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US airline pilots are overreliant on automation, watchdog says

US airline pilots are overreliant on automation, watchdog says

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Automation may be all the rage in the automobile world today, but in the skies it can be dangerous. The Federal Aviation Administration is failing to ensure airline pilots receive enough training in manual flying, according to a recent report from the Department of Transportation's Inspector General. In fact, commercial pilots may be relying so much on automation that they lack the skills to take over when the system fails, the IG says.

"The agency is missing important opportunities to ensure that pilots maintain skills needed to safely fly and recover in the event of a failure with flight deck automation or an unexpected event," the report says.

"Reliance on automation is a growing concern."

The report cites the crash of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 in San Francisco in 2013. Afterward, the National Transportation Safety Board determined that the crew did not appropriately understand the aircraft's automation systems, which contributed to the crash that killed three people and injured 187.

"As a result, reliance on automation is a growing concern among industry experts, who have also questioned whether pilots are provided enough training and experience to maintain manual flying proficiency," the IG report says. A spokesperson for the FAA did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.

The FAA regulates at what speeds and altitudes that autopilot can be used, and require pilots receive authorization before using certain flight procedures that require automation. But the IG accuses the agency of being lax in enforcing these standards, as well as ensuring that pilots are properly trained in the procedures of switching from autopilot to manual control.

But the agency itself has noted in the past that an over reliance on autopilot can prove dangerous to pilots.