March 2008 Issue

Automation Complacency

Know when to use that expensive magic in your panel. Sometimes, itís just easier and simpler to hand-fly the airplane.

It happens all the time. We invest in all this fancy hardware and top it off with that new autopilot that does everything for us except close the flightplan. We like using that stuff because itís easy, precise and, well, kind of cool. However, reliance on the automation can go too far and actually cause the very trouble weíre trying to avoid. A good coupled autopilot is a wonderful thing. It frees us from much of the mind-numbing concentration of keeping the airplane right side up to allow us to focus on bigger things like setting up for the approach or even just relaxing a bit at cruise. Add a GPS and you can program everything but your initial departure vectors and the vectors to final. The airplane can fly your entire flight plan while you pay attention to more important things like fuel management or the weather. Or not, and thatís one of the problems.

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