Sir -The advantages perceived of a flight engineer's potential input to a new-generation automated flightdeck gives me concern. The concept of these aircraft was to exclude the flight engineer.

The checklist philosophy (be it the engine-indication and crew-alerting system or electronic centralised aircraft-monitor) generated is the backbone of abnormal situations. We know that, on occasion, these data may have to be deviated from and we also know that, without the discipline or knowledge to respect the data, you may deviate at peril.

To introduce a third party into the philosophy would probably be unmanageable and may have an adverse effect on flight safety. Also, to be fair to Airbus' pro-active stance on cockpit safety, history has shown that the manufacturer will react and consider design change perhaps just to simplify pilot interface - as in the example of the A340 hydraulic-pump-switch modification.

While flight engineers are well-respected members of the aviation community and while they play a vital role in those aircraft for which they were intended to be a part, as those aircraft become obsolete, the flight engineer's role also becomes obsolete.

Simply to create a role within the automated flightdeck would devalue the expertise of the flight engineer. In reality, as the manufacturers intended, there would be nothing for him or her to do.

Bob Jamieson

Crawley, Sussex, UK

Source: Flight International