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.