Monday, September 28, 2009

Computers can't replace pilots - yet, say experts

Article taken from Flight International by David Learmont 24 September 2009

The term "pilot error" is greatly over-used, especially given that on many occasions technically troubled flights are saved by ordinary airline crews. According to US Federal Aviation Administration's chief scientific and technical adviser, Dr Kathy Abbott, and Capt John Cox of the RAeS's operations committee "records showed about 30% of all system failure modes that led to accidents had not been anticipated by designers, so there were no checklists to deal with them. The corollary was that pilots successfully dealt with 70% of unanticipated failures, let alone the failures for which there was a checklist, she said."

Since an incident of Thomsonfly Boeing 737-300 where crew allowed the aircraft's speed to drop to a dangerously low level on an approach to Bournemouth airport in September 2007 eye-tracking tests of crews has taken place.

"The tests have revealed that a few pilots' instrument scans are seriously deficient, even when their performance would have been judged as good by an examiner on the flightdeck. The implication is that some airline crews, possibly at all airlines, are getting by simply because nothing goes technically wrong on their watch. The worry, says Thomson, is that this pattern may not be correctable because, even with retraining, the pilots concerned tend to revert to their natural patterns later."

Andy Brazier

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