Your Pilot May Not Remember How to Fly a Plane

Feds warn about skills fading away as automation takes over
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 13, 2016 3:03 PM CST
Your Pilot May Not Remember How to Fly a Plane
Does your pilot know how to fly the plane manually?   (Shutterstock)

Where's Ted Striker when you need him? Probably not at the helm of a commercial flight, according to a new Department of Transportation report. It finds that automation has driven manual flying mostly out of the cockpit, leading to concerns that pilots may not be getting enough training to take the controls in emergencies, Gizmodo reports. "The agency is missing important opportunities to ensure that pilots maintain skills needed to safely fly and recover in the event of a failure with flight deck automation or an unexpected event," the report reads, per Reuters. Pilots usually fly planes manually during takeoffs and landings, but the aircraft is then placed into autopilot for about 90% of the flight, the news agency adds.

While these technological advances have improved safety in many areas, the report warns that pilots aren't getting sufficient training to monitor the automated systems and that they're not keeping their manual skills sharp. Investigators visited nine airlines and found two of them discouraged pilots from taking over the plane during normal flying conditions, reports AP. Two recent high-profile accidents blamed on inadequately trained crews—Asiana Airlines Flight 777, which crashed in San Francisco and killed three, and Colgan Air Flight 3407, which crashed near Buffalo in 2009, killing all 49 on board and one person on the ground—have heightened the conversation. The DoT's no-brainer recommendation: have the FAA make sure pilots receive sufficient training and then check up to make sure they retain what they've learned. (More Department of Transportation stories.)

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