Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Airline pilots 'so reliant on computers they forget how to fly'

A draft study found pilots can “abdicate too much responsibility to automated systems” resulting in significantly weaker flying skills.

Both airlines and regulators commonly discourage or even prohibit pilots from turning off their aircraft’s autopilot.

The result has left pilots with significantly less opportunities to maintain their flying proficiency by flying manually.

Rory Kay, an airline captain and co-chair of a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) advisory committee on pilot training, yesterday described the airline industry as suffering from “automation addiction”.


In the most recent fatal crash in the U.S. two years ago near Buffalo, New York, the co-pilot of a regional airliner programmed incorrect information into the plane’s computers, causing it to slow to an unsafe speed. That triggered a stall warning.

 The captain, who hadn't noticed the plane had slowed too much, responded by repeatedly pulling back on the controls, overriding two safety systems, when the correct procedure was to push forward. The plane crashed killing all 49 people aboard and one on the ground. Full story...

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