Automated Airplane Flight Tips

Brian AddisIt has been almost 20 years since the first automated airplanes came on the scene. You know, glass cockpit types with those fancy autopilots. Now days we just call them automated airplanes. Most of these displays started with the large airplanes and over the years, this technology has migrated down through the ranks to the lightest airplanes. I have been quite fortunate to learn and teach in these designs most of these past 20 years. I started with the Airbus A320 and moved up the ladder to the GV and finally to the Avidyne and G1000 systems. It seems somewhat unusual to start with a large airplane and end up in a C-172, but that’s the way it worked as the result of technology, not choice. It is amazing to see the similarities in the training process and the similarities in the frustration level of the pilots in all of these automated designs. After 20 years instructing in automated airplanes, do I have some fundamental suggestions? Yes, of course I do.

Point 1: Try to relax through this process. Remember, many have gone before you and the vast majority of pilots have been successful users. Almost all have been just as frustrated as you at one time or another.

Point 2: You will find yourself learning the same tasks over and over again. No, you’re not stupid. The tasks are so similar, interference is very high. Psychologists call it retroactive and proactive inhibition. You call it a pain in the neck.

Point 3: There are three things you can do during flight. 1. Press the right button at the right time. 2. Press the right button at the wrong time. 3. Press the wrong button at the wrong time. Number 3 is the worst.

Point 4: Never use sentences such as: “Where is this thing going now?” “Why is it doing that?” “What’s going on with this thing?” Remember, you are the pilot. When your automated world starts to fall apart—and it will—disconnect the autopilot; hand fly it. Get control of the proper attitude, altitude, heading and airspeed. Then re-engage the autopilot pressing one button at a time while you monitor how well it does what you want it to do. Decide what you want, then press a button. Good luck and by the way, look outside once in a while please.