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The study found that two-thirds of the pilots either had trouble manually flying planes

A recent study commissioned by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) shows that pilots depend on automation much more than they should, and many don't know what to do when they must manually take over. 

According to a new report from The Wall Street Journal, an international panel of air-safety experts comprising of industry, labor, academic and government officials have determined that pilots rely on automation to the point of not knowing what to do when issues arise. 

"They [pilots] are accustomed to watching things happen…instead of being proactive," said the study.

While there have been studies on this subject before, this most recent study differs in that it had a larger panel of experts taking part, and they read through large volumes of voluntary safety reports filed by pilots as well as data gathered by cockpit observers on over 9,000 flights around the globe. 


The 277-page study concluded that many pilots have poor manual flying skills and fail to master the latest changes in cockpit technology. In fact, the study found that two-thirds of the pilots either had trouble manually flying planes or made mistakes using flight computers.

Automation does help to make travel by air more safe, but the panel worries that pilots depend on it a bit too much and need to be prepared in cases where automation fails. 

While pilots in the study were able to address small automation troubles before they became too serious, they had a harder time taking over with manual flying when the time came to do so. 

The report gave 18 recommendations to the FAA, and the agency has already taken some sort of action on each one through new rules, research and guidance material. Some of the changes include more focus on manual flying skills and improved pilot certification standards.

The panel also called for cockpit design changes that are easier to understand from the flightcrew's perspective.

FAA said it would discuss the next steps on Thursday at a summit with industry leaders.

Source: The Wall Street Journal





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