So what should be done? The automation dependency paradigm must be changed now. Crews must be trained to remain mentally engaged and, at low altitudes, tactilely connected to the controls —even when automation is being employed. They should be drilled that, at low altitudes, anytime they wonder “what’s it doing now?” the response should be to turn automation off and fly by hand.
Aviation agencies need to update standards for certifying air carriers. There needs to be a new performance-based model that requires flight crews to log a minimum number of hand-flown takeoffs and departures, approaches and landings every six months, including some without autothrottles. Honing basic pilot skills is more critical to improving airline safety than virtually any other human factor.
Watch Capt. Warren VanderBurgh’s “children of the magenta” lecture to pilots on how the aviation industry created a culture of maximizing automation on our ThingsWithWings blog at ow.ly/n6FJ3.