Had an interview the other day with another writer who’s putting together a piece regarding some of the problems of professional pilots. The premise is that many have lost that lovin’ feeling when it comes to actually flying the aircraft. The automation pretty much does it all.
There are some cultural things happening. How many of us drive cars with automatic transmissions these days? They are much easier and often more durable. Do you use a tax prep programs to navigate the horrendously complex tax code or do you tough it out on paper? Who uses calculators? Cromagnon man was in much better physical condition than any one of us according to anthropologists but could he save money on car insurance?
It’s a good topic and got me to thinking. In jets the autopilot flies the machine most of the time. In today’s high workload cockpits in light aircraft flying without the AP has become an abnormal procedure.
To be sure, the automation is more precise and consistent – assuming it’s programmed well but what about our hand flying skills? I’ll voice three inconsistent thoughts and you can chime in.
1. I think primary flight training, even if you’re ultimately going to fly the Boeing or the Bus, should focus on physical flying skills. Learn crosswinds, learn trim and in IFR training, be able to hand fly an approach. Perhaps too much glass is being introduced too early.
2. Even though many of us walked to school in two feet of snow uphill, both ways, we need to adapt to the times and so there’s a balance. Automation is improving our capacity to handle basic flying tasks while improving situational awareness. Altitude preselect and nav tracking is extremely handy for single pilot operation.
3. I exercise by handing flying departures and arrivals, when not too busy, and to hand fly approaches regularly but am not the least reluctant when feeling fatigued or mentally slammed to let George do the honors.