By James F. Vaughan
In response to the "experts" fear of pilots not being able to control an airplane manually in an emergency situation as stated in the Thumbs up, thumbs down section on September 12th. These experts fail to mention that commercial and airline pilots must undergo a Proficiency Check every six months, as on-going training, and are tested in emergency procedures in which the pilot is expected to hand fly the airplane in certain scenarios. In the instances the pilot hand flys the plane, a tolerance of only 50 feet deviation from the required altitude is expected to be maintained. With these training requirements the traveling public may be assured that the pilots are quite capable in handling the airplane.
The Auto-Pilot is a very useful safety tool. Not only does it allow the flight crew to give the passengers a smoother ride, but frees up action of flying the plane on instruments manually. Monitoring the airplanes systems and flight path is enhanced, and allows both pilots to watch for air traffic during peak workloads on departures and arrivals. Hand flying a jet at high altitude is a very sensitive maneuver and the Auto Pilot does the job very well.
Auto Pilots also allow the flight crew to land in low weather minimums, where a hand flown approach may require higher minimums. Passenger planes are designed for comfort and safety, for the folks in back, and the flight crew up front. Autopilots are a reliable source to manage the level of safety passengers expect, and pilots are trained to handle every known situation even when the automation goes away.
Capt. James F. Vaughan