Don't read this if you're about to board an aeroplane. A new report by the US Department of Transportation warns that US pilot training no longer maintains their ability to fly commercial flights manually because of the surfeit of autonomous technology inside the cockpit. The organisation's report explains that in cases where technical issues have required pilots to take manual control of their craft, some worrying trends in a lack of ability are evident. From the report:
Advances in aircraft automation have significantly contributed to safety and changed the way airline pilots perform their duties...
While airlines have long used automation safely to improve efficiency and reduce pilot workload, several recent accidents, including the July 2013 crash of Asiana Airlines flight 214, have shown that pilots who typically fly with automation can make errors when confronted with an unexpected event or transitioning to manual flying.
As a result, reliance on automation is a growing concern among industry experts, who have also questioned whether pilots are provided enough training and experience to maintain manual flying proficiency.
The report adds that that the US Federal Aviation Administration "does not have a process to ensure that air carrier pilots are trained to use and monitor automation systems while also maintaining proficiency in manual flight operations".
It suggests that the Administration should develop new ways to monitor and evaluate pilots in order to assess their manual flying abilities, as well as creating checks to be sure that thorough training is provided to them. Which sound like a great idea.
You can read the full report here.
Image by Kent Wien under Creative Commons licence