "LVL or ALT xxx verified"...
Ref. - FOM 747-287 - Chapter 4 (Normal Operations) -

Happy contrails
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Old 17th Nov 2007, 11:25
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teamilk&sugar..your sarcastic answer is neither helpful nor profesional.

Bel Arg USA - thanks for your input, indeed your company SOP's are the way its done by most airlines. However, I'm looking for research papers on the subject which recommend the way your company (and everyone else) does it. A specific company's FOM or a manufacturers operating manual isnt quite enough because it isnt generic and it doesn't detail for example why method "A" is better than method "B".

I am aware that RL Sumwalt and others did considerable research on this subject a few years ago when he was at NASA Ames. I'm trying to access their papers online without success.
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Old 17th Nov 2007, 11:29
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My experience to date
Previous company
In all cases
PNF enters pre-selected altitude and arms. Announces “FL/xxxxft SET”
PF after verification responds “CHECK”
Present Company
If on autopilot:
PF enters pre-selected altitude and arms. Announces “FL/xxxxft SET(?)”
PNF after verification responds “CHECK”
PF then selects appropriate vertical mode to initiate descent when required.
If autopilot not engaged
PNF enters pre-selected altitude and arms. Announces “FL/xxxft SET(?)”
PF after verification responds “CHECK”
PF then commands PNF to select appropriate vertical mode to initiate descent when required.
(?) indicates differences between fleets – one says SET one doesn’t
Cheers HP

(Edited by HP. Sorry Lucille, our posts crossed as I added this contribution. Even though you don't want another expample - I had already posted it)
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Old 17th Nov 2007, 11:53
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teamilk&sugar..your sarcastic answer is neither helpful nor profesional.
TM & S has a valid point and Lucille you need to smell the roses a little bit. I recall my first simulator session in 1978 in a 737-100. Sitting in the left seat I explored the cockpit and made to adjust the course setting knob on the HSI. The simulator instructor - a carping pedantic and quite bad-mannered check captain, snarled at me saying that the course indicator knob should be operated with my left hand - not the right hand.

With over 13,000 hours in those far off days on various large and small military and airline aircraft, I saw this sad old twit for what he was. It clearly didn't matter a tinker's cuss what bloody hand I used to set the miserable HSI knob and I am sure Mr Boeing couldn't have cared less either.

Compared to ancient airline and post 1940 military types, jet transport aircraft today are much easier to fly and certainly safer than flying a Mariner or a Mustang. Yet today's operators will insist on rigid so called SOP's such as who operates each knob on whose leg and don't dare touch my area of responsibility lest you cause me to have a hissy-fit. We have to be like actors learning our lines in a Shakespearan play. Of course standard procedures are needed where appropriate but this little game has gone too far to be funny anymore with the result that commonsense is thrown out of the cockpit window. Does it really matter who has Legs page on his side when in a fraction of a second one press of a button can change the display to whatever one chooses. Of course not.

Last edited by Tee Emm; 17th Nov 2007 at 12:03.
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Old 17th Nov 2007, 12:21
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Well put, Tee Emm, my thoughts exactly.

I did an 1179 check some time ago for another non-Brit airline, and the BA designated check Captain about had a hissy fit when I made heading selections while hand I informed this twit that this ain't BA, so I'll do it my way....oh, and by the way, our manual says I can.

This shut him up, pronto.

And, just imagine, in the 'ole B707 days each pilot had to make his own selections, hand flying or not...shock, horror.
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Old 17th Nov 2007, 12:30
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Hola Lucille -
Unfortunately I have been subject to the procedure described since long ago, whereas the PF "calls for items to be selected" since I fly airlines (1969) - the only things that has changed somewhat, since then, is the amount of verbal "yak-yak" that appeared later, to keep senile idiots like me from becoming one of aviation statistics.
I have flown with other air carriers, and procedures were remaining same, except maybe the vocabulary used. Each airline had their procedures and check-lists, and rarely followed the manufacturer's FCTMs. My PanAm procedures probably were written by China Clipper captains. It has been established long ago, that pilots (except those of Hollywood's "Top Gun") are unable to fly an airplane and chew gum at the same time, so anything that PF wants, he calls for. When PNF, I am somewhat of a goddess Siva with many arms and hands, and able to do 7 things at the same time, select altitudes, change frequencies, move the heading selector, reset my 5 speed bugs, press to talk to insult ATC for a delayed descent clearance, turn pages of my Playboy magazine, sip my cup of expresso (and pick my nose), all at the same time... And like 411A says here above - if the PF wants to do some himself, what is wrong...? - SOPs can be altered to accommodate some old farts like me...
That is the reason "they" made me training manager a few years ago, to be subject to criticism from my secretary who is busy painting her toenails while I pretend to be busy with my computer (reading the PPRuNe forum) -
Why don´t you contact NASA's Ames directly, or the SFS to get their assistance for your research...?

Happy contrails
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Old 17th Nov 2007, 12:57
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Curiously, why isn't the way the manufacturer or airline recommends good enough for you?

The suggestion is that your procedures presently do not agree with these recommendations.

Affording whoever made this decision the benefit of the doubt, maybe theirs is the opinion you seek as they obviously know better than the manufacturer how to operate the aircraft you fly!

Conversely, as contributors to this thread have suggested, it doesn't really matter which knob in the flightdeck operates this knob, does it?

Some things are worth researching, others aren't IMHO.

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Old 17th Nov 2007, 18:07
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now see what happens....

See what happens when people chew gum and press buttons at the same time? I'll have what he's having....
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Old 17th Nov 2007, 18:56
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Manufacturers manuals are just perfect, no argument. Its just that they don't explain WHY.

Strangely enough, it seems to make a huge difference to various crews as to whose fingers twiddle the knobs this has been a source of more than a few disputes!. Weird, I agree, nevertheless thats human nature for you. Go figure.

Whether this is worthy of a research topic, I'm unqualified to opine. But NASA Ames, and the FSF seem to think so. I will contact them directly, its the weekend and I was hoping that there would have been a bright spark on PPRuNe who would have the answer

The root of my question was "Why is this so?". I fail to see why this seems to invoke memories of horror sim rides in years of old from some posters.

For the record, I am not a carping pedant. I don't have an agenda, I couldn't care less which and whose particular appendage is recommended to twiddle the knobs. All I want to know is WHY.
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Old 17th Nov 2007, 23:38
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Personally, I like to hand fly the a/c.

I've seen (as an FO) too many instances of PF doing his own FGC selections while hand flying, and making a roaring james hunt of it.

So I still like to hand fly and I ask the PNF to do the FGC.

And if my FO wants to hand fly, I'm tickled pink....and I do his FGC stuff.

And if he tries to do his own FGC and hand fly too.....I stop him.

Call me old fashioned...............................
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Old 18th Nov 2007, 01:57
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The original 'who does what and when' will have been the subject of considerable discussion between the flight training department of a manufacturer and the flight test department of the manufacturer and almost certainly overseen and approved by the regulating authority of the country in which the aircraft is produced. Countless hours will have been spent trying out various scenarios in order to establish what is safest and most efficient practice and the least likely to cause any confusion, misunderstanding or ambiguity that could lead to and accident or incident or a product liability lawsuit. Now that manufacturers make 'planes that are in many ways very similar, if not identical, some procedures will be copy-over but the original 'what, when and by whom' will have it's origins in the pre-launch phase of a new model. So, to answer one of your question, 'Why is this so?' it is because engineers, pilots, designers and regulatory authorities say it is so, having carried out exhaustive tests and training, a definitive source would be the manufacturers Flight Operations Manual, (I think Boeing call it the Airplane Manual), but not a company's as companies can and do change manufacturers recommended procedures. If companies instigate changes without clearing these changes with the manufacturer first then they may discover their folly when they find they have gone outside the terms and conditions of the manufacturers product liability cover!
You may get an answer closer to the one you are looking for from the Flight Test forum. Best of luck.
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Old 18th Nov 2007, 02:30
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Typical Responses on PPRUNE

....where has the professionalism GONE?????????????????????

Use of the Altitude Pre-Select system in ANY aircraft is a very very important subject except to TURKEYS.

Please answer a honest and genuine request for help on this forum in a professional manner.

Keep your sarcastic and idiotic and childish responses to the bar or your childrens bedroom!!!!!!

Many many tragic accidents have occurred due to the wrong input or wrong readback of the Altitude Pre-Select input. AND will continue to occur and this forum is here to help....if it saves just one prang it is worth it!

LUCILE....I congratulate you for asking the are a TRUE professional....

And for my input with global experience, ICAO should have mandated a universal standard for using this important safety device. And never but never should it be readback to ATC until it has been set and the readback person is looking directly at the display as they speak to ATC and the other crew.
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Old 18th Nov 2007, 04:04
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After returning from the WC the aircraft was in the initial descent, during the level off, ATC requested my altitude (oh no:), sure enough there had been a mistake made, previous posters on PPRune have made mention of this and I make sure never to change levels until the other crew member is at his station.
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Old 18th Nov 2007, 04:24
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.. each pilot had to make his own selections, hand flying or not...

.. then I guess the way we used to practice single pilot, raw data, hand flown (on low workload) sectors for the maintenance of a level of satisfying manipulative and management polish ... would now be considered very politically incorrect ...

It would be professionally interesting to review serious research on the error rates etc., associated with this way or that .... but, at day's end, in my simplistic view of life, the following things appear to be pretty important

(a) minimising error rates (in a very general sense of the term) has primacy for error rate correlates well with undesired outcomes in most areas of activity

(b) managing a flight sensibly considering all factors comes next .. that assessment can, and should, vary from flight to flight according to the relevant circumstances

(c) where appropriate during a flight, pilots ought to practice elements of their craft to maintain a higher level of proficiency than would result from rigid adherence to the lowest level philosophy which is inherent in SOPs. (If a particular operator's SOP conlicts, then this might be precluded). Sim flying single pilot, raw data, handflown figure 8 ILS touch and go patterns in near 0/0 conditions, likewise, gets both the heart rate and the manipulative skillset up a bit. (I used to find 125m vis and zero cloud base about as tight as I could manage but I was only an average sort of pilot so I guess that was about OK).

(d) standardisation to the extent that crew members have a pretty good idea of what is going to happen next and who is going to do what next is a good thing and assists admirably with respect to (a).

I recall, with some fondness, a very skilled, highly experienced and competent checkie who, whilst "doing" me many years ago, made the observation that the operations manual left out one important bit of guidance on the front page .. something along the lines of "To be read and applied with a bit of commonsense".

Now, my thoughts might constitute heresy but that's the way I think ...

My attitude probably has something to do with being brought up in an airline culture which greatly valued over-training its crews .. an expensive way to run a business but they didn't have many serious incidents along the way ...
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Old 18th Nov 2007, 07:28
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And then again, when the ATC controller says...'EAN4126, climb to FL370' the non-flying pilot (me) responds to the controller accordingly, resets the altitude selector, arms same and then says to the flying pilot (in this case the First Officer)...there you go, 370.

First Officer responds....where the heck is the coffee? while ringing the call bell, then finding the hosties in the down galley having a smoke.

All this verbal diatribe used today is totally un-necessary and a complete waste of time.
Dreamed up by Airboos, no doubt.

I'm sure most have heard of the 'dark cockpit' lights, everything normal.
Now try the quiet cockpit.....ah, absolute bliss.
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Old 18th Nov 2007, 09:09
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Thanks all. I'll try NASA Ames and FSF, its just that it was the weekend and I thought someone could point me in the right direction.

There has been research done on this subject (about 20 years ago!) , the manufacturers have a reason for recommending a specific practice (and its what all the airlines do).

The way most do it as stated on this forum is the AP ON - PF does it otherwise PNF does it.

I'm faced with having to defend the norm against a planned change where they want they want PNF to do it ALL times - no exceptions. None of our various manufacturers have a recommended practice.

Indeed, in the big scheme of things, this is a trivial matter but surprisingly, it has polarized our crews.... ahh well, I guess I'll still live.

No more posts please..if anyone has any information, then pm me please.

Thanks for taking the time to post.

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Old 18th Nov 2007, 16:07
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Emu....isn't that a big bird that often sticks its head in the sand?

Sorry...couldn't resist.

No one would disagree with your post but you fail to make the distinction between use of and who does the using.

We all ought to be diligent selecting altitudes, clarify selected levels if any ambiguity exists, cross-confirm etc etc, but as long as those actions are taken, does it really matter who by? (No doubt someone will now find a reason why it does?)

In a busy flightdeck the suggested PF/PNF protocol works for me.

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