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How Much Do Commercial Pilots Actually Pilot?  
User currently offlinerandomstriker From Canada, joined Sep 2011, 5 posts, RR: 0
Posted (2 years 3 months 6 days 10 hours ago) and read 11409 times:

How much time do pilots actually spend actually spend piloting?

Posted on behalf of someone asking this question on ask.metafilter.com

Verbatim question:

I know that a lot of modern airline flying is highly automated. My question is, how much? When do pilots activate the autopilot - as soon as they're in the air? (For instance, when I watch Q400s climb out of YTZ banking sharply away from the city, is the pilot flying, or watching a computer?) Similarly, I'm given to understand that autopilots usually handle approaches, but do they take the plane right through to touchdown?

Finally, under what circumstances in normal flight would an autopilot be disengaged? What about things like holding patterns above an airport? Enquiring nerds want to know.

[Edited 2012-06-13 15:03:31]

[Edited 2012-06-13 15:03:51]

45 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineROSWELL41 From United States of America, joined Aug 2001, 781 posts, RR: 1
Reply 1, posted (2 years 3 months 6 days 10 hours ago) and read 11378 times:

The short answer: it depends. It depends on the aircraft type, the airline SOP's, the operating environment and the individual pilot/crew. At my airline, we are permitted to hand fly the entire time the aircraft is not in RVSM airspace. The Airbus A320's autopilot is capable of engaging from 100' above the ground through rollout on landing if desired (and the airport meets certain criteria). I personally usually hand fly up to 10,000' most days and turn the autopilot off on descent or in the early stages of the approach. That is just my preference and may be altered due to crew workload at certain airports or when dealing with abnormal situations. Again, to answer your question: it depends.

User currently offlinemayor From United States of America, joined Mar 2008, 10426 posts, RR: 14
Reply 2, posted (2 years 3 months 6 days 9 hours ago) and read 11323 times:

Remember the cockpit of the future.......only one pilot and a dog.......the pilot is there to scan the instruments and the dog is there to keep the pilot from touching anything.......  


"A committee is a group of the unprepared, appointed by the unwilling, to do the unnecessary"----Fred Allen
User currently offlinetugger From United States of America, joined Apr 2006, 5597 posts, RR: 8
Reply 3, posted (2 years 3 months 6 days 9 hours ago) and read 11273 times:

Quoting ROSWELL41 (Reply 1):
The short answer: it depends.

  
Don't forget that many pilots also "pilot" the plane via updating and adjusting the flight management systems. This can also be considered "piloting" as the pilot is actively adjusting things to maximize the flight's performance. But I know some do not, and only consider "hands on" to be true piloting.

Tugg



I don’t know that I am unafraid to be myself, but it is hard to be somebody else. -W. Shatner
User currently offlineazjubilee From United States of America, joined Apr 2000, 3931 posts, RR: 27
Reply 4, posted (2 years 3 months 6 days 8 hours ago) and read 11149 times:

The simple answer is: ALWAYS. A pilot is always piloting the aircraft by "hand flying" or by flying the airplane via the autopilot.

User currently offlineKAUSpilot From United States of America, joined Jan 2002, 1959 posts, RR: 32
Reply 5, posted (2 years 3 months 6 days 8 hours ago) and read 11030 times:

On most airliners I would estimate that hand flying is done for about 5 minutes of every flight on average. Every airline has a different culture though, so at some it might be as much as 20 minutes and others as little as 2 minutes.

In fact on many RNAV (precision navigation) departure procedures, pilots are required to turn on the autopilot as soon as the airplane is able, usually 20 seconds or less after liftoff. These types of departures are becoming more common at the busiest airports around the world. Mandating autopilot use is deemed the best way to ensure aircraft remain precisely on track and avoid conflicting with other aircraft taking off or landing on nearby runways.

Pilots generally have some discretion on when they disconnect the autopilot during the approach and landing, but at busy airports again it is advantageous to delay autopilot disconnect until just a few minutes prior to touchdown. Disconnecting early increases workload because the non-flying pilot now has to set the flight guidance system in addition to working the radio and reading checklists. Occasionally ATC or other variables create a situation where the aircraft needs to be maneuvered aggressively; in these cases it's best to disconnect the autopilot and hand fly, but that doesn't happen too often.

The autopilot isn't completely automatic. The pilots are still "flying the plane" by programming the automation when the autopilot is on. The autopilot makes it easier for two pilot crews (no flight enginner) to operate safely, especially in an abnormal situation. ATC is changing the route, making you level off, assigning you airspeeds, etc. Until "planemaker" cuts out the middle man and has you all flying on UAV's, someone has to sit in the flight deck and program the autopilot.

The autopilot is like having a "third man" on the flight deck and it's smart to use him when you can. Sure, the flesh and blood pilots need to turn off the automation and hand fly an approach every once in awhile, but it's smarter to do that at less-busy airports and in good weather.

In the days of 3 man flight decks with flight engineers and less capable autopilots, I'm guessing hand flying was a lot more common.


User currently offlinecbphoto From United States of America, joined Dec 2003, 1555 posts, RR: 5
Reply 6, posted (2 years 3 months 6 days 7 hours ago) and read 10901 times:

I fly a Beech 1900 and I hand fly the plane 100% of the time, (no autopilot) so as others have discussed, it really all depends on the aircraft, airline and the operation specification of that company!

But yes, a pilot is always piloting the plane, whether it is through the autopilot or through actually manipulating the controls of the plane!



ETOPS: Engines Turning or Passengers Swimming
User currently offlineN766UA From United States of America, joined Jul 1999, 8269 posts, RR: 23
Reply 7, posted (2 years 3 months 6 days 7 hours ago) and read 10870 times:

Quoting azjubilee (Reply 4):
The simple answer is: ALWAYS

Generally speaking, that's exactly right. Whether the airplane is on autopilot or being hand-flown, the pilot is ultimately in complete control (or, in the case of an Airbus, ~70% control.) Autopilots don't do a thing unless they've been commanded to. Even CatIIIB fully automated approaches require an enormous amount of attention from the crew.

Airplanes, whether they be C172s or A380s, are not Ronco Showtimes. You can't just "set it and forget it."



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User currently offlinethenoflyzone From Canada, joined Jan 2001, 2489 posts, RR: 11
Reply 8, posted (2 years 3 months 6 days 7 hours ago) and read 10857 times:

Quoting mayor (Reply 2):
Remember the cockpit of the future.......only one pilot and a dog.......the pilot is there to scan the instruments and the dog is there to keep the pilot from touching anything.......

The pilot is also there to feed the dog ! 
Quoting azjubilee (Reply 4):
A pilot is always piloting the aircraft by "hand flying" or by flying the airplane via the autopilot.
Quoting N766UA (Reply 7):
Even CatIIIB fully automated approaches require an enormous amount of attention from the crew.


Depends what your definition of piloting is.

The OP clearly associates the word ''piloting'' with ''hand flying'' the plane, not just "paying attention".

So therefore the answer is not "always". Far less than that, unfortunately. less than 5% of the time on modern commercial jetliners.

Quoting cbphoto (Reply 6):
I fly a Beech 1900 and I hand fly the plane 100% of the time,

JV (Bearskin Airlines) also hand fly their SW4's 100% of the time. They have 16 or so of them, and only 1 or 2 have an autopilot (that works, anyways !), which they dont even use. Some of the best pilots transiting my airspace, that's for sure.

Thenoflyzone

[Edited 2012-06-13 17:47:17]


us Air Traffic Controllers have a good record, we haven't left one up there yet !!
User currently offlineaviateur From United States of America, joined Apr 2004, 1352 posts, RR: 11
Reply 9, posted (2 years 3 months 6 days 7 hours ago) and read 10787 times:

Ah, one of my favorite topics.

How much do commercial pilots actually pilot? It depends what you mean by "pilot," but he short and most accurate answer is, FOR THE ENTIRE BLOODY FLIGHT!

Below is excerpted from the new edition of my book.........


--------------------


We are told that modern commerical airplanes can essentially fly themselves. How true is this, and is the concept of remotely operated, pilotless planes really viable?

Nothing gets me sputtering more than the myths and exaggerations about cockpit automation — this pervasive idea that modern aircraft are flown by computer, with pilots on hand merely as a backup in case of trouble. The press and pundits repeat this garbage constantly, and millions of people actually believe it. In some not-too-distant future, we’re told, pilots will be engineered out of the picture altogether.

This is so laughably far from reality that it’s hard to get my arms around it and begin to explain how, yet it amazes me how often this contention turns up — in magazines, on television, in the science section of the papers. Perhaps people are so gullible because they simply don’t know better. Flying is mysterious and information is hard to come by. If the “experts” say automatic planes are possible, then why not?

But one thing you’ll notice is how these experts tend to be academics — professors, researchers, etc. — rather than pilots. Many of these people, however intelligent and however valuable their work might be, are highly unfamiliar with the day-to-day operational aspects of flying planes. Pilots too are part of the problem. “Aw, shucks, this plane practically lands itself,” one of us might say. We’re often our own worst enemies, enamored of gadgetry and, in our attempts to explain complicated procedures to the layperson, given to dumbing down. We wind up painting a caricature of what flying is really like, in the process undercutting the value of our profession.

Essentially, high-tech cockpit equipment assists pilots in the way that high-tech medical equipment assists physicians and surgeons. It has vastly improved their capabilities, but it by no means diminishes the experience and skill required to perform at that level, and has not come remotely close to rendering them redundant. A plane can fly itself about as much as the modern operating room can perform an operation by itself.

“Talk about medical progress, and people think about technology,” wrote the surgeon and author Atul Gawande in a 2011 issue of The New Yorker. “But the capabilities of doctors matter every bit as much as the technology. This is true of all professions. What ultimately makes the difference is how well people use technology.”

And what do terms like “automatic” and “autopilot” mean anyway? The autopilot is a tool, along with many other tools available to the crew. You still need to tell it what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. I prefer the term autoflight system. It’s a collection of several different functions controlling speed, thrust, and both horizontal and vertical navigation – together or separately, and all of it requiring regular crew inputs in order work properly. On the jet I fly, I can set up an “automatic” climb or descent any of about six different ways, depending what’s needed in a given situation.

One evening I was sitting in economy class when our jet came in for unusually smooth landing. “Nice job, autopilot!” yelled some knucklehead behind me. Amusing, maybe, but wrong. It was a fully manual touchdown, as the vast majority of touchdowns are. Yes, it’s true that most jetliners are certified for automatic landings, called “autolands” in pilot-speak. But in practice they are very rare. Fewer than one percent of landings are performed automatically, and the fine print of setting up and managing one of these landings is something I could talk about all day. If it were as easy as pressing a button I wouldn’t need to practice them twice a year in the simulator or need to review those tabbed, highlighted pages in my manuals.

Practice? Yes, because in most respects automatic landings are more complicated, and more work-intensive, than those performed by hand. The technology is there if you need it — for that foggy arrival in Buenos Aires with the visibility sitting at zero — but it’s anything but simple and anything but routine.

A flight is a very organic thing -- complex, fluid, always changing -- in which decision-making is constant and critical. For all of its scripted protocols, checklists and SOP, hundreds if not thousands of subjective inputs are made by the crew, from deviating around a cumulus buildup (how far, how high, how long), to troubleshooting a mechanical issue to handling an onboard medical problem. Emergencies are another thing entirely. I'm talking about the run-of-the-mill situations that arise every single day, on every single flight, often to the point of task-saturation. You’d be surprised how busy the cockpit can become.


PS



Patrick Smith is an airline pilot, air travel columnist and author
User currently offlineaviateur From United States of America, joined Apr 2004, 1352 posts, RR: 11
Reply 10, posted (2 years 3 months 6 days 7 hours ago) and read 10766 times:

Quoting azjubilee (Reply 4):
The simple answer is: ALWAYS. A pilot is always piloting the aircraft by "hand flying" or by flying the airplane via the autopilot.

Thank you. As I say above, autopilot is merely a tool. The pilot has to tell it what to do, how to do it, and when.


PS



Patrick Smith is an airline pilot, air travel columnist and author
User currently offlineROSWELL41 From United States of America, joined Aug 2001, 781 posts, RR: 1
Reply 11, posted (2 years 3 months 6 days 6 hours ago) and read 10653 times:

I interpreted 'piloting' from the OP as hand flying.

User currently offlineswafa From United States of America, joined Mar 2012, 24 posts, RR: 0
Reply 12, posted (2 years 3 months 6 days 6 hours ago) and read 10625 times:

Wow...looks like a bit of a sore subject for some. Pilots like for people to think that they're actually working up there (kidding....or am I, insert evil laugh). It seems to me that the thread starter wants to know when the auto pilot is engaged and when it's disengaged during any given flight. The answers that suggest that it depends on the airline are right as far as I'm aware. I have heard that under certain circumstances(i.e. Heavy turbulence) the autopilot will disengage on it's own. Could any pilots shed some light on this?

User currently offlineN766UA From United States of America, joined Jul 1999, 8269 posts, RR: 23
Reply 13, posted (2 years 3 months 6 days 6 hours ago) and read 10618 times:

Quoting thenoflyzone (Reply 8):
The OP clearly associates the word ''piloting'' with ''hand flying'' the plane, not just "paying attention".

If that's the case, then, the answer is "never," as most modern jetliners are FBW, and therefore the pilot is not directly controlling anything

Seems to me, however, that any idiot can manipulate a control stick or yoke. Aviating is far more than just moving control surfaces.



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User currently offlinecbphoto From United States of America, joined Dec 2003, 1555 posts, RR: 5
Reply 14, posted (2 years 3 months 6 days 6 hours ago) and read 10516 times:

Quoting N766UA (Reply 13):

If that's the case, then, the answer is "never," as most modern jetliners are FBW, and therefore the pilot is not directly controlling anything

Well... Autopilots do break, Pilots regularly hand fly the plane from takeoff, all the way to cruise altitude, they also regularly hand fly the approaches and the landing!

Also your FBW reference is irrelevant, as a pilot does have control over the control inputs that go in and out of the FBW computers!



ETOPS: Engines Turning or Passengers Swimming
User currently offlineOB1504 From United States of America, joined Jul 2004, 3351 posts, RR: 9
Reply 15, posted (2 years 3 months 6 days 5 hours ago) and read 10498 times:

Quoting N766UA (Reply 13):
Seems to me, however, that any idiot can manipulate a control stick or yoke. Aviating is far more than just moving control surfaces.

   Most student pilots get the hang of flying a light aircraft after only a few flights. The rest of the training is spent on the "non-flying" aspects of flying, from planning to navigating and (most importantly) what to do when the sh*t hits the fan.


User currently offlinemayor From United States of America, joined Mar 2008, 10426 posts, RR: 14
Reply 16, posted (2 years 3 months 6 days 5 hours ago) and read 10414 times:

Quoting OB1504 (Reply 15):
what to do when the sh*t hits the fan.

And that, my friends, is why they make the big money.......for those moments when it DOES hit the fan.



"A committee is a group of the unprepared, appointed by the unwilling, to do the unnecessary"----Fred Allen
User currently offlineN766UA From United States of America, joined Jul 1999, 8269 posts, RR: 23
Reply 17, posted (2 years 3 months 6 days 5 hours ago) and read 10355 times:

Quoting cbphoto (Reply 14):
Also your FBW reference is irrelevant, as a pilot does have control over the control inputs that go in and out of the FBW computers!

They also have control over everything the autopilot does-- that's my point.



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User currently offlineN766UA From United States of America, joined Jul 1999, 8269 posts, RR: 23
Reply 18, posted (2 years 3 months 6 days 5 hours ago) and read 10351 times:

Quoting mayor (Reply 16):
And that, my friends, is why they make the big money

Well, that's why 10% of the pilots in America make the big money. The rest, with the same responsibilities, work for peanuts.



This Website Censors Me
User currently offlinecbphoto From United States of America, joined Dec 2003, 1555 posts, RR: 5
Reply 19, posted (2 years 3 months 6 days 4 hours ago) and read 10302 times:

Quoting N766UA (Reply 17):
They also have control over everything the autopilot does-- that's my point.

Unless it malfunctions, or does something the pilots did not input into it, then we have to fly the plane, that is what I was getting at!



ETOPS: Engines Turning or Passengers Swimming
User currently offlinemayor From United States of America, joined Mar 2008, 10426 posts, RR: 14
Reply 20, posted (2 years 3 months 6 days 4 hours ago) and read 10293 times:

Quoting N766UA (Reply 18):
The rest, with the same responsibilities, work for peanuts.

In a profession that THEY chose. Lets not get this started on this thread.



"A committee is a group of the unprepared, appointed by the unwilling, to do the unnecessary"----Fred Allen
User currently offlineplanemaker From Tuvalu, joined Aug 2003, 6184 posts, RR: 34
Reply 21, posted (2 years 3 months 6 days 4 hours ago) and read 10252 times:

Quoting KAUSpilot (Reply 5):
Until "planemaker" cuts out the middle man and has you all flying on UAV's, someone has to sit in the flight deck and program the autopilot.

Don't worry.... that is still ~25 years out.  



Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind. - A. Einstein
User currently offlineThirtyEcho From United States of America, joined Dec 2001, 1651 posts, RR: 1
Reply 22, posted (2 years 3 months 6 days 3 hours ago) and read 10196 times:

When you set the cruise control on your car, you are no longer the driver? All that cruise control does is hold your speed within plus or minus two MPH, a tedious job in hours and hours down the Interstate and one that would fatigue you immensely if you had to always do it manually.

Similarly, I often fly with only HDG (Heading) engaged, since holding a very precise heading diverts me from other tasks and is equivalently fatiguing. Altitude hold often only requires careful trimming, and altitude is a minimally demanding task, but I will use altitude hold on some trips or at the higher levels. At no point, no matter what I have programmed the autopilot to do, am I not flying the airplane.


User currently offlineKAUSpilot From United States of America, joined Jan 2002, 1959 posts, RR: 32
Reply 23, posted (2 years 3 months 6 days 3 hours ago) and read 10126 times:

Quoting swafa (Reply 12):
I have heard that under certain circumstances(i.e. Heavy turbulence) the autopilot will disengage on it's own. Could any pilots shed some light on this?


First off, everything I say only applies to my experience in the industry;

Yes, I've had this happen a few times during moderate or severe turbulence, although it is rare because obviously we do our best to avoid these areas in the first place.

It's also possible, but rare, for the autopilot to simply fail due to an internal fault of some sort. I've had this happen a few times at random points during the flight on the EMB-145. I've also had FMC's fail which is probably worse, I'd rather go without the autopilot than the FMC, to be honest. Obviously neither situation is an emergency and can be deferred for further flights while deactived if necessary.

As I said, in these cases the autopilot can be "deferred", which means the pilots will need to hand fly the entire flight. However, the flight will be range limited because it will be restricted to low altitudes (prohibited from entering RVSM airspace (FL290-FL410)). A functioning autopilot is required to enter and cruise in RVSM airspace.

Luckily the aircraft I fly now has 3 autopilots so it would be incredibly rare for all 3 to fail simultaneously.

Quoting randomstriker (Thread starter):
Similarly, I'm given to understand that autopilots usually handle approaches, but do they take the plane right through to touchdown?

Finally, under what circumstances in normal flight would an autopilot be disengaged? What about things like holding patterns above an airport? Enquiring nerds want to know.

The autopilot only flies through touchdown during an autoland. Boeing and Airbus sized jets along with advanced business jets have this capability but most smaller regional craft do not. An autoland is only conducted if visibility is below 1800ft/500m or once every 15 days as an operational check of the system. I would estimate more than 95% of the time, the landing is manually flow for at least the last minute or two, even on the big jets. The remaining 5% or less are autolands. Again, this will vary from airline to airline.

Normally the autopilot is disengaged at some point between the last 10 and 1 minutes of the flight depending on workload. In my current airplane, I prefer to keep the autopilot on until flaps are fully deployed and the landing checklist is complete. In the ERJ I hand flew more of the approach but I'm still new to my current airplane, and the autopilot functions better in what I fly now.

Holding patterns would normally be done on autopilot in jets, simply because it's much easier to program the FMC and autopilot to fly a hold than it is to fly it off raw data and a timer. Plus, when you're holding in a transport category aircraft, it's nice to devote your attention to fuel computations and coordination for possible diversion while the autopilot takes care of the holding nuances.


User currently offlinewingscrubber From UK - England, joined Sep 2001, 848 posts, RR: 0
Reply 24, posted (2 years 3 months 6 days 2 hours ago) and read 10018 times:

Quoting azjubilee (Reply 4):
The simple answer is: ALWAYS. A pilot is always piloting the aircraft by "hand flying" or by flying the airplane via the autopilot.

Twiddling nobs on the auto-pilot etc, is not stick-and-rudder piloting, it is systems management. When auto-pilot, auto-throttle or auto-anything is engaged you are not in direct control of the airplane, the computer is, but you are in control of the computer, so you are 'piloting' by proxy when autopilot is engaged.

Quoting thenoflyzone (Reply 8):
So therefore the answer is not "always". Far less than that, unfortunately. less than 5% of the time on modern commercial jetliners.

Agreed, but without hurting anybody's feelings here, it must be stated that a modern pilot's job involves much more than just stick-and-rudder, the constant systems management, navigation and communications element is what makes pilots assert that they are 'piloting' 100% of the time, even if much of that is done with no hands on the yoke.

Quoting aviateur (Reply 9):
If the “experts” say automatic planes are possible, then why not?

The 'experts' do say it's possible. Here's a controversial thing to think about which is not intended to be flamebait; if most aircraft accidents are attributed to pilot error, can you reduce accidents by engineering out the pilot? Maybe, but most folks would still prefer a human on board to monitor the computer, right? What if the airplane is so heavily automated that the 'pilot' workload is reduced to pressing one of three buttons; take-off, cruise, and land. Is he still 'piloting?'



Resident TechOps Troll
User currently offlineStarlionblue From Greenland, joined Feb 2004, 17039 posts, RR: 66
Reply 25, posted (2 years 3 months 6 days 1 hour ago) and read 10153 times:

Quoting wingscrubber (Reply 24):
Twiddling nobs on the auto-pilot etc, is not stick-and-rudder piloting, it is systems management. When auto-pilot, auto-throttle or auto-anything is engaged you are not in direct control of the airplane, the computer is, but you are in control of the computer, so you are 'piloting' by proxy when autopilot is engaged.

Unless your aircraft is all rod and cable controlled with no augmentation, there is always something helping you out, whether it is hydraulics, actuators, autothrottles or fly by wire. On any airliner there is are "proxies". The autoflight system is something used to ease workload, much like the aforementioned cruise control in a car.

Quoting wingscrubber (Reply 24):
The 'experts' do say it's possible. Here's a controversial thing to think about which is not intended to be flamebait; if most aircraft accidents are attributed to pilot error, can you reduce accidents by engineering out the pilot? Maybe, but most folks would still prefer a human on board to monitor the computer, right? What if the airplane is so heavily automated that the 'pilot' workload is reduced to pressing one of three buttons; take-off, cruise, and land. Is he still 'piloting?'

With three buttons there's no point. Let the flight attendants do it. But never mind that. Engineering the pilot out is, today, an immensely complex task. It is today much simpler, cheaper and, yes, safer, to have a couple of pilots at the pointy end.

Quoting swafa (Reply 12):
I have heard that under certain circumstances(i.e. Heavy turbulence) the autopilot will disengage on it's own.

It will. This is, I think, for two reasons.
1. An autopilot may not be able to hold the desired altitude and speed beyond a certain magnitude of disturbances.
2. In turbulence you don't want the aircraft to be too fixated on holding altitude and speed. Attitude is the most important parameter. It all depends on if the autopilot can handle it.



"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots."
User currently offlinethenoflyzone From Canada, joined Jan 2001, 2489 posts, RR: 11
Reply 26, posted (2 years 3 months 5 days 19 hours ago) and read 9998 times:

Quoting KAUSpilot (Reply 23):
The autopilot only flies through touchdown during an autoland

For a CAT III A approach, yes.

CAT III B, you have touchdown and rollout on autopilot.

Thenoflyzone



us Air Traffic Controllers have a good record, we haven't left one up there yet !!
User currently offlineCosmicCruiser From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 2255 posts, RR: 15
Reply 27, posted (2 years 3 months 5 days 18 hours ago) and read 10058 times:

Quoting KAUSpilot (Reply 23):
An autoland is only conducted if visibility is below 1800ft/500m or once every 15 days as an operational check of the system.

For us the jet must do an auto land every 30 days or anytime it has been downgraded due to any number of equip failures. Sometimes the avionics guys can bring it back up with ground tests.
Rarely does a pilot want to give up his landing to the A/P so it's usually done only if necessary. As for RNAV departures, we will hand fly many but some require the A/P to be engaged (co. policy) due to noise sensitive areas that may generate violations. STN is a good example. Most over 90 turns for the MD-11 require a speed edit as well in order to stay on track.
We have found that an over dependent use of automation does cause problems when components fail and hand flying is mandatory therefore we are encouraged to click off the A/P and A/T anytime the workload allows. I usually hand fly to 18,000' going up and then at G/S intercept coming down.


User currently offlineplanemaker From Tuvalu, joined Aug 2003, 6184 posts, RR: 34
Reply 28, posted (2 years 3 months 5 days 15 hours ago) and read 9882 times:

Quoting Starlionblue (Reply 25):
Engineering the pilot out is, today, an immensely complex task. It is today much simpler, cheaper and, yes, safer, to have a couple of pilots at the pointy end.

"Today" technology has progressed to where it is not "immensely complex." And it is getting simpler... and cheaper, year after year.



Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind. - A. Einstein
User currently offlineStarlionblue From Greenland, joined Feb 2004, 17039 posts, RR: 66
Reply 29, posted (2 years 3 months 5 days 9 hours ago) and read 9640 times:

Quoting planemaker (Reply 28):
Quoting Starlionblue (Reply 25):
Engineering the pilot out is, today, an immensely complex task. It is today much simpler, cheaper and, yes, safer, to have a couple of pilots at the pointy end.

"Today" technology has progressed to where it is not "immensely complex." And it is getting simpler... and cheaper, year after year.

Simpler yes, but still a long way from removing the pilots. Also the question is whether today removing the pilots would enhance safety and reliability more than spending the equivalent money on other areas. I think not.



"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots."
User currently offlineseven3seven From United States of America, joined Apr 2005, 318 posts, RR: 23
Reply 30, posted (2 years 3 months 5 days 8 hours ago) and read 9671 times:

At Southwest Airlines we are rarely required to use the autopilot. We are not allowed to use it until 1000 feet after liftoff. I typically fly the plane for several thousand feet, up to 10K sometimes. It depends on my workday and how busy we are.

On landing I typically handfly a visual approach from around 10 miles out. We are required to turn off the autopilot no later than 50 feet below decision altitude and on Cat III approaches we use the HUD and must handfly that entire approach. On RNAV and RNP approaches we are required to use the autopilot as well.

After 16 years in the biz I still like to fly. But we have long days and trips. The autopilot is there to ease workload so I can manage the total flight environment.



My views are mine alone and are not that of any of my fellow employees, officers, or directors at my company
User currently offlinestratosphere From United States of America, joined Sep 2007, 1653 posts, RR: 4
Reply 31, posted (2 years 3 months 5 days 4 hours ago) and read 9507 times:

Quoting N766UA (Reply 18):
Well, that's why 10% of the pilots in America make the big money. The rest, with the same responsibilities, work for peanuts.

Actually the guys working for Great lakes flying the B1900 with no A/P in the rockies really earn their pay and it is far too little. But to be fair when I worked for NWA pilots would virtually always refuse to take a DC-9 autopilot on MEL. I was told that the DC-9 was a pain to keep trimmed and not bust altitude. I do not know if this is true or not. But others like the A-320 I saw a crew take that with both A/P's inop as well as a B-727. Makes it nice when you have 3 a/p's like the 757.

[Edited 2012-06-14 20:22:53]


NWA THE TRUE EVIL EMPIRE
User currently offlineplanemaker From Tuvalu, joined Aug 2003, 6184 posts, RR: 34
Reply 32, posted (2 years 3 months 5 days 3 hours ago) and read 9468 times:

Quoting Starlionblue (Reply 29):
Simpler yes, but still a long way from removing the pilots.

Yes, but only because of the legacy infrastructure.

Quoting Starlionblue (Reply 29):
Also the question is whether today removing the pilots would enhance safety and reliability more than spending the equivalent money on other areas.

Not with the existing infrastructure but starting with the next all-new aircraft it could easily start to be phased in.



Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind. - A. Einstein
User currently offlineMax Q From United States of America, joined May 2001, 4518 posts, RR: 18
Reply 33, posted (2 years 3 months 5 days 1 hour ago) and read 9468 times:

Quoting KAUSpilot (Reply 23):
The autopilot only flies through touchdown during an autoland.

Not actually true.


On the 757 / 767 the autopilot will perform the touchdown, lower the nose then continue to steer the Aircraft down the centreline with rudder and nosewheel steering by following the localizer.


Braking can be done by autobrakes until deselected, reverse thrust must be manually selected.


It will stay right on the centreline, indeed it will not let you leave it until you disengage the autopilot.


With the exception of the 737 I believe all modern Boeing jets have this autoland rollout guidance.



The best contribution to safety is a competent Pilot.
User currently offlineKAUSpilot From United States of America, joined Jan 2002, 1959 posts, RR: 32
Reply 34, posted (2 years 3 months 5 days 1 hour ago) and read 9442 times:

Quoting Max Q (Reply 33):
Not actually true.


On the 757 / 767 the autopilot will perform the touchdown, lower the nose then continue to steer the Aircraft down the centreline with rudder and nosewheel steering by following the localizer.


Braking can be done by autobrakes until deselected, reverse thrust must be manually selected.


It will stay right on the centreline, indeed it will not let you leave it until you disengage the autopilot.


With the exception of the 737 I believe all modern Boeing jets have this autoland rollout guidance.

Okay, you fellows are completely misunderstanding what I meant by "through touchdown". I only phrased my answer that way because the original poster phrased the question that way, if you'll go back and look.

I am saying that you're only going to have the autopilot on at touchdown if you're performing autoland, so the autopilot is only going to be on "through(during) touchdown" during an autoland, not during a normal approach. I fly the 747-400 so I'm well acquainted with the flare and rollout modes as well as the ability of the autopilot(s) and autobrakes to bring the airplane to a complete stop.

I hope that we have the semantics sorted out now before I get corrected a few more times   Cheers.

[Edited 2012-06-14 23:56:53]

User currently offlineMax Q From United States of America, joined May 2001, 4518 posts, RR: 18
Reply 35, posted (2 years 3 months 5 days ago) and read 9413 times:

Quoting KAUSpilot (Reply 34):

Okay, you fellows are completely misunderstanding what I meant by "through touchdown". I only phrased my answer that way because the original poster phrased the question that way, if you'll go back and look.

I am saying that you're only going to have the autopilot on at touchdown if you're performing autoland, so the autopilot is only going to be on "through(during) touchdown" during an autoland, not during a normal approach. I fly the 747-400 so I'm well acquainted with the flare and rollout modes as well as the ability of the autopilot(s) and autobrakes to bring the airplane to a complete stop.

I hope that we have the semantics sorted out now before I get corrected a few more times Cheers.

Understood, happy landings !



The best contribution to safety is a competent Pilot.
User currently offlineStarlionblue From Greenland, joined Feb 2004, 17039 posts, RR: 66
Reply 36, posted (2 years 3 months 4 days 23 hours ago) and read 9383 times:

Quoting planemaker (Reply 32):
Quoting Starlionblue (Reply 29):
Also the question is whether today removing the pilots would enhance safety and reliability more than spending the equivalent money on other areas.

Not with the existing infrastructure but starting with the next all-new aircraft it could easily start to be phased in.

That wasn't my point. Yes, you could build a plane from the ground up to be pilot-less. However all the money spent in development (and, gasp, certification!) would enhance safety more if used in other areas.

There is a "sweet spot" of sorts in automation. If it's an airport transfer train on a single track, the driver is pretty redundant. But we're talking a machine moving in three dimensions, with windshear/turbulence, with changing ATC conditions, with traffic. Programming a computer to do all that is possible, yes, but it also very expensive. Airlines won't pay for it.

I have a big trust in automation. I've worked with computers for 20+ years so I am well aware of their limitations and capabilities. FBW, autoflight and all these things don't scare me. I think they are a great way to support the pilot. But I'd rather have a pilot up there because I think he/she can manage the system better than a computer can manage other computers.



"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots."
User currently offlinesmartt1982 From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2007, 225 posts, RR: 0
Reply 37, posted (2 years 3 months 4 days 22 hours ago) and read 9367 times:

Quoting thenoflyzone (Reply 8):
So therefore the answer is not "always". Far less than that, unfortunately. less than 5% of the time on modern commercial jetliners.

Any ideas or tips on how one might be able to keep their skills up when working in this sort of environment? I fly for a large European medium to short airline airliner and sometimes there just is not a lot of opportunity to get to hand fly, especially now that I also instruct in the sim which means even less flying completely

Is working through some approaches and or manoeuvres on your desktop pc e.g. PMDG sim a viable option to try and keep these skills up? I am really getting frustrated with not doing a lot hands on piloting and flying a Cessna is not an option at the moment due time and finance

Ideas?


User currently offlineplanemaker From Tuvalu, joined Aug 2003, 6184 posts, RR: 34
Reply 38, posted (2 years 3 months 4 days 22 hours ago) and read 9362 times:

Quoting Starlionblue (Reply 36):
However all the money spent in development (and, gasp, certification!) would enhance safety more if used in other areas.

The money is already being spent on R&D and is growing.

Quoting Starlionblue (Reply 36):
But we're talking a machine moving in three dimensions, with windshear/turbulence, with changing ATC conditions, with traffic. Programming a computer to do all that is possible, yes, but it also very expensive. Airlines won't pay for it.

As mentioned in the reply above, the money is already being spent on R&D that address all those points. And it won't "cost" the airlines more... it will save them costs.

Quoting Starlionblue (Reply 36):
I have a big trust in automation. I've worked with computers for 20+ years so I am well aware of their limitations and capabilities. FBW, autoflight and all these things don't scare me. I think they are a great way to support the pilot. But I'd rather have a pilot up there because I think he/she can manage the system better than a computer can manage other computers.

This is not applicable to current airliners that in essence have "old" technology and are flying in an "old" ATC system. As mentioned earlier, the process will gradually start to happen with the next all-new airframe.



Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind. - A. Einstein
User currently offlinegot2fly From UK - Wales, joined Apr 2011, 20 posts, RR: 0
Reply 39, posted (2 years 3 months 4 days 22 hours ago) and read 9364 times:

I take advantage of hand flying as much as possible depending on the workload. After takeoff I tend to hand fly the SID, although this will depend on the conditions and not forgetting the workload of the non handling pilot. On an ILS approach I will disconnect the A/P on the localiser intercept heading and the auto thrust shortly after. In poor weather I will leave the automatics on until a later in the approach.

My home base is not an overly busy airport so in reasonable weather we will request a visual approach and fly a manual / auto thrust off, visual approach from the downwind leg. As well as great practice it cuts out a few miles on the approach and gets you home quicker!

Actually was flying a 4 sector day yesterday on one of our A320 aircraft with the A/THR inop and as they were short sectors, non RVSM it was great fun flying the full flight with A/P and A/THR off.


User currently offlineplanemaker From Tuvalu, joined Aug 2003, 6184 posts, RR: 34
Reply 40, posted (2 years 3 months 4 days 14 hours ago) and read 9216 times:

Quoting planemaker (Reply 38):
Quoting Starlionblue (Reply 36):
However all the money spent in development (and, gasp, certification!) would enhance safety more if used in other areas.

The money is already being spent on R&D and is growing.

Just a two links of dozens and dozens to illustrate...



The airworthiness testing included maneuvers relevant to carrier operations, including an autonomous "touch and go" landing--an aviation first--and landing at a high sink rate in a heavy weight configuration.
http://www.irconnect.com/noc/press/pages/news_releases.html?d=259264

The small quadrotors playing the James Bond theme music at the end of the video is pretty entertaining but what is more impressive is how quickly the "nerds" programed the routine.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ErEBkj_3PY



Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind. - A. Einstein
User currently offlineStarlionblue From Greenland, joined Feb 2004, 17039 posts, RR: 66
Reply 41, posted (2 years 3 months 4 days 3 hours ago) and read 9041 times:

I agree it is possible. However all these unmanned aircraft are not man-rated. The certification costs to make them man-rated in a civilian environment are very very high. Much cheaper to retain pilots. For now.


"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots."
User currently offlineplanemaker From Tuvalu, joined Aug 2003, 6184 posts, RR: 34
Reply 42, posted (2 years 3 months 3 days 23 hours ago) and read 9006 times:

Quoting Starlionblue (Reply 41):
However all these unmanned aircraft are not man-rated. The certification costs to make them man-rated in a civilian environment are very very high. Much cheaper to retain pilots. For now.

It really isn't an issue of "man-rated." Once we have UAVs operating unrestricted in civilian airspace (and it appears that will happen within 5 years) then the critical issue will be dealt with... conflict avoidance. So there won't be a "very, very high cost" since both military (mainly) and civilian UAS R&D is paying for all the costs up front long before there is an UA airliner. The commercial UA process would initiate with the next all-new airframe ~15 years out. I have said many times in past threads that this isn't an "overnight" event but one that will come about through evolution and progression across many fronts enabled by the accelerating rate of technological progress.

In the EFB thread I posted the pics and links to the Wing X tablet and cell phone app. And if that is available now... in 5 years? Possibly all that data delivered via augmented-reality glasses...



On a tech side note, it seems that GA is increasingly adopting the 'freemium' model... here is a pretty slick online piston engine condition analyzer that is free (available starting next month.)



Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind. - A. Einstein
User currently offlineStarlionblue From Greenland, joined Feb 2004, 17039 posts, RR: 66
Reply 43, posted (2 years 3 months 3 days 20 hours ago) and read 8967 times:

Quoting planemaker (Reply 42):
It really isn't an issue of "man-rated."

I beg to differ. Man-rating is THE critical issue. Your thinking is that of a technologist. Yes, the technology is there. However the flying public, the regulators and the politicians think ONLY of man-rating. And these are groups not easily swayed by such simple facts that it actually works.



"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots."
User currently offlineMir From United States of America, joined Jan 2004, 21625 posts, RR: 55
Reply 44, posted (2 years 3 months 3 days 17 hours ago) and read 8917 times:

Quoting smartt1982 (Reply 37):
Is working through some approaches and or manoeuvres on your desktop pc e.g. PMDG sim a viable option to try and keep these skills up?

It's better than nothing, certainly. But what might be even better is if you can get in the sim for an approach or two every so often.

-Mir



7 billion, one nation, imagination...it's a beautiful day
User currently offlineplanemaker From Tuvalu, joined Aug 2003, 6184 posts, RR: 34
Reply 45, posted (2 years 3 months 3 days 16 hours ago) and read 8884 times:

Quoting Starlionblue (Reply 43):
Your thinking is that of a technologist.

Honestly I'm not at all. I'm simply looking at how technology AND society will evolve over the next +15 years. In +15 years the tech savy (and at times tech obsessed) cohort of teenagers will be entering mid-life and many of them will have their hands on levers of power and influence. It simply won't be an issue... then. Today, yes.

Quoting Starlionblue (Reply 43):
Yes, the technology is there. However the flying public, the regulators and the politicians think ONLY of man-rating. And these are groups not easily swayed by such simple facts that it actually works.

We are talking about the "beginning of the beginning" no earlier than ~15 years hence. By that time robotics will be visibly pervasive and a part of everyday living. As it is, several cars are already being sold with "robotic" features and already Nevada allows robotic cars and California is soon to follow while Volvo just trialled a robotic "road train" in Europe. And driving is far more problematic then aviation.



Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind. - A. Einstein
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