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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 31st May 2011, 22:38
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Your airlines' policy about the use of automation during flight?

Our company's OM says that, generally, we should use the AP during cruise and as much as possible during abnormal situtions (failures). But, in climb or approach, when workload, weather conditions and crew fatigue permit, pilots
can fly manually in order to maintain their basic flying skills

And believe me, we make good use of this opportunity!

I'm really interested in what your company says about the use of automation. It would be nice it you could copy and paste your airline's policy about the use of automation in your answers.

Last edited by sabenaboy; 13th Apr 2012 at 06:36.
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Old 1st Jun 2011, 01:36
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I'm not currently a member of an airline yet, but I remember in an aviation magazine that a 'well-known' (I don't want to name names) european airline said 'Manual flying is only to be undertaken in the most extreme of circumstances'
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Old 1st Jun 2011, 03:05
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My outfit:

"Practice with less than full automation is prohibited during normal line operations".
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Old 1st Jun 2011, 03:43
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I recall back to the introduction of the 733 to replace the 732 in one airline .

After an initial, short, Flight Standards romance with the bells and whistles, the boss issued an edict along the lines of "Fly it how you prefer, but know how to do both - make it work well and don't embarrass me".

Appeared to work well.

Some pushed buttons to their hearts' content (but, consider, they had the manual skills well and truly established previously).

Others (including folk like me) preferred to push and pull on the yoke. Indeed, more than a few of us would hand fly entire sectors on the shorter routes, preferring to use the autopilot for important things .. like having lunch. I recall, on my check to the line, flying all bar the last sector by hand. The checkie, on the other hand, opted to fly a sector and preferred to spend his drawing pictures on the FMS - no problems, to each his own.

I suggest that, overall, there is a cost argument to emphasise the automatics. However, that cost argument is only part of the overall potential cost argument. Perhaps the optimum position is somewhere between the two extremes ?

Now, I have never flown Airbus so I cannot make any specific observations. However, I recall when the 320 was being introduced to Oz, the then Regulator's TP spent quite a bit of time on the aircraft and was utterly seduced by its magic. On the other hand, having flown with him on a number of occasions on test work, I have to observe that his stick and rudder skills were somewhere between very excellent and exceedingly excellent .. he was not the sort of chap to let his guard down with button pressing to extremes.
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Old 1st Jun 2011, 06:42
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Continuous use of automatic systems leads to loss of basic knowledge of power settings/pitch attitudes and reduces the ability to fly accurately with a low workload. Pilots should therefore regularly fly the aircraft manually, with em- phasis on manual departures/ approaches with and without the flight director. However these intentions should be briefed and only performed when good weather and low traffic conditions prevail.
Briefing consists usually of a simple "are you ok with it?" to make sure the other guy is in the loop and can cope with the slightly increased workload. What good weather conditions are and how to define low traffic conditions is left to the individual pilot.
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Old 1st Jun 2011, 08:30
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Why would using automation all the time be cheaper?

Originally Posted by john_tullamarine
I suggest that, overall, there is a cost argument to emphasise the automatics.
I have read this argument also in another thread.
Frankly I would be amazed if flying automatically all the time would turn out to be cheaper! I don't expect there to be any significant difference in the costs, but if asked, I would expect it to be the other way around.

Handflying doesn't stop us from flying FMGS calculated optimum speeds or taking advantage of calculated optimum descent point to respect some alt constraint further down the approach.

On the contrary, I believe that the fact that we are very often flying (shorter) visual approaches, saves the company a lot of money!
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Old 1st Jun 2011, 08:53
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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!!
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Old 1st Jun 2011, 09:27
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Handflying uncomfortable?

Originally Posted by aeromech3
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!!
Well, I couldn't take our 320's in RVSM airspace without A/P, but if the ship was perfectly fine apart from the A/P, and no other adverse conditions were expected, I wouldn't mind taking it on a short hop (let's say, < 1,5 hrs) below RVSM back to home base for repairs.

And the people in the back, you ask? They wouldn't complain! They wouldn't even notice!

I would refuse to take it on a long flight without A/P and on any flight leaving base, but that would be because I would be worried about my comfort, not the passengers'!
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Old 1st Jun 2011, 10:17
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From our ops manual:

2.1.22 Use of Automation
While pilots should make full use of the highest level of automation available to reduce workload, this must be balanced with the need to maintain manual handling proficiency. At all times the level of automation being used must be appropriate to the task.

At any stage where the aircraft response is not appropriate or adequate, the
automation must be disconnected with the subsequent reversion to manual flight.

When conditions and workload allow, pilots may elect to hand fly. This must be briefed as part of the departure or arrival briefing and remains at the discretion of the Commander.
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Old 1st Jun 2011, 12:03
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@DuneMentat

So how is that being applied in day to day operations in your company?

Do you regularly handfly raw data app's? Or is that an exception, rather then something you regularly do?
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Old 1st Jun 2011, 15:22
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Ask any SW pilot...the motto "fly it like a 200" is not only a mantra, its a necessity....
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Old 2nd Jun 2011, 07:44
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Actual scenario in a 737 NG. Visual approach to Sydney at 30 degree angle to ILS track. 17 miles from touch down and closing the localiser. The F/O as PF asks captain for permission to disengage AP for hand flying practice because of up-coming simulator instrument rating. Captain says no problem go ahead. F/O surprised, says gee thanks - most other captains don't allow me to hand fly.

But she does not disengage the AP. Captain reminds her. F/O says I won't disengage AP until it has completed localiser intercept in case I overshoot the centre-line. Eventually the aircraft is established on ILS and F/O switches off the AP. Captain says aren't you going to turn off the flight director to practice your raw data hand flown visual approach? No says the F/O, I will need the FD on in case of a go-around....

It is this sort of timorous attitude by some pilots to what are basic flying skills is the direct result of blind adherence to automatics and nothing but automatics. Blame the company simulator training environment where 90 percent of flying is on automatic pilot and associated button pushing.

Is it perhaps because the powers that be in the top echelon of training departments, cannot be bothered to read accident reports where loss of control because of poor instrument flying skills has been the problem? Certainly there has been no shortage of relevant accidents in the past few years. The increasing accent on superfluous politically correct SOP minutae seems to blind the trainers to the pressing need for pure flying skills.

One wonders why companies continue to encourage this lemming type attraction to automatics when Blind Freddie himself can see it leads to lack of self confidence in manual instrument flying skills?

As the ever increasing trend to hiring first time cadets into the second in command position on jet transports becomes the norm, loss of control accidents will also become the norm and inevitably due to lack of pure flying ability.

Last edited by A37575; 2nd Jun 2011 at 08:02.
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Old 2nd Jun 2011, 11:09
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Don't blame low time cadets, blame the training department!

A3757 said:
As the ever increasing trend to hiring first time cadets into the second in command position on jet transports becomes the norm, loss of control accidents will also become the norm and inevitably due to lack of pure flying ability.
I don't think the low time cadets are the problem, but more likely the training department. My company also hires the low time cadets fresh out of flight academy. Most of them do a great job at handflying, once they're released on line.
Here's what I wrote about it in an other post.

In my company it's done like this: Starting in the type-rating sim sessions the F/O's in training are learned to fly the Airbus manually (A/P, F/D & A/THR off) on many occasions whenever the exercise permits it. (And, for training, having one engine out is NOT a good reason to keep the A/P on. ) Then, during base training they'll fly a few touch and go's, again without the automatics. Later on, during the initial line training, they will be asked to fly manual raw data approaches, whenever the conditions permit it. Believe me, once they're fully released on line they'll handfly the A320 pretty well, or ... they won't be released on line.

Unlike many others my company encourages pilots to keep their handflying skills up to date. Most of the time, I don't have to suggest my F/O's to turn the automatics off. they will have asked me before if they can. More often it happens, especially with the newly released kids, that I have to suggest them that it would be wise to fly with the automatics on when the metar warns us about low clouds and moderate visibility or when flying into a busy airport we are not familiar with! It's not they are not smart enough to know that, it's just that they were so used to raw date flying during their training, that using the automatics for approach has become the exception, rather then the rule.

I'll admit that sometimes those new F/O's are not so great in using the automatics. For instance, the first time they have to intercept a G/S from above with the A/P, they will often have a problem. Not amazing, they've trained it once in the sim and then they were expecting it! So confronted to this situation these guys (and girls) will disconnect the A/P when it captures the initial approach alt before the G/S iso using the Airbus procedure for this. (dialling the altitude up and using V/S to get to the G/S.) Oh well, manually intercepting the slope and then re-engaging the A/P gets the job done just as well and it gives me something to talk about during a friendly post-flight debrief.
There is really no excuse for Airlines who forbid their pilots to keep their raw data handflying skills up to date.

Last edited by Jetdriver; 2nd Jun 2011 at 13:38.
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Old 2nd Jun 2011, 11:28
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Company policy is maximum use of AFDS with FD. Stick to LNAV / VNAV.

Company manual does not forbid handflying, but that is seen more as the lawyers covering the company in case something goes wrong with the automatics and it turns out people can't fly a damn kite anymore.

My personal policy is during summer usually raw data takeoff and approach/landing unless weather or other limiting factors require my attention to be on other things than just purely flying.

During winter usually automatics on until intercept on final, then manual flying. It seems a bit silly to me to be following radar vectors manually while there's nothing outside to look at but clouds, clouds and more clouds.
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Old 2nd Jun 2011, 12:23
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AS373575, as Sabenaboy said, the low timers are not a problem. We do take on our own MPL students and low timers from outside the company as well. The posted excerpt of the OM applies to them as well. And during simulator events we have to do raw data handling skill training as well, lately basic IFR flying skills again, but over a 3 year period that will change around a bit.

It is not about the hours the pilots have you hire, it is about the training they receive and the flight ops culture on the line.

Your example might point at bad system knowledge as well, after all in the case of a G/A you have the FD auto-pop up anyway, no need to have them switched on for that.
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Old 2nd Jun 2011, 12:48
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Hey Sabenaboy,

Great to hear that times haven't changed since our Sabena times!

I mostly fly raw-data u to cruise-level unless wx or traffic is an issue. Most guys here are ok with it, with the occasional FO who complains about workload (get another job then if you can't handle it, you would never have passed a Sabena check) or is lecturing me about how mr. Boeing designed the aircraft to be flown through the autopilot (biggest bull$hit I've ever heard)...

Proficient rudder-stick pilots are more economic than automation operators. Fact.

Any airline that prohibits ther pilots to FLY, should be put on the blacklist as they are more dangerous than most which are already on it.
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Old 2nd Jun 2011, 17:50
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Try dispatching an airliner with A/P inop (if within the MEL)and see the reactions
I've never heard of all three [3] A/P being inop on the B747. . .
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Old 3rd Jun 2011, 03:32
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Back in the trusty 732 and 734 I'd sometimes fly a short trip
completely raw data and just load the box with dep and dest
airports. It was fun, even with the awestruck kids wondering
how the hell its possible to fly without AP FD LNAV VNAV and
AT engagements.

But with the scarebus 320 suck-squirt I get no satisfaction at
all from hand-flying the damn thing, except for maybe TO to
TOC and the odd raw data VOR or ILS, starting with taking
out all the gizmos below 10,000. The flight controls are in a
computer-driven form of CWS anyway so what's the point?
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Old 3rd Jun 2011, 15:08
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Quote from Slasher:
But with the scarebus 320 suck-squirt I get no satisfaction at all from hand-flying the damn thing, except for maybe TO to TOC and the odd raw data VOR or ILS, starting with taking out all the gizmos below 10,000. The flight controls are in a computer-driven form of CWS anyway so what's the point?

If you are looking for seat-of-the-pants flying, with the need to trim manually, you’re on the wrong aeroplane, Slasher!

And if we really want to relive our youthful experiences of flying big aeroplanes with stick-to-surface controls (no intermediate feel-units, no PFCUs, no servo-tabs, nor even any balance tabs), we’ll have to try and persuade one of those Canadian or third-world operators to trust us flying one of their precious remaining C-46s or C-47s.

You know very well that the essence of flying any jet is the relationship between pitch, bank, IAS, FPA, and thrust: and its variation at different altitudes and weights. (On all EFIS Airbuses since the A310 (1983), you can obtain FPA from the raw “bird” and also get a good idea of the AoA.)

There is a strong argument, however, for using the automatics in busy terminal areas. What worried me most in my many years on the A320 was the majority culture of delaying AP disconnect on a visual ILS approach until about 300ft, and then disconnecting it for a manual landing − retaining A/THR throughout. Once the landing checks are done, there is little for the PNF to do except monitor the flight-path and keep a lookout, so for the PF to minimise his/her workload in good weather is no longer necessary − unless fatigued.

Chris
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Old 3rd Jun 2011, 17:52
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I love flying raw data and do so whenever possible. But flying around busy terminal areas like London without the gifts that Boeing gave us is just asking for trouble, unless you really, really have to.
The key to maintaining your skills by flying without using the gadgets, is knowing when it is appropriate to do so. Sometimes it is useful to remember there are fare paying passengers in the back.
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