Airline pilots over-reliant on automation and losing flying skills, coroner

With increased automation, airline pilots are becoming over-reliant on technology and are losing the basic skills for flying a plane, The Telegraph has quoted a coroner as saying.

Michael Oakley, coroner for eastern North Yorkshire, reportedly made the observation while delivering a narrative verdict into the deaths of two of the 228 passengers and crew who were killed when an Air France flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris plummeted into the Atlantic on June 1, 2009.

‘The air disaster highlights serious public concern of whether pilots are overly dependent on technology and are not retaining the skills required to properly fly complex commercial aircraft,’ said Mr. Oakley. ‘The evidence in the official accident report highlights systematic failures and a lack of comprehension of the aircraft’s situation between the pilots during the flight,’ he said. ‘The pilots were not adequately trained to handle the aircraft safely in the particular high altitude emergency situation that night.’

An investigation following the incident, which took over two years, found that the plane had crashed because of mechanical failure in which the pitot tubes – a device used to measure fluid pressures – were blocked by ice particles. This in turn caused the autopilot to disconnect. The inability of the crew to react led to the plane stalling before plunging into the sea.

Recently the FAA, NTSB and NASA have all raised questions over whether or not technology may pose a safety issue, despite its introduction having made flying safer in many other respects. The FAA also issued a Safety Alert for Operators Warning, telling pilots to pay attention to manual flying skills to avoid becoming over-reliant on auto-flight systems. It was released six months before Asiana Flight 214 crashed at San Francisco International Airport on July 6, 2013, killing three people and leaving several injured.

In its study, Boeing found that over the last decade, the leading cause of death on commercial airlines was loss of control in flight, causing 80 accidents and 1,493 deaths. NASA used that data from Boeing for its own study and found in 46.3 percent of those accidents, inappropriate crew response and interaction with the plane’s equipment played a role in the accident.

 

Glasgow Airport Launches Latest Safety System for Air Traffic Control

Glasgow airport is the first airport in the world to install a new cutting edge safety enhancement technology developed by NATS, the UK based company that provides air traffic services and solutions.

The system uses NASA satellite data to create a three-dimensional map of the ground around Glasgow Airport, and uses it as a model to test unsafe altitudes. The technology will allow air traffic controllers to test flight paths with perfect accuracy, while maintaining a safe distance from the ground.

NATS senior systems engineer, Andrew Wood, said, ‘This is the first system in the UK to use 3D terrain mapping in a live operational environment.

The new system is the most accurate in the world. It brings improved safety for aircraft and passengers and will give controllers even greater confidence.

The system has been verified to trigger when aircraft are either entering a dangerous rate of descent or are in close proximity to the ground.

We had to ensure that the alerts being raised were valid, as well as proving that no aircraft in danger were failing to trigger alerts.’

The successful launch of the programme will have assured the expansion of the technology to other airports in the UK.

NATS engineering director, Iain Harris, said, ‘This project has been developed in-house by NATS from the ground up and is a prime example of our ability to innovate for enhanced safety performance.’

The current project is a result of joint efforts between NATS and the Safety Regulation Group of the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

 

TripAdvisor: How One Website is Revolutionising the Niche Travel Industry

It’s the world’s biggest travel website, and it’s revolutionising the industry for both industry leaders and independent attractions. The website is, of course, TripAdvisor, one of the most prominent and influential community-driven websites in the travel space. Since its slow rise to popularity in early 2001, the website has grown into a do-all travel portal, and it’s soon to grow even more.

Founder and CEO Stephen Kaufer has made it clear that TripAdvisor is his own creation. Despite a series of proposed sales and large offers from other travel industry leaders, the remains in Kaufer’s hands and is operated by his own team of employees. Now numbering almost six-hundred, steady growth has seen TripAdvisor’s workforce expand to include workers in every populated continent.

It’s growth that’s been fuelled by the company’s community-friendly approach to reviews and hotel information. TripAdvisor limits the amount of censorship and screening on its website, preferring a hands-off approach to the selected information often seen in travel magazines. Negative reviews are published in their entirety, with users encouraged to offer honest, useful travel advice.

Perhaps that’s why the website has grown so influential over the past decade. For decades, the most visible information on any destination was almost entirely positive – magazines refrained from any overtly negative content or lengthy criticism pieces due to partnerships and style. It’s TripAdvisor’s honest and balanced negativity that often sells (or anti-sells) a destination to readers.

For independent travellers, the website remains a hit. For independent travel businesses, it’s an even bigger success, generating thousands of leads monthly for those that feature in its database. With the boutique travel sector growing throughout the recent economic downturn, small hotels and tourism operators may have found their promotional winner in a prominent TripAdvisor listing.