16 October, 2014

Should Airplanes Be Flying Themselves? | Vanity Fair

Should Airplanes Be Flying Themselves? | Vanity Fair: The blockage of the pitot tubes led to an old-fashioned indication failure, and the resulting disconnection of the autopilot was an old-fashioned response: trust the pilots to sort things out. There were definitely automation complications in what followed, and to that mix one can add the design decision not to link the two control sticks. But on Air France 447, the automation problem ran still deeper. Bonin and Robert were flying a fourth-generation glass-cockpit airplane, and unlike the pilots who think they know more than they do, these two seemed to fear its complexities. The Airbus was reacting in a conventional manner, but once they ventured beyond the routine of normal cruise they did not trust the nature of the machine. It is hard to imagine that this would have happened under the old Clipper Skippers, the stick-and-rudder boys. But Bonin and Robert? It was as if progress had pulled the rug out from beneath elementary aeronautical understanding.