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Automation Bogie raises it's head yet again

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Automation Bogie raises it's head yet again

Old 14th Jan 2011, 00:24
  #101 (permalink)  
 
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bubbers 44...I saw it at SFO too. WOW. how did the tail stay on??????

D105...I wish I were joking...but it really happened to this 747 crew. I'm sure you have heard of murphy's law...if it CAN happen, it WILL happen.
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Old 14th Jan 2011, 00:52
  #102 (permalink)  
 
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One poster has already mentioned Aeroperu 603

Aeroperú Flight 603 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Although incredibly unfortunate, there is a transcript of the CVR where the Captain is clearly struggling, with the only sense coming from the FO.

The Captain's persistent intention of getting the AP back on is frightening when you're only getting erroneous readings back.

While near-invaluable nowadays, aircraft 'intelligence' is never going to be 100% accurate... ever! That's what the boys up front are there for aren't they

As mentioned earlier there's a reliance on AP/AT/FMC among newer boys/girls, not necessarily with blame attributable to them, but basic understanding of concept seems to be overlooked.
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Old 14th Jan 2011, 00:56
  #103 (permalink)  
 
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As I recall they were level in altitude hold and an engine flamed out. A descent, clearance or not, is the only way to maintain control at that altitude. Aviate, navigate and communicate is what I was always taught. They missed the aviate part big time. I agree, it is amazing the tail stayed on after what they did to that 747. How do airline pilots do that? At least the old pilots.
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Old 14th Jan 2011, 01:49
  #104 (permalink)  
 
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So if they were climbing in VNAV PTH it would protect(assist) them from an engine failure ???
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Old 14th Jan 2011, 01:57
  #105 (permalink)  
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d105;

Read it, and weep for professionalism: By your response I suspect you have tons of experience and a lot of wisdom and run a good operation. You seem however, again at least by your response, somewhat incredulous that these things can and do occur in professional commercial operations. If I may respectfully offer the suggestion that regularly reading accident reports brings the experience of others who were there, right to your front door and perhaps into mind when the next unexpected event occurs in your own operation. Just a thought.

bubbers44;
How do airline pilots do that?
Exactly.

How do experienced veteran crews, with a third crew member riding specifically there in the cockpit to keep an eye on the guages while the captain is training the other guy in the right seat, fail to maintain airspeed letting it bleed off 40kts over 100 seconds, and stall their aircraft at 400', killing them and six others?

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Old 14th Jan 2011, 02:50
  #106 (permalink)  
 
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I'm by far an experienced captain PJ2. But perhaps it is because I haven't just yet come to the point where I feel the left chair is more comfortable than my own bed that I find missing such things to be unbelievable.

I do admit not reading nearly enough accident reports and have bookmarked your link for the near future

@misd-again: Not sure if your reply was pointed at me. But to be clear, we're not discussing VNAV.
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Old 14th Jan 2011, 03:48
  #107 (permalink)  
 
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PJ2, I don't know but if the right seater had his head up his a** why didn't the captain have his head out of his? I have never had a jump seater making sure the check airman didn't screw up too. Where does the line stop?
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Old 14th Jan 2011, 07:58
  #108 (permalink)  
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Originally Posted by b44
I have never had a jump seater making sure the check airman didn't screw up too
- that is one of the main reasons there is a 'j/s' pilot! People being people makes it easy for a TC (yes, even a TC) to miss something vital. I saw one failure to set QNH for approach in my time - competent TC but high work load..
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Old 14th Jan 2011, 16:34
  #109 (permalink)  
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bubbers44, BOAC;

The point is, (as I know you know), that things happen in airplanes...to vast majority of veteran crews with tons of experience, talent and a professional work ethic second to none, and to the few, of all ages, who have no idea what they don't know about airplanes and aviation and no business being in an airplane with others on board yet are there by circumstance.

It is better to be aware that truly astonishing events and actions, though rare, are possible even with the former kinds of crews described above.

Reading widely the accident reports helps bring a keener awareness into the cockpit, as does regularly communicated results of an airline's FOQA Program....heard it, seen it.

d105, thank you for taking my thought as intended - respectfully, as it was plain to see you were speaking from lots of command experience. A good site for such reports is JACDEC, the NTSB and the Boeing Statistical Summary of Jet Aircraft Accidents 1959 - 2009 is a very good summary of this aspect of our work. I don't mean to overdo it, but it's just that there's a lot of good gen on the net.
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Old 14th Jan 2011, 16:40
  #110 (permalink)  
 
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Both tragic and shocking

The autopilot effectively masked the approaching onset of the loss of control of the airplane
not on a boeing surely the report is wrong
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Old 14th Jan 2011, 20:06
  #111 (permalink)  
 
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NOTE : I'm pretty sure Safety Concerns has his tongue planted firmly in cheek, before any catcalling happens...

On a more serious note though, autopilots and flight management systems masking potential dangers is not peculiar to any model or manufacturer. Off the top of my head we have not only the aforementioned China Airlines 747SP incident, but also the fatal ATR icing accidents, where the AP kept the aircraft trimmed until it could no longer cope and handed a practically unflyable aircraft back to the pilots. That's before we get into the AA 757 at Cali and other losses of locational awareness.

The rule of thumb should always be that the AP is there so that you can disengage your hands from the controls while managing other aspects of the flight - one should *never* disengage one's brain from monitoring the situation, no matter how clever the automatics.

One of the reasons I've tried to keep my head down on this thread is that it is very much focused on the issue of automation. My contention has always been that automation is simply a tool, no matter how advanced it may be on any particular airframe - and as such cannot be responsible for good or for ill in it's own right. That said, any individual pilot who relies on the automation at the expense of their own situational awareness is making a rod for their own back at best and a noose for their own neck (and potentially hundreds of others) at worst. Any airline whose management knowingly reduces core competencies (i.e. How Aircraft Fly 101) prior to putting a newly-qualified pilot in the flight deck using modern automation as a reason for doing so should be considered criminally negligent.

Using Airbus as an example, the detractors on this forum like to use the words of the product evangelist at the time of the A320's launch as justification for their particular bugbear. But he was only one man with a specific job to do (i.e. talk up the accomplishments of the aircraft) - and the actual design of the system was thrashed out by hundreds of engineers, with many pilots either consulting or directly involved (one of whom was Gordon Corps, who I've never heard anyone on here say a bad word about). I would quite happily say that I don't think any of those involved would be anything less than horrified at the thought of automation being used as a sticking plaster to put pilots in the right seat before they were ready, and as a cost-saving measure even more so.

Originally Posted by DC10 Fever View Post
The Captain's persistent intention of getting the AP back on is frightening when you're only getting erroneous readings back.
I think it's a basic cognitive thing. I have no idea as to how much - if at all - this translates to the real world, but there is a perception that when solving a problem, it can be helpful to let "George" take it while a member of the crew performs troubleshooting. In this particular case the Captain doesn't make the mental connection that the autopilot can only work with the same erroneous readings that he's getting from his instruments - although the amount of stress that the situation exerted has to have been considerable.

Interestingly, this crash was fundamentally caused by the static ports being rendered inoperable by being covered with speed tape, but if you look at the CNN News link at the bottom of the Wikipedia page, you can see that the press at the time reported it as a computer fault. You can bet that many more people saw and internalised that erroneous information than the correct information that would have been released to much less fanfare several months down the line.

Last edited by DozyWannabe; 14th Jan 2011 at 20:30.
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Old 14th Jan 2011, 23:54
  #112 (permalink)  
 
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You are joking? You are seriously suggesting that after engaging the aircraft into a 1000fpm step-climb both pilots would not even notice an engine flaming out or the A/T not moving with reducing speed?
I believe him. In fact, if one could write a book on what amazing things instructors observe during simulator training I wonder how many people would think twice about flying as passengers.

Re the above comment "You are joking". One particular scene observed recently in the sim. Crew from north Asia on DME arc leading into an ILS. Left autothrottle developed a fault while both throttles at idle in descent to initial approach altitude for ILS. Normal flap extension followed by gear down at ILS capture on AP. Right autothrottle goes up to 80 percent N1 while left autothrottle stays at idle 30 percent N1.

Control wheel well over at 45 degree angle as AP attempts to hold LLZ and captain has both feet as normal on rudders since they are not AP controlled. Neither pilot twigs there is a serious problem rapidly developing. They are automatic dependant. After a short period the instructor has no choice but to point out a problem is developing and quick action is needed. The pilots were apparently quite blind to this.

The instructor points to the offset control wheel and immediately the captain looks in alarm at the perfectly serviceable closed left throttle and calls for the engine failure checklist.

As the F/O reaches down to find the QRH, the AP gives up in despair and disengages - allowing the aircraft to yaw and roll beyond 60 degrees. The nose drops to minus 10 degrees and soon after the GPWS sounds . The captain stares at the ADI dumbfoundly but takes no action to correct the throttles or to recover from the unusual attitude. His hands are still on his knees and he makes no effort to touch the controls as the aircraft continues to roll and dive.

The F/O meanwhile is heads down trying to find section 7 of the QRH that deals with engine failure checklists. He never sees what is going on in front of him because he has orders to read the engine failure checklist. And in that culture the copilot follows the captain's orders to death if necessary.

Never mind that within the next 30 seconds both engines will fail anyway as they bury themselves in the swamp below. As the aircraft goes into an ever tightening spiral dive from 1500 feet with both pilots on another planet, the instructor saves their face (literally) by pressing the freeze button on the instructor panel.

And you think the original contributor to this particular post is joking?

These things happen in the simulator a lot more than most pilots would ever know. Thank goodness for well maintained real aircraft where pure manual handling skills in IMC are rarely called for.

There is no shortage of other similar scenes we see and these are often with very experienced captains at the controls. In every case it comes down to automatics dependancy to a stupid degree. The absence of manipulative skills is frankly bloody alarming.

Last edited by A37575; 15th Jan 2011 at 00:06.
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Old 15th Jan 2011, 00:53
  #113 (permalink)  
 
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I've seen too much myself...I am more in the loop when not using auto throttles.

Captain (me) on 737 climbing out of BWI with new copilot,I advise I am turning off the auto throttles and then call for climb power and start looking for called traffic as we continue the climb.

I look down a few seconds later and ask the copilot if he set climb power...he said the auto throttles did that.

I told him that I had disconnected the auto throttles and advised him of such shortly after takeoff.

he hadn't even looked down at the gauges to make sure that the engines were performing properly.

I felt badly too, but I had called for something and then got distracted looking for traffic...but the NFP is supposed to actually look at things like engine gauges!

Quite simply, I don't see the need for auto throttles. How amazingly hard is it to move throttles with your hand?
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Old 15th Jan 2011, 00:53
  #114 (permalink)  
 
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A37575:

I don't see that as automation dependency so much as an alarming lack of SA. You've got two visual cues - one of them right in front of you and neither of them particularly hard to spot, and when you spot the idle thrust lever, immediately assume an engine failure rather than see if moving the throttles manually resolves the issue.

That guy clearly needed some remedial training before he was put anywhere near the left seat again. Letting George take the strain is one thing, but paying so little attention to what George is doing is going to get you killed if something goes wrong.
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Old 15th Jan 2011, 11:54
  #115 (permalink)  
 
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I don't see that as automation dependency so much as an alarming lack of SA.
On the other hand, it could be argued it is automatics dependancy that leads eventually to lack of situational awareness?
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Old 15th Jan 2011, 13:56
  #116 (permalink)  
 
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We don't know that though - it could be any number of things. The point I'm trying to make is that allowing SA to degrade that far by putting one's faith in the machine is a fundamental misuse of the automatics. Despite the press-fuelled hyperbole of the last 25 years, they are designed to assist the pilots, not replace them.
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Old 15th Jan 2011, 15:55
  #117 (permalink)  
 
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A37575,

However much I find what you wrote above to be absolutely amazing it's beginning to dawn on me that I can't just keep shrugging those stories off as exaggerated or bar stories. I have no training experience except for single engine piston so personally I haven't seen anything like what you describe above. But I take your word for it.

I come from a country with a very traditional flying culture. We fly manually in good and in bad weather. Personally I try to maintain an acceptable level of raw data + no map display flying as well.

Up until quite recently I thought this was how most other pilots still fly. I too have heard the stories of total AFDS dependency in large airlines but it didn't quite dawn on me how far that would/could go until I started reading PPRuNe...
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Old 15th Jan 2011, 17:37
  #118 (permalink)  
 
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One thing about using automatics wisely is it allows you to 'manage' the operation. Good buzz word, but true. However, monitoring the automatics control the a/c is only possible if you know what it should be doing; i.e. what pitch & power the automatics should be applying. If you see what you want to see you can relax. Just leaving George and his family to fly and assume it is correct is highly dangerous, but sadly the new generation do just that because they've not been given the grounding to be able to monitor sensibly. Is George doing what i would do? Yes, then I'll give him a biscuit after the flight. No, then I'll kick his backside, takeover and only let him play again after a big sorry. Or I'll say a big Oops!, sorry myself and push a different button. Following the magenta line to 'who knows where' on a VNAV PTH to 'who knows where' is the name of the game for many. Needles are something for junkies. On non-GPS a/c they are vital. LNAV can not be used for approaches. These GPS jockies don't know what map-shift is, but it could still happen. We tune Nav Aids as back up, but the youngsters don't monitor them. LNAV/VNAV is God. I found it amazing that in the Cali B757 crash they tried to blame Jeppeson and Boeing. Incredible. It was a major human screw up, up front. How much raw data, SBY instrument flying is included in command courses. I still say the pax expect us to be their insurance policy. They expect us to handle it when the computers screw up and go fizz pop. The technocrats answer to human failings is to invent more backup systems and redundancy. In dong so they have indeed made many things safer, but the training dept's have a duty to teach awareness and not dependancy. One airline I was with had a training captain whose rote in the sim was "fly the FD, fly the FD". It was always a little fun to demonstrate how this could stall the a/c or fly it into the ground. He didn't change, but a cadets thankfully got the message.
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Old 15th Jan 2011, 17:51
  #119 (permalink)  
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d105;

Regarding your comment, "Up until quite recently I thought this was how most other pilots still fly. I too have heard the stories of total AFDS dependency in large airlines but it didn't quite dawn on me how far that would/could go until I started reading PPRuNe..."

I suspect most pilots of small and large commercial operations alike, still fly the way you describe - professionally, quietly competent and entirely unaware of the present dialogue - they're getting on with business.

Yet it is important to observe the trends...to see "which canaries in their little cages are still alive", as it were - to note and delineate the boundaries of what is acceptable and what is not. That is what most do here who take the time to offer views, thoughts and facts.

While standards, professionalism and the career/job itself have changed almost singularly through the hands of non-aviation people who, among many things they must deal with to keep their enterprise going in a neoliberal political economy must eke out a profit for speculative and sometimes-fickle shareholders who reward slowly and punish quickly, do so by taking money from the only "flexible" source left - their employees, their training budgets, and other "non-profit-making" parts of a commercial aviation operation such as staffing and resourcing flight safety departments and programs, etc where the effects of fiscal parsimony do not show themselves right away thus making them easy targets for bottom-line thinking and meetings with the CEO and COO. The effects and the results of such fiscal cutting to the bone only emerge years later, (as they are now), the connection with turns in accident rates long since disconnected from origins.

I believe what we are observing here are trends at the edges of what we have been accustomed to believing over the past thirty years, are nominal (professional, safe) operations, certainly in the western world, (North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, some countries in South America). The fatal accident trends have borne this belief out but many saw the underlying seeds of change and began commenting early in the 1980s. The "neoliberal political economy - the set of notions de-regulating business to release it to free-market forces, the privatization of all services, including regulatory oversight, (SMS), which formerly came under government responsibility and which began in the US in the early 1970s and which effects and outcomes have been latent up until the mid-80's or so, have brought strains to our industry which are no longer invisible. The best summary of these trends and problems was given by Captain Sullenberger in his February 2009 address to Congress.

Many here "get it" and have already clearly stated that "automation" is not the problem - it is the belief by non-aviation people who have grown up in a software/microprocessor age and who manage the business of aviation but don't or can't manage "aviation" itself believing, for whatever reasons, that "these airplanes fly themselves", and that professional pilots are just expensive add-ons to the bottom line which can, and have, been cut.

An MBA from Harvard or whereever does not teach someone about aviation - it teaches one about business principles in which the discourse is "profit, loss, and cost control".

We long ago lost the third crew member and our defence, based upon flight safety, was dismissed as "union featherbedding" - an effective if not rhetorical technique which easily convinced non-aviation, anti-union designers, manufacturers and airline managements.

Now I know that that appears to be hyperbole - an exaggeration. Without the lengthy discussion which must flesh out the details of this unfortunate present trend, it probably is, but it is, above all else, true - it IS what has, and is happening to our profession. PPRuNe has done an admirable job of providing the place and collating the discourse by professionals who have not only observed these trends but are patient enough and well-written enough to have expressed these views making such trends and causes visible to those who are getting on with the job of being a professional commercial pilot.

Accident reports are about "what happened", but rarely about why. "Why" comes from the "philosophers" so to speak, and are as worth reading (here and elsewhere), as are formal accident reports.

Your incredulity is entirely understandable - the turns which the profession of "airline pilot" has suffered at the hands of those who only comprehend the cost of pilots but not the value, are a rude surprise to all veterans. The difficulty now emerging is for those who, despite the atrocious pay, the terrible working conditions and the constant dissing and lack of respect for what pilots do for aviation and for their companies, still choose to come into the profession, is that these changes are "normal", and, (like the Colgan First Officer), don't know what they dont' know about the profession and are not being mentored or taught by those who do know.

The fatal accident rate is turning around from its long reduction and beginning to show the results, not only in number, but in the puzzling "quality" of the causes such as stalling one's airplane...a dozen or more such accidents are now on the books when such causes in the 70's/80's were quite rare.

Nor am I suggesting that pilots run airlines...that actually would be as bad...

What I would envision within the severe limits of the present political economy is a hearty respect for what one's operations people are saying, first among those being the people at the pointy end of the airplane. SMS is about data, so staffing and resourcing programs which can tell non-aviation people just how close they're getting to the bone and where the risks and precursors to an accident are, is absolutely necessary notwithstanding that such programs and departments aren't traditional "profit-centers".

That, for me anyway, is what this and other extended conversations concerning the effects of "automation" is about. It is not about introduction of or disturbing reliance upon automation, it is about attitudes, priorities and values which have been inappropriately cheapened through a number of economic forces. If the "assisting tools" are used appropriately flight safety is enhanced, but not if done cheaply, with poor understanding or plugging it in and sitting back or not hitting the books and learning.

To emphasize this point, made by many already:

Automation is about cost, not safety, but safety can be enhanced through the full comprehension of such systems and the appropriate level of use of automation and knowing at all times what the automation is doing. However, a lazy reliance on things that are designed to fly the airplane better than we can but which don't think, has atrophied gut-sense and situational awareness so necessary for survival. In the vast majority of events, incidents and even accidents, to "blame" automation, is really to blame ourselves. I reserve judgement for those very rare circumstances in which "what's it doing now?" really means something such as the QF72 A330 incident near Learmonth.

PJ2

Last edited by PJ2; 15th Jan 2011 at 18:07. Reason: Added important comment regarding "what's it doing now?"
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Old 15th Jan 2011, 18:28
  #120 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by RAT 5 View Post
...but sadly the new generation do just that...
...but the youngsters don't monitor them...
Are you sure you're not unfairly tarring many younger pilots with that brush? I find it hard to believe that what you're describing is universal.

I found it amazing that in the Cali B757 crash they tried to blame Jeppeson and Boeing.
Firstly, that's lawyer SOP - always target the organisations with the biggest pockets. Sometimes fair, other times not.

Secondly, if I recall correctly there was a mismatch between the short-form waypoint identifiers as they appeared on the chart and as they were programmed into the FMS. Rozo (the correct waypoint) appeared on the chart as "R", but was only programmed into the FMS as "ROZO". What happened when they entered "R" was that the FMS gave them a listing of matching waypoints, of which the first was the Romeo waypoint near Bogota. The pilots (understandably, given the error on the chart) simply hit the enter key twice. The human error in that case was not following what George was doing immediately after that (a course change which included a significant left turn) - however in mitigation, the cockpit workload had increased significantly due to them accepting the straight-in approach offered by ATC. This doesn't excuse the flight crew for not having at least one of them monitoring what the aircraft was doing - a problem that has existed at least as far back as EAL401.

In short, the major factor in the accident was a lack of situational awareness on the part of the pilots, however the mismatch between the charts and FMS must be considered a significant hole in the cheese.

The technocrats answer to human failings is to invent more backup systems and redundancy. In dong so they have indeed made many things safer, but the training dept's have a duty to teach awareness and not dependancy.
(emphasis mine)

This is where I get uncomfortable with blaming automation directly. When it comes down to it, what we're looking at is a complex series of related issues - senior management who may not have an aviation background and therefore do not understand that as an industry it needs to be treated differently than many other businesses, training and operations departments who are under pressure from the management to keep costs down and yes, some pilots who have been poorly trained as a result of this.

But I'm convinced that the safety improvements that the automatics offer outweigh the problems caused by some in the airline industry misusing them, and it is something that needs to be addressed by the airline industry sa a whole. I'm also deeply saddened that some pilots view modern automatics with suspicion, largely because of press-fuelled speculation about computers one day replacing pilots in airline operation. I don't think there's an engineer alive who would want to take on that responsibility with the technology we have today, and I suspect the technology that will become available in my lifetime.

[EDIT : PJ2 has said what I'm saying far more eloquently - though I think automation is about cost *and* safety, at least from an engineering perspective. ]
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