There is growing concern in the aviation circles as to whether the increasing dependency on automation is creating a potentially dangerous scenario in which the role of pilots and there skills are only to backup automation in the cockpit. Gone are the days of an airplane pilot having the supreme role of steering an aircraft depending mainly on his skills. In fact, automated systems on the flight deck have changed the role of pilots in a major way with the advent of the latest navigational systems and automated flight-control devices.
There is no doubt that greater automation on the cockpit has saved countless lives over the years. Moreover, autopilot controls can fly planes more efficiently than human pilots, leading to savings on fuel burn and more efficient flying. Yes, more and more, pilots are becoming the backup to the automation.
Automation has made it easy for pilots to become overdependent on the autopilot system, which is not infallible in terms of the risk of providing false information to pilots, experts say. For this very reason, many an airline have been revising their policies on the use of automation and strengthening their manual flying instruction.
In this backdrop, new rules which require higher standards for pilot training and dramatically raise the number of minimum flight hours for pilots applying for airline jobs are being framed by leading airline companies, especially as pilot errors are on the rise as the cause of some major aviation mishaps. Concerns run deep in the airline industry that during flight situations that could quickly escalate into emergencies, pilots might rely too heavily on interacting with computerised flight systems instead of looking out the windshield to point the nose in the right direction, listening to the hum of the engines and flying the plane. “Automation can dull the discovery of a problem if a crew relies on it too much,” an aviation expert says.
(Read the full article from the April Issue of Safety Messenger Magazine 2015)