Modern aircraft make use of multiple advanced systems for flying like GPS, ADS-B, and LCD display to the point that an aircraft can practically fly itself. While greater cockpit automation undeniably makes flying safer, these systems can also cause problems if they are not used properly and monitored closely. In this blog, we’ll break down several tips for managing cockpit automation and maintaining safety during flight.
First, always know your equipment and understand how the systems work. Don’t just know how to input values into the GPS system, know what the system does with those inputs. Understand the aircraft’s automation, so that when something does go wrong with the automation, you understand exactly what the problem is, and can fix it.
Second, pre-program and triple-check. Don’t wait until flight-time to enter data into the GPS or program the flight management system. Ease the workload and do it on the ground before departure. The less time you spend looking at the computer, the more time you can spend looking for traffic or monitoring your instruments. And of course, be diligent, and double and triple-check your inputs to make sure you give the computer the right information.
During the most critical moments of flight, such as takeoff and landing, maintain a sterile cockpit. That means that conversation between the pilot and copilot and tasks they are performing should be related only to the task of flying the aircraft, and nothing else. Since most accidents occur during these phases, it is critical that pilots focus exclusively on the task at hand and maintain their situational awareness.
If something does malfunction, it is better to keep your head up and focus on flying the aircraft rather than looking down and trying to fix it. If you spend twenty minutes looking down at the GPS screen trying to resolve an error, that’s twenty minutes you aren’t watching the skies or your instruments. Remember, the GPS is there to help you, not fly the plane for you. If it isn’t helping, don’t bother with it.
Lastly, be critical, not complacent. Cockpit automation lets the pilot be more accurate, but it also contributes to complacency and the pilot becoming an inactive participant in flight. Inactivity leads to boredom and inattention, which can easily lead to an accident. It is therefore critical that a pilot continuously observe the aircraft and all on-board technology to ensure it is doing what they expect it to do.
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