Who’s Flying Your Plane?
Follow @GretchenMargAugust 31, 2011, 4:22 pm ET
Probably not your pilot — except for 80 seconds during a typical two-hour flight — according to Joan Lowy’s new AP Impact investigation on the commuter airline industry’s widespread use of autopilot, with dangerous consequences:
One of these was Continental Flight 3407. The plane, operated by a regional airline contracting with Continental, crashed in Buffalo in 2009 due to pilot error. Lowry explains why:
The AP piece is packed with similar examples of what happens when an unprepared pilot is suddenly confronted with an unexpected situation; stats Lowry obtained from an FAA draft report indicate that autopilot is a regular contributing cause to accidents:
She reports that many in the industry are concerned, especially because of mixed messages from the FAA: While the agency recently suggested more training for pilots on how to recover from a stall, it also requires pilots to use autopilot when they’re above 24,000 feet — which is the majority of a typical flight.
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