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Flight International "Pilots must go back to basics>"

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Flight International "Pilots must go back to basics>"

Old 16th Apr 2014, 11:46
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Flight International "Pilots must go back to basics>"

Flight International 8-14 April 2014 page 21 article by David Learmount. Headline "Pilots must go back to basics." Sub-heading "Flightdeck automation is rampant, and industry commentators believe it is time flight crews relearned how to actually fly."

If ever I have seen a case of flogging the proverbial dead horse, it this constant reiteration of something that pilots and commentators have been banging on about for nearly 40 years. In fact ever since the first glass cockpit was installed. For example.

A quote from the article: "Speaking during an open session at the end of the 25-26 March event (Royal Aeronautical Society's "Aircraft Commander in the 21st Century" conference in London), Capt Mike Varney of Airbus and Captain Steve Hawkins of BA separately came to the same conclusion: pilots have to be reintroduced to their aircraft as flying machines because both they and their employers have become obsessed with systems management, to the exclusion of flying. The operations and training leadership at both organisations have taken up the idea of tripping out the flight director and turning off the automatics at the beginning of type or recurrent simulator training sessions." Buy the magazine and read the rest of the article yourselves if so inclined.

All this carry-on about loss of basic flying skills blamed upon addiction to automatics, has been going on ever since D.P.Davies "Handling the Big Jets" was first published 48 years ago. David Davies saw this coming a mile away when he penned his advice to airline pilots at chapter 11 of his fine book. He wrote (edited for brevity): "Do not become lazy in your professional lives. The autopilot is a great comfort, so are the flight director and approach coupler. But do not get into a position where you need these devices to complete the flight. Keep in practice in raw ILS, particularly in crosswinds. Keep in practice in hand-flying the aeroplane at altitude and in making purely visual approaches."

The last paragraph has echoes of the Air France A330 high altitude stall and crash into the South Atlantic and the Asiana Boeing 777 crash on a visual approach to SFO.

Of course, most of today's airline pilots will privately concede their basic instrument flying skills are shot forever and that applies to junior copilots coming through the system who one day will take the left seat and follow their leaders in avoiding avoid hand flying like a plague. There is no doubt in my mind that automation dependency will increase further with still more sophisticated automatic pilots that are coming off the drawing tables.

That being so, what is the point in re-hashing the bleeding obvious in these feel-good expansive flight safety conferences that are known more for their networking attractions and meeting up for drinks with old mates, than serious decision making on such trivialities as sticking in the odd manually flown circuit (FD and AT on, of course) for regulatory box ticking purposes.

Forget the regulators. They are mostly toothless airline or charter pilot has-beens (it takes one to know one, incidentally!) after a nice secure Public Servant job who couldn't give a damn what the airlines do as long as the prangs are kept within sensible limits.

Last edited by Judd; 16th Apr 2014 at 11:59.
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Old 16th Apr 2014, 14:51
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Regardless of whether it is beating a dead horse or not, Learmount and Davies are/were right. Unfortunately, once body count reaches a certain uncomfortable and unacceptable level, the bureaucrats, both gov't and company, will finally do something about it. Sad state of affairs.
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Old 17th Apr 2014, 03:59
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Desert185, yes, they do something about it... exactly the opposite of common sense!

Say a hairy landing, or an unstable approach manually flown, their answer will be to keep automation to avoid deviation in hte future. This is plain wrong.

Unstable approach, visual pattern, all need to be addressed with more manual practice, to do it better next time you really need it.

This is sad.
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Old 17th Apr 2014, 05:20
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Raw data flying is based on good scan of parameters and prompt corrections of deviations as they develop so that they do not require major change of flight path. As PF or PM the scan more or less remains same and between the two of them even 10 seconds should not pass without one of them noticing the speed. In SFO accident a training captain and experienced captain under check both never monitored the speed which shows their scanning had deteriorated over a period. Even with full automation the scan is no different. Only that you are passively flying the aircraft. If your scanning is intact you do not need much practice to fly raw data.
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Old 17th Apr 2014, 06:09
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Judd, a very well written and accurate description of the post -modern angst regarding manual flying , loss of basic skills etc. The regulatory driven knee jerk is for manual handling sessions within airline training departments that really only ticks boxes but does not address the problem .

As you so astutely recognise the junkets where these quotes originate are exactly as you describe. A lot of hand - wringing and quotes post - event but come d' habitude nothing achieved . D .P . Davies was spot -on several decades ago with his forecast of lack of currency and subsequent potential for catastrophe unfortunately proven . I don't have the answers either apart from changing the system within airlines and regulation at great , unrealistic expense. Stopping the RHS being the most expensive for line training purposes might be a start .

cheers ,Olster - retired , similarly toothless , airline pilot
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Old 17th Apr 2014, 06:11
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Only that you are passively flying the aircraft. If your scanning is intact you do not need much practice to fly raw data

Just continue telling yourself that... and hope you never have a problem with the automatics!
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Old 17th Apr 2014, 06:30
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I come from DC3 era and then onto 5 commercial jets including the 747 classic so raw data never held any terrors for me. You may fly any amount manually but if you do not drive the scan into your subconscious you can never be comfortable with it. I am saying even on autopilot you need to scan same way as if you are flying manual and be in control never take things for granted
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Old 17th Apr 2014, 07:32
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I come from DC3 era and then onto 5 commercial jets including the 747 classic so raw data never held any terrors for me.
OK, first off, I'm not a pilot, just a simple ex-air traffic controller. But as I approach the twilight years of my career I see lots of people of my vintage talking about all of the things they have done over the years. The unspoken sub-text is what they leaned from it and how they learned it. I do not believe that ATC is very different to piloting in this respect.

I come from an era where I worked with primary radar only, and I've worked with 5 different ATC systems over the years. Does this enable me to understand how a new young controller approaches his or her task - just in case you are in any doubt, I believe the answer is an emphatic NO. And does that new young controller have the collected knowledge that I have gained over 35+ years in this business - no. So I cannot transfer my mindset to the generations that have joined the business after me. Nor can I assume that the hours of training that I did before I became competent at a task will be mirrored by a trainee today.

I did procedural approach control - it was a three-month training course followed by six-months training in simulators and on-the-job; today's trainee, I am told, gets two hour-long lectures about the subject and a simulator exercise. Does this matter? Well, probably not in most situations and where the radar is reliable and has lots of built in redundancy and no-one ever realistically expects to keep an approach sequence and a bunch of departures going without radar. But what knowledge was associated with the learning and practise that I went through? And what other tasks have I done which sub-consciously relied on this knowledge - who knows? I do look at some younger controllers and sometimes wonder why they work in the way they do, why they appear to miss certain things (but still 'get away with it'), and how limited their knowledge of the systems that they use is.

In summary, what I am saying is that I am not well placed (without doing lots more research and thinking about things) to pontificate about the current skill set of controllers. But many of the people setting today's standards have a very similar background to mine and often seem to assume that knowledge and experience that they have gained along the way will be shared by all others who follow them.

And before moving off to pontificate on other things, it's important to remember how little we all knew the day we finished our own basic training. We've all learned huge amounts since but it is very easy to forget that much of that knowledge was hard won in our early years in our professional lives. Young 'uns today will learn different things but they will still be just as green as they come out of their initial training.

The issue raised in Flight International and other fora since D P Davies' day is very valid but dealing with it will be far more complex than just us oldies talking about going back to basics. For younger people in the business, the basics are not the same as those that us oldies would think of. Some of the differences don't matter (except that it would be wasteful to train etc. to develop competence where it genuinely is not needed any more) but others do, and may need more than just a little brushing up if, as may be the case, they were never learned in the first place.
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Old 17th Apr 2014, 07:51
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Vilas, I sincerely envy your DC-3 experience. The 747-200 I also had the good fortune to fly.

Regardless, I politely disagree... one's instrument scan is one of the most delicate and perishable skills, requiring regular manual practice (not just watching the AP do it) or else it evaporates like water in a desert.
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Old 17th Apr 2014, 07:52
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That is a good and valid piece of information regarding keeping a scan going even during automatic flight. Think about it. Say you are at the bottom of an approach to minimums, runway is in sight, and you are about to kick the autopilot off and finish the job yourself. You don't hit the big red button in the stick first, then start suddenly scanning your PFD and windshield. You have been doing that for a while now, haven't you? As you get closer and closer to pressing that button, there is a "quickening" in your scan (attitude, airspeed, attitude, vertical speed, attitude, director, airspeed, outside.... Etc) but it remains. Even in cruise, or descent (assuming you are actually engaged in flying the aircraft and not reading or playing Candy Crush) you do this, albeit at a vastly slowed rate.
So there is a "continuum" of scanning and engaging the aircraft that continues whether you have everything off and are hand flying a visual approach to a short runway, or you are at 20,000 feet in descent setting up for a CAT IIIb ILS to an autoland.

Well at least you should be doing that. And it would be a lie to tell you I sit in my seat and stare at the horizon and the instruments for 6 hours on a crossing. Though I am stuck at level 147 in Candy Crush, I can assure you that each move is simply one piece of my slow, relaxed, enroute "inverted V scan". Outside.... ADI.... Airspeed.... NAV display..... Move the purple candy on space up.... Airspeed.... ADI..... Space out for a while..... Orange candy to the right..... airspeed.... Like this, see?

When you hand fly remember.... Fly pitch and power. Your Flight Director should be though of as a "Flight Suggestor". It doesn't really direct a damn thing so you should fly the airplane, not the bars. RNP stuff, yeah let the plane fly itself. Your passengers will appreciate when you make your descent, approach, and configurations with as few uncomfortable pitch and power changes as possible. Stay engaged with the aircraft, keep your mental math going even on a managed descent, plan your deceleration, keep engaged and it can be done consistently. Using the full continuum from that broad, relaxed scan that was mentioned earlier down to the metronomic rhythm of a real hand-flown ILS scan all the way to the basic VFR division of attention you learned doing pylon-8's so many moons ago as you get the last part of the job done with finesse.

Asiana never has to happen again. It sounds like those boys (instructor captain included) were not encouraged to fly, to REALLY fly, and were actively discouraged from developing and cultivating the skills of a true AVIATOR by the culture of their training and their airline. Whether or not they previously had those skills (perhaps in the military or years ago flying short-haul) they were not only allowed to rust away, but actively discouraged. They didn't have a chance.

Last edited by hikoushi; 17th Apr 2014 at 08:02.
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Old 17th Apr 2014, 08:26
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We are all trying to say the same things little differently. Take SFO for instance all the talk that they thought that the auto throttle will wake up is all bull. They were not monitoring speed period. Had they noticed speed is falling checked the thrust and set it themselves 5 KTS less or 10 knots more wouldn't have mattered. On a bright sunny day with serviceable aircraft visual approach is not a great skill it is bread and butter. If you are rusty you may not be accurate but you don't become unsafe provided you have the skill. If you were never taught or practiced then it is different matter. In this forum many times automation is blamed but incidents suggest pilots didn't understand the automation itself. It's the whole package you got have.
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Old 17th Apr 2014, 08:47
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Even some of the big European airlines now mandate no manual throttle handing when hand flying.
When in Big Airlines on the B744, the rule was manual flight/ manual thrust levers. But I notice now that the B77 and Airbus fleets require permanent AT use when manual flying, see where that got Asiana!
I notice Lufthansa allow manual thrust when hand flying, even on the A380.
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Old 17th Apr 2014, 09:14
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If you don't understand the automation fully, just remember that if you fly it yourself if goes up and down and left and right, faster and slower!! Be it mini Pipena or gargantuan Boebus...

Have just changed type to an "Autothrottle at all times" type, and already feeling pushed slightly out of the loop.. Better to realise now though!!

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Old 17th Apr 2014, 09:20
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Pretty much everything has EFIS these days, including many aircraft that people train for their commercial licences on. I would put forward that it is difficult to develop or practice a classical instrument scan in a glass cockpit as much of the information is crammed onto the PFD, leading to a sort of glare rather than a scan. Add the hypnotic flight director into the mix and there you go.

As far as the SFO accident is concerned, I donít think anyone was actually flying the aircraft: the aiming point was well short of the runway for some time without correction. One wonders what was going through their minds, if anything...
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Old 17th Apr 2014, 12:31
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At 76 years old Im just back from a six leg day in a cabin class twin, four circling approaches, one straight in precision and one straight in visual onto a very short "black hole", the young lady I have put in the left seat hand flew all of them with great skill and precision ,{I take the left seat only to stay current} So there are young pilots getting the skills needed, just give them a chance to get that experience , how this is to be done is the problem as more flight schools degenerate into "puppy farms" rather than teaching the basics. Having owned flight schools and retired from the "heavy metal" sixteen years ago, and having flown both Boeing and Airbus products along with the latest corporate tin, the decline in basic piloting skills is disturbing to say the least, there are good reasons the great mechant ships masters train in little sail boats to obtain the knowledge in ship handling required when the "magic" fails. Of one thing Im sure, unless the industry comes up with a solution ,perfectly serviceable aircraft, on perfect flying days, will continue to crash into perfectly flat ground. {by the way, as soon as the insurance company say OK to the young lady , I will at last get to retire!}
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Old 17th Apr 2014, 12:54
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Vila, I think what main_dog means is that for YOU, automation is not a problem, because you have thousands of hours of manual flying, and the manual flying for so many years on some classic types was the opportunity for you to acquire a perfect scanning habit.

This is not the same story for today's baby pilots, who, with 200 hours under their belt, join companies operating today's most advanced, but also highly automated airliners, where they will routinely disconnect the autopilot a few hundred feet before landing. The rest of the time, it's just sitting here watching the clouds drift by.

I bet it took you more than 200 hours of manual flying to achieve the level of proficiency you undoubtedly acquired.

The FAA requires now 1500 hours before flying for an airline (I don't know the specifics). It is a first step in acknowledging, maybe, that the industry lacks experience and/or manual flying experience. But it does not force the airlines to change their view about automation and manual skills proficiency once the pilots have joined.
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Old 17th Apr 2014, 13:50
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I see 1223 "views" on this thread so far and it was only started yesterday. That is an encouraging sign. I wonder how many of these people are in senior operations management, be they airline or regulator, and have the inclination and influence to initiate the changes needed to fix the problem we are seeing of automation addiction?
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Old 17th Apr 2014, 15:36
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Either Autopilot/autothrottle ON or OFF but NOT a mixture of both.
SOP in all companies I flew for, both Airbus and Boeing.
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Old 17th Apr 2014, 17:11
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In all domains, the modern life taught us to increase our knowledge with IT, not to replace our old technical skills.

Aviation is not different in that that management, law, building our houses, aso.
Young pilots have to learn BOTH, hand flying AND using and understanding systems.

A condition is to hire others pilots profiles (pluridisciplinarity), and to train much much more.
There is enough money vasted in leasing rates.

Last edited by roulishollandais; 17th Apr 2014 at 17:12. Reason: missed space
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Old 17th Apr 2014, 19:15
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Not in BA. Manual thrust handling forbidden on 777 and Airbus. Training dept say it is safer than letting the pilots manage!!
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