Pilots Are Losing Basic Flying Skills Due to Automation, FAA Says

New report says commercial pilots have an "automation addiction" and may be rusty on manual flying skills

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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.

[NBC News]


On the second page of the report on which this article is based the authors found that manual flight operations vulnerabilities were identified in pilot knowledge and skills for manual flight operations, including prevention, recognition and recovery from upset conditions, stalls or unusual attitudes. These manual flight operations are related to Loss of Control In-flight (LOC-I) which is the number one cause of aviation fatalities worldwide. Upset Prevention and Recovery Training, which addresses these vulnerabilities, seems to be a great way to improve the manual handling skills necessary when automation doesn't behave as intended.

Randall Brooks, Aviation Performance Solutions


Well, that is well known by the airlines and pilots as well but, as always, a couple of accidents (at least, i.e. Colgan Air and Asiana) have been necessary to wake the Administration up.

The point is: is the flying public also concerned? or, as it looks, is only concerned about getting cheaper tickets?

If the customer isn´t concerned, the operators will keep on hiring cheap and poorly trained pilots, and relying on automation to keep flying safe enough.


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