Pilots too dependent on high-tech aircraft don’t know how to fly when plane systems fail

An over-reliance on automated systems in high-tech aircraft has left pilots clueless about flying, especially when airplane systems fail and they don’t know how to take over, regulators have said. 

The damning statement came from US Federal Aviation Administration in a report sent to the International Civil Aviation Organisation, an arm of the United Nations

The FAA says pilots should be trained to be confident at the controls the way they were before the advent of technology that allows them to switch on the automatic pilot on take off and turn it off just before landing, reports the Times

The FAA warned that an over-reliance on automated systems in high-tech aircraft has left pilots clueless about flying, especially when flight systems fail. The warning comes in the wake of two Boeing 737 Max jet crashes in Indonesia (pictured above) and Ethiopia.

The FAA warned that an over-reliance on automated systems in high-tech aircraft has left pilots clueless about flying, especially when flight systems fail. The warning comes in the wake of two Boeing 737 Max jet crashes in Indonesia (pictured above) and Ethiopia.

The FAA warned that an over-reliance on automated systems in high-tech aircraft has left pilots clueless about flying, especially when flight systems fail. The warning comes in the wake of two Boeing 737 Max jet crashes in Indonesia (pictured above) and Ethiopia. 

The entire Boeing 737 Max fleet was grounded worldwide after two of the aircraft crashed. One of the planes, Lion Air flight JT-610, crashed on October 29. The second, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, crashed on March 10

The entire Boeing 737 Max fleet was grounded worldwide after two of the aircraft crashed. One of the planes, Lion Air flight JT-610, crashed on October 29. The second, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, crashed on March 10

The entire Boeing 737 Max fleet was grounded worldwide after two of the aircraft crashed. One of the planes, Lion Air flight JT-610, crashed on October 29. The second, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, crashed on March 10

‘When automation ceases to work properly, pilots who do not have sufficient experience of manual control and proper training may be hesitant or not have enough skills to take control of the aircraft,’ the federal aviation officials wrote in a report to the ICAO.

According to the FAA, manual errors caused or contributed to 92 per cent of all aircraft accidents in the world that arose from the management of aircraft flight paths between 2009 and 2016, the Times reports.

Pilots are increasingly being recruited to meet a higher demand for flights, especially in China and India, concerning experts that aviators are switching the autopilot on at take off and then taking back control of their aircraft before landing. 

The FAA says pilots should be trained to be confident at the controls the way they were before the advent of technology that allows them to switch on the automatic pilot on take off and turn it off just before landing, in a report to the International Civil Aviation Organisation

The FAA says pilots should be trained to be confident at the controls the way they were before the advent of technology that allows them to switch on the automatic pilot on take off and turn it off just before landing, in a report to the International Civil Aviation Organisation

The FAA says pilots should be trained to be confident at the controls the way they were before the advent of technology that allows them to switch on the automatic pilot on take off and turn it off just before landing, in a report to the International Civil Aviation Organisation

The FAA’s warning also comes in the wake of two Boeing 737 Max jet crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia, that led the grounding of the entire fleet worldwide.

In the first crash, Lion Air flight JT-610 on October 29 was heading to Pangkal Pinang, an island north of the capital, Jakarta, when it lost contact with air control about 6.33am local time – just 13 minutes after take-off

Shortly before the disaster, the plane’s pilot, Indian national Bhavye Suneja, had reported ‘technical difficulties’ and, minutes after take-off, asked to return to the airport, an official said. Traffic control allowed the return, but the aircraft then vanished from radar and plunged 5,000ft into the sea.

The flight, which crashed shortly after take-off, had suffered instrument problems the day before, according to a technical log obtained by the BBC.

Black-box recordings from the March 10 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max painted a chilling picture of chaos in the cockpit as the pilots were bombarded by alarms and failure warnings for six minutes.

Almost immediately after roaring down the runway in Addis Ababa, a device called a stick shaker began vibrating the captain’s control column, warning him that the plane might be about to stall and fall from the sky.

Just one minute into Flight 302 to Nairobi in neighbouring Kenya, Captain Yared Mulugeta Gatechew, 29, reported that they were having flight-control problems.

Then the anti-stall system kicked in and pushed the nose of the plane down for nine seconds.

At times the captain and his co-pilot Ahmednur Mohammed, 25, were desperately heaving back in unison on their controls as they tried to keep the jet from plummeting down.

Boeing has agreed to pay out $144,500 to each of the families of the 346 people killed in the two fatal crashes from a $50 million financial assistance fund.

The advisory from US federal aviation officials coincides with a dispute over a fast-track license issued by the the International Civil Aviation Organisation, that gets trainees licensed to fly with fewer hours than previously required. (File image)

The advisory from US federal aviation officials coincides with a dispute over a fast-track license issued by the the International Civil Aviation Organisation, that gets trainees licensed to fly with fewer hours than previously required. (File image)

The advisory from US federal aviation officials coincides with a dispute over a fast-track license issued by the the International Civil Aviation Organisation, that gets trainees licensed to fly with fewer hours than previously required. (File image)

Both the aircraft manufacturer and FAA have been criticized for their handling of the two crashes.  Boeing argued that the crews lacked basic flying skills that would have averted the tragedies. 

However, critics say faults in the design of the aircraft would have made regaining control a challenge for even highly-trained aviators, the Times reports.

The FAA’s solution to the ICAO is to implement changes in training that will match US levels, and which get pilots more confident about getting behind the controls of a plane. The FAA said it is ‘important to develop pilot resilience when reacting to startle effects and consider human reaction.’

The advisory from US federal aviation officials coincides with a dispute over a fast-track license issued by the ICAO that gets trainees licensed to fly with fewer hours than previously required. The US requires a minimum of 1,500 hours of flying time, versus only 240 hours on a simulator or cockpit, under the ICAO license.

 

 

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