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Automated cockpits are great until your pitot tube freeze
up, all your autopilot systems shut off and alarms wake
up at 2:30 AM as your airliner heads into a stall.
The cockpit comes to life and blasts you with noise and
information from every angle about why it can't figure
to fly the plane any more. The next thing you know,
it's all yours. Good luck. You've got seconds to figure out
what's going on and what to do. The less time you spend
actually flying a plan in an automated cockpit the less
ready you are for such emergency situations.
This could be
changed by regular emergency drills in flight that would
keep the pilots trained, awake and even make their job
Everything is a modern cockpit is fly by wire so all the
cockpit controls can be disengaged from actual control of
the plane and used in simulations of emergency
while the auto pilot or co-pilot flies the plane. These
simulations would happen while all the indicators turned
orange or something to indicate it was only a drill and
information about the plane would still be visible at all
Only one pilot at a time would do these while the
other pilot was in full control. They'd be
initiated by the pilots who would need to do a certain
number of them per hour, but the nature of the
drill would be unknown until it started obviously.
Pilots could become crack experts at handling emergency
situation with thousands of hours of practice instead of
being sleepy couch potatoes saying "What do these six
alarms mean again?" while their plane slams into a
There could also be simpler versions of this idea like
an iPad or even audio testing with the pilot giving verbal
commands to a voice recognizing computer. The
respond by updating the situation according to the pilot's
input and proceed to the next step in the test program.
||yeah, but we really don't pay them enough for that.
||Do airline accidents occur with sufficient frequency to
warrant this? I sort of doubt it. This seems like a very
elegant solution to a basically nonexistent problem...
||Live video feed to the passenger screens please!
||Pilots are already *supposed to be able to respond to emergencies quickly. More drills probably won't change the fact that there are bad pilots out there. I do like the idea of doing simulated emergencies in flight though.
||I'm not sure I understand. You mean that, for one
pilot, the cockpit instruments will simulate an
||If so, then how effective will it be, given that the
view out of the window and the feeling through
the seat will be "real"?
||And wouldn't such simulated emergencies be
better on a simulator? (Point taken that pilots
don't spend much time in simulators, but a
simulator would simulate much more simularly,
||Yes, one pilot's indicators and controls would be
in a simulation only mode while a pre-programmed
emergency simulation program ran and tested his
reaction. Here's how it would work.
||Captain Bob would get a reminder. "It's time for a
drill." He'd switch on the drill button, a large, very
obvious switch that would change the color of all
his controls to something obvious like orange.
||He'd then get, for instance, an indication that all
the auto pilot systems have turned off. Any audio
alarms in his headset would say "This is a drill
only", and any indicator lights would say
"SIMULATION MODE-AUTOPILOT DISENGAGE-
SIMULATION MODE" He'd
quickly check his airspeed, attitude and altitude.
Is he going into a stall? Airspeed indicator reads
That's not good, so that's the first order of
business. Push engines to 85% and tilt the plane
five degrees up. Ok, we don't know exactly how
going but we're not going too fast of too slow at
this point. Problem is, an engine cut out. Now
what? You've got about 10 seconds to figure out
what to do. Good, you've corrected. The co-pilot
owes you a beer when you land, that's a tough
one. A perfect score and you're running a 99%
simulation rating which will make for a nice bonus
your paycheck this month. On the other hand, if
problems arose in the pilot's reaction, that would
be immediately reviewed by the pilot who could
then re-do the simulation. At the end, he'd get a
full report of what happened and what he did.
"Pitot tubes frozen over, gps malfunction. Correct
action was taken."
||The problem with high tech cockpits is you can
get information overload, I think they call it
"information saturation" or something that makes
it hard to figure out how to use those very few
seconds you have to make the right decision. This
coupled with the fact that you're basically sitting
in a lounge chair trying to keep awake like
everybody else in the plane while all the flying is
done for you is a recipe for problems.
||// This coupled with the fact that you're basically sitting in a lounge
chair trying to keep awake like everybody else in the plane while all
the flying is done for you is a recipe for problems.// Involve the
self-loading cargo in the exercise too - everyone wins!
||I don't know about this. Any benefits would have to
be weighed against not just the cost, but also the
additional risks. Adding any complexity to an
already complex system means that there are new
ways it can fail.
||The last thing I want to hear as the flight attendant
momentarily opens the cockpit door to bring the pilots
their tea is "I dunno, Bob, that light's never come on
||//Adding any complexity to an already complex
system means that there are new ways it can
||Then there's the much simpler, much cheaper
version of this. They just have an iPad in the
with a virtual layout of the cabin and they have to
go through a certain amount of simulations every
hour while flying, just like playing a video game. It
would sharpen their emergency response skills,
monitor their readiness to deal with emergencies
and keep them awake. iPad, heck, an iPhone app
could handle it. You'd just zoom into the area of
the control panel where the control you wanted
to adjust or the readout you wanted to see is.
||But then one day a pilot will be pulled out of the
wreckage, his dead hands clutched around his iPad
and his face wearing the expression of someone who
has just remembered that they can't pull out of a
real-world dive in software alone.
||//Involve the self-loading cargo in the exercise too - everyone wins!// you mean - actually shut off fuel to three of the engines and actually ditch in the Atlantic, evacuating the passengers into liferafts? "This is the captain speaking, we are about to ditch into the ocean but don't worry, remember this is only a drill."
||Ok, I'll simplify it one step further.
||Regular audio drills on the pilot's headset.
||Computer: "Audio emergency test drill
commencing. Situation as follows: Small storm has
obscured larger storm behind it blocking onboard
radar's ability to see it. Aircraft has flown into a
massive thunderstorm. Mach meter reads .85,
altitude 32,000 ft. After being hit by updraft, port
engine reads total power loss. Procedure?" The
pilot could ask questions like "What's our airspeed?
||The tactile interaction would be removed but
the procedures could be reviewed in real time.
Voice recognition is good enough that the
computer could enter the pilot's actions into the
simulation and proceed to the next step. With
this you could bombard the pilot with 3, 4 or
more system failures or situations to respond to.
They'd get a regular dose of situational
information overload to juggle and would get
pretty good at it.
||In a dangerous situation I'm told
that training is pretty much the only thing holding
you together as the mind tends to panic when an
engine blows up or an elevator falls off.
||That's the Gospel according to Sully.
||Query: do we know the ratio of retired military pilots to
lifelong civilian pilots in the airline industry?
||Anecdotal, but 100% of the helicopter trips I've taken
(all 2 of them) were with ex Vietnam vet Huey
pilots. I'm guessing in the years after Vietnam it
would have been pretty tough for a civilian heli pilot
to match on the job experience stories with these
guys in a job interview.
||I was struck by the similarities of both guys. Very
soft spoken and polite. Don't know why that's not
what I expected but it wasn't.
||So, one version of it -- a sophisticated iPad-based alarm clock for pilots? There is a concern, how much of the skill of dealing with iPad-simulated situations would directly translate into increased ability to deal with actual emergencies.
||All right, pop quiz. Airport, gunman with one hostage. He's
using her for cover; he's almost to a plane. You're a
hundred feet away... Jack?
||They seal up the plane. He can't get in from the outside
letting go of either his weapon or his hostage, and unless
he has a working familiarty with large passenger airplanes
it's going to take him a little while to work out how the
door operates. So now his hostage is a useless appendage
and his gun is getting in the way while he stands facing the
||He's fucked. Even if no security personell are on the scene,
chances are good that every crowd of 50+ will contain
at least one all-fight-no-flight idiot like me who will rush
the second his back is turned.
||Well, [Alterother]. Jack's answer in the movie Speed was
"Shoot the hostage". Of course that movie was filmed in
1994 and the world has changed and a lot more people,
including me, would be of your "let's jump the bastard"
mindset. (isn't the whole point of going to the airport to
get a flight - hopefully without a fight?)
||Jack's an idiot, then, 'cause in the movies you can shoot a
guy in the
forehead with 9mm Beretta from 60' away, especially if he
stands nice and still for you. In real life only trained
snipers shoot gunmen
who have human shields, and even then only as a last
resort, and only if they have a hard backstop, and there
aren't many snipers
hanging around at the airport anyway; if it's a huge hub
terminal like O'Hare or Atlanta, there will two, maybe
three DMs on shift at any given time, but they'll have to go
all the way to the weapons locker to get their rifles and
then come running back.
||So the way I see it, if the
guy's being such a prick before he even gets on the plane,
imagine how obnoxious he'll be once its in the air. If we
beat eight shades of shit out of him and leave him for the
paramedics, that frees up an extra seat for somebody
be polite and civil, and hey, free gun!
||Ummm, it WAS in the movies.
||That's what I mean--he didn't have to shoot the hostage.
That's just bad writing. They could have had him take out
the gunman with a compound bow while blindfolded and
performing a backflip, because you can do that in
movieworld, but instead they went for the whole hard-
boiled-realist, sacrifice-one-to-save-many cheap antihero
crap. I bet Jack had a 5 o'clock shadow, didn't he? And I'd
wager my imaginary Ducati that he carried either a Glock
17 or a Beretta M9.
||If it was a Glock, don't say anything. Just blink twice. Get
me going on Glocks and I'll post all week.
||//he carried either a Glock 17//
||And you can hear him cocking it as he rushes into the
room where the bad guy is. Okay, I'm pretty sure that
was actually on Law & Order, but it still amused me.
||Why not include the passengers in the inflight emergency drill? If they behave anything like my coworkers during a fire drill then they'll roll their eyes and moan while looking to see if anyone else bothers moving, continue working in the crash position with their laptop on the floor between their legs, try to sneak a quick ciggy while the oxygen mask is on, and spill their coffee over everyone while taking it with them to the emergency exit
||Interesting... in many of my past workplaces (industrial
environments) fire drills were taken very seriously, and
executed as if the emergency were real (which came in
handy during real emergencies). Perhaps if a 3,000 lb.
liquid oxygen tank were installed in your office, people
would have a more proactive attitude.