If the BEA is right about the AF447 crew possibly being misled by sporadic flight director activity while their A330 was falling through space, well outside its flight envelope, there are lots of messages for the industry here.
Grasping at crossed straws
By David Learmount on 8 July, 2012 in Uncategorised
Once again the BEA, like the US NTSB, the Flight Safety Foundation and many others, is calling for instrument panels to be filmed, so that after an accident we can know, rather than speculate, what information the pilots were presented with. Flight director activity is not recorded on the flight data recorder.
Flight director crossbars should remove from the display whenever an anomaly like unresolved airspeed disparity disconnects the autopilot/autothrust. If the flight management system computers have recognised their limitations and handed back control to the pilots, what are the flight director bars doing pretending they know any better?
Most important, the flight director cross-hairs on the primary flight display are an aircraft-aiming tool that is increasingly irrelevant in an era when pilots, according to airline standard operating procedures, hardly ever touch the controls.
Yet they are a compulsively attractive tool. If they are there, you will follow them, especially if you are flying manually on the very rare occasion when you find yourself having to go manual in IMC. If you are feeling under-confident and out of practice, and are flying at night with no natural horizon, you will find yourself clutching at those crossed straws, even if they are mis-directing you.
I’ve said it before: recurrent training should include manual instrument flying refresher time, with the flight director switched off.
What are the pilots there for if they are no longer able to fly the aircraft when the automatics have failed?
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