US government report highlights risks of increasing use of automation in aviation sector

  • February 11, 2016

Aircraft automation can improve efficiency and reduce pilot workload, but recent incidents have shown that pilots that typically fly with automation can make errors when confronted with an unexpected event or when transitioning to manual flying, according to a U.S. Department of Transport Inspector General report published last month.

The US Federal Aviation Administration estimates that automation is used 90 percent of the time in flight.

“Reliance on automation is a growing concern among industry experts, who have also questioned whether pilots are provided enough training and experience to maintain manual flying proficiency,” said the Inspector General’s report. While pilots must be trained, tested and proficient in their aircraft, “The FAA does not have a sufficient process to assess a pilot’s ability to monitor flight deck automation systems and manual flying skills, both of which are important for identifying and handling unexpected events during flight.”

The report made two recommendations to ensure that operators sufficiently address pilot monitoring and manual flying skills. One focuses on pilot monitoring metrics that can be used to train and evaluate pilots. The other involves standards to determine whether pilots receive sufficient training to develop, maintain and demonstrate manual flying skills.