"On 20-21 March the Royal Aeronautical Society held its first ‘The Aircraft Commander in the 21st Century’ conference. Organized by the RAeS Flight Operations Group, the conference sought to explore the changing role of the aircraft commander, particularly as civil airliners get ever more automated and complex.
Tim's article covers many perplexing issues of the future of automation but I'm fascinated with the comparison of these the two accidents. The flight that survived, an A380, had a highly experienced captain in command, who despite the many things wrong with his plane, knew how to fly it. And they survived.
AF, an A330, had two first officers who didn't understand what was happening when they lost their instruments and proceeded to stall the plane.
I think we should add yet another flight in this comparison and that's Qantas QF30, which was a scheduled flight from London to Melbourne on 25 July 2008. The flight was interrupted when an oxygen tank exploded causing a fuselage rupture just forward of the starboard wing root. The aircraft made an emergency descent and diverted into Manila. John Bartels successfully flew his 747-438 to a safe landing, despite the numerous warnings.
Senior pilots earned their experience from flying the old generation planes, and were able to carry that through when their planes fell apart. How will our new generation pilots gain their experience? Will the 1500 hour rule change really make a difference? Or do we need to focus how we train our pilots for the future?
Where does our future lay with aviation safety and automation? Do senior pilots lose their flying skills with the automation? Or do they have that innate and long term memory of basic aerodynamic skills? Unfortunately they will be retiring. And what about the future pilots that are learning how to fly in these automated planes... do they have the core skills to fly their planes when the systems fall apart? When they learn to fly these automated planes, and then don't fly due to seniority issues, can they possibly retain the skills necessary to be safe, even with the automation working?
Tough questions... but there is a solution. Do you know what it is?
Stay tuned for Flight For Safety. The sequel to Flight For Control. Many, and more, of these issues will be discussed in the next thriller that mirrors real life.
For now if you would like to listen to an interesting interview with John Bartels...what it was like to lose everything and maintain control... Join me on FlightPodcast.com
Enjoy the Journey!