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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.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Hand Flying Skills...

Will they Become a Lost Art?

My Friend Captain Jim Wright and I have been having an interesting discussion on the passing of experience of manual flight to the next regime.

Jim says...

"Hand flying in your profession is more or less the equivalent of unassisted shiphandling in mine. Judging by individual and corporate interest in preserving these skills, it’s not at all clear what the future will hold.

There’s an old adage in both our professions stating that “superior airmanship (seamanship) is using superior judgement to avoid situations where superior airmanship (seamanship) is required. How can this be best accomplished? You could say that the above-mentioned “superior judgement” comes as a result of superior hand-flying (unassisted shiphandling) skills.

An argument could be made that world-wide there may be less than a few dozen harbor pilots remaining with extensive unassisted shiphandling (anchor dredging) experience. Unassisted shiphandling is not being practiced in real-life today because if (when) automation, (including thrusters and/or assist tugs) fails the legally acceptable alternative is to either go to anchor or not to sail. Yet, unassisted shiphandling skills form the basis upon which the necessary confidence is built to develop the required “superior judgement”.

There appears to be more airline pilots with well-developed hand-flying skills than there are harbor pilots with unassisted shiphandling skills. Additionally, hand-flying would seem to have more relevance to aviation safety since aircraft do not enjoy the option of “going to anchor” in an emergency. 
The question then becomes how best to ensure a continued generational transfer of both hand-flying and unassisted shiphandling skills."
What if there was nobody left to teach pilots 
the Art of Flying? 
Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene


  1. This is really important. Pilots need to practice hand-flying skills regularly, as with any skill they will degrade with non-use.

    That doesn't mean just clicking off the autopilot and following the flight directors while leaving the autothrust on as well. That means turning it all off and using your instrument scan to have to manage the power, select the attitude, and navigate. When following the flight directors, sure you're moving the controls by hand, but the flight director is doing 85%* of the mental work!
    This works great for someone who had the basic experience to develop those skills in the first place. What I wonder about is the generation of pilots who always had a flight director to follow.

    I fear the thousands of pilots worldwide, who are given a basic flying education, then put in the right seat of an A320 (for example), and never flew completely manually again; that is until things went wrong one night and they find themselves without any automation (or automation that is lying to them), in a flight control law without protections, and unable to cope with the situation.

    We know Air France 447 and Air Asia 8501 fall into this scenario, we may well find out that Egypt Air 804 is another.

    * 86.7% of all statistics are made up

    1. Bill, Thanks for your comment. I'm thinking that we need to have some old school pilots who know "how to fly" with core skills, to teach the new cadre of instructors who are super smart managing the complex systems, that art of flying. We think this is a given, but not so much any more. And... we should give a tax break for all pilots who get a glider rating! Keep those skills alive.


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