117

That's a good question, and brings up a joke that many pilots know well: "What's going to be in the cockpit of the future?" "A dog and a pilot." "A dog? Why a dog?" "Well, the dog is there to keep the pilot from touching anything." "Ummm, why have the pilot then?" "Well, someone has to feed the dog! " Technology has improved to ...


102

I would want to build in a way for the plane to try and save itself if possible (to save money) by auto-landing Had the situation allowed saving the airplane the human pilot would definitely have tried that first. The fact that a trained fighter jet pilot decided to eject from an aircraft knowing that the ejection was a last resort and could be deadly, ...


59

To add some context to the other answers... Ejection is not a safe thing to do. The two most popular ejection systems today, the ACES II and Martin-Baker, have around a 90-92% success rate... the definition of success being the person lived. Most ejections result in some injury to the person, as it is a fairly violent activity, with a brief 20g impact when ...


48

There is a general design principle, that some, but not all, of the behavior of the flight guidance system or autopilot should be visible to the pilot. Usually automatic engagement or disengagement of a control system is indicated, but sub-modes of these controls or manual changes might be unindicated. That sounds simple and logical, but in reality it's a ...


46

Whatever it was programmed to do at the moment the pilot ejected. Ejection seats are complex enough without integrating special processing of the event into the autopilot. Since the autopilot can't land even an intact plane on its own, there's nothing it could do to save the plane. Some ejections are indeed performed from aircraft that could potentially be ...


42

The first "practical" autopilot was invented by George DeBeeson (the patent can be found here, updated here) - This seems to be the most likely reason for the informal name "George" for the autopilot system on aircraft. Autopilots are also sometimes called "Otto" (as in Otto the Autopilot from Airplane!, and our very own chat bot, but this seems to be less ...


41

The book The Glass Cage describes a fully autopilot-controlled military test flight in 1947. The plane was a C-54 Skymaster with seven men aboard. According to this source, the pilot aligned the plane on the runway for takeoff, but the takeoff, course control, and landing were performed by autopilot with no human engagement. See also this report from the ...


39

There are a number of reasons why pilot don't use autoland all the time, even if the airport and aircraft are equipped with the right equipment. To name the two most important ones: Pilots need to practise their flying technique. If they would always fly autopilot, they would lose the skills to fly. Skills that they need when the autopilot does fail. There ...


39

This should apply to the most advanced modern airliners. Older aircraft may not have all of the same automation available. The autopilot can take care of most tasks between takeoff and landing. The pilots have to take care of starting the airplane. This includes turning on electronics, bringing up the aircraft systems, and starting the engines. Taxiing is ...


39

Quite simply, it's because sometimes you fly below sea level. There's a couple stories out there of aircraft navigation systems acting a bit odd due to their flight below sea level. For example, there is this one, which involves a C-130 landing on an airfield that is 1,210 feet below sea level. There are numerous areas in the world that are below sea level. ...


38

To play devil's advocate, there were two illustrative examples in 2009: US Airways Flight 1549 was safely landed on the Hudson, a feat that the autopilot could not have handled; but Air France Flight 447's autopilot handed control back to the pilots, and their incorrect reactions contributed to the loss of everyone on board. The idea of the pilot "up front ...


38

I'm not in the military, so you could say I'm talking out my rear end here, but based on my experience as a pilot: yes, military pilots use the autopilot all the time. Here's my reasoning, in order of most to least convincing evidence: Punching the autopilot off takes about a fifth of a second. The button is right there on the yoke, for crying out loud. ...


33

The flight director is related to the autopilot system. It displays a guide on the artificial horizon, which shows the attitude of the airplane, but does nothing to control the plane. The guide represents a reference of an airplane attitude that will follow the parameters set for the autopilot. The pilot can manually fly the plane directly where the flight ...


32

The NTSB report is a great resource when looking for information about an incident like this. There is an Engine Dual Failure Checklist discussed starting in section 1.17.1.2 of the report. This includes steps to attempt restarting the engines, and further steps depending on whether or not the engines can be started, and finally steps to help prepare for a ...


31

Airline flight crews generally consist of at least 2 pilots. One pilot is designated as pilot flying, the other is the pilot not flying, observing instruments and flight parameters. If required, pilots can use Flight Crew in-Seat Rest: Flight Crew in-Seat Rest This is the process whereby pilots may take short periods of sleep (naps), while temporarily ...


30

I believe this is a hoax1. I've read through several documents describing the protections provided by Airbus flight laws (this is not autopilot; autopilot is a separate layer on top of it) and have never seen any mention of any kind of ground proximity protection. Only standard (E)GPWS which yells "terrain, pull up". Update: Of course now there is EGPWS ...


30

Yes, advanced flight directors and autopilots for helicopters can control the aircraft in all axes, and often they have modes for hovering built in, including maintain altitude, lateral veloctiy hold, hover, and/or autolevel. Hovering is difficult because it requires more complex controls than maintaining altitude in an airplane. Helicopters have a ...


30

I assume in your question the autopilot is engaged. When the auto-flight system reaches the limits of its capabilities it simply disconnects. On Boeing aircraft you get a > AUTOPILOT DISC Warning Message on the EICAS and the siren sounds. Now it is all manual flying for the pilots. An example would be turbulence exceeding the auto-flight system ...


29

Failure modes to consider: Overheating. This changes the chip's timing properties and eventually results in error. This can manifest as single-bit errors in the middle of seemingly normal operation; it will eventually crash, but may output bad data first. Water damage. Manifests as a parasitic resistance on the board and may cause you to misinterpret bits ...


27

Military pilots are not unlike most other pilots: we're lazy and love booze, and we become just as autopilot crippled as the next guy. Fighter aircraft controls are designed around the HOTAS philosophy, or hands on throttle and stick. To quickly perform flight critical functions, like disengaging the autopilot, the pilot's hands do not even have to move ...


27

As other answer pointed out: A CPU can fail. Either partially (giving erroneous answers), or totally. Moreover all computer are subject to cosmic radiations that can once in a while flip a bit in memory (in addition to other sources of error like short circuit, ...). That's why scientific experiments and long running servers use ECC memory. Spaceships also ...


23

It's the fact the autopilot works more accurately than a pilot which is actually the cause of the restriction. The decision to restrict the use of the autopilot usually comes from the certification agency after the ILS inspection flight detected glideslope erratic variations or reversals. The false signals are likely due to interference from the environment ...


22

None. While a number of aircraft are certified for autoland with automatic rollout until safe taxi speed, and some can have the autopilot control rollout until the aircraft completely stops, no commercial aircraft has autopilot control of various critical parts for landing such as the flaps and the landing gear.


22

The "autopilot" is a fairly basic control system. Usually it is composed of just a few components (logically speaking) like a wing-leveler, heading mode, and altitude mode. The autopilot can control the aircraft usually through servo's connected to the control cables or through the hydraulics. External systems can feed into this to do things like follow a ...


21

Over the North Atlantic, there are no predefined low-level or high-level airways as there are over the continents. In order for aircraft to get a tailwind for eastbound flights and get out of the wind for westbound flights, Canadian and UK air traffic control set tracks based on the expected wind conditions twice a day. The lines you are seeing are called ...


21

Redundancy, particularly during autoland operations. How it works depends on the specific airplane type. In the most advanced systems with triple (or more) flight guidance computers (FGCs), a "voting" concept is used during critical operations like autoland. All 3 computers calculate their commands independently, and vote on what to do. The middle value, or ...


20

Most transport aircraft use yaw damper systems to take care of minor rudder inputs. Most autopilot systems are actually only 2-axis - pitch and roll since the rudder's job is only to keep the tail lined up behind the nose. The yaw damper is a separate "autopilot" system and has limited authority, sufficient to deal with minor yaw disturbances, dampen dutch ...


19

There are two sorts of "autopilots", and it is important to make a distinction between the two. One is for the behaviour of the aircraft around its Centre of Gravity (CoG), the other one is for defining the path of the CoG. The Inner Loop autopilot: behaviour around CoG, or the aircraft attitude control. This autopilot should not be called autopilot since ...


19

I think they were humouring you Cloud. Hand flying a jet at level cruise speed is not fun. It takes a lot of concentration and the novelty quickly wears off, and there is a high risk of getting busted for an altitude deviation due to a little bit of inattention. Even if you are able to find a sweet spot with the trim where it holds altitude perfectly with ...


18

All Airbus aircraft from the A320 onwards currently do not have an method of disabling lateral or pitch control without the full disconnection of the autopilot. In the case that one of the controls fail, the autopilot will also disconnect. In the case of the autopilot disconnecting fully, Airbus aircraft have an audible "cavalry charge" which sounds for 3 ...


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