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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

Type rated on A330, B747-400, B747, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Automated Into Mediocrity

I often get questions from readers, and this one is especially interesting as the question involves aviation and the Sea. I'm unable to answer it. So, I would love if you could help my friend and see what we can do for him. 

Jim says... 

"55+ years in the seafaring profession with the last 30 prior to retirement as a harbor pilot in SW Alaska it has occurred to me that except for speed and altitude there are many similarities between our chosen professions.  Of course, pilotage in Alaska often involves charter flying to get to and from the job so many Alaska harbor pilots have nearly as much time observing in the “right-hand seat” as actually engaged in pilotage on the bridge of a ship.  This produces a reasonable basis for comparison of our professions.

With a part-time retirement job as a ship-handling instructor/evaluator, it has been interesting to incorporate various aviation narratives into BRM-P (Bridge Resource Management for Pilots) simulator sessions.  Pilot groups we work with at Pacific Maritime Institute in Seattle and AVTEC in Seward, Alaska find these comparisons useful as automation finds its way onto the bridges of merchant ships.   

Of particular interest to harbor pilots has been the (now dated) Vimeo of the American Airlines Automation Dependency lecture entitled “Children of the Magenta.  You, no doubt, are familiar with this.  As it turns out, the maritime industry is probably now about where aviation was nearly 20 years ago when this lecture was given. 

ECDIS (Electronic Chart Display and Information Systems) on some vessels (mostly passenger ships) is being integrated with the auto-pilot, AIS (Automatic Identification System), ARPA (Automated Radar Plotting Aids), course-tracking, and (in some cases) collision avoidance to produce a system that replaces thinking with “button pushing”.  Judging by your assessment of the aviation profession, we might say that both of our professions risk being automated into mediocrity.  Having learned my profession in Alaska in an era when a harbor pilot, as famously described by Mark Twain, “…was the only unfettered and entirely independent human being that lived in the earth” this transition to “button pushing” is to be viewed with a degree of skepticism.

Anyway, my question – Are you aware of any similar or updated versions of the “Children of the Magenta” That might be adaptable to the maritime profession?"

For those who have not seen Children of the Magenta, click HERE

If you have any ideas, please share them with James. Thank you!!

Enjoy the journey!!
XOX Karlene

Thank you so much for reading and sharing my novels Flight For Control and Flight For Safety with your friends. If you haven't left a comment on Amazon, please do so. It helps so very much! 


  1. Karlene, this is a very interesting post to me. I have always thought that similar industries should share any safety-improvement ideas we have. Lately crew resource management and automation dependency are main topics of concern. I know I've seen several videos like this more recently, I'll see what I can find.

    1. Thank you so much Daniel. I am interested in them too. Perhaps I we can make the next!


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