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Could a Plane Crash Because It’s Too Automated?

March 9, 2015
Colson Hicks Eidson

The Daily Beast recently published an interesting story about whether modern airplanes rely too heavily on computers and not enough on pilots in the wake of the plane crash involving AirAsia Flight 8501.

According to the article, since Air France Flight 447 was lost back in 2009, questions have been raised as to whether there is a deficiency in the way pilots are being trained and if their ability to handle emergency situations is limited because of advances in cockpit automation.

The Daily Beast article argues that because computers are handling the bulk of the flying of modern commercial airliners, the hands-on flying skills of commercial pilots are not tested often enough, if at all, allowing their piloting abilities to erode. Therefore, when commercial pilots face “loss of control” situations, like the one that might have doomed AirAsia 8501, such as the plane losing stability at night, they are unprepared and prone to error.

This example of flying at night is particularly dangerous for two reasons:

  1. At night, there is often no visible horizon for pilots to use for orientation.
  2. If the computer is malfunctioning, it could be feeding the pilots misleading information that they have no way of knowing is wrong because their visibility is limited due to the fact that it’s nighttime.

Still, while The Daily Beast theory is an interesting one, with the investigation into the AirAsia crash still ongoing, there’s no way of knowing yet whether defective mechanical issues or pilot error led to the tragedy.

Colson Hicks Eidson – Injury Attorneys