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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 27th Dec 2010, 11:43
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Automation Bogie raises it's head yet again

Europe Regulators To Curb Autopilots


By ANDY PASZTOR


(WSJ) European air-safety regulators, stepping up warnings about excessive dependence on cockpit automation, have told pilots of two widely used Airbus jetliner models to avoid routinely using their autopilots in certain emergencies.


The directive issued last week by the European Aviation Safety Agency, or EASA, specifically covers emergency procedures for more than 1,000 Airbus A330 and A340 jets in the event of major airspeed-sensor malfunctions. More than two-thirds of the two-engine, wide-body planes are flown by European or Asian airlines.


More broadly, the move reflects growing concerns by international safety experts about the hazards of undue reliance by pilots on on-board automated systems, following a spate of incidents pointing to pilot mistakes and confusion stemming from improper use of automated safety aids.


Safety officials believe many pilots flying a wide range of jets-across the U.S. as well as other regions-may need additional training to cope effectively with emergencies when autopilots or automated thrust-control systems are unavailable or can't be trusted.


"Given the increasing dependence on automation" in the latest generation of jetliners, according to Deborah Hersman, chairman of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, "you've got to have pilots who are prepared for all scenarios, especially those in which they have a lack of information" from typical flight-management sources.


If two of the three external-airspeed indicators on the Airbus models singled out by last week's directive provide unreliable readings, autopilots and automated engine settings are designed to instantly disconnect. But instead of routinely re-engaging both at the first sign of trouble to try to control the aircraft, EASA now requires pilots to wait at least 30 seconds to determine if reliable information is flowing into the automated systems.EASA's directive also follows the recent release of a long-awaited U.S. air-safety study emphasizing that commercial pilots tend to abdicate too much responsibility to on-board computers, partly because most current training programs emphasize that automated systems generally are more adept at handling in-flight emergencies.


Crews also must perform various other checks to ensure that the automated systems will issue appropriate orders once they are switched back on.


When speed sensors feed unreliable data to flight-management computers, EASA said the result can be autopilots issuing abrupt and "inappropriate" climb or descend commands, which may "constitute an unsafe conditions." Regulators patterned the directive after a separate safety warning issued by manufacturer Airbus, a unit of European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co.


The move comes after a series of dangerous airspeed-measurement failures and unpredictable or dangerous autopilot commands on Airbus A330s in recent years. The sequence of events that led to the June 2009 crash of an Air France Airbus A330 flying to Paris from Rio de Janeiro apparently started with unreliable airspeed indications and autopilot difficulties. No formal cause has been determined for the crash, which killed 228 people.

............................................................ ......................

Fine words telling us what we already know. Pity the regulators don't insist that operators under their control come up with a viable solution to automation dependancy

Last edited by Centaurus; 29th Dec 2010 at 12:22.
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Old 27th Dec 2010, 13:04
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If two of the three external-airspeed indicators on the Airbus models singled out by last week's directive provide unreliable readings, autopilots and automated engine settings are designed to instantly disconnect.
My understanding of what should then happen in this eventuality is that the pilots should manually maintain pitch and roll attitude and the normal power setting for the stage of flight while considering their options for continuing the flight with degraded airspeed information.

This is easier said than done for pilots taken by surprise - especially at night, turbulence or cloud, especially when they are at high altitude and heavy. In these conditions a limited safe speed range is available requiring pretty careful and accurate handling in circumstances where the pilots (necessarily) will have little recent currency and practice.

In my view following such airspeed anomalies it would be better for the 'system' not to disengage but to degrade to a basic attitude and thrust hold mode accompanied by a pretty serious warning about what was going on.
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Old 27th Dec 2010, 13:08
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Grrr

..........Automation ........ the word fires up a battle among some others. but... again it should be only an assistance and aid measure to cope up with the whole scenario and not just the whole means of the unnecessary reliance on the circuit boards ........

Agreed .. skills dont equal a programme
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Old 27th Dec 2010, 13:17
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John Farley:

In my view following such airspeed anomalies it would be better for the 'system' not to disengage but to degrade to a basic attitude and thrust hold mode accompanied by a pretty serious warning about what was going on.
Sometimes, hand-flying using basic attitude instrument flying skills and a global view of all available information will usually best sort out which is invalid information. (well, perhaps not with the lack of basic skills that seem more prevalent these days.)

The accident report of the December 1, 1974, crash of a NWA 727 in New York should be required reading for all of today's active crewmembers. They forgot to turn on the pitot heaters and when "the stuff hit the fan" they got fixated on the bad information to the exclusion of attitude instrument flying.
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Old 27th Dec 2010, 14:28
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The accident report of the December 1, 1974, crash of a NWA 727 in New York should be required reading for all of today's active crewmembers. They forgot to turn on the pitot heaters and when "the stuff hit the fan" they got fixated on the bad information to the exclusion of attitude instrument flying.
The two 757 accidents in South America ( Aeroperu 603 and Birgenair 301) are closer to the modern magenta-line era and are sickening.
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Old 27th Dec 2010, 16:24
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The EASA AD discussed in the newspaper article is available here
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Old 27th Dec 2010, 16:44
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"In my view following such airspeed anomalies it would be better for the 'system' not to disengage but to degrade to a basic attitude and thrust hold mode accompanied by a pretty serious warning about what was going on."

Whether is is medical or aeronautical, automated systems (patient ventilators for example) should degrade gracefully, sustaining basic functions rather than just cutting out. The greater reliance on automation the more graceful the degradation needs to be rather than dumping the surprised operator directly into a manual/raw data situation.
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Old 27th Dec 2010, 18:11
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That's all good and well, if the system is able to accurately define what is causing the problem. If it's not an input error, not a malfunction of the autopilot computer itself, then one is left with other problems that can produce similar results, but which will continue to be a problem should the autopilot degrade to a lesser state of control.

Eliminating the autopilot completely takes all the problems out of the look, returns control to the pilot, and allows the matter to be resolved using a procedure.

Attempting to simply fall back to basic autopilot functions when the issue is a runaway stabilizer trim, for example, may only escalate the problem. Taking autopilot away and allowing the crew to manually fly eliminates the trend, allows the crew to restore equilibrium, and then address the problem.

I agree wholeheartedly that stepping "back into the loop" in turbulent night conditions in the top of a cloud layer or a mountain wave can be a challenge, but then isn't this the reason for having a crew on board in the first place? Fly and control the airplane. Make decisions that the automation cannot. Evaluate. Troubleshoot.

Raw data training these days is often seen as redundant, and in many cases, "raw data" still includes use of the flight director. Crews should be comfortable transitioning between manual flying, and automation, equally proficient in both, and this practice should be approved and encouraged by operators.
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Old 27th Dec 2010, 18:31
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Do a Hover - it avoids G
 
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Chaps

I well appreciate that by manually flying the aircraft you may be able to diagnose what info is right or wrong but I would prefer the crew to be able to gather their wits about them first, check what all the attitude indicators are saying and then take over and start investigating.

Is this not better than having the aircraft unexpectedly dumped on you with some turbulence induced roll and pitch away from cruise already happening?

OK some oldies were necessarily trained to cope with this but a lot of people today may have many other useful skills but they don't include tricky handling and before you know it a UA is off and running.
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Old 27th Dec 2010, 19:14
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Cool

Hi,

• The July 17, 2007, an Airbus A320 TAM left the runway 35L at Congonhas Sao Paulo (Brazil), killing 199 people. In its final report on Brazilian CENIP says the concept of automation of the A 320 does not allow drivers to always have a good knowledge of the situation:



The Concept of the automation in the A-320 Does not Always Allow The Pilot to know EXACTLY how the Operation are Being Performed by The System.



On 27 November 2008, the crew of an A 320 lost control of his aircraft at low altitude over the sea near Perpignan. The accident victim was 7. During this flight, blocking two probes incident led to the miscalculation of the characteristic speeds (and Vαprot Vαmax), rejection of ADR 3, the direct passage into law and had rendered inoperative automatic compensation. This succession of automation in a very complex system has not been seen by the crew. The pilots did not understand what was happening. In its final report recommended that the BEA very diplomatic way to the European Agency for Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to ensure that pilots are better informed of the situation at Airbus reconfiguration of systems:



BEA recommends that EFSA carries out a study to improve safety standards system certification warning crews during reconfiguration of flight control systems



• The June 28, 2010, EASA alerted operators of aircraft of type A 330 / A 340 that in some cases a failure of one engine on take-off could lead to a surge toward the ground and limit the potential for driver counter the phenomenon:



This condition leads to a movement of The Elevator To The zero position, Which has inducer pitch down movement INSTEAD of a pitch up movement Needed to lift off. In addition, it leads to a limitation of The Pilot control is pitch axis and limits capacity to The Pilot Count The pitch down movement Düring this flight phase, Which year deriving their unsafe condition.



• The August 24, 2010, during a flight between Khartoum and Beirut, an Airbus A320 suffered a power outage announcement of imprecisely to the pilots and caused the uncontrolled activation of the trim of the rudder. The AAIB recommended that British crews Airbus A 320 are informed:



Safety Recommendation 2010-092: It Is Recommended That all operators of Airbus alert A320-series aircraft of The Possibility That year Electrical Power Generation System Fault May Not Be On The ECAM annunciated clearly ", and May lead to uncommanded rudder trim operation.



***



Because of the complexity of hyper Airbus, it may happen that the pilots did not understand what the automation and worse, they do not know what to do to get out of a situation that they no longer control !
Source:
L?hyper complexité des systèmes a des limites qu?Airbus ignore. : Les dossiers noirs du transport aérien
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Old 27th Dec 2010, 19:34
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OK some oldies were necessarily trained to cope with this but a lot of people today may have many other useful skills but they don't include tricky handling and before you know it a UA is off and running.
I've never seen a training program that didn't include unusual attitude recoveries and or jet upsets. I finished recurrent training at the end of last month, and it certainly included upset recoveries, and automated, as well as manually flown procedures.

During an approach into Kabul this month, a generator failed, and tripped off, taking that side of the split bus with it, as well as the essential bus. As it was going, the autopilot began react erratically, the control column began to vibrate and shake, and then the yoke began to rock back and forth with a high frequency vibration somewhat like an aileron buzz.

The quick solution was to disconnect the autopilot and handfly, while troubleshooting the problem using checklists and procedures.

The autopilot in the airplane I fly will drop from "command" to "manual," providing basic functions, during certain types of malfunctions. However, when in doubt, get rid of it and fall back to basic flying. It is, after all, something one should have mastered at the student pilot level.
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Old 27th Dec 2010, 20:25
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get rid of it and fall back to basic flying.
Agreed. Also pray that your FO is more than a 250 hour lad/lass who is straight out of flying training.

The message that comes out loud and clear from the original post is that some of todays pilots, whilst relying heavily on automation, are not doing enough to fully learn and understand how it does, or doesn't work.

How many times have you been in the SIM and seen someone, when given a simple problem, get themselves into an awful mess through a lack of system knowledge?

Maybe it is not so much an individuals fault but more symptomatic of todays flying training?
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Old 27th Dec 2010, 20:43
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As an ex flight engineer (now), I've taught glass cockpit for quite a few years.

Observations like 'you are now inundated with information' have now run full circle. For many years it was regarded as a good thing.

I suspect now it's not viewed as being the bonus it was designed to be. Even in my last years of flying, I was conscious that the levels of spacial awareness seemed to be reducing as crews 'followed the coloured lines'.

I think glass cockpits are brilliant, but I hope that we still will keep hold of those fundamental skills, the ability to use mental arithmetic and the motivation to keep those skills honed.

Sadly, I don't think that's happening. I think we're allowing a culture of complacency to develop despite all the courses preaching the contrary.

We'll see. I suspect I'll be the subject of a wave of rhetoric by outraged crew, but I flew for over 35 years and that's what I saw.
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Old 27th Dec 2010, 20:47
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Is it time to wake it up again?

http://www.pprune.org/safety-crm-qa-...-aviation.html

(Best ignore all the Islamabad stuff at the end.)
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Old 27th Dec 2010, 21:22
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Sir, my need is sore.
Spirits that I've cited
My commands ignore.

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Old 27th Dec 2010, 22:13
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all that STUFF is built by engineers for engineers

BUT what a pilot NEEDS is:

an easy way to make sure the plane is flying properly

that it is on the propert course

that it is performing properly in terms of mechanical health

that threats to the plane can be dealt with (IE weather radar)

I imagine that much of today's cockpit information could be dealt with in other ways, for example, on takeoff...a computer voice says POWER set, engines nominal

freeing the pilots to look out the window

but, whatever method, pilots, airlines, governmental agencies, must allocate resources to make sure pilots can handle problems, including problems that are handled in an impromptu fashion...making things up as you go if there is no time to do a checklist
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Old 27th Dec 2010, 22:18
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How many times have you been in the SIM and seen someone, when given a simple problem, get themselves into an awful mess through a lack of system knowledge?
Generally if people get into trouble for systems knowledge or lack thereof, it's from failure to follow procedure. When people begin trying to out-think the airplane rather than pick up a checklist and work through a problem, they get in trouble.

I do see people get into trouble by trying to follow through with the automation when they really ought to get rid of it. I had a sim partner once that could fly the airplane very well, but who insisted on doing everything on the autopilot. I understood that he wanted to learn that panel and work it well, and I understood that he'd been counseled to let the autopilot work for him as much as possible in the upcoming checkride. The problem was that whenever he started to get behind things, trying to fix it through the autopilot only made it worse. It might be that the descent wheel didn't start him down as fast as he'd have liked on the approach, and ended up high. Trying to catch up by increasing the rate would see him missing his MDA. Perhaps it was being a little fast or a shirt turn onto the localizer, and then blowing through the approach. In each case, he saw the problem coming, and disconnecting the autopilot would have fixed the problem for him by allowing him to handfly and correct the problem. Sometimes trying to work through something with the autopilot is a little like trying to run a race on stilts. It's easier sometimes, and sometimes more effective, to remove the stilts, shut off that autopilot, and fly.
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Old 27th Dec 2010, 22:33
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While I fully appreciate the discussion whether automatics are good or bad or both, and I can understand some people's concern about pilots loosing pilot's skills, I must say that this AD has nothing to do with it!

If you read the AD carefully (and if we are talking about the same one, namely the one HazelNuts39 presented us), it's not about automation but about correct failure finding in case of one or several Air Data failures. This can happen in any aircraft, even in steam-driven cockpits. Needless to say, that in most multiple AD failures, the autopilot disconnects by itself. The problem pilot's routinely have with such type of failures in the cockpit is not the lack of manual skills, but the wrong way of identifying the correct AD source or the insufficient use of pitch and power.

Modern cockpit have even more advantages than older ones, i.e. they offer more independent sources to troubleshoot (e.g. GS indication from FMS).
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Old 27th Dec 2010, 22:36
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Maybe it is not so much an individuals fault but more symptomatic of todays flying training?
Absolutely agree. It is the fault of the regulators and company Check and Training that is the root cause. A pilot cannot and should not be expected to work out what he needs to know/what techniques/skills he should have. He didn't design the aeroplane and he didn't dream up the concept of flight. Our industry and society in general gets better because the lessons learned by earlier generations are used by current day society, not by pilots having to individually "gain" all that experience, first-hand, over and over again.

From where I sit at least, there has been a fundamental failure of the hierarchy to ensure that pilots are equipped with the skills and knowledge they need to operate in the magenta-line world. It's not as though this problem has just popped up and people have been caught out. The writing has been on the wall for years but has been ignored.

I must say that this AD has nothing to do with it!
I disagree. This is all about crews being unfamiliar enough with handflying that they get themselves into bother when they have to so they leave hte AP in for too long. A crew who routinely hand flies in a less-automated aircraft will cope much better with a loss of airspeed because they are used to it (and probably know the powers and attitudes like the back of their hand); they are much more likely to get rid of the AP earlier.
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Old 27th Dec 2010, 23:53
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Pull out the QRH on the A320 and you will find a table of power settings and attitudes for unreliable airspeed.

On my previous aircraft I had a good idea of these as I had to apply them myself every time I flew, now I need to refresh my memory as I just don't use them so often.

An advanced autopilot is a major bonus during an emergency as it reduces the workload of simply keeping the aircraft flying safely, enabling more attention to be devoted to dealing with the problem. These days airspace is more complicated and congested. Tolerences are more critical and setting up an approach much more involved.

In the 1960s the controller could probably find you a vacant block of airspace to play around in while you sorted out what was going wrong with your B707, followed by a radar vector straight on to the ILS.

These days you will need to maintain tolerances in a hold and sequence into a STAR, following speed and altitude constraints. Don't forget you still need to run the emergency checklists and procrdures as well.

I certainly wouldn't want to be operating early generation jets in modern airspace.
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