Reliance on Automated Flying Impacting Pilots’ Skills


Flying a plane in the 21st Century is quite different from what it used to be years ago. Today, almost the entire flight is managed by computers and automated systems. In fact, pilots only manually fly a plane for approximately three minutes per flight – during take-off and landing.

But is this increased reliance on automation a good thing? There is considerable evidence to indicate that it may be placing airplane passengers at risk since it is very difficult for pilots to keep their flying skills sharp when they don’t get an opportunity to use them.

In fact, there have been many fatal airplane accidents in recent years which have been labeled “loss of control” accidents. In these instances, the planes stalled or ended up in an unusual position which the pilot could not manually maneuver out of. There have been numerous occasions where pilots made the wrong choice in a split-second decision, resulting in a devastating airplane accident.

Many pilots and aviation safety experts have voiced their concern that pilots no longer have sufficient opportunities to fly a plane manually, resulting in a deterioration of these important skills. While there are many benefits to the precision accomplished by using computerized autopilot systems – a precision not achievable by manual flying – it comes with the danger that in dire circumstances, pilots may not possess the skills and decision-making ability to avoid a catastrophic plane crash. Hopefully the FAA will address these issues in the coming years so that a better balance can be achieved between the two modes of operating an aircraft.