On the cover of the July 15, 2013 issue of the leading industry trade journal, Aviation Week and Space Technology, I was surprised to read the headline, “Asiana 214: Has Automation Trumped Airmanship?” It not only prompted me to write a letter to the editors but also inspired this blog entry. For the editors and copy-writers to focus, perhaps somewhat narrowly, on the concept that this headline seems to imply, that Airmanship and Automation can somehow coexist as separate components of contemporary aviation is dangerously misleading.
We get right to the point in our book that the two (Automation and Airmanship) are inseparable components of contemporary aviation, carefully integrated and coordinated, with the human operator remaining in charge through all phases of flight. As a review, we define Automation Airmanship® as “the understanding and application of automation to airmanship, to ensure balanced situational and mode awareness and crew workload through the full realm of automation, from no automation to fully coupled, in order to provide for the safest and most efficient flight.” Nearly every advance in aircraft design, dating back at least to Wilbur and Orville’s first successful run down the launching rail in December 1903 through the dramatic enhanced vision systems that are beginning to see widespread adoption today, has been accompanied by carefully enacted policies, procedures, and practices to integrate the new technology. The goal of every advance has been the same: to increase safety and efficiency (long-term economic gain only follows these two).
Advanced flight deck technology isn’t going away, and in fact, is going to continue to proliferate at ever increasing rates of both certification and adoption globally, as far into the future as anyone can see. And in spite of much commentary to the contrary, the cockpit crew isn’t going away anytime soon. Both exist to multiply the capability of the other towards an increasingly safe and efficient operation. Viewing the two as one is crucial to realizing the highest potential of this powerful combination: the highly trained human operator and the increasingly complex and reliable machine.
Until our next report, fly safe and fly first.