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The A320 and friends have mechanical-only control capability (manual pitch trim + rudder pedals) for cases of total fly-by-wire computer or electrical failure. Obviously, this would be covered in ground school when the various control laws are gone through.

However, is any further training given to line pilots on operating the aircraft this way? Or is it one of those "dusty corner" procedures that you learn about in ground school, but never really touch again?

Alternately, what would the chances be of someone who'd never flown a 'Bus in mechanical/backup law being able to keep the plane dirty-side-down and airborne long enough to get the FBW back going and/or perform a landing where the aircraft is reusable? Clearly, it's non-nil as the Airbus test pilots actually tested flying the plane that way, but how difficult is the aircraft to fly in mechanical/backup law?

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  • $\begingroup$ How much training do you think the airlines do? Training costs money, and they are in it for profit. $\endgroup$ Oct 13, 2016 at 3:19
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    $\begingroup$ @KorvinStarmast -- not training people also costs you big money...but I'm at the same time not sure how much training is needed to fly the 'Bus in mechanical backup law -- it could very well be that it's something your average line pilot could get the hang of the first time they had to try it "for real" $\endgroup$ Oct 13, 2016 at 3:23
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    $\begingroup$ @KorvinStarmast I assume they do as much training as is required by regulation (especially since the regulations are usually considered "sufficiently safe" by most airlines and insurance companies.) If you read the full text of the question I think you'll note that one of the options is that it is not actually trained at all (second paragraph). And perhaps that is the answer, but it would be good to hear from someone who trains on a A320 or is at least familiar with the rules surrounding what must be trained for. $\endgroup$
    – Jae Carr
    Oct 13, 2016 at 17:22
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    $\begingroup$ You might consider adding a tag for EASA or FAA, I think the regulations will play into if this is trained for or not. But that's going to vary by governing body. $\endgroup$
    – Jae Carr
    Oct 13, 2016 at 17:23
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    $\begingroup$ I'd be interested to see an answer form an A320 pilot who did the type rating course, and someone who flies on the line who gets sim sessions as part of the annual training (minimum) requirement. $\endgroup$ Oct 18, 2016 at 21:28

2 Answers 2

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In my particular case:

  • I probably did 10 minutes of demonstrating mechanical backup during initial type rating
  • I cannot remember for sure, but it never reappeared in any recurrent sim, and even if I did it was definitely not part of the syllabus, just something one of us pilots wanted to try.

There are several reasons for that:

  • Airbus definitely considers this to be a remote probability. I wonder if anyone ever had to use it for real in flight.
  • There is not much skill involved. You rotate a trim wheel until plane maintains altitude and you push on the rudder to keep (bring back?) wings level
  • The system is there to give minimum control for straight and level flight until the computers/electricity comes back online. It is not intended for the pilot to land (or even maneuver) using this

One important aspect that is often overlooked is that mechanical backup in an Airbus is, well, not mechanical in the sense that people think cables and pulleys. It is a mechanical connection to a hydraulic system that still needs pressure to operate. Losing 3 hyd you will lose mechanical trim.

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According to AIRBUS but more specifically Airlines, have training syllabus. Airbus Company states, clearly how, and how often to train Mechanical Backup Flying.

Each airline, which operates airbus A/Cs has to adhere with these recommendations and/or dictations.

Several failures of systems, or combination of failures can lead to the mechanical backup "state".

Every six months airline pilots are going to the Simulator for checking and training (LPC/OPC/SIM REC).

Of course there is training regarding mechanical backup.

How often?

It depends each time on the scenario, the seasonal systems to be trained, the systems failures, and many other factors.

Mechanical backup is a possible scenario by the Airbus, and well defined (but as always not exhaustive) in books, how can be happened. For this reason IMO all airliners provide this training to their pilots, and of course all the time (every six months) there is the possibility to fly a scenario leading to mechanical backup.

Generally the aircraft can fly and land with mechanical backup as long as the situation permits, the failures, the pilot skills, and plenty of other factors.

How difficult is?

1) Pilot Skills

2) Environment (Weather)

3) e.t.c (The list is non exhaustive at all.)

Aircraft manufacturers and airlines want to give proper and sufficient training to their pilots, and professional pilots want to receive proper and adequate training, and fly remote and difficult scenarios in the simulators, in order to be ready for "anything" that would be happened. So to summarise, and once again to answer your question, in general terms, YES airline pilots get training regularly, on the Mechanical Backup Scenario to FLY and to LAND the A/C and the difficulty is something generic, for some people would be less difficult than some other.

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  • $\begingroup$ I don't know where the quoted text comes from in this answer, or if it is just for formatting purposes, but there are some obviously wrong facts in there. Mechanical back-up in Airbus was never intended to land the a/c $\endgroup$
    – Radu094
    Jun 27, 2023 at 12:48

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