A couple of weeks ago we started a discussion here about the upcoming “minimum standards” for “manual flying” and “monitoring” that the FAA’s recent IG report (see the last post) has recommended for implementation. Though we don’t know just what the FAA will put in place for standards that their enforcement arm (individual flight inspectors) will be referencing, we are confident that doing a few things now will prepare your operation for the new standards. Better than that—if your operation adopts rigorous principle-based standards now—your operation will be safer, more efficient, and your “automation culture” will be brought to a whole new level.
At the crux of the IG’s report is the gap in proficiency and expertise between automated flight procedures and manual flight procedures, and how this breakdown can be removed as a factor in accidents and incidents. We suggest that agreeing in a preflight brief that “…today let’s try to hand-fly the airplane when we normally would use autoflight…” is not the road to achieving lasting proficiency in manual flying and monitoring. Our experience has shown that durable, resilient, and measurable airmanship practices in advanced cockpits are anchored in the policies and practices of the overall operation. Here are a few examples of what we’re talking about:
- Acknowledging in organizational guidance like SOPs and Flight Manuals when it is expected for crews to operate without autoflight connected (for example, setting weather and workload limits to help crews select the best time to operate without autoflight);
- Requiring standardized communication practices for announcing the engagement and disengagement of autopilot, auto throttle and flight guidance systems (not so hard to establish and expect everyone to comply with);
- Prioritizing flight-critical parameters by phase of flight that monitoring pilots must scrutinize, question and resolve with the pilot flying (say, stable approach criteria);
- Address critical 21st-century airmanship principle of monitoring as a whole discipline, from what it is on a psycho-physiological level, to how it looks and sounds like on the flight deck when it’s being done right (we’ve put this all in one dedicated chapter of Automation Airmanship);
There are hundreds more avenues and methods to invigorate your organization’s automation culture; these are just a few that might just make a difference the very next flight leg you fly, and find you ready for inspection when new standards are enforced down the road.
Think about it.
Until our next post, fly safe, and always, fly first
Office of Inspector General. Audit Report: Enhanced FAA Oversight Could Reduce Hazards Associated with Increased Use of Flight Deck Automation. FAA. Report Number: AV-2016-013. January 7, 2016.