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FAA SAFO Encourages Pilots To Manually Fly Their Airplanes

Raises Concerns About Erosion Of Skills Due To Autopilot Use

A recent FAA analysis of flight operations data (including normal flight operations, incidents, and accidents) has identified an increase in manual handling errors. The FAA believes maintaining and improving the knowledge and skills for manual flight operations is necessary for safe flight operations, and has issued a Safety Alert for Operators (SAFO) encouraging operators to promote manual flight operations when appropriate.

According to the SAFO, 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). Operational policies should be developed or reviewed to ensure there are appropriate opportunities for pilots to exercise manual flying skills, such as in non-RVSM airspace and during low workload conditions. In addition, policies should be developed or reviewed to ensure that pilots understand when to use the automated systems, such as during high workload conditions or airspace procedures that require use of autopilot for precise operations. Augmented crew operations may also limit the ability of some pilots to obtain practice in manual flight operations. Airline operational policies should ensure that all pilots have the appropriate opportunities to exercise the aforementioned knowledge and skills in flight operations.

The FAA recommends that Directors of Operations, Program Managers, Directors of Training, Training Center Managers, Check Pilots, Training Pilots, and flightcrews should be familiar with the content of this SAFO. They should work together to ensure that the content of this SAFO is incorporated into operational policy, provided to pilots during ground training, and reinforced in flight training and proficiency checks.

FMI: www.faa.gov

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