22 Nov

Manual flight operations the relic of the 20th century?

Satellite navigators, digital autopilots, GPS navigators, synthetic-vision technology – safety increasing technological systems are at the at all-time high – but how does that reflect in actual flight safety? What are the reasons behind the accidents and is the technology friend or a foe?

Autoflight systems are not the cause of the problem, but the amount of them used during the flight. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently issued a new report stating that pilots, who rely on the automatic systems too much, may have poorer manual operations skills. In other words, the more new autoflight systems, designed for safety ensuring, are being created, the more aircraft operators looses manual handling skills causing fatal accidents.

Federal Aviation Administration in the beginning of year provided a list of top 10 Leading Cause of Fatal General Aviation Accidents from 2001 till 2011, and the loss-of-control (LOC) cause is in the first place. There have been nine fatal airline LOC accidents since 2000, all of which were avoidable, yet 1,128 people died during it. The crash of a Gulf Air Airbus A320 in Bahrain in 2000, with 143 deaths, was also attributed to loss of control.

In addition to that, such recent accidents as 2009 crash of a regional turboprop approaching Buffalo and this year crash of Boeing 777 of Asian Airline, are also considered to be triggered by the LOC, even though it is not yet confirmed.

According to the FAA report issued at the beginning of the year, airline operational policies should ensure that all pilots have the appropriate opportunities to exercise the manual handling knowledge and skills in flight operations. Baltic Aviation Academy’s instructors, agrees that it is possible that pilot may lose their skills of manual aircraft operations, although the requirements of JAR FCL states that pilots should renew and rebuild these skills by constantly trainings in full flight simulators. In addition to that, good research about the training facility must be done before entering training course – the high quality standards of the academy, experienced and demanding instructors may extremely influence the way pilot master the manual flight operations skills.