Who is flying the plane

Today most large commercial airplanes are equipped with autopilot systems, the amount of hand flying decreases while the abilities of the automation increase. Pilots take off by hand and continue to fly for a couple of minutes (typically to 5,000 feet) before turning on the autopilot systems. When approaching the runway, most pilots will turn off the autopilot a few minutes before landing. In the general course of a flight, pilots do not spend much time on hand flying.

Taiwan’s China Airlines pilot caught on video sleeping in cockpit

FAA studies show that in more than 60 percent of accidents, and 30 percent of major incidents, pilots had trouble manually flying the plane or made mistakes with automated flight controls. People believe in experiences, sometimes we get confused why the pilots with thousands of flying hours can make fatal mistakes, probably one reason is their manual flying experience is actually less than 1%. There are many arguments suggesting that commercial airline pilot flying skills have become eroded since the growth in popularity of fully automated aircraft.

Most fatal and non-fatal accidents continue to occur during landing and go-around phases of flight, and loss of control (in-flight) continues to be the predominant category of fatal accidents. Other areas of safety concern, including unstabilized approaching, runway run out, heavy landings. Each of these phases of flight and accident categories (above) would appear to involve pilot handling skills. It shows that effectively applied pilot handling skills may help prevent accidents and reduce the consequences of errors.

US Airways Flight 1549

When the autopilot engages more and more in the daily flights, the skills of the pilot cannot be reflected in the regular situation, and pilots are not the pilots we thought, they are more like a monitor of the automation systems who keeps entering parameters to the console rather than controlling an airplane directly. The core value of pilots nowadays is the ability to handle emergencies and make the right decisions in an extremely urgent and complex situation to save lives. Passengers should pray for having skillful pilots on board like the Captain Sully of US Airways Flight 1549 who made a miracle landing on the Hudson River.