TIME TO CHANGE THE SEAT CUSHIONS!!
Before you read the following commentary, check out this -WOW- landing by a new Boeing 787 Dreamliner:
* * * * * * * *
“The last time you flew, did you wonder what’s really going on behind that closed cockpit door? Who’s actually flying the plane? Is it a human being, or Capt. Autopilot?”
That is the first statement from a CNN post by Thom Patterson, made on March 26th 2012. While I must accept the -so called- inevitable, there are moments that call to memory a phrase uttered by Danny Glover in a Lethal Weapon movie: “I’m getting to old for this s**t!”
It would seem that if not us, certainly those recently born, may see the day that airliners are operated by remote control. Yes, you read that right…
His observations come from a somewhat humorous experience:
“There are millions of people out there who are under the impression that the airplane is flying itself and the pilots are only there in case something goes wrong,” says Patrick Smith, a 22-year veteran commercial pilot who blogs about airline issues.
This, says Smith, is the big lie.
It’s true that airline computers and electronic control systems allow pilots to fly “hands off” beginning soon after takeoff, continuing through the flight route and — in very rare cases — all the way through touchdown.
But Smith says that doesn’t mean the planes fly themselves.
One day, Smith was flying as a passenger when that false impression really hit him square in the face.
The airliner glided to a particularly smooth landing, and a “smart Alec” seated a few rows behind Smith shouted, “Nice job, autopilot!”
“Everybody around us started cackling,” Smith said. “While it was funny, it was wrong. And I knew that he meant it. It was frustrating.”
Technology is, after all, snowballing at a Biblical rate, and the “newest” Apple creation, the Apple watch is just one example; however, across the board, whether it’s appliances, vehicles, lighting, or whatever, there is no longer any plateau where things stay the same for longer than a few measly months.
Smith continues: “Hands-on flying hasn’t disappeared, – it’s just different. For example, setting up and executing an automatic descent has changed.
“In the old days, you had your hand on the wheel and you pushed the nose down and adjusted the power accordingly,” he said. “Now, you’ve got to hold a different set of buttons and dials and switches, but in the end, you’re still doing the same thing — you’re still flying the plane.”
“None of it is easy,” he said. “In a lot of ways, it’s more difficult because airplanes are so much more complex now.”
Sure, there’s a lot of “hands-off” time, but there are also many tasks that surround the management of the airplane and its computerized systems. “You’re utilizing a different skill set.”
Later, the post quotes R. John Hansman, a professor of aeronautics and astronautics, and head of the Division of Humans and Automation, at MIT:
“We fly many unmanned air vehicles around the world today, mainly for military or small airplane applications,” “At a technical level, there’s no reason why we couldn’t do that with a commercial airplane.”
“The idea won’t be widely accepted until at least a couple of generations from now,” said Hansman, who’s also a licensed private pilot. “But experts are already planning how it might work.”
There are two basic academic models. In one, pilots would fly airliners by remote control from “cockpits” on the ground — just as pilots currently fly Predator military drones over Afghanistan and along the U.S.-Mexican border.
“There’s another model where you might have a flight attendant sufficiently trained,” said Hansman, to act as a backup pilot on automated or remote-controlled airliners.
Thom’s post contains much more on this; read the entire article HERE