Sunday, March 8, 2015


When you board an airplane you expect to be putting your life in the hands of a professional pilot. Since he is on board with you, you expect he wants to complete the journey safely just as much as you do.
However when you board an Airbus, or Sukhoi you life is also in the hands of the programmer who designed the fly-by-wire side-stick control system. He is not on board.
The side stick can allow one pilot to make serious errors without his partner being aware. e.g. Air France 447, and probably Air Asia 8501
Every other commercial airliner builder retains the tradition mechanically linked dual yoke control system, so that both pilots know what's happening. Even a third officer in the cockpit can see instantly who is doing what.
We have more and more hybrid systems where the airplane, or automobile is partly under human control and partly automated. The Asiana 777 pilots thought the automatic throttle control was engaged. It wasn't, the plane was too slow and therefore too low.
Cars with ABS do not crash less than cars without it, because drivers do not understand the difference in driving technique. We have to consider whether to go full automation, or hybrid where humans remain in the loop but may not be competent to deal with actually controlling something with which they have no experience.