Sometimes I read that — with FMS/FMGS, LNAV / VNAV modes, GPS and ILS — most of a flight can be handled by computers with minimal intervention from the crew when everything goes as planned, albeit a number of actions are completely manual.
Main control panel (MCP) on a B737 NG (probable source: Alessio Meneghetti on Flickr)
I'm not in any way suggesting the role of the crew is less important while automation is active. And indeed the crew:
- Programs and engages computers.
- Takes decisions and ensures the safety.
- Handles changes, hitches and abnormal situations.
Is it possible to list, from entering the T/O runway to leaving the landing runway, the important actions that can or can't be managed automatically, and provide an estimate of the effort they represent, e.g. for a 2,500 NM flight, excluding computer programming?
What is the current trend for airlines policies regarding the use of these automation capabilities?
I'm looking for elements like this:
Takeoff: From the takeoff roll to the first 1,000 ft (about 2 min), the crew performs all tasks manually (i.e. ...). At 1,000 ft the A/P is engaged to fly the SID previously selected. In parallel the crew does this...
Cruise phase: The A/P is engaged for the whole cruise and no more action is required until the top of descent point. Once an hour the crew allows a step climb by turning a knob. This takes not more than 20 seconds. The A/P continues to fly the airplane.