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Your airlines' policy about the use of automation during flight?

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Your airlines' policy about the use of automation during flight?

Old 4th Jun 2011, 11:24
  #21 (permalink)  
 
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A very nice post from Al Murdoch, which, to me, summarises the essenence of this whole discussion. Al's attitude is exactly in line with my own. I too, enjoy and take every opportunity to practice hand flying when appropriate, but in very busy airspace or marginal weather firmly believe that the aicraft must be operated by the safest and most accurate means possible, and that, on most (but not all) occasions implies the use of MODERN automatics.

John_Tullamaine, in one of the posts here, has stated that attitude and capability is very much a 'pilot era' thing. (John's backround and mine are very similar). For those of us from the era where hand flying was the safest and most accurate means possible, we have no discomfort in a modern highly automated aircaft in operating either way, the old or the new. It is no fault of the younger pilot entering the industry on a highly automated type to place a heavier reliance on the automatics.

I have always believed that an aircraft should be flown as the manufacturer intended.

When I learned to fly on the Tiger Moth, I flew it 'by the seat of my pants', that's what De Havilland intended, and that's what I did.

When I flew the DC3, I flew it by hand with the rather rudimentry insrumentation available, using the very primitive Auto-Pilot (not much more than a wing leveller) for a bit of relief during cruise. That's what Douglas intended, and that's what I did.

When I flew the F27 and Viscount, with a much improved (Sperry) Auto-Pilot, automation had only increased to improved en-route capability (Airspeed and Altitude Hold.....wow!). Terminal area flying and approaches were very much a hand-flown thing. That's what Fokker and Vickers intended, so that's what I did.

Jump a generation to the DC9 and B727. Very much improved Auto-Pilot (singular) and Flight Directors enabled much more accurate Automatic and Manual flight, but with zero redundancy, one had to be EQUALLY proficient with Automatic and hand flown flight. That's what Douglas (sniff!) and Boeing intended, so that's what I did.

Jump over the A300 (my first Auto-land aircraft) to the current era where I fly the B777. Boeing incorporated very accurate and reliable automation with an incredible capacity for redundancy (7 sources of electrical power, 8 IRS units, 2 GPS units, 3 Flight Director backups, and a wide degree of PFD redundancy). How did Boeing intend that the aircraft be primarily flown? - By optimum use of automation, that's how, and that's what I do. The degree of redundancy is the deciding factor. Doing a 1 engine, TAC off, Raw Data ILS is a lot of fun, and good for confidence, but is such training necessary? ..... Absolutely NOT! (Excluding the TAC off because it has no back-up).

So, apart from self satisfaction, why do I still take every chance to hand fly? It's NOT because of possible Automatics failure, considering the mind-boggling redundancy, the chances of being 'down' to raw data are trillions to one against such a possibility. It's because there are still several manoeuvres which still call for the pilot to fly - The Visual Approach, and the Non Precision Approach (NPA). From the Base turn onwards (for the Visual Approach) and from the MDA onwards (for the NPA) manual flight (ideally with the Flight Directors OFF) is still essential! Add to this list (1) GPWS escape, (2) Wind Shear escape, (3) TCAS avoidance, and (4) Ground Equipment (such as ILS) malfunction, all SERIOUS situations, none can be handled by the Automatics in current generation aircraft, so Pilot Proficiency in hand flying remains essential, even if the Automatics remain fully functional.

So, the bottom line is, fly the aircraft as the manufacturer intended in normal operations, tempered with a good respect for the level of redundancy, and in the full realisation that there remains many areas (as described) which cannot be handled by a fully serviceable Automatic system. The pilot's proficiency in manual flight is the LAST line of defense.

When I go to my paid work, I make full use of the B777 automatics, particularly in inclement weather and crowded skies, but avail myself of every chance to 'get in' some hand flying. When I still fly the Tiger Moth on my time off, I fly it by the seat of my pants. That's what Boeing and De Havilland intended!

Regards,

Old Smokey
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Old 4th Jun 2011, 12:14
  #22 (permalink)  
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Old Smokey said:
When I go to my paid work, I make full use of the B777 automatics, particularly in inclement weather and crowded skies, but avail myself of every chance to 'get in' some hand flying
That sounds fine to me! Am I correct in assuming that 'some hand flying' includes switching A/THR and F/D's off?

So what exactly does your company's OM say about the use of automation?
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Old 4th Jun 2011, 12:15
  #23 (permalink)  
 
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The pilot's proficiency in manual flight is the LAST line of defense.
In recent years, Loss of Control has superseded CFIT as being the largest cause of aircraft accidents. That being the case, the LAST line of defence has more holes in it than Reasons Swiss Cheese theory...

Being selective I know, but the whole argument for automatics skills versus pure flying skills hit home when the CVR captured the voice of the captain of the doomed Egypt Air Boeing 737 still screaming "engage the autopilot...engage the autopilot" ....silence - end of recording.
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Old 4th Jun 2011, 13:08
  #24 (permalink)  
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the doomed Egypt Air Boeing 737
I suppose you mean the FLASH Airlines 737 which crashed after TO in Sharm El Sheik...
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Old 4th Jun 2011, 14:02
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Sabenaboy,

To answer your 2 questions -

(1) 'some hand flying' includes switching A/THR and F/D's off, Yes, including all combinations of 'complete' raw data, and 1 of the 2 afore-mentioned OFF, and

(2) So what exactly does your company's OM say about the use of automation?, Use it fully and appropriately. Pilots are free to practice their hand flying / raw data skills in appropriate conditions, providing that optimum safety is not compromised and the PNF's work load is not unreasonably increased. (That's a summary of a quite lengthy discourse).

PLUS, Pilots should have no hesitation in reverting to Manual Flight should the occasion call for it (Again, a short summary).

Added as a Post Script - Quite a number of Company OM procedures call for Manual Flight with FD off, and Manual over-ride of the Auto Thrust (mainly those items addressed in my original post).

Regards,

Old Smokey

Last edited by Old Smokey; 4th Jun 2011 at 14:12.
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Old 5th Jun 2011, 15:33
  #26 (permalink)  
 
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Nothing written in any of the airlines I have flown with.

In those where there were "Sabena boys" I did enjoy a lot of hand flying and that is one of the reasons I consider those captains probably the best I've flown with. And they were all from a good cadet program, btw.

In the others, very seldom I fly with a "brave" captain who encourages hand flying, and very frequently with "not so brave" ones who directly deny that "right" to me.

In one of them, their motto (non written) is "do not degrade the airplane capabilities".

a last thought. The Airbus FBW is not a CWS. The only real difference is that you don't have to trim and you maintain bank angles very easily. Otherwise, you have to set a pitch and thrust, and use the brain, like in a cessna.
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Old 6th Jun 2011, 11:30
  #27 (permalink)  
 
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Danger

Cap'n Bloggs,

Ahhh, to have your automation policy driven by the world's most ambitious navigator and those too scared to speak up.....
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Old 6th Jun 2011, 11:34
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I suppose you mean the FLASH Airlines 737 which crashed after TO in Sharm El Sheik...
Sabena boy. Thanks for the correction - my error.
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Old 6th Jun 2011, 21:31
  #29 (permalink)  
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In todays modern aircraft it is important to fully understand the capability of the automatic systems. One of the biggest sins I have seen is a captain disconnecting auto pilot and throttle and announcing he will hand-fly when an emergency occurs!!! That may have been OK in the days of the flight engineer but the FE was got rid of on the basis of system redundancy and high levels of automation, so that automation must be used when appropriate. When the captain* disconnects and says he'll hand fly he is overloading the FO, who has to monitor and react as requested to the handling pilot as well as handle the emergency. The captain has chosen to overload himself by both hand flying and trying to monitor the emergency drills. Sadly there are several examples of a failure to properly monitor due to work overload when the use of automatics would have freed up a lot of capacity to properly analyse and monitor abnormal situations.

Regarding culpability, the manual will always be written in such a way that if an emergency occurs and proper use of the automatic systems was not utilised then the pilot will be to blame, on the other hand if use of automatics was not the best option then the pilot will be to blame! Sod's law, that is the Managerial CYA mode in full operation!


The recent A380 incident in Singapore shows that additional eyes and brains on the FD can reduce the workload, (five on the flight deck), if they know what they are doing.

*assuming captain retains or takes over PF duties.
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Old 6th Jun 2011, 22:12
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Try dispatching an airliner with A/P inop (if within the MEL)and see the reactions; for the punters down the back, not a comfortable experience and I am talking hand flying during cruise stages as well!!


I have seen guys come from the airlines who simply would refuse, as they know they cannot fly(!) A generalisation, but when you see that some of the "outfits" referred to here nearly forbid flying except in extreme circumstances....the story tells itself! Then there are NDB approaches and circle to land....runways that are both narrow and relatively short.....all great for variation and skill. Our company (when I had a tedious commuter gig) had no autopilots installed, so every flight was hand-flown and some of the legs were 3 hours......

Call me next time then, no complaints!

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Old 7th Jun 2011, 00:23
  #31 (permalink)  
 
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Every single system is designed to reduce the workload and the mundane... automation is to help the pilot fly the aircraft...

Any reasonable person would understand the need to provide oversight of the automation, understand the mechanics of the solution, and disco when applicable.

The recent A380 incident in Singapore shows that additional eyes and brains on the FD can reduce the workload, (five on the flight deck), if they know what they are doing.
Really...the ONLY reason...(while the press may have had some fun with that, I am sure that no one has an expectation that 5 on the flight deck was the reason for the outcome)

You only need two to know what they are doing, and one of those to be able to follow commands.
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Old 7th Jun 2011, 11:05
  #32 (permalink)  
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...(while the press may have had some fun with that, I am sure that no one has an expectation that 5 on the flight deck was the reason for the outcome)

Nor did I suggest it was, the bulk of my post was about the proper use of automation to minimise workload and avoid overload. Extra eyes and brains can be useful, if they are available, but with proper use of the automation the maximum attention can be paid to the abnormality/emergency.
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Old 7th Jun 2011, 11:12
  #33 (permalink)  
 
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parabellum, nobody suggests otherwise. You always have to be proficient in autoflight as well. However, many abnormals degrade or shut off autoflight functions, and especially in those cases with exceptional high workload manual flight only works well if the pilots are proficient in manual flight. To be proficient in manual flight you need to keep your training up, what is better than to simply do it on the line?

Of course a professional pilot always should be proficient both in manual flight and autoflight usage. However there are some airlines that discourage the crews to use manual flight, and i guess this thread is about this point. Twice a year in the simulator for a couple minutes is simply not enough training.

And of course any additional pilot on the flightdeck helps in an non-normal situation.
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Old 7th Jun 2011, 13:47
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Twice a year in the simulator for a couple minutes is simply not enough training.
Last year, a Boeing Company check pilot talked to pilots of a major Hong Kong based airline. In his travels, he noted that some airline pilots tended to avoid the opportunity to practice hand flying skills until the very last minute before a simulator session. This was a waste of time - he said - because manual flying skills had to be maintained throughout the year and that a hand flown ILS in good weather after months on autopilots did nothing for basic flying skills.
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Old 7th Jun 2011, 22:36
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Use of automation to the extent necessary is the basic policy.

If guys turn the a/p on shortly after takeoff (decent weather)I'm worried about their skills. My concern is frequently correct.

If the guys don't turn the a/p off until the a/c is stabilized, gear down, final flaps, I'm worried about their skills. Again, my concern is frequently correct.

If the guys hand fly in bad weather I'm thinking "what are you trying to prove?" Use the automation to the extent necessary!
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Old 8th Jun 2011, 20:57
  #36 (permalink)  
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Automation Philosophy
Introduction
Automation is the replacement of the human function, either manipulative or
cognitive, with a machine function. The sole purpose of automation is to aid flight crew in doing their job.

Flight crew are the most complex, capable and flexible components of the air
transport system, and are best suited to determine the optimal use of resources in any given situation. They must be proficient in operating their aircraft in all levels of automation, and must have the skills needed to move from one level of automation to another.

Automation must be used at the level most appropriate to enhance the priorities of safety, passenger comfort, public relations, schedule and economy.

Use of Automation
The following guidelines will assist flight crew in determining and using the
appropriate level of automation:
• Programming actions and changes to automation status should be
verbalised and acknowledged.
• Flight crew should consider that all automated systems are dumb, dutiful,
and inflexible. Pilots must continually evaluate the automatics and what
they are doing. Be prepared to make changes.
• Timely and efficient use of the appropriate level of automation will allow
other matters requiring attention to be dealt with more effectively.
• Pilots should ensure that all operating crew members are aware of the
current status of automated systems as well as any changes made to their
use.
• Should a pilot feel uncomfortable with the level or use of automation,
either more information is necessary or something is wrong. The pilot in
this situation shall ask for additional information or propose an alternative
plan.
• Flight crew should plan ahead, using the low-workload periods of flight
effectively, and avoid programming during departures and arrivals.
• The programming of autoflight systems during high workload periods
may compromise the crew’s ability to maintain situational awareness
and/or flight path control. In these circumstances, the crew should be
prepared to use a more basic mode of automation.

• Automation occasionally fails. Periodically hand-fly the aircraft to
maintain basic flying skills.


• Use of automated systems can possibly create conflict. Communication
skills assume even greater importance under automation, where
traditional forms of feedback are reduced.
• Remember, when using any level of automation, pilots always have the
capability to:
• ask the other operating crew for help
• revert to a lower level
• disengage
• reactivate.
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Old 8th Jun 2011, 23:52
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That sounds fine to me! Am I correct in assuming that 'some hand flying' includes switching A/THR and F/D's off?
Don't knock hand flying with the FDs on. It is a great opportunity to learn to improve one's SA by making flightpath decisions thinking independantly but with the support of the AFS whilst seeing also what the AFS would preferr you to.

I see a fair few who try to recisely follow FD commands when the speed trend is opposite to what is desired, making unnecessary pitch addjustments that will obviously need corrections in sec or two, trying to follow tortuous LNAV intercepts and the like.
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Old 9th Jun 2011, 08:23
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Depending on the type and sophistication of the FD, sometimes it is best flown when you make the bars come to you, instead of you going to the bars.

In more sophisticated ones, following the bar "blindly" is usually good enough in most circumstances.

Practice flying with FDs ON is advisable. You may one day lose AP but have FD available, along with other failures (say dual hydraulic or whatever) and if you never practice that, you won't do it as well as you could.

As for low experienced pilots, it is a good practice, to learn how to correctly fly the FD, smoothly and without rushing (not confusing a bar suddenly going fully right with a "quickly bank right" command, for instance).

If you want them to learn to look behing the bars, though, they will have to practice no FD hand flying.
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Old 9th Jun 2011, 13:51
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Don't knock hand flying with the FDs on.
Presumably the purpose of practicing hand flying on instruments is to hone one's scan technique. Scanning involves not only the flight instruments but also navigation needles such as ADF, ILS and VOR as well as distance information.
That is exactly why single pilot IFR demands excellent instrument flying scanning skills - especially as some aircraft do not have autopilots.

On the other hand, if most of this information is fed into a flight director system, the pilots concentration centres on the flight director needles including the tiny square that forms the centre-piece of these two needles. After all, isn't the prime purpose of flight directors to make scanning easier because the one instrument will guide the pilot very accurately providing it is programmed correctly. With autothrottles thrown in as well, scanning of engine instruments becomes a secondary task to the prime task of flight director gazing.

All that being so, it is pointless to leave the flight director on if the pilot wishes to hone his scanning skills, since the whole point of the FD is to reduce scanning workload to the one instrument in the first place.
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Old 10th Jun 2011, 00:39
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Pilots will be proficient in operating their aircraft in all levels of automation. However, the level of automation used at any specific time should be the most appropriate to reduce pilot workload during critical phases of flight, increase situational awareness, enhance safety, maintain proficiency in manual manipulation of the flight controls, maintain schedule and maximize economy. Pilots should use the available automation at the level most appropriate to achieve these objectives. In the human- machine interface, the pilot is still in charge.


My company has moved over the last couple of years from an aggressive, "use the highest level of automation" to the above statement. In my experience, hand flying, especially during departures, puts a heavy load on the PNF/PM. Everyone's SA is also reduced during hand flying. Flight during approach without flight directors, and more so A/T, really forces the PF to "stay inside" much more than otherwise. That said there is no other way to maintain hand flying skills unless you do so.


The following guidelines apply to the use of automation: • Auto flight system:
- Disengage any auto flight system which is not operating as expected.
- If autopilot engaged, PF should make all auto flight inputs.
- If autopilot disengaged, PM should make all auto flight inputs.
• Brief special automation duties and responsibilities.
• Do not allow automation tasks to interfere with outside vigilance.....
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