Originally Posted by dorikin
bit of a pandora's box. pilots are relying more on automation that in previous gen aircraft but i don't know if that should necessarily be taken pejoratively, it's simply a new reality. there's no denying that hands and feet flying is a perishable skill and you have to make a concerted effort to stay sharp (since there is no hand-flying in cruise due to RVSM). any overseas pilot flying 3 trips a month isn't going to fly the prettiest full procedure raw data NDB approach.
having the full magic on allows you to sit back and monitor the big picture with less workload having to be directed at maneuvering the airplane. imagine being the non flying pilot with someone who has decided to hand-bomb into a high density airport. their faculties are now directed strictly manipulating the controls while you're monitoring to make sure they're making level offs and staying between the lines. now you have to spin heading/alt bugs for them, read back clearances, run descent/in rng flows/checklists, get an updated ATIS, answer datalinks from company about your gate, liaise with the back end with the cabin snags they have written up, run the radar because of the cells in the arrival corridor... oh here's a runway change from atc, now you get to re-program the fms, re-brief the flying pilot, etc, etc. easy for something to get missed. you have a responsibility to the people in the back to decide what the safest way is to get the job done and hand-flying all over creation isn't necessarily the best answer.
most accidents today stem from a lack of understanding of what the automation is doing. a couple of pages ago i made reference to some "traps" where the autothrust in certain situations could lead you down the garden path and it's interesting to me that the autothrottle issue is something the investigators are looking to unpack with the asiana crash. as a pilot you need to understand the short and long term goals of what the airplane needs to do and then further interpret whether or not the automation is a help or a hinderance. if you put the pilots of air france 447 into a cessna 172 i bet they would have been able to recover no problem. throw in multiple control laws and different procedures for similar situations (stall recovery in alt law vs being able to pull full back in normal law with alpha prot), a lack of tactile feedback, independent controls and it's a bad recipe for a tired inexperienced dude to deal with. automation is a great tool but, like any big power tool, can be dangerous if mishandled and must be wielded properly
Great stuff. Thanks for the detailed post.
Perception from regular folks(such as myself) arent aware of the detailed operation going on in the cockpit. I think most people feel the right seat simply handles the radio and is on standby incase the pilot croaks in flight.
Gives me a whole new perception of whats going on up there.