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A no automation Zero Zero Landing with finesse

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A no automation Zero Zero Landing with finesse

Old 15th Apr 2017, 14:29
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A no automation Zero Zero Landing with finesse

A friend of mine sent this story to me. With ever increasing autopilot sophistication the majority of airline pilots today now "manage" instead of flying their aircraft. This has resulted in significantly fewer accidents than the `old` days. Along with the now normal acceptance of recruiting of low experience cadet pilots into the second in command position of big jets, there is no shortage of reliable evidence that automation addiction has caused erosion of manipulative skills that were gained during elementary and advanced flying training.

This where flight simulators come in on their own and allow pilots who see handling skills as equally important to automation management skills, to practice their pursuit of excellence. Next time you fly a simulator ask the check pilot to switch off the visual screens and let you practice a zero/zero approach and landing without the help of autothrottles, flight director and automatic pilot.

The following story from yesteryear beautifully illustrates the importance of the pursuit of excellence in pure flying skills.

The article was in Flying's November 1976 issue, and the article was called Zero/Zero, by Charles D.
Svoboda. Unforgettable. It was #438 in the series "I Learned About Flying From That".

Zero/Zero
By
Charles Svoboda

It happened sometime in 1965, in Germany. I was a copilot, so I knew, everything there was to know about flying, and I was frustrated by pilots like my aircraft commander. He was one of those by-the-numbers types, no class, no imagination, no "feel" for flying.

You have to be able to feel an airplane. So what if your altitude is a little off, or if the glideslope indicator is off a hair? If it feels okay then it is okay. That's what I believed. Every time he let me make an approach, even in VFR conditions, he demanded perfection.

Not the slightest deviation was permitted. "If you can't do it when there is no pressure, you surely can't do it when the pucker factor increases," he would say. When he shot an approach, it was as if all the instruments were frozen - perfection, but no class
.
Then came that routine flight from the Azores to Germany. The weather was okay; we had 45,000 pounds of fuel and enough cargo to bring the weight of our C-124 Globemaster up to 180,000 pounds, 5,000 pounds below the max allowable. It would be an easy, routine flight all the way. Halfway to the European mainland, the weather started getting bad. I kept getting updates by high frequency radio. Our destination, a fighter base, went zero/zero. Our two alternates followed shortly thereafter. All of France was down. We held for two hours, and the weather got worse. Somewhere I heard a fighter pilot declare an emergency because of minimum fuel. He shot two approaches and saw nothing. On the third try, he flamed out and had to eject.

We made a precision radar approach; there was nothing but fuzzy fog at minimums. The sun was setting. Now I started to sweat a little. I turned on the instrument lights. When I looked out to where the wings should be, I couldn't even see the navigation lights 85 feet from my eyes. I could barely make out a dull glow from the exhaust stacks of the closest engine, and then only on climb power. When we reduced power to maximum endurance, that friendly glow faded. The pilot asked the engineer where we stood on fuel. The reply was, "I don't know--- we're so low that the book says the gauges are unreliable below this point. The navigator became a little frantic. We didn't carry parachutes on regular MAC flights, so we couldn't follow the fighter pilot's example. We would land or crash with the airplane.

The pilot then asked me which of the two nearby fighter bases had the widest runway. I looked it up and we declared an emergency as we headed for that field. The pilot then began his briefing.

"This will be for real. No missed approach. We'll make an ILS and get precision radar to keep us honest. Copilot, we'll use half flaps. That'll put the approach speed a little higher, but the pitch angle will be almost level, requiring less attitude change in the flare."

Why hadn't I thought of that? Where was my "feel" and "class" now? The briefing continued, "I'll lock on the gauges. You get ready to take over and complete the landing if you see the runway - that way there will be less room for trouble with me trying to transition from instruments to visual with only a second or two before touchdown." Hey, he's even going to take advantage of his copilot, I thought. He's not so stupid, after all.
"Until we get the runway, you call off every 100 feet above touchdown; until we get down to 100 feet, use the pressure altimeter. Then switch to the radar altimeter for the last 100 feet, and call off every 25 feet. Keep me honest on the airspeed, also. Engineer, when we touch down, I'll cut the mixtures with the master control lever, and you cut all of the mags. Are there any questions? Let's go!" All of a sudden, this unfeeling, by the numbers robot was making a lot of sense. Maybe he really was a pilot and maybe I had something more to learn about flying.

We made a short procedure turn to save gas. Radar helped us to get to the outer marker. Half a mile away, we performed the Before Landing Checklist; gear down, flaps 20 degrees. The course deviation indicator was locked in the middle, with the glideslope indicator beginning its trip down from the top of the case. When the GSI centered, the pilot called for a small power reduction, lowered the nose slightly, and all of the instruments, except the altimeter, froze. My Lord, that man had a feel for that airplane! He thought something, and the airplane, all 135,000 pounds of it, did what he thought.
"Five hundred feet," I called out, "400 feet........300 feet.......200 feet, MATS minimums.......100 feet, Air Force minimums; I'm switching to the radar altimeter ........75 feet nothing in sight......50 feet, still nothing....25 feet, airspeed 100 knots,"

The nose of the aircraft rotated just a couple of degrees, and the airspeed started down. The pilot then casually said, "Hang on, we're landing."
"Airspeed 90 knots....10 feet, here we go!"

The pilot reached up and cut the mixtures with the master control lever, without taking his eyes off the instruments. He told the engineer to cut all the mags to reduce the chance of fire. CONTACT! I could barely feel it. As smooth a landing as I have ever known, and I couldn't even tell if we were on the runway, because we could only see the occasional blur of a light streaking by.
"Copilot, verify hydraulic boost is on, I'll need it for brakes and steering." I complied.
"Hydraulic boost pump is on, pressure is up." The brakes came on slowly---we didn't want to skid this big beast now. I looked over at the pilot. He was still on the instruments, steering to keep the course deviation indicator in the center, and that is exactly where it stayed.

"Airspeed, 50 knots." We might make it yet.
"Airspeed, 25 knots." We'll make it if we don't run off a cliff. Then I heard a strange sound. I could hear the whir of the gyros, the buzz of the inverters, and a low frequency thumping. Nothing else. The thumping was my pulse, and I couldn't hear anyone breathing. We had made it! We were standing still!

The aircraft commander was still all pilot. "After-landing checklist, get all those motors, radar and un-necessary radios off while we still have batteries. Copilot, tell them that we have arrived, to send a follow me truck out to the runway because we can't even see the edges."

I left the VHF on and thanked GCA for the approach. The guys in the tower didn't believe we were there. They had walked outside and couldn't hear or see anything. We assured them that we were there, somewhere on the localizer centerline, with about half a mile showing on the DME.

We waited about 20 minutes for the truck. Not being in our customary hurry, just getting our breath back and letting our pulses diminish to a reasonable rate. Then I felt it. The cockpit shuddered as if the nose gear had run over a bump. I told the loadmaster to go out the crew entrance to see what happened. He dropped the door (which is immediately in front of the nose gear) , and it hit something with a loud , metallic bang. He came on the interphone and said "Sir, you'll never believe this. The follow-me truck couldn't see us and ran smack into our nose tire with his bumper, but he bounced off, and nothing is hurt." The pilot then told the tower that we were parking the bird right where it was and that we would come in via the truck. It took a few minutes to get our clothing and to button up the airplane. I climbed out and saw the nose tires straddling the runway centerline. A few feet away was the truck with its embarrassed driver.
Total damage---one dent in the hood of the follow me truck where the hatch had opened onto it.

Then I remembered the story from Fate Is the Hunter. When Gann was an airline copilot making a simple night range approach, his captain kept lighting matches in front of his eyes. It scarred and infuriated Gann. When they landed, the captain said that Gann was ready to upgrade to captain. If he could handle a night-range approach with all of that harassment, then he could handle anything.

At last I understood what true professionalism is. Being a pilot isn't all seat-of-the-pants flying and glory.
It's self- discipline, practice, study, analysis and preparation. It's precision.
If you can't keep the gauges where you want them with everything free and easy, how can you keep them there when everything goes wrong?
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Old 15th Apr 2017, 15:10
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Next time you fly a simulator ask the check pilot to switch off the visual screens and let you practice a zero/zero approach and landing without the help of autothrottles, flight director and automatic pilot.


Why switch off the visuals? Simply fly a CAT 2/3 approach manually and allow you to see if you succeed. It requires very soft calm hands <500', both control column & thrust.

I was flew with a very unassuming captain: B732. He was Polish and had flown Spits in WW2. He enjoyed classical music, history books and a gentle 1/2, not many pints, on night stops. A real soft calm gentleman. Excellent pilot also. The B732 had very basic avionics & autopilot. It was CAT 2, manual throttle, Man Land. We were approaching in CAT 2 weather with a shifting turning varying wind. The A/P was not making it comfortable, and with manual thrust he did not feel in touch with the a/c. I was astonished when he said he could do better on his own and disconnected the A/P. Now his senses were in control of the a/c using both hands, eyes, ears and feel. He had a sense when to let the ac/ bounce around and not follow every twitch of the LOC & G/S. There was a calmness in all the accuracy, and there we were, at DA in there slot.
"I learnt about flying from that".

Last edited by RAT 5; 18th Apr 2017 at 11:53.
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Old 16th Apr 2017, 17:14
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Fascinating story. Shame it has been moved to the nostalgia forum where I guess many won't see it.
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Old 17th Apr 2017, 07:02
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Fascinating story. Shame it has been moved to the nostalgia forum where I guess many won't see it.
Agree and thanks for mentioning it. When initially I posted the story on Tech Log I was conscious that many of the younger generation would probably read it since Tech Log is always a popular forum. It had a technical aspect since thoughts on automation were discussed and automation dependency is a flight safety issue. I added a note to my post specifically requesting the Mods to leave it on Tech Log for that reason.

That was because a few days earlier, another thread, this one where inadvertent thrust increase instead of reverse decrease was the main cause of a 747 accident, was posted on Tech Log. It disappeared from Tech Log almost as soon as it was posted. The duty Mod(s) had switched that to Aviation History and Nostalgia forum. The 747 accident occurred in 1985 but many current Pprune readers would not have been aware it.

So it seems once a date from years gone by is mentioned, someone switches it to the Aviation History and Nostalgia Forum without regard to the fact the subject matter is technical and very much still relevant to readers of Tech Log. My personal opinion of course.

If nothing else, if a Mod decides in his wisdom to switch a subject to a different Forum, a short note should be placed on the original forum that this action has taken place. This would enable interested readers to follow the offending thread.
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Old 17th Apr 2017, 10:04
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Not aware of the history of this thread but will chase it up and endeavour to get it transferred back to Tech Log.

For info, on the infrequent occasions I move a thread, I leave a redirection note for a suitable period so that folks can see what has transpired. Generally, I only move a thread if it is overtly inappropriate for Tech Log.
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Old 17th Apr 2017, 11:57
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Centaurus: A great read in the "Ernest Gann" style however what got my interest was the fact that they held for TWO hours and then ran themselves short of options! Surely this would have made an interesting CRM module on marginal decision making?
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Old 17th Apr 2017, 13:41
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Not bad that - best I can claim is a Canberra T17 at St Mawgan, as the country went out in fog - 125 ft on the rad alt. Boss forgot I only had the (only) white card on the squadron and left me at the top of the stack of six. On the other hand, maybe he left me until last in case I blacked the runway.....
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Old 17th Apr 2017, 20:49
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The decision to make a half flap landing to reduce the attitude change in the flare is an interesting one.

I think I would prefer full flap landing to reduce the approach speed, which would reduce the rate of descent, and also reduce the speed at which I might run off the runway and/or hit something.
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Old 17th Apr 2017, 21:47
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Always luved that story.
There was another story published in Flying around the same time, I think by Ernest K Gann, of "Fate is the Hunter" Fame. It was called "Kwajalein" and concerned an aircraft that disappeared off radar on approach..suddenly reappeared 12 minutes later in the last position. Landed ..all was well except that the folks on the plane watches were 12 minutes behind those on the ground. I have never been able to find a copy of it.
Anyone have a clue?

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Old 18th Apr 2017, 06:22
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The C124 had a pronounced nose down attitude on approach requiring a significant flare, tough to judge when you have no vis so a lower flap setting giving a higher pitch attitude was a good idea.
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Old 18th Apr 2017, 12:02
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At flying school (CPL) my instructor was an ex-RAF pilot, and we had a good relationship. He liked to push & challenge, and reward. Mistakenly I told him I had read the EKG story of burning papers in the cockpit on approach. So there I was doing my night introduction circuits and on base turn out came the burning book of matches wafting under my nose. The more I blew the more they flamed, of course. (silly me to have forgotten my cubs camping stuff). We enjoyed a laugh & a pint in the pub afterwards. I'm glad I didn't tell him about reading Francis Chichester's Lonely Sea & Sky. Who know's where that could have led. Or even about Neil William's inverted finals.
Oh that it might still be possible today, in training.
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Old 18th Apr 2017, 12:50
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While the old stories are good to review, their main value, such as with this one, lies in the underlying message regarding fall back stick and rudder and flight management/CRM skills on those rare occasions when the gee-whizz gadgets fall over .. and that does happen on occasion.

It is for some exposure to this sort of thing that some of us, in sim training (especially with initial commands and intake F/Os), find time to fit in short snippets of stick and rudder skills training amongst the standard autoflight work.

It is very gratifying to see a student, at the end of the course, able to shoot a handflown, raw data, 0/0 approach to a good landing ... the chances of doing so in real life is miniscule .. but the confidence building and satisfaction the trainees derive make the instructor effort all worth while.

.. and, very rarely, someone finds themselves in a situation where such exercises from the past might just help out in extremis.

Certainly, Centaurus, whom I have known for many years (and a superb instructor) introduces this sort of exercise when appropriate in endorsement and other training programs.
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Old 18th Apr 2017, 13:31
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John,

Although this thread has been moved back to Tech Log, there is still another version running on the AH&N forum. Please can you investigate and maybe merge the two? Thanks.
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Old 18th Apr 2017, 15:17
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Kids of today . . . kah!

I suppose I'm unusual in having done lots of blind landings on basic instruments. However, I hasten to add every one had a safety pilot in the loop. For one very happy winter that pilot was Col. Carl Crane, an aviation pioneer and by then honorary lecturer at the Advanced Instrument Flying School/department at RAFB San Antonio Texas. He couldn't tell them much about the modern kit, but by god, he'd got a tale or two to tell. It had all started when he'd tumbled out of the clouds in an open cockpit biplane - with a senator's son on board. He spent the next few years trying to convince pilots that they should believe their instruments. Many agreed, but argued that they seemed to go wrong when in cloud. It was a long hard struggle and included throwing hooded pigeons from aircraft. Mostly, the poor little things para-glided back to earth. Another thing he tried was a huge pinging cone in the belly of the aircraft and stethoscopes to tell when he was near the ground. Yes, he used a big field.

Carl's modern prototype was the subject of one of his patents. Landing after landing, on the line and as soft as you'd like. All achieved with pressure instruments.

Keeping on the centreline. Mmmm, sudden changes in power at a crucial moment? Not sure about that, but heck, it worked, so his machine-like accuracy allowed him to overcome any resultant swing. Neat.

When I had the temerity (in the early days of pprune) to suggest that taking the Turn & Slip instrument* out of transport aircraft was a VERY bad idea, I got totally flamed. Strange how many hours I'd flown with the horizon covered up - one advantage of working for an airline that was going broke: we had a lot of empty sectors and in those days the freedom to try things out.

When I tried a blind landing in a DC3, it was a tad harder. I'd read the Lysander guys held it straight with the T&S, so gave it a go. Super young bloke in the right hovering over the controls. When we stopped, I said, Flaps up, Mate. Nothing. Flaps up! Nothing. He was slumped in his seat just managing to say, Blimey . . . several times.

Afer a time in command, I found myself back in the right with a great young skipper - heading to Tenerife. It was a fuel-stretcher at the best of times. Clamped. Diverted. Diversion clamped. That island with a mountain a a runway. Open. ADF appoach. Nothing. I tried to reassure the skipper we'd done everything right. Next shot was to be the last. The Channel Airways Viscount at Palma came to mind. (Okay, but broke a runway light with the nosewheel.) Bloody good effort. Now we were in the same situation having chased good weather in a circle. But my ace card was that I'd been allowed to play with aircraft, and we had a T&S in our lovely little BAC 1-11. Two ace cards.

It was a non event. Disappointing, we could see the sides with ease. I don't know if it's irresponsible, but I never felt alive unless I was being challenged. Now, I'd hate some of the things I've been hearing. One pal gets invited for tea because he was holding the (side) stick back a tad during the deceleration run. The damned aircraft had reported him.

I was on the flightdeck of a 777 in recent years and the young crew were listening to my tales of old. "I think it was better in your days." the toddler in the 3rd seat said. I recalled my fir-lined boots, and pressing the headphones to my head so hard it hurt. Mmmm . . . I have a feeling I'd go for the giant computer game if I was suddenly 40 years younger.



*A proper T&S, not that strange thing they put in American light aircraft.
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Old 18th Apr 2017, 19:46
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When I did my command course, B757, the TRE wanted to see me fly a SBY ILS approach. That's the tiny instrument that no-one looks at and is like what they had on a BAC-111, except that was black & white. Reason? Because it's there for a reason and you might have to do it one day. If there was an AC failure all the screens went dark, but the SBY's kept functioning.
It was a simple calm pitch power thing to do, because we had been well trained for it before all the fancy screens stuff. The technique of B732 was just transferred to B757. The SBY ILS is still there on B757/767 B738's and still no-one looks at it. Flying an approach on it is no longer a requirement. Why not? When asking the question I was told that B738's have the full screens on SBY. (but I also hear it's a customer option. True?)
Should flying limited panel still be a required skill? IMHO yes, because it gives you confidence. It's not something you'll be likely to do any time soon; but it gives you the confidence you are in control of the beast. 'cept it's never done. And then on the day the static or pitot is blocked, or the ADI is frozen, or ...... you can be a live hero instead of a dead wannabee.
I still say we train too much for 99.9% an ideal day with near perfect SOP's and the easy to follow QRH non-normals & repetitive emergencies. The pax expect us to solve more problems than that and to get them on the ground safely when Murphy & Sod choose to combine their antics. Sadly we are reminded every year that some training is better than others.
The crime to me is that skills have been allowed to deteriorate. Normally in life skills and associated things improve with time. They evolve to higher grades. Why has the opposite happened in our game? IMHO I believe that technology has been allowed to dilute our skills. The MPA philosophy, real a/c replaced by sims, the basic hours for a CPL much reduced, the cost of self-funded training, the necessity for speed to get cadets on line. I know many think the new style of intense SOP orientated airline training is excellent. Indeed it can be, but it is not sufficient, and there are too many who think it is sufficient, and being above average on the very basic bi-annual check items with excellent SOP's makes you ace of the base. Sadly, it's a false security.

It's a great shame how this debate keeps coming around almost yearly. I suppose we'll keep regurgitating the same old arguments, but will anything ever be done? As long as XAA's are not run by active experienced pilots I doubt it. Their minds and priorities are elsewhere and not where they should be & Flight Ops managers are governed by budgets more than standards.
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Old 18th Apr 2017, 22:44
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Originally Posted by RAT 5
Should flying limited panel still be a required skill? IMHO yes, because it gives you confidence

I train as a line check airman at a very large airline. My brief to my trainees: "By the end of your Initial Operating Experience (line flying) you will demonstrate to me your ability to operate this aircraft in a fully automated mode and also demonstrate to me your ability to hand fly the A/C from take off to landing (no AP, no AT, no FD)" (commensurate with company regulations - we are required to use the FD for takeoff...)

In my world we are still pilots. We are not paid for when things go right, we are paid for when things go wrong. Yeah, I am an old geezer, just a few years left...
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Old 19th Apr 2017, 06:56
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(commensurate with company regulations - we are required to use the FD for takeoff...)
While impossible to prove beyond reasonable doubt, this obsession with Flight Director information may have been a contributory cause of numerous IMC accidents in the past. Over-concentration at the two crossed FD needles when good airmanship dictates the pilot should be scanning all of his flight instruments, is a common sight during simulator training.
Who can ever forget the chilling CVR evidence of that Egypt Air (?) Boeing 737 spiralling at high speed into the sea at night; the captain frantically shouting to his co-pilot to engage the autopilot. No doubt as per company SOP, the FD on that 737 would have been on, its needles dancing around meaningless, but always seductive, to pilots brought up to be almost totally dependent on the automatics, including the FD.
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Old 19th Apr 2017, 07:09
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Flight Directors – A Fatal Attraction


My first encounter with flight directors was in 1966 while undergoing conversion to the Avro 748. The RAAF had seen fit to send me to Woodford in Cheshire, all the way from Australia to ferry the second of several new 748’s for the RAAF VIP squadron at Canberra.The conversion was conducted on a battered 748 demonstrator G-ARAY known as Gary.The contract allowed four hours of dual for the captains and nothing for the co-pilots. G-ARAY had the basic instrument flying panel of that era and no flight director.

Our instructors at Avro’s were well known test pilots Bill Else, Tony Blackman and Eric Franklin. Jimmy Harrison was chief test pilot. Unlike the bog-standard civilian 748, the RAAF 748’s were to be equipped with a Collins FD 108 FD. So the situation existed that the RAAF 748’s had a British Smith’s autopilot system which was married (somewhat expensively and painfully) to the American Collins FD 108. For the life of me I could not see why a flight director was needed in the RAAF 748. After all, the approach speed was that of a DC3 – 80 knots and the aircraft a delight to handle compared with the venerable Dak. In retrospect, I think the old Wing Commander Transport Ops at Department of Air, who was charged with the procurement of the 748 for RAAF service, and hadn’t flown for years, was perhaps conned by the Avro sales people in conjunction with Collins, into buying the Collins systems.

Certainly in my view as the squadron QFI, flight directors were not operationally needed. In the event, the RAAF machines came with Collins FD 108 flight directors and as the contract specified each captain would be given only one hour of dual instruction once the 748 came out of the factory, we needed to learn how to operate the FD.

First, a course was arranged at the Collins establishment at Weybridge in Surrey. The two RAAF captains and their co-pilots attended and our two navigators and our instrument fitters also turned up to enjoy the Collins hospitality. We learned about 45 degree automatic intercepts of the VOR and ILS beams and other goodies including V-bar interpretation. We were showered with glossy brochures of the flight director by white dust-coated lecturers and shown a film. By lunchtime the presentation was complete and we were shouted to a slap up pub meal with lots of grog, all paid for by Collins. We asked what further lectures were to take place after lunch. We were told the course was over – it was just a morning’s job and we were free to leave unless we would like more drinks. Naturally it was churlish to refuse and hours later we staggered to the railway station (Ithink), smashed to the eye balls and having forgotten all about the marvels of 45 degree auto intercepts on the FD 108. .I must say it was an excellent three hour course;what with the free grog and all that.

A few weeks later, I flew the second RAAF aircraft, A10-596, under the watchful eye of Eric Franklin DFC and he demonstrated flight director stuff. For example to climb using the FD, you first put the aircraft into a normal climb and when settled you switched on the FD and carefully wound up the pitch knob so that the little aeroplane sat in the middle of the V-bars. I quickly realised that you hand flew the basic artificial horizon to whatever attitude was appropriate for the manoeuvre then told the FD 108 V bars where you wanted them. The ILS intercept of 45 degrees was never used because radar vectors didn’t do such angles. I became more and more convinced the 748 didn’t need flight directors and that they were a load of bollocks in that type of low speed aircraft. We were told theUSAF used the FD 108 in its F4 Phantoms and that Collins was anxious to makes sales in the UK market. The RAAF Wing Commander got sucked in by good sales talk and from then on all RAAF 748’s became so equipped.

I held personal doubts about the usefulness of flight directors in general as I could see even then, their extended use could lead to degradation of pure instrument flying skills.Today’s flight director systems are light-years ahead in sophistication compared with the old Collins FD 105 and 108 series.But the problem with blind reliance on FD indications and thus steady degradation of manual instrument flying skills is as real now as it was back in 1966.

Now to the present day - although first some background history. First published in 1967, “Handling the BigJets” written by the then British Air Registration Board’s chief test pilot David Davies, is still considered by some as the finest treatise still around on jet transport handling. Indeed, thebook was described by IFALPA as `the best of its kind in the world`…written by a test pilot for airline pilots, the book is likely to become a standard textbook…particularly recommended to all airline pilots who fly jets in the future…valuable to those pilots who are active in air safety work”.

All that was back in 1967 and little has changed since then; apart from an increasing propensity for crashes involving loss of control rather than simply running into hills. LOC instead of CFIT. Mostly these accidentswere caused primarily by poor hand flying and instrument flying skills which certainly explains why aircraft manufacturers lead the push for more and more automatics. A colleague involved with Boeing 787 training was told by a test pilot on type, that the 787 design philosophy was based on the premise that incompetent crews would be flying the aircraft and that its sophisticated automatic protection systems were in place to defend against incompetent handling. Be it a tongue-in-cheek observation, it contains an element of truth. With the plethora of inexperienced low hour cadet pilots going directly into the second in command seats in many airlines in Asia, the Middle East and Europe, these protection systems are important.

Towards the end of his book, David Davies discusses the limitations of the flight instruments in turbulence and in particular the generally small size of the active part of the basic attitude information or the ‘little aeroplane” as many older pilots will remember it. He continues: “the preponderance of flight director and other information suppresses the attitude information and makes it difficult to get at... and the inability, where pitch and rollinformation is split, to convey true attitude information at large pitch and roll angles in combination”

Finally,Davies exhorts airline pilots “not to become lazy in your professional lives…the autopilot is a great comfort, so is the flight director and approach coupler…but do not get into the position where you need these devices to complete a flight”. There is more of course but best go and read the book.
Having done the unforgiveable and quoted freely from an eminent authority, it is time to say something original and accept the no doubt critical comment that is freely available on Pprune. Flight Directors can be a fatal attraction to those pilots who have been brain-washed by their training system to rely on them at all times. While Boeing in their FCTM advise pilots to ensure flight director modes are selected for the desired manoeuvre, it also makes the point that the FD should be turned off, if commands are not to be followed.

Recently a new pilot to the Boeing 737 asked his line training captain if he could turn off the FD during a visual climb so he could better “see” the climb attitude. His request was refused as being “unsafe.” Instead he was told to “look through” the FD. I don’t know about you, but I find itimpossible to “see” the little aeroplane when it is obscured by twin needles or V-bars. In fact it takes a fair amount of imagination and concentration to do so. Which may be why Boeing recommends pilots to switch off the FD if commands are not to be followed.

I well recall my first simulator experience in the 737 of an engine failure at V2 where I was having a devil of a time trying to correct yaw and roll and the instructor shouting at me to “Follow the bloody flight director needles”. I learned a good lesson from that tirade of abuse on how not to instruct if ever I became a check pilot. In later years, having gravitated to the exalted – or despised maybe – role of simulator instructor, my habit was to introduce the engine failure on take-off by first personally demonstrating to the student how it should be done on raw data;meaning without a flight director. I hoped by first demonstrating, the student could see the body angles or attitude rather than imagine them by trying to “look through” the dancing needles of the FD. I have always been an advocate of the Central Flying School instructional technique of demonstrate first so the student then knows what is aiming for. Of course in the simulator, the instructor runs the risk of stuffing up (been there - done that!) but it at least proves he is human and not just another screaming skull.

Recently, a 250 hour pilot with a type rating on the 737-300 and trained overseas, booked a practice session prior to putting himself up to renew an instrument rating. His last rating was on a B76 Duchess. As part of the 737 instrument rating would include manual flying on raw data, he was given a practice manual throttle raw data take off and climb to 3000 ft. He protested, saying he had never flown the simulator without the flight director. His instructions were to maintain 180 knots with Flaps 5 on levelling. He was unable to cope and when the instructor froze the simulator to save more embarrassment, the student was 2000 ft above cleared level and 270 knots still accelerating with take off thrust.The student had been totally reliant on following flight directors with their associated autothrottles during his type rating course and without this aid he was helpless. I believe this is more widespread than most of us would believe; especially as we tend to move in our own narrow circle of experience.

At a US flight safety symposium, a speaker made the point that it is the less experienced first officers starting out at smaller carrierswho most need manual flying experience. And, airline training programs are focused on training pilots to fly with the automation, rather than without it. Senior pilots, even if their manual flying skills are rusty, can at least draw on experience flying older generations of less automated planes.

Some years ago, the FAA published a Safety Alert for Operators (SAFO) entitled Manual Flight Operations. The purpose of the SAFO was to encourage operators to promote manual flight operations when appropriate. An extract from the SAFO stated that a recent analysis of flight operations data (including normal flight operations, incidents and accidents) identified an increase in manual handling errors and “the FAA believes maintaining and improving the knowledge and skills for manual flight operations is necessary for safe flight operations.” Now let me see, I recall similar sentiments nearly 50 years ago published in“Handling the Big Jets” when David Davies wrote ” that airline pilots should “not become lazy in your professional lives…the autopilot is a great comfort, so is the flight director and approach coupler but do not get into the position where you need these devices to complete the flight.” See my earlier paragraphs.

It is a good bet that lip service will be paid by most US operators to the FAA recommendation to do more hand flying. It may have some effect in USA but certainly the majority of the world’s airlines, if they were even aware of the FAA stance in the first place (very doubtful), will continue to stick with accent on full automation from lift off to near touch-down and either ban or discourage their pilots from hand flying on line.

If you don’t believe that, consider the statement in one European 737 FCOM from 20 years ago that said: “Under only exceptional circumstances will manual flight be permitted.” After all, when at least two major airlines in SE Asia have recently banned all take off and landings by first officers because of their poor flying ability, then what hope is there to allow these pilots to actually touch the controls and hand fly in good weather? One of those airlines requires the first officer to have a minimum of five years on type before being allowed to takeoff or land while the other stipulates the captain will do all the flying below 5000 ft . It might stop QAR pings and the captain wearing the consequences of the first officer’s lack of handling ability, but it sure fails to address the real cause and that is lack of proper training before first officers are pushed out on line.

I think the FAA missed a golden opportunity in its SAFO to note that practicing hand flying to maintain flying skills will better attain that objective if flight director guidance is switched off. The very design of flight director systems concentrates all information into two needles (or V-bar) and in order to get those needles centred over the little square box, it needs intense concentration by the pilot. Normal instrument flight scan technique is degraded or disappears with the pilot sometimes oblivious to the other instruments because of the need to focus exclusively on the FD needles. Believe me we see this in the simulator time and again.


Manual flying without first switching off FD information will not increase basic handling or instrument flying skills. The flight director is amazingly accurate provided the information sent to it is correct. But you don’t need it for all stages of flight. Given wrong information and followed blindly, it becomes a fatal attraction. Yet we have seen in the simulator a marked reluctance for pilots to switch it off when it no longer gives useful information. Instructors are quick to blame the hapless student for not following the FD needles.This only serves to reinforce addiction to the FD needles as they must be right because the instructor keeps on telling them so. For type rating training on new pilots, repeated circuits and landings sharpen handling skills. Yet it not uncommon for instructors to teach students to enter waypoints around the circuit and then exhort the pilots “fly the flight director” instead of having then look outside at the runway to judge how things are going.


First officers are a captive audience to a captain’s whims. If the captain is nervous about letting his first officer turn off the flight director for simple climbs or descents, or even a non-threatening instrument approach, then it reflects adversely on the captain’s own confidence that he could handle a non-flight director approach. The FAA has already acted belatedly in publicly recommending that operators should encourage more hand flying if conditions are appropriate. But switch off the flight directors if you want real value for money; particularly with low hour pilots. It may save lives on the proverbial dark and stormy night and the generators play up.

Last edited by Judd; 19th Apr 2017 at 07:59.
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Old 19th Apr 2017, 09:33
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there is still another version running on the AH&N forum. Please can you investigate and maybe merge the two?

Probably not an option .. the deal with getting it moved back per Centaurus' request involved leaving the original in AH&N and running a copy back here. We can live with that ..

Following on from Judd's comments, I am reminded of a medical, many years ago with an old DAME. In discussion, he observed that he did most of the diagnostic thumping, listening, etc. .. not so much that he thought I might have a problem .. but that, if he didn't practice those medical trade skills .. they would atrophy. And this fellow, although a local GP, was a visiting lecturer at a major university medical school .. certainly nobody's fool. The comment, I suggest, transfers readily across to piloting skills. Not that maintaining the skills will be a life saver day in, day out .. just gives the pilot a fighting chance should the JB kit's battery fail ...
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Old 19th Apr 2017, 10:04
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Thx, very nice. A must for the children of magenta.
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