Technology has helped the aviation industry come a long way since its 1903 foundation by Orville and Wilbur Wright in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Since then, advances in flight technology have led to enormous improvements and periods of rapid growth, ranging from more advanced methods of situational awareness to new engine technology. However, some airline companies now worry that a pilot’s overreliance on technology may lead to his or her lack of the necessary skills to manage an aircraft.
Instances of Incapability
Demonstrating pilots’ decreasing ability to manually land planes as needed, in July 2013 an Asiana Airlines flight with 307 passengers crash landed at San Francisco International Airport. This crash killed three individuals and injured more than 180, sparking a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation.
According to this investigation, the pilots were at fault, not reacting when the plane slowed below the essential target landing speed of 137 knots (158 miles per hour) as it approached the runway—thus it was unable to remain aloft.
Additionally, an investigation relating to an Osprey crash that killed two Marines in May 2015 at the Marine Corps Training Area Bellows in Oahu, Hawaii determined that the tragedy was mainly due to inadequate pilot performance and an improper site survey of the terrain. Although the investigation found the pilots did not violate regulations or flight standards, it did reveal that they made wrong decisions, stated the Marine Corps.
These deadly accidents exhibit the need for pilots to remain up-to-date on all technologies used throughout flight processes. Without knowledge of standard protocols or the workings of devices, additional events such as these are likely to happen.
Overall, the emergence of modern day technology has increased the safety and efficiency of flying. Tackling areas of aviation from monitoring capabilities to detection software, technology has offered the industry numerous avenues for sophistication, improvement and innovation.
One area in which technology is working to improve the value and quality of pilots is through a partnership with Google Glass and Garmin’s new D2 pilot watch. These devices are wearable electronics allowing a number of flight-related functions to be completed electronically and with ease. These actions include compiling electronic checklists, viewing maps and air traffic patterns as well as keeping pilots updated on local and immediate weather patterns. The application of these services will help deter the alleviation of a pilot’s physical presence aboard an aircraft.
“We always believe that there should be someone working on this machine, making sure it works efficiently … So even though the cockpit and the planes have become very sophisticated, the pilot and the training of the pilot is a very important factor in making sure that the safety and security of the operations continues,” commented Hassan Dabbas, Regional Vice President, Africa and Middle East, International Air Transport Association in a statement to GulfNews.com.
Another area of digital improvement involves data storage, collection and sharing. The ability to streamline and deliver this data is imperious for aerial decision-making. Motivated by defense needs, but applicable across many government agencies and other civilian purposes without depending on the satellite-based Global Positioning System, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and XDATA are working toward the development of new computational techniques and open-source software tools.
Taking a serious approach to attaining knowledge of these new systems and technological processes will give pilots an advantage which may soon determine their ability to retain job security. Although technology is taking the place of man in numerous ways, having a pilot available for survey, detection and emergency purposes should remain a standard assuming they are both adequately trained and educated.