Washington Report: don’t forget to fly the airplane

Two recent FAA announcements carried a common message for pilots: fly the airplane! The advice is aimed primarily at airline pilots, who have been in the news over the past few years for some bad lapses, from overflying the airport while staring at a laptop to stalling the airplane. But any GA pilot who is honest with himself will probably find something that hits home in these documents.

The first is a new Safety Alert For Operators (SAFO), which is a type of message the FAA sends to professional pilots. It is not regulatory, but it shows what issues the FAA is focusing on. SAFO 13002 encourages pilots to keep current flying the airplane:

Modern aircraft are commonly operated using autoflight systems (e.g., autopilot or autothrottle/autothrust). Unfortunately, continuous use of those systems does not reinforce a pilot’s knowledge and skills in manual flight operations. Autoflight systems are useful tools for pilots and have improved safety and workload management, and thus enabled more precise operations. However, continuous use of autoflight systems could lead to degradation of the pilot’s ability to quickly recover the aircraft from an undesired state. Operators are encouraged to take an integrated approach by incorporating emphasis of manual flight operations into both line operations and training (initial/upgrade and recurrent).

The second announcement is in the form of  a new Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), aimed directly at Part 121 airline operations. This one focuses on personal electronic devices, like cell phones and laptops:

The proposed rule would prohibit flightcrew members in operations under part 121 from using a personal wireless communications device or laptop computer for personal use while at their duty station on the flight deck while the aircraft is being operated. This rule, which conforms FAA regulations with recent legislation, is intended to ensure that certain non-essential activities do not contribute to the challenge of task management on the flight deck or a loss of situational awareness due to attention to non-essential tasks.

The message from both these FAA documents is simple: don’t allow technology to make you complacent. Easy to forget, but important.

5 Comments

  • Who is the FAA, where can I go and see the names and bios of the “people” behind the FAA regulatory mandates and suggestions? I don’t know if I have ever seen who or what they might be, other than the head cheese…………and those guys and gals change with the wind.

    Just asking and wondering what they’re quals are to be giving any advice, good or bad – and where they come up with what we out in the field are supposed to be doing………..and for whose safety?

    Sid

  • Aviation is no better than the folks who drive cars and trucks. This world has become the “heads down” society. Everyone everywhere at anytime has their eyes on some kind of device that prohibits productivity and safety. In my short time in aviation I have flown with pilots that maintain no outside situational awareness due to constantly having their heads down messing with their G-Whiz panels until I bring it to their attention. When was the last time you heard of someone flying a Cessna 150 with no GPS and autopilot flying past their destination for other reason such as poor piloting and dead reckoning? I say, hands fly the airplane, approaches, enroute, and any type of manuevering. Sterile cockpit, dividing time in and outside of the windows, paying attention to ALL of the details required to safetly complete the mission. Gadgets create their own problems, just ask the young college student that walked right into the light pole in the parking right next to me. Good thing she wasn’t flying an airplane in marginal conditions…

  • I entirely agree. As a student pilot my flight instructor would beat it into me if I ever became too concerned about the radios, navaids, transponders, glass cockpit devices, etc, etc: “First Fly The Damn Plane!”

  • Does the Govt do any thing with out over kill. The FAA is smarter than all the pilots flying the planes? I have done both they should use a pilots group to put forth some ideas to be considered and take a long slow look.

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