A group of flight-safety experts is warning that U.S. pilots may be getting rusty on their manual flying skills, and the era of automation is to blame. A new report from the Federal Aviation Administration puts the blame on autopilot systems, revealing that some commercial airline pilots may not grasp new flying maneuvers and may be reluctant to switch off the systems during risky circumstances, putting passengers in danger.
The report’s authors blame an “automation addiction” for costing pilots some of their basic flying skills. Pilot errors are thought to have contributed to several crashes in the past five years, including one in San Francisco in July where the pilot had only a few dozen hours on the aircraft he was piloting. While the report doesn’t deny that automation has made flying safe, it raises concern about the amount of data presented to pilots by the on-board computer systems — an “information overload” that could lead to missed messages or warning signs.
The study, which calls for more manual flying in both simulators and in actual airplanes, will be released by FAA Administrator Michael Huerta on Thursday.