Pilots Don't Know Enough About Flying Manually, Says DOT Report


Well, this information is sure to make your next flight more interesting.

The Federal Aviation Administration isn't doing enough to ensure that commercial pilots are properly trained to fly manually without the use of autopilot and other automated systems, according to an audit released last week by the Department of Transportation and surfaced by The Hill.

Automated flight systems have made it increasingly easy for pilots to get by without maintaining their manual flying skills, leading to "errors" in emergency situations in which pilots are forced to take over from technology, the report states.

"On today’s aircraft, flight information can be uploaded... This allows the automation to control the aircraft through most phases of flight -- from just after take-off until the plane lands at the airport," the document points out.

This can be a concern in situations where pilots must use their manual flying skills during unexpected events. Among other examples, the report cites the 2013 crash of Asiana Flight 214, during which pilots accidentally deactivated the plane's main airspeed control on approach to San Francisco.

"Reliance on automation is a growing concern among industry experts," the report says, noting these experts have "questioned whether pilots are provided enough training and experience to maintain manual flying proficiency."

The report suggests that the FAA develop guidance and standards to better train pilots, evaluate their performance and assess if they have the manual flying skills necessary to be in the air.

The FAA responded to the DOT mostly in agreement, saying it plans to implement more monitoring guidelines in the future and will make sure airlines know their responsibilities regarding pilot training and evaluation.

Patrick Smith, a longtime pilot and founder of AskThePilot, says it's not a bad thing that pilots focus largely on automation skills -- after all, they're a huge part of how modern planes fly.

"It’s more or less a given that pilots' hands-on flying skills have become degraded over the years. But this is because a newer set of skills is required to master the job," Smith told HuffPost. "It's unfair... to contend this newer set is somehow less important or less valuable than the other."

Representatives from both the DOT and FAA told HuffPost they'd let their comments in the report speak for themselves.

Seeing as we speak for safety, more continuing training sounds like it can only mean good things for air travel.

NOTE: This post has been updated with comments from Smith.

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