Is Automation to Blame?

  • Sep 4, 2013 8:05pm GMT

Recent commercial airline accidents have thrust to the forefront the debate on cockpit automation and the deterioration of piloting skills. Flying for a cargo company on the back side of the clock, I welcome any and all automation tools to use and choose from. The MD-11 has had its share of accidents in the landing environment, but the autopilot is not the one to blame.

Maybe the emphasis should be on crew day for cargo pilots? As most commercial pilots are aware, the new FAA rest rules passed apply to passenger carriers only. As if box haulers don't get tired flying through the night. Imagine the difficulty of flying a non-precision approach to an unfamiliar airfield at 0500. Oh, and it's your third leg.... Yes, I can see why the FAA doesn't want to include cargo operations in the new FAA rest rules.

OK, rant off.

Because of the price of fuel, etc., most of my pattern work in the MD-11 occurs in the simulator. No autopilot, no autothrottles, and they'll throw in 25 knots of crosswind for good measure. I feel more than prepared to handle the airplane in degraded scenarios because of this semi-annual training. The photo above is my view of the cockpit for hours in the darkness. I'll take all the help managing that information I can get.

See you out there.